Victory Lap: Saves The Day’s Celebratory Tour

“We wanna see you at our next show!”

Saves The Day was the first concert I ever went to. With a car full of people, we drove from Indiana to downtown Chicago to see the show on a school night. The energy and passion Chris Conley emanated had us talking about the show all the way home and for weeks after. Saves The Day were young and on the tail end of the their tour in support of In Reverie. Since then, I have seen them touring at least once during each album cycle.

Having just released 9, Saves The Day are on a victory lap. Celebrating 20 years as an incredibly influential band, Chris Conley is enjoying himself and looking back at his career on stage without the pressure of still ‘having to make it.’

Conley is allowing himself to take a step back, maybe for the first time in his career. Prior to this tour, I had only seen him standing in front of the mic, smiling while he sang and wailed on the guitar. Saves The Day have always been the ‘standard’ rock band to me. Though he doesn’t run across the stage causing general chaos, Conley has always commanded the audience through nothing but music. However, this tour is the result of Conley’s two decades of devotion and hard work. Aside from a few songs, he is mostly removing himself from the guitar this time. Instead, he is opting to sing and dance to the music that made him a legend. And he deserves it.

Kevin Devine

Following Conley’s cue, the opening sets were stripped down bands. An Horse opened the night as a two-piece that utterly destroyed the Bottom Lounge. Consisting of drummer Damon Cox and guitarist Kate Cooper, the Australian duo made enough noise for a complete four-person entourage. Sharing vocal duties, Cox and Cooper ripped through a set of impressively melodic indie rock. Including their new single, “Get Out Somehow”, they ended their set with a cameo from Kevin Devine on bass, offering a quick preview of his set.

Kevin Devine has been a big name in the indie scene for a long time. I’ve never been familiar with his music, but seeing him live proved why he has persisted on the scene. Equal parts indie star and rock icon, Devine confidently raged through political songs alone on stage. Pulsing through his electric guitar, Devine screamed, crooned and broke down in melodic guitar riffs to rapt applause. Finding an audience in politically motivated songs, Devine proved to be one of the leading solo acts in the scene by skirting the traditional topics of heartbreak and relationships. The passion and intensity of his performance was something that could only be accomplished by someone performing something they believe in.

Saves The Day’s Chris Conley

Saves The Day took the stage with five members for the first time that I have seen. With a new touring guitarist joining lead guitarist Arun Bali, Chris Conley took charge of singing and just enjoying the music. Sporting dark sunglasses and a jacket, Conley opened with his signature anthem, “At Your Funeral” before launching into a series of newer songs including “Suzuki”, “Xenophobic Blind Left Hook” and “Get Fucked Up”.

Taking at least one song from every album, the band didn’t lean as far into the pop punk scene that they helped create as much as they explored the continuing evolution of their music. Saves The Day’s setlist was a sample of their greatest hits that roared through classic punk rock and modern rock. At this point in their career, Saves The Day have left their mark on the punk scene forever and influenced multiple generations of artists. Nothing cemented this legacy more than the crowd watching the band.

Saves the Day

With the Bottom Lounge mostly full, Conley announced that the band’s seminal album Through Being Cool was 19 years old that day. And while they played some of the best songs from that record (“Shoulder To The Wheel”, “Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots”), they didn’t dwell on it. Each time a classic song like “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” or Stay What You Are’s “Freakish” came on, the younger generation began excitedly crowd surfing and opening a pit. However, fans who have followed the band for years are still showing up, just as excited as ever. As the opening lines of “Side By Side” from 9 started, a bald man in his 40’s literally threw his arms up in the air and shouted in joy.

Saves The Day are undoubtedly one of the most important bands in punk rock today. Their fanbase has grown with them and continued to expand with younger crowds throughout the years. Chris Conley has managed to navigate the harsh landscape of music and managed to stay relevant to the point that he can finally enjoy the fruits of his labor by just listening to his own music and enjoying it the same way his own fans do – by singing along and dancing until the next album.

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 really just… ate far too much macaroni.

Advertisements

Reflecting On: Copeland – You Are My Sunshine

I’m a firm believer in the connection between our personal journeys and how that plays into the music that we hold dear. When I became obsessed with Copeland’s You Are My Sunshine, I was in the midst of what remains to be the worst, and one of best, times in my life.

I’ve only briefly touched on this several times, but I suppose it’s time to lay out the whole story about my grandmother, Linda. Anyone who met her immediately loved her. She was the kindest, most thoughtful human I’ve ever met, and still no one compares to the way she always knew just what was needed to turn a bad day around. From cookies to a movie night, she was always the perfect diversion from what reality threw at me.

