Review: The Early November – Lilac

I read once that The Early November chose their name because, much like that time of year, they changed their sound as often as the late seasons. I have no idea how true that actually is, but it has always rang true to me. The Early November have altered and changed from album to album, never staying with one sound for too long. The only constant is the emotional vulnerability that every song brings. Lilac brings not only the biggest change to the sound the band have developed after almost 20 years, it is quite possibly the most robust album the band has delivered since The Room Is Too Cold.

You can buy or stream Lilac on Apple Music.

Lilac is a stylistically diverse album, a fact it presents almost immediately. The Early November manage to juggle the sound of punk rock, Fall Out Boy-lite pop elements and incredibly intricate instrumentation. The flourish of trumpets or the somber whale of a french horn pepper into songs and constantly surprise the listener. The lilac flower is a symbol of innocence, and it shows across the album with tales of finding the lowest of emotional depths, only to pull yourself together. In the end, Lilac is an album of redemption.

Vocalist and songwriter Ace Enders pushes the sound of the band further than ever before. No two songs sound alike and each flows seamlessly to the next. Guitarists Bill Lugg and Enders find a variety of sounds from punk rock (“My Weakness”) to twinkling indie rock (“Hit By A Car (Euphoria)”) to dance riffs that act as a background to the rest of the instrumentation (“Fame”). Bassist Sergio Anello rips through a series of deep riffs (“My Weakness”) while multi-instrumentalist Joseph Marro’s piano and guitars layer thick (“You Own My Mind”). Drummer Jeff Kummer keeps pace with Enders, varying from intricate dance beats (“Perfect Sphere (Bubble)”) to deep melancholic bursts (“I Dissolve”).

Enders himself delivers a vocal performance different from any past release, whether that be with The Early November or his solo project, I Can Make A Mess. He pushes his vocals to shout and croon (“Hit By a Car”), enters the realm of pop (“Fame”; “You Own My Mind”), and almost whispers melody (“The Lilac”).

Opening song “Perfect Sphere (Bubble)” quickly sets Lilac apart from TEN’s discography. The energetic pianos, etherial guitars and Enders’ angelic croons deliver a sound that stands out against the moody rock of years past. “My Weakness”, a garage rock jam with a bridge and chorus that hint at what it would be like to hear Taylor Swift write a punk song, especially with Enders’ styled squeak during the chorus.

“Ave Maria” dances through an uplifting beat as Enders reflects on letting himself and a loved one down (“I thought if I looked nice, I would feel nice / And you would see me right, you would see me right / But it was an old lie, it was a cold lie / It was a long night.”). But for each downer, Enders weighs it with one of hope, such as the moody “Our Choice”. The song wrestles with the idea of addiction, as he swings back and forth between feeling enslaved to it and fighting back. “There is a choice to be alive, when failure keeps you up at night / So every morning, I will try / I will never stop the fire / I have a choice to be alright”.

The Early November constantly shift and push themselves in directions that no one sees coming. But consistency isn’t needed with a band so confident in themselves. Lilac bucks every expectation placed upon it, and steps away as one of the fullest albums The Early November have ever written. It demonstrates just how much the group can adapt and shift, but never remain predictable for long.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just realized his air conditioner is running even though it is like, 50 degrees outside. What a silly goose he is.

Review: Speak The Truth… Even If Your Voice Shakes – Everyone You Love Will Slip Away from You

I will always thank Drive-Thru Records for my love of music. Though I still listen to many of those influential bands, there are two groups that frequently fall off of my radar, only to resurface every few years as a new obsession before being put to the sidelines again: Senses Fail and Finch. It is because of these bands that I stumbled into a love of hardcore music. Speak The Truth… Even If Your Voice Shakes, the new(ish) supergroup consisting of members from both bands finds its inspiration from the golden era of emo and unabashedly flaunts it.

You can buy Everyone You Love Will Slip Away from You on iTunes.

Speak The Truth consists of Senses Fail’s Buddy Neilsen on vocals while Alex Linares (guitars), Daniel Wonacott (bass) and Alex Pappas (drums) of Finch round out the instrumentation. Though both bands hail from a harder sound, Speak The Truth hits an odd mix of genres that somehow makes a cohesive sound.

