Reflecting On: Saosin – In Search of Solid Ground

By the time Saosin’s second full-length album, In Search of Solid Ground, arrived in September 2009, I felt like I’d been waiting forever. In hindsight, three years doesn’t seem all that long. It would be another seven years before the band would reconvene for 2016’s Along the Shadow. New Saosin music never comes on time, but it’s usually worth the wait.

You can buy or stream In Search of Solid Ground on Apple Music.

By the time the band finally released their full-length self-titled debut in 2006, I was all-in on the band and practically obsessed with everything they did. I owned multiple t-shirts and hoodies, was in attendance at every Saosin show that came near me, constantly talked about the band with my friends, and was a frequent visitor to the band’s online message board. I followed every detail and clue I could find as the band worked on their follow-up to Saosin and waited anxiously outside a Best Buy on release day to be first in line to purchase the album.

In truth, there was no way In Search of Solid Ground could ever live up to my expectations, which had reached a crescendo by the time I picked up The Grey EP the previous fall during the band’s fall tour with Underoath. Saosin was more than an album to me – it was a life experience. It was the kind of record that shapes your musical tastes for the better part of a decade. It was the kind of record you measure every other record against.

But even if a voice inside my head told me that In Search of Solid Ground wasn’t all I had hoped for, I brushed those notions aside and repeatedly dove into the album day after day. First, it was the revamped demos of “I Keep My Secrets Safe”, “The Worst of Me” and “Why Can’t You See?” that grabbed my attention. Then it was upbeat tracks like “Deep Down”, “Changing”, and “Is This Real?” that took center stage. Finally, it was the odd, experimental tracks like “Say Goodbye” and “Fireflies (Light Messengers)” that stole my heart.

Over the past 10 years, In Search of Solid Ground has become a unique kind of record in my collection. One that I revisit once or twice a year and think back to a time when a band could make me feel the way Saosin did, and really no other band has since. Of all of the band’s releases, it’s the one I reach for the least, but it was undoubtedly the one I was most in-the-moment with at the time it released.

To look back, it’s easy to see why the album didn’t land for many fans. Its logjam of producers certainly led to a lack of direction. There’s a little something for everyone on the album, but not necessarily for longtime fans of the band’s chaotic early sound. In Search of Solid Ground contains actual pop songs (“It’s All Over Now”, “What Were We Made For?”) while still containing heavier moments that don’t quite fit in with the rest of the band’s catalogue. If you had to label the album, you’d probably call it alternative rock, but even that ambiguous term fails to capture the full breadth of sounds displayed here. Over time, I’ve found it best to digest the album in various chunks that fit together.

It’s true that I wish the album had contained more of the wild guitar work from Beau Burchell and Justin Shekoski, blistering drums from Alex Rodriguez, and soaring vocals from Cove Reber that had defined their earlier work. But the thing is, the earlier work is kind of perfect – what was left to prove? If In Search of Solid Ground was either an experimental journey for the band or a last gasp before a 2010 fallout left the band nearly defunct, it’s undoubtedly a moment in time that feels different from anything else coming out of the scene at the time.

Ten years later, I’m mostly happy that the album wasn’t the band’s last. It always felt like Saosin was on the verge of either world domination or complete self-destruction, and walking that fine line resulted in some of the best and most unique sounds of the 2000s. After all this time, the band still insists on doing things their own way, which is what makes them so compelling.

And come to think of it, it’s been three years since Along the Shadow. While my youthful superfandom may be long gone, I still await anxiously what, if anything, comes next.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Advertisements

Reflecting On: Saosin – Saosin

saosin

I believe Saosin’s self-titled full-length debut album to be an example of post-hardcore excellence and a record that shaped the direction of the genre for the next decade. Others disagree, citing the album as an example of Saosin’s squandered potential.

Instead of using the next 800 words to defend my position and re-hash one of the most tired debates in scene history, I’m simply going to tell you how this album has had a deeply profound impact on my life.

You can buy Saosin on iTunes.

You can buy Saosin on iTunes.