You can buy or stream You Are My Sunshine on Apple Music.

I was only 17 when she passed away from cancer, and even though everything feels like a big deal at 17, facing things without her these past few years have only made the bad seem worse. She always knew how to look on the bright side, which is something I’m really bad at doing. One of her favorite songs was “You Are My Sunshine”. She used to sing it to her kids (my mom and her brother) when they were young, and then to my siblings and I when we were younger.

Now that you’ve met Linda and, I’m sure, already wish you had known her, let’s talk about Copeland’s album of the same name as that 1939 Jimmie Davis hit. The album, for me, jumps back and forth, uncannily telling the story of my 2015: the year my grandmother died and the year I met the man I married three years later. It was the year I watched my family fall apart, but it was the year I saw them stand back up, stronger than ever.

The album begins with “Should You Return” and the lines that pertain here are, “But now there’s nothing left to do but waste my time / I never knew where to move on / I never knew what to rely upon”. Cancer takes such an emotional toll but it also takes a toll on time. The nights my mom would be at the hospital, it was up to me and the rest of my family members to keep the house running, to keep some semblance of order. Once my grandmother passed, my mom was back again, so I had more time on my hands. The extra time, though, wasn’t a blessing. It was used as a grief outlet.

“The Grey Man”, under normal circumstances, is just another song about a breakup. But for me, the song turned into both a ray of hope – “You’re gonna run right back to her arms” – and part of the realization that she was actually not going to come back.

The third track on this album, “Chin Up”, may be my favorite song Copeland has ever written (a close second is “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve” from Ixora). My mom leaned heavily on us during the time the cancer took to run its course. I feel like I bore a lot of the weight because I’m the oldest child, but maybe I’m just being narrowminded. Anyway, “You’d break your neck / To keep your chin up” felt so real then. My mom and I are ridiculously similar, and we deal with our feelings the same way – we don’t. We’re not fans of pity parties being thrown in our honor. I felt like I had to be strong enough so my mom felt comfortable leaning on me if she needed to. That feeling kind of stuck around though, even to this day, even when it’s not necessary.

“Good Morning Fire Eater” is kind of an aftermath song for me. ”The day is done and everyone’s gone now / You can taste every fire and hold every song”. I graduated high school shortly after my grandmother passed. So this song is kind of a sigh of relief, now that she wasn’t suffering anymore. And I held onto the idea that everyone has after high school: the world was my oyster.

We all know the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If I’m continuing this track of being honest, I’m still having trouble with the acceptance part. But I had no trouble with the depression. “To Be Happy Now” is the best expression of that depression I’ve found up until Paramore released “Rose-Colored Boy”.

So let’s bring the mood up a little toward positivity. I was talking to a guy and he had really helped me through some of the tougher stuff I was having to deal with. My grandmother passed in June. By that point, Jeremiah was asking when I’d be his girlfriend and I told him we’d talk about it when I turned 18. I turned 18 in August and by September 2nd, we were together. The next two tracks on the album, “The Day I Lost My Voice (The Suitcase Song)” and “On the Safest Ledge”, respectively, provide two outlooks on this new relationship I was fostering: one of severe skepticism as I was no stranger to how quickly things can be taken, and the second, which was jumping headfirst.

“Not Allowed” is a jump back into grief and a different perspective of how I dealt with it. I felt that I needed so badly to be strong for the rest of my family that I pushed all of my feelings aside and just kind of forgot how to be upset about the loss we had all just experienced. It wasn’t some righteous quest to be the best griever. I just chose numbness as my coping mechanism. Disclaimer: Don’t do that. “Strange and Unprepared” follows that same theme: “And you never feel good or bad / Just strange and unprepared”.

In 2015, I had a whole array of feelings to choose from, and most of them were new. I’d been sad before, but not in this way, not in the way of “maybe I’ll never smile for real again.” I’d liked people before, but not in the way I had fallen head over heels for Jeremiah. So “What Do I Know” was kind of a pep talk. I was really in uncharted emotional territory, and I was trying my hardest to stay grounded.

The album closes with “Not So Tough Found Out”. That’s the song that brings me to today, to right now. I’m not as tough as I’ve always seen myself, and I’m learning to be okay with that. How can one year bring about so much change? I ask myself that a lot. I guess one way to describe it is when you get the star power-up in Mario Kart. Everything speeds up around you and suddenly you’re one lap away from the finish line instead of two. You’re not concerned with what happens in the meantime, but, watching the playback, you see that you knocked Yoshi off the track and he ended up in eighth place.