While their singles remind me of the racing guitars of Anberlin (“Crash My Car”), or an emo band putting out their first record (“Everyone You Love Will Slip Away from You”), there is a maturity that channels the positive lyricism of modern pop punk (“The Upside Down”). The result is a record that toys with expectations, honors the legacy that helped get these musicians to where they are now and is a truly refreshing record about coping with the world around you.

While I admittedly haven’t followed either Senses Fail or Finch as closely as I would care to admit, I can say this – this is some of the most inspired music from Linares, Wonacott and Pappas that I have seen from their career. What could be brushed off as a “throw-back” pop punk record churns with luscious guitar rhythms and brutal drumming that seems to crop up just when you want it to. Though the album is significantly poppier than I expected, “Go for the Throat” is a pleasant surprise that sounds like a long lost track off of What It Is To Burn.

Neilsen is fantastic. I forget how much I love his vocals until I hear him, and Speak The Truth is no exception. While he relies mostly on clean vocals, his trademark screams find their spot on the record as well. Though scarce, the screams highlight the darker aspects of the songs while his clean vocals tackle the more hopeful spots (“The Upside Down”).

Everyone You Love Will Slip Away from You is a revival of modern emo. Though the album’s title and main theme revolve around the tragedies of life, the album focuses on handling it with poise and determination to come out on the other side as strong as possible. The idea of coping is a strength and Neilsen portrays it brutally.

On “The Upside Down”, Neilsen lays down a thesis for the album, singing, “Sometimes depression is the only thing reminding me that I feel alive/ And all the sadness could be more beautiful than all of the stars in the sky / I don’t wanna be afraid to be who I am / I don’t wanna be ashamed”.

During “Carpenter In Prison”, after describing the idea of being a shell of the person your younger self hoped to have been, he mixes clean vocals and microphone distorting screams of, “Save yourself / Cause there is nothing more / You gotta wade out into the water / You gotta wade out further / If you’re dying inside you gotta swim to the surface”.

Not everything is hopeful, though. “Mornings Mournings” is a unrelenting rage attack on someone. “Crash My Car” is a more traditional emo song, with a chorus of “I crash my car into a wall to bleed with you”. “Drowning on the Sidewalk or Dying Inside” finds Neilsen admitting, “I write better when I’m depressed and anxious / Nobody wants to hear about the sunny side of life / They’d rather hear that I’m choking inside”. The song also acts as a eulogy for a loved one and is the poppiest song on the record (try not to love that piano during the chorus).

That said, this record isn’t perfect. While the lyricism has a thematic element to it, the songwriting feels as though there were too many ideas. As stated before, while one song sounds like a pop punk anthem, the next is a guitar heavy alternative track. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it has a distinctive sound of several writing sessions that were mushed together. Additionally, Neilsen’s lyrics on “At Least There’s Always Lexapro” seem like they are half audible under the production, which pulled me out of it entirely. It’s a track I tend to skip over on repeat listens, which is a shame.

Finally, the album closer, “Show Your Scars” is a truly awful track (lol). It is completely different from the rest of the album sonically, and it seems to come out of nowhere after listening to the previous nine tracks.

All said and done though, Everyone You Love Will Slip Away from You is a solid debut from a band consisting of seasoned veterans. Musically, it is more of a departure from what fans of either Senses Fail or Finch are expecting, but the execution and exploration of sound is brilliant. Consisting of two bands that rose from the heyday of Drive-Thru, their influences aren’t hidden. Speak The Truth sound like a crowning achievement that both pays homage to the bands that brought the scene to where it is today as much as it pushes that sound forward with modern sensibilities.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has a cat that just snored so loudly, he thought someone was breaking into his apartment. As a natural defense, he heroically leapt up, smashed his knee on a table and promptly fell over.

Reflecting On: New Found Glory – New Found Glory

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This is easily the weirdest thing I’ve ever tried to write, so let’s start here: New Found Gory is to pop punk what Johnny Cash is to Country. The name is inseparable from the genre. Five years ago, I saw them play a nearly sold out show in Cincinnati celebrating the album’s 10th anniversary, but this last week, the band’s self-titled album, New Found Glory celebrated its 15th anniversary with a quiet nod to those paying attention. Any album will celebrate 15 years if someone is paying attention, but when a band is still together after all that time is when we should truly take notice.