I’d be lying if I told you that I was invested in Saosin since the drop of Translating the Name and a member of the band’s old guard. My introduction into the screamo scene happened a year later with the release of Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety. That being said, I became keenly aware of the Saosin hype train shortly thereafter, and like most of the genre’s fan base, eagerly awaited the band’s highly billed debut.

Saosin released during a period of transition in my life, and has seen me through several more transitions since. Just out of college and making my first attempt at being a real adult, the album provided the soundtrack to late shifts at work and long car rides on weekends. During the days when we all still listened to CDs, Saosin firmly planted itself in my car’s stereo and was rarely withdrawn. I can safely say that I’ve listened to the album from front to back more than any other album I’ve ever owned.

Every instrument is played while straddling the line between rock radio perfection and reckless hardcore abandon. Cove Reber’s vocals seem to effortlessly reach ungodly notes on nearly every song without leaning on the then-mandatory crutch of screaming, setting a new precedent for scene vocalists. The production, handled by hit-maker Howard Benson, results in a nearly flawless product.

There’s something about the music that still speaks to my soul. Reber’s lyrics mean the world to me, and I’ll address those in a moment, but I’ve often said that even without vocals, Saosin would still be one of my favorite albums of all time.

The open air and smattered drumming that lead into the signature Saosin guitar squeal during the opening moments of the record on “It’s Far Better to Learn” still sends chills up my spine. Each track on the album bleeds either delicately or chaotically into the next track, creating one of the most fluid listening experiences you’ll have with an album. When the opening riffs of “Sleepers” begin spilling out near the end of the opening track, you realize there’s no need to reach for the skip button.

Saosin is littered with moments that both take my proverbial breath away and breathe fresh air into my lungs. The bridge of “Follow and Feel” remains one of the most pulse-pounding moments in the post-hardcore scene, highlighted by a rapid-fire drumming from Alex Rodriguez that pushes the track onward. The closing moments of “Collapse” find every member of the band going apeshit on their instruments as Reber wails “Open your eyes and let all the light in”. It’s a moment of pure ecstasy.

Reber’s lyrics remain cryptic and ambiguous throughout, but they have never lacked in meaning for me. During a candid moment during the end of the band’s making-of-the-record DVD, Reber begins sharing the inspiration of positivity that impacted his writing, concluding with, “For me, personally, I want to write something that can uplift somebody.” I’m forever thankful for this approach.

It’s rare for a Reber lyric to come across bluntly on Saosin, but it’s the in-between moments that continue to capture my attention. During the pre-chorus of “It’s So Simple”, he sings, “When we fall to the ground, slowly we’re safe and sound”. During the swirling chorus of “Collapse”, he belts, “We are the only ones, we will get up / And we are aware ‘cause we’ve been through it”. As the delicate opening of “Come Close” breaks through, Cove sings, “Remind yourself that they are the ones who will hold you still”.

It’s this persistent theme of intimacy and unity that courses through the album’s veins, serving as its lifeblood, that draws the listener in. By the time should-have-been-crossover-hit “You’re Not Alone” reaches its crescendo, the point is clear: “You’re not alone / There is more to this I know / You can make it out / You will live to tell”. The album’s potentially cheesiest moment is also its calling card.

I’ve written in the past about my struggles with depression and how music has walked by side throughout the difficult journey. Saosin is the album I go to when I feel desperately alone. It’s the record I play during those painful moments of transition. These are the songs that revive me when I’m at my lowest. I keep waiting for the day when it stops working, and while it’s certainly not a cure, albums like Saosin keep me afloat on the days I need it the most.

I believe this album to be one of the great rock records of our generation, and the beauty in the craft of this record is part of what makes it so important to me. But even if you disagree with my thoughts on the album’s merits, we all have those albums we go to when we need a lift. Saosin may not have lived up to everyone’s hype, but I’m eternally grateful that every note landed where it did.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Whatever happened to Saosin?

saosin

Update: On February 17, it was announced that Saosin will reunite with Anthony Green as vocalist for a performance at this year’s Skate & Surf Festival. You can read more info here and listen to our podcast discussion about the reunion here.