Looking back on 2015 still hurts and still thrills, kind of like Copeland’s You Are My Sunshine. It gets so low, but then Aaron Marsh sings lines like “Could you be happy / To fall like a stone / If you’d land right here safe in my arms”, and I’m reminded of the guy who was able to bring me out of my grief, and the fact that when I get home tonight, he’ll be asleep on the couch because he tried to wait up for me to make sure I got home safely.

Maybe I’ve learned more about looking on the bright side because I don’t have my grandmother there to do it for me anymore. All I have is her example and the need to make her proud. I know I’m not going to do it perfectly, but I’m trying, and I think that’s what counts.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – Saves The Day

In 2013, I was brand new to Chicago. It was a scary move, but I thought I had made it for the right reasons. My first job here was a painfully boring temp job that left me feeling remote and empty, even compared to my new friends who worked menial jobs. Feeling rejected from an avalanche of unanswered job applications, I would drive alone as the summer sun baked the feeling of regret into my head under the glare of expressway signs, and I wondered how it would ever get better.

You can buy or stream Saves the Day on Apple Music.

When Saves The Day’s self-titled album released that fall, I was ready. I had backed its PledgeMusic campaign earlier that year, listening to the first single, “Ain’t No Kind of Love”, an energetic song about a breakup, with a pure hunger. The chorus was exactly what I was going through, as Chris Conley sang, “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again”.

I truly anticipated an album from one of my first musical loves that would let me bask in my oncoming depression without guilt. Instead, Saves The Day unexpectedly lifted my spirits.

For almost 20 years, Chris Conley was a flag bearer of the emo movement. He never shied away from diving headfirst into the fragility of the human spirit. The three albums before Saves the Day were a trilogy that tackled depression and the depths it can actually go. His songwriting is morbid, but captivatingly catchy.

With the release of Saves The Day, an album bearing the name of the band itself, it felt like a shock to the system to discover that it was a positive album. Despite being released at the start of fall, it was a pure summer album, complete with cover art of a bright orange grapefruit. Similar to how In Reverie stunned fans with a change in style, Saves The Day was a full thematic shift. Instead of glorifying loneliness, Saves The Day is an extremely loose ‘concept’ album about two people falling in love through a chance encounter outside of a bar and reflecting on the good and bad of their lives after years of happy marriage.

Saves The Day was the first album by the band that wasn’t burdened with expectation. There just wasn’t a need to compete with the emo wave of the early 2000’s or attempt to recover ground after the backlash of a stylistic change. Instead, it used the harsh guitars of the Daybreak trilogy of albums to forge a new identity.

After 15 years, to hear a real love song from Conley felt extraordinarily out of place. This was someone who wrote songs like “The End” from Sound The Alarm (“I’m a danger to myself / Always blaming someone else”). But here he was, singing “Beyond All of Time”. It’s the first slower song on the record, with an enchanting chorus of, “Together forever tonight / I’ll always be right by your side, tonight / I love you beyond all of time”.

The true peak of the album is the dual lineup of “Verona” and “Ring Pop”. “Verona” tackles the struggles of a relationship. The verses hint at the fights and sacrifices a couple have to go through against harsh guitars and a depressing drum beat, only to launch into a gloriously hopeful chorus of, “After the end when he tells her he loves her / She promises not to let go / They hold on to hope”.

Immediately following this is “Ring Pop”, arguably the happiest pop punk song of all time. The song radiates with a sappy and childlike wonder of love, and caps off the theme of the record in an incredibly uplifting arc unlike anything else Saves The Day has ever written. “Born on opposite coasts for the two of us both / Knowing in 20 years we would not be alone / Might have made us a pair of zen-like two-year-olds / With a couple of ring pops, no need to propose”.

Saves The Day drastically helped curve my depression for some time as I struggled to adjust to living in Chicago. If Chris Conley, a poster child of dark songs, could find happiness, so could I. That is also when I finally noticed the last line of the chorus from “Ain’t No Kind of Love” that I had somehow missed on each listen since the song was released. Suddenly, the album made sense, as did my outlook on where I was going. “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again / Until then keep on breathing / The love you long to know is within”.

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 killed a spider with a broom while writing this. He is brave and a hero.

Reflecting On: Anberlin – New Surrender

“When I was 13 / I had my first love / There was nobody that compares to my baby / And nobody came between us / No one could ever come above”.

What does Ludacris’ verse on Justin Bieber’s critically acclaimed single “Baby” have to do with Anberlin? If you’re like me: Everything.

You can buy or stream New Surrender on Apple Music.