A thousand people have written about this album, so I will keep it short and sweet. New Found Glory is the quintessential pop punk staple. It’s the album that dozens of my friends know word for word, despite the fact that they have long since stopped following the band. The self-titled album established what pop punk should sound like, despite the fact that bands like Blink-182 had been around years beforehand.

It’s hard for me to listen to New Found Glory these days all the way through; 15 years and half a dozen albums worth of work later, it’s hard for me to define New Found Glory by the songs that they wrote at 18 or 19 years of age. But this album means the world to millions of people, maybe half of which still actually listen to music. Even so, if one band were to have successfully defined their sound with a self-titled album, New Found Glory is the one.

New Found Glory is a timeless album. Pop punk has evolved over the years, but if the album was released today, it would still work , and possibly sound just as good for an up-and-coming amateur band. The songs are simple, loud and devastatingly memorable. It’s hard to deny that a thousand bands have grown up learning to play the songs on New Found Glory and the influence it has left on the scene, if not music as a whole, is incalculable.

This album landed just a year or two before Napster destroyed the music scene, and as such, was one of the last albums that needed to be purchased to hear the music on it. And people bought it. I found it through Adam Carolla. One random night, I happened to be listening to his radio show Love Line when the opening notes to “Hit or Miss” played over the radio and I heard who the band was. New Found Glory was the first band I discovered on my own, bought on my own, and told my friends about. This was the first album I lent to a friend, and one of the first bands I took the same friends to for a concert.

It would be easy to say that this album means the most to my generation, but it’s simply not true. Even now in concert, the band plays a good portion of these songs live.

New Found Glory is hard to describe, as it doesn’t age in the same way that Green Day’s American Idiot does, or differ in sound from how the band writes now, the way that Oasis did at the end of their career. New Found Glory was simply the start of an obsession that has lasted for decades, the spark of a central sound that hasn’t deteriorated. The only other band I can think of that has held up as well is Saves the Day, but even they have changed their sound throughout the years.

I believe that part of the album’s longevity is that the band haven’t particularly changed their core sound as much as they have evolved with the times. New Found Glory is pop punk in its infancy, Coming Home its awkward teenage emo years, and Resurrection the current, rebellious young adult form. Where most bands attempt a new sound so that they don’t write the same record twice, New Found Glory knew who they were in the beginning and wrote their music in a way that matched the maturity of their audience.

There are dozens of bands I listened to when I was fifteen, but nothing gets my blood pumping the way that “Better Off Dead” does. Friends of mine don’t listen to music anymore (literally, at all), but still quote “Sincerely Me” in texts and in inside jokes. And nothing, absolutely nothing, gets a crowd jumping or open a circle pit the way that “Hit or Miss” can.

Last year at Riot Fest in Chicago, I ran in a circle pit during New Found Glory’s set for almost 20 minutes with people ranging in age from their teens to people well into their 30s.

After this much time, I don’t know how else to describe New Found Glory in a way that hasn’t been done before. I can’t even say that it’s my favorite NFG album. What I can say is that this is the album that launched my love of music in a way that Blink-182 never did, that made me fall in love with their albums year after year in a way that Green Day never did.

Music changes very quickly (remember dub step?). Fifteen years later, I feel like it is safe to say that New Found Glory is the reason that pop punk has survived this long and the basis to which all of the current styles have evolved from. They helped launch the golden age of pop punk and the entire Drive Thru Records lineup. Their music is essentially untouched from what it was all those years ago, save for being louder and more mature than anyone ever saw it becoming. It’s more than anyone ever expected to see from a band all those years ago, especially when there were so many pop punk bands, and I can only hope to see where they land years from now.

All in all, this is an elaborate way to say, “long live the kings of pop punk.”

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and might be slightly biased because NFG was the first band he discovered 15 years ago. But that doesn’t matter because no one reads this lil’ bit anyway. Bwa hahahahaha!