Saosin_Tweet

It’s that time of year again.

Fans of SoCal post-hardcore act Saosin are now well accustomed to the scattered, vague assurances such as the recent Tweet above. Instead of jubilation, the general response is more of an eye-roll. You’ll have to excuse us for our lack of enthusiasm, but we’ve heard this before.

It’s been over four years since the band released their last album, the shaky and uneven In Search of Solid Ground. Shortly thereafter, vocalist Cove Reber was dismissed, but not without promise of a new and improved Saosin on the horizon.

What followed was what appeared to be an awkward public audition for former Tides of Man vocalist Tilian Pearson. The resulting product consisted of a few shrug-worthy leaked demos before Pearson began his own solo project and officially joined the ranks of Dance Gavin Dance.

In the time since, fans have been treated to erratic and ambiguous messages and rumors that serve simply to remind us that Saosin is apparently still a thing. However, what’s far more interesting than these nuggets of non-information is observing the fan response – one that is now much akin to an oddly dark kind of classic conditioning.

Upon each ringing of the bell, we collectively choose to fight back our salivating hunger for new music in favor of the most active kind of apathy. We’ll roll our eyes, but not without an audible groan to let you know that we’re still here. Still waiting.

If Fall Out Boy’s triumphant reunion last year proved anything, it’s that the shelf life for this scene might be a little longer than everyone expected. It’s true that Saosin doesn’t hold the same mainstream appeal as Fall Out Boy, but they do hold one of the most rabid underground followings that the post-hardcore genre has seen. A following that has surely dwindled to some extent during the band’s prolonged absence, but one that appears ready to reconvene at a moment’s notice – whether they’ll openly admit it or not.

Consider the groundswell of response to each Saosin release through the years. Even at their worst, everyone had an opinion to give, and in some ways, even the negative jeers were filled with a knowing tone that the band could do better. No one seemed ready to give up. That notion is the unspoken undercurrent that drives the multiple pages of responses to each Saosin “update” – even when the voices are saying, “I don’t care.”

***

One thing that became clear during the Tilian Pearson experiment is that the third time is rarely a charm in this scene. Jon Bunch may have been a great vocalist and songwriter, but how does one go about filling the shoes of Jason Gleason and Chris Carrabba? Fortunately, Further Seems Forever fans were treated to a proper re-writing of history in 2012 when the band reunited with original vocalist Carrabba after an eight-year absence.

What resulted was Penny Black – a proper return to form that would become the band’s highest charting release. A successful reunion tour even featured a cameo from Gleason, joining the band on stage for a performance of “The Sound”. If this were to be the band’s farewell, very few would complain.

Could this serve as a model for a Saosin comeback? Whisperings of a reunion with Anthony Green have persisted since Reber’s departure. Although baseless at first, Green shockingly shared the stage with Saosin guitarists Justin Shekoski and Beau Burchell for a performance of “Seven Years” just over a year ago during a solo tour. Last summer, Green admitted to Alternative Press that he would consider working with the band again “if the timing was right.”

For many fans who have spent far too long waiting, perhaps it’s easier to assume that the timing will never be right, or at least not soon enough to get excited over.

But since we’re all just spit-balling here, what about a reunion tour with both vocalists? The first half of the set could consist of Reber-era material before a short intermission, followed by Green joining the band to perform the entirety of Translating the Name. Heck, the band could even record an EP with a few songs from both vocalists to satiate fans on both sides of the fence.

Alas, any idea presented is at best speculation and, at worst, daydreaming. Perhaps the only solace is that our time wasted pondering on impossible scenarios is time that the band has spent slowly fashioning their return.

In the end, I’m fully content with spinning Translating the Name and Saosin for as long as time will allow and I suspect most fans of the band feel the same. Yet with every reminder that there is “a pulse,” I’m reminded of what has become a twisted game of cat and mouse – one that keeps me cautiously hopeful, even as I shrug it off.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.