When I was 13, I thought I knew everything there was to know about music. I thought Tooth and Nail was the best record label. I was trying to come into my own personality. In reality, I was just pretentious and nobody wanted to listen to the cool music I found because of my attitude. The biggest band for me during that time period was Anberlin. They opened the door to the rest of the alt rock world and still continue to blow me away today.

When I found them, I was listening to my favorite internet station, RadioU. The band’s cover of New Order’s “True Faith” was playing and I was obsessed with the guitar riff. I know, weird to get into a band via a song that’s not even theirs. If you actually listen to the track, though, (you’ll have to do so on YouTube, as it’s no longer on Spotify), it sounds authentically Anberlin. It took me a while to find out who it was (it being the radio and all), but once I did, there was no turning back. I became a fan of Anberlin—a Fanberlin, if you will.

All of this brings me to their 2008 release, New Surrender. The album is criminally underrated. It came a mere year after what many claim is their greatest achievement, Cities. It can be tempting to write off the album that comes after a band’s best, and oftentimes, you’d be correct to do that. But with New Surrender, I think you’d be wrong to.

I’ll admit that the album isn’t Anberlin’s strongest. It came in a tumultuous period in the band’s history. They’d just signed to a major label and released the best album of their career. It’s hard to put your best foot forward as that kind of pressure mounts. So the band gave it a shot. New Surrender isn’t hard-hitting like Cities was, and it’s not quite as melodically pleasing like Never Take Friendship Personal. The album, though, has some of the most meaningful lyrics Anberlin has to offer. From the emotional and mildly petty “Breaking” to the thematically heavy “Soft Skeletons”, the band really gave something for everyone.

Here is an overview of some of my favorite tracks:

“Breaking”, simply because it’s a classic. There’s no Anberlin without “Breaking”. If you disagree, you can come fight me. You know I’m right.

“Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights)” because of the story. The song was written because of an episode of plane turbulence and basically reckoning with the fact that it could all be over in a second, making the most of what we have and the time we have to enjoy it.

“Younglife” has a special meaning for me lately in a way it hasn’t previously. I used to think fondly of high school and hanging out with my friends and messing around, like in the first verse. But as I think about my upcoming marriage, I think about the second verse: “Hey lover / Do you remember when / We used to dance in our apartment ‘till neighbors would knock on our door / And I remember / Do you remember when / We had no money to speak of / Nowhere else to eat but your floor / I wanna do it again”.

“Haight St.” has that same kind of connotation for me. It’s a fun track and one of the band’s more upbeat offerings, so there’s that for a stylistic approach. The whole album just holds this intense nostalgia as I’m looking back at my younger days. Old enough to know, too young to care.

So I don’t know if this has been so much of a reflection as it has been a, “Hey this album is still very relevant!” That’s what makes New Surrender timeless. It brought me through high school and the weird turbulence that is adolescence and now it’s here to remind me of the little things like building my first dining room table. It’s a picture of how to hone in on the finer points of life.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – In Reverie

In the early 2000’s, Saves The Day were the poster child of the emo scene. Stay What You Are had set the scene on fire early into the new millennium. With expectations high, In Reverie defied them in every possible way. And fans hated it. Singer Chris Conley’s new, high pitch vocals caught everyone off guard. The dreamy lyrics were a far stretch from the desperate lyricism of the band’s past records. Fifteen years later, In Reverie is held in much higher regard within Saves The Day’s body of work, and, unfortunately, largely forgotten.

You can stream In Reverie on Spotify.

Both Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are seemed like required listening for anyone developing a sense of music. Aggressive pop punk and restrained rock, respectively, they showed alternating sides of the same band and a maturity in songwriting that few bands successfully manage. Especially after Stay What You Are, arguably one of the most popular albums of the time, the wait for Saves The Day’s next record was excruciating.

In Reverie felt different right away. It was the first album cover to feature a painting instead of a high school inspired photograph. The CD itself was a bright, tangerine orange. Before even pressing ‘Play’, it warned you to be prepared for something new.

“Anywhere With You”, one of the few singles from the album that remains a live staple, broke out with harsh, fuzzed guitars as the back drop for Chris Conley’s new vocal style. In retrospect, it’s not that big of a jump. However, at the time of release, it almost sounded like a brand new singer had taken over. Not nearly as nasally, Conley was crisper and more relaxed as his pitch edged upwards.

In Reverie also marked the beginning of the modern Saves The Day ‘sound.’ It established the tight melodic pop song formula that would become the staple format of the band moving forward. While it would take the next album, Sound The Alarm, to firmly mark the occasion with aggressive guitars, In Reverie experimented with more relaxed songwriting.

Songs like “Monkey” played with loud and soft melodies, refusing to lean too far one way or the other. “Wednesday The Third” rediscovered the dark guitars, but let Conley’s vocals explore the musical scale and harmonize off of himself.

While other albums would return to the pained existential lyricism of the band’s first few albums, In Reverie played around a bit more. While there are certainly songs pertaining to the pains of relationships, (“Anywhere With You”) or emotional turmoil, (“In My Waking Life”), there were many more songs with fanciful lyrics that don’t seem to hold much meaning other than being fun to sing.

“Morning In The Moonlight”, one of the few absolute jams on the album, delves deep into this aspect. There’s little to take away from the song other than the lyrics are just a blast to sing out loud. “Madness ensues, swimming in ocean blues / The dream-dripping sky covers my insides / The moonlight in the morning sun sends shivers over my skin / The memories are slowly slipping and I’m sailing against the wind”.

It took a few years for In Reverie to actually be discussed positively. My friend group largely ignored the album until after the release of Sound The Alarm. Conley himself stated it was his favorite record in various interviews, but acknowledged that critical reaction to it had caused a course correction. Sound The Alarm and Under the Boards were largely written as a response to In Reverie. The guitars immediately became more aggressive and the lyrics grew darker. It was a stylistic approach that appealed to the imagery of past songs, like “As Your Ghost Takes Flight”.

Looking back on it, In Reverie isn’t as drastically different from Saves The Day’s discography as it sounded upon release. It seems to fit into their body of work musically better than Stay What You Are in many ways, even if it still stands out lyrically. Many of the same people who initially hated the record now regard it as their favorite album. However, it still remains the black sheep of Saves The Day’s history. Songs from it rarely seem to be played live, and it seems rarely discussed. It’s a shame, because the album is such a cornerstone of the last 15 years of the band’s history.

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 dropped two eggs on the floor, accidentally creating the worst breakfast this side of the Mississip’.

Review: Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today

An illustrious career. A band I never thought I’d get to write about. The men, the myth, the legends: Death Cab for Cutie. Making all cry during rom-coms and secretly in their car when they reach that part of Transatlanticism, Death Cab may just be the world’s favorite group of Sad Boys.

With the release of Kintsugi and the departure of Chris Walla back in 2015, Death Cab made it clear that there was stylistic change afoot. I happen to love Kintsugi, but I’m sure there were fans who decided to tearfully remove “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” from their iPods. The band has followed in the footsteps of Kintsugi with their latest offering, Thank You for Today.

You can buy or stream Thank You For Today on Apple Music.

I enjoyed all three singles the band gave us leading up to the release of the album. They’ve all got the same Death Cab flair: a little sad; a little hopeful. But it’s still new. It takes lyricists and musicians like the members of such a timeless band like Death Cab to keep me believing that music can still be new but familiar. There’s no need for a band to genre jump to stay relevant anymore and that’s a beautiful thing.

The album is lyrically what you’d expect from Death Cab for Cutie. Using a lot of geographical and natural references, they build a story about changes in life and the environment around us. Growing up takes a toll on us and Death Cab has always dealt with that concept in a different facet with each album. “Gold Rush” talks about the changing economic landscape of Seattle and how even though good commerce and growth can be positive, there comes a time when enough is enough.

“Your Hurricane” talks about self destruction: “I won’t be the debris / In your hurricane”. Interestingly, they use the same bass line from “Summer Skin”, a track from 2005’s Plans. I wonder whether the person Gibbard left behind at the end of that summer is the same person he’s talking about in this song, 13 years later.

This album is mostly about sad things – I won’t try and pretend that it’s not. “When We Drive” is oddly specific and relatable to me. Driving has become a very cathartic thing for me, in a weird way. If I want to talk to someone about something important, I find the best place for me to get everything out in the open is while driving, for some reason. Maybe it’s the idea of driving away from the problem, or maybe it’s the opposite – driving toward a solution.

So, I said this album is about life changes. “Summer Years”, “Autumn Love”, and “Northern Lights” are about breakups. Old news, I guess. But what about, “You Moved Away”? Gibbard uses such visceral imagery here: yard sales, going away parties. This just might be one of the most personal and relatable Death Cab songs to date.

“Near/Far” struck a personal chord. Getting closer and closer to my wedding, I have no doubt that the person I’m marrying has my back. I’ve found myself dealing with more and more confusion the further I get into adulthood, and that’s turned into a pretty big amount of anxiety at times. There are times when I feel far away. The line at the end of the track echoes something my fiancé tells me all the time: “But I won’t watch you burning out / I won’t let you be the one I live without”.

The album ends with “60 & Punk”. Gibbard shared with Consequence of Sound that he’d rather not let everyone know who this song is for. So, even though we can see that it’s written about one person or band, I can’t help but see myself in this song. A fan who’s been disappointed by their hero. I can also see this being about Gibbard himself. From what I’ve heard and seen, a musician’s life can be lonely and not as glamorous as we think. There’s a lot of missed family time. A lot of missed memories.

So at the end of this album we have an oeuvre of how life can change. Buildings are torn down, friends move away and out of our life, people we thought loved us unconditionally walk out. Thank You for Today is a collection of songs about people who’ve helped us grow up and get to where we are, even though their impact may have been more negative than positive. Without the harder points in life, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the better parts.

Maybe we’ll never figure out why virtually every one of Death Cab for Cutie’s songs are sad. But I think it’s comforting to know that when we’re sad, whatever the reason is, we have a band that wants us to know that everyone’s been there.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: As It Is – The Great Depression

As It Is are one of the treasures of new-wave pop punk. While they could have easily become just another New Found Glory clone, they have spent their career expanding their sound with each album, as though they are trying to find the essence of pop punk itself. The Great Depression, though, sounds like a true sequel to the band’s sophomore effort, Okay. Where that album used pop to show how the outside world sees someone suffering within themselves, The Great Depression relies on hard rock to show how someone suffering sees the outside world.

You can buy or stream The Great Depression on Apple Music.

The Great Depression is an aggressive album that doesn’t try to solve the issue of depression. Instead, it takes aim at society’s quiet acceptance while attempting to remove the romanticism of the idea in general (“I know this isn’t something you’re going to like to hear / Which is exactly why you need to hear this”). As It Is borrows liberally from the emo bands of the mid-2000’s, even going so far as to carry a very deliberate My Chemical Romance homage in their recent music videos.

Guitarist Benjamin Langford-Biss’s guitarwork utterly changes gears for this album. He delves much deeper into a new, harder sounds that significantly expands the band’s range (“The Reaper”, “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)”). Bassist Alistair Testo builds a steady background of rough pop that bounces the tracks along despite how hard the guitars get. However, drummer Patrick Foley may be the hidden MVP of the album. His walls of percussion are extravagantly diverse, as though he was working overtime to impress guest vocalist Aaron Gillespie (“The Reaper”).

Likewise, vocalist Patty Walters gives a career best performance. He is pitch perfect for a pop record, but it’s the hints of screaming that make the performance. It adds an edge and urgency that matches the harsh aesthetic.

The Great Depression is a concept album that follows a character who personifies depression as either God or death itself. Either way, this being represents a society that is impartial or unconcerned with the struggles of mental illness. It is an element that adds chaos to someone who just strives to find peace.

Some songs take on depression in general, such as, “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)”, as Walters sings, “I see a pain behind your eyes / I know you feel it everyday / It’s like a light that slowly dies / But it’s better not to say / It’s better not to say such things out loud”.

Other songs address this entity cursing the narrator’s life directly. During “The Reaper”, Walters sings, “I used to sing his praise / But now there’s no sweetness in his name / He’s been dying to show me to my grave”. “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)” bargains with the entity for a normal life. “I tell him there’s no chance, I’m not giving him my soul / It doesn’t feel it now but I know my heart is full / I’m not sure he’s right, but I’m not sure he’s wrong / I’m just desperate to belong”.

Closing track, “The End.” pleads for the outside world to understand without being playful. “Because I don’t need you to see this and I don’t want you to feel this / But I only have so much spark to offer in all of this darkness and I screamed for you until the day I gave up and lost my voice”.

The Great Depression is a leap of faith for As It Is. It is drastically different from their past work and addresses similar topics as their previous album from a whole new angle. It is arguably the band’s best work to date, and their most daring. As It Is could simply release pop record after pop record. Instead, they are proving themselves some of the most capable musicians of their generation.

4/5

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 spilled a tray of tater tots. He is essentially a wobbly toddler that pays rent. Pro Tip: Cats don’t eat floor tots.

Review: Foxing – Nearer My God

I came across Foxing in the way I come across most of my new music obsessions: Spotify curated playlists. I’m sure the band gets tired of hearing this, but “The Medic” was the track that popped up for me about a year ago that made me curious.

You can buy or stream Nearer My God on Apple Music.

Since then, my favorite song by the band has switched to “Night Channels”, a track I can’t seem to move away from. I listen to it obsessively. The video is even more enthralling. In fact, I stopped listening to the new album to go watch it. Anyway, I digress. I finally saw Foxing when they opened up for Manchester Orchestra. It was a short, but beautifully emotional set that made me fall even deeper in love with their work. That night, they played “Slapstick”, the first single from their new album, Nearer My God.

The album opens with “Dark Paradise”, which doesn’t really sound much like what we’ve come to expect from the band, although, Foxing is nothing if not genre-bending. It’s a strong track that guarantees that we won’t tire of the band anytime soon, because it takes such a sharp turn and surprises you. Their creativity and originality simply know no bounds. Exhibit A: They released their second single, the title track, in five languages: English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese.

The third track, “Lich Prince”, slows things down and brings in that post-hardcore drawl that drew me to the band. Conor Murphy’s vocals have always been strong, but in this track, the harmonies the band make use of really shine, right next to the guitar solo. “Gameshark” speeds things back up again, bass-heavy and lyrically hard hitting. In an interview with Brooklyn Vegan, Murphy said that the song was written as a stress reliever for the band, a way to let off some steam.

With an album that jumps around like this, I generally have a problem following the narrative the band is putting before me. Nearer My God is really just about life, though, so the album just follows the way life goes. Maybe that’s why I feel like my life is all over the place? I listened to this album once thinking about what it meant and how it all connected, but I listened to it again taking it at face value and it made more sense to me. Maybe I just need to learn to follow the narrative, or maybe I just need to throw the narrative away and take it as it comes.

Track six, “Five Cups”, encases the line, “I want to drive with my eyes closed” in a soundscape that made me want to drive with my eyes closed. I don’t know whether you’ve ever listened to an album or song that hit you so deeply that you just wanted to rest in it, but I have. One of those tracks is this one. I got lost in the way it crescendos and fades down. Then I looked at the timestamp and was like “Crap, that’s nine minutes long.” I was four minutes through with more genius to come. It’s stress-relieving in a different way than “Gameshark” – it’s aesthetically pleasing.

So after that ambient mental break, we get what sounds like a symphony, which is broken in by….drum loops? Yes, because that’s Foxing. In “Heartbeats,” which may be my favorite track on the album, the band brings together two of the most wildly different sounds and creates the perfect contrast. I can’t find anything wrong with this album. “Bastardizer” has freaking bagpipes in it. The boundaries of what this band is and what they’ve done in the past have been left in the dust.

I can’t get enough of this album because there’s so much to get from it. The album touches on the frailty of life and how we choose to spend it. It’s not political, it’s not an angry tirade. It’s just relatable. Each musical and lyrical choice was made with thought to how it would affect the sound as a whole. It’s an album seething with intelligence and diligence. Every note was chosen and designed, and the effort the band put into Nearer My God makes it a joy to listen to.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Raise Your Voice: Warped Tour 2018 Review and Photo Gallery

Walking through the crowded grounds of Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana, on a hot July day, it’s nearly impossible not to reflect on Warped Tours past. It was here, nine years ago, where I baked in the sun watching bands like Saosin, Underoath, and Chiodos while screaming along to every word. A year prior in Cincinnati, I stood on the main stage watching Norma Jean bring down the house before singing along to The Academy Is, Anberlin, and Cobra Starship.

Over the years, the Vans Warped Tour is where I met some amazing friends, discovered some of my favorite bands, and truly felt part of a community for one of the first times in my life. As the longest-running touring music festival in North America comes to a close, I’ve felt it necessary to remember those experiences while acknowledging that the experiences have others have not always been so pleasant. For a myriad of reasons, it is time for Warped Tour to end.

There were things to feel good about and music to be excited about during this final trek, yet the staggering lack of gender and racial diversity across the lineup served as a reminder of why it must come to a close. With any luck, whatever takes its place will provide a more balanced and honest view of the underground music scene in years to come.

For now, we take a look at a few of the bands on the 2018 Vans Warped Tour that made some noise and made the tour’s final run worth the price of admission. Take a look below and feel free to share some of your favorites from the lineup in the replies!

Mayday Parade

For a band that made a name for itself by following Warped Tour around the country in 2006, selling CDs to those standing in line, it’s appropriate that Mayday Parade take part in the festival’s final journey. The band has come a long way since those early days, having just released their sixth studio album, Sunnyland, earlier this summer. Per usual, Derek Sanders bounded across the main stage singing fan favorites like “Jamie All Over” and “Jersey”, making for the perfect summer sing-a-long session.

Check out our podcast interview with Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade!

Mayday Parade

As It Is

The band’s second stint on Warped Tour has brought a new sound and a new look. Making light of the obvious changes in between songs, vocalist Patty Walters introduces the band as “My Chemical Romance.” Even if As It Is haven’t quite hit the heights of the aforementioned emo legends, the early signs from upcoming album The Great Depression seem to be promising. From “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)” to “The Wounded World”, these new tracks sound even better live than on tape.

As It Is

Doll Skin

While watching Phoenix, Arizona, rockers Doll Skin tear through their set, I was reminded of watching letlive. just a few years prior. The band harness the same amount of energy and passion in their performance, with vocalist Sydney Dolezal even climbing into the crowd mid-song to unleash her powerful scream. For as exciting as the band’s set was, it was disappointing to find it on a side stage. This is the kind of band deserving of the biggest platform available.

Doll Skin

Real Friends

Real Friends feels like our best current example of what it’s like to watch a band grow up on Warped Tour. Having just released their third full-length album, Composure, the band’s main stage set was one of the highlights of the day. Dan Lambton’s energy, even this late into the grueling tour, provided a spark for the crowd as he lit into “Get By” to kick off the band’s set. Having put together the best album of their career, it will be exciting to see where they go next.

Real Friends

Issues

Tyler Carter has the kind of voice that you have to hear to believe. Even when taking on an early set on a hot day late in the tour, Carter still manages to croon his way through eight songs at full tilt. The band, now a four piece, is in the process of putting together their third album, this time minus Michael Bohn. Nevertheless, Carter handled both sides of the vocals beautifully throughout the band’s set, with help from Adrian Rebollo.

Issues

Waterparks

It feels like the stock for Houston pop punk powerhouse Waterparks just keeps rising. With the release of Entertainment earlier this year, the band has cemented their stay as one of the genre’s hottest acts and have ascended to Warped Tour’s main stage. Awsten Knight carries the band’s vocal duties and helps wake up the morning crowd with performances of “Blonde”, “Take Her to the Moon”, and more.

Waterparks

This Wild Life

While standing at the front of the stage to shoot This Wild Life’s gentle set, I couldn’t help but feel good for the security guards, finally relieved of flying bodies and crowd surfers for 30 minutes. The Long Beach duo’s quiet set is the perfect intermission for a day of loud noises, especially as their catalogue of songs continues to grow. The band performs tracks from their new album, Petaluma, while still finding time to throw in some oldies like “History” and “Concrete”.

This Wild Life

Frank Turner

Yes, THAT Frank Turner took the stage for a few Warped Tour dates this year. Each year on the tour, there are always a few surprises on the lineup that should be labeled required viewing. The English folk singer took to the main stage for an eight-song set that felt all too short, while still providing plenty of moments for sing-a-longs and even a few laughs. His closing performance of “Get Better” proved to be one of the highlights of the day.

Frank Turner

Senses Fail

One final run of Warped Tour just wouldn’t feel right without one of the screamo scene’s old guard in tow, and Senses Fail make for the perfect choice. Over 15 years in, vocalist Buddy Nielsen is still a sight to behold on stage, whether he’s playing old standards like “Bite to Break Skin” and “Calling All Cars” or even a few cover songs. The band’s latest release, If There is Light, It Will Find You, is one of the most underrated albums so far in 2018, and the band’s Warped set proves to be a reminder that Senses Fail still have plenty of life left.

Senses Fail

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.

Review: Real Friends – Composure

It’s been just over two years since Real Friends came out with a full-length album, and while this isn’t an abnormally long period, I held firm belief that the band was in the process of creating their best work yet. It turns out, I wasn’t wrong. Composure is one of the best releases you’ll hear this year and is built as a story about the impact mental illness has on our relationships and our lives.

This is an album with a title that is vitally important to the context of the record. The very concept of composure itself is centrally woven through every song on the album, creating a continuity and arc that is impossible to ignore and a story that is liable to hit home for nearly everyone who listens.

You can buy or stream Composure on Apple Music.

As the album kicks off with “Me First”, there’s no composure present. Vocalist Dan Lambton bares it all, singing, “Why don’t you put me first for once / And spare me the bad news / Why don’t you put me first for once / We might need to slow down / Cuz’ I’m not going anywhere”. If you’ve ever been in a place where you don’t feel appreciated, it’s difficult to hold back your frustration once you reach your limit. Straightforward and biting, the character has voiced his concerns and now he can focus on working through it.

The bridge in “Stand Steady” is a continuation of the feelings in the first track. “Here I am / Showing every worry / To the world”, is a short but telling phrase that shows he’s still not cool with what’s going on. However, he’s decided to work on being the stronger person in the situation.

The story truly unfolds in “From the Outside”, which was a very fitting single for the band to release in anticipation for this album. Here we find that the person he’s struggling with is himself. Lambton has often spoken of struggling with bipolar disorder, and this song talks about his prescriptions and his constant need to save face. He’s in the public eye and has an influence. This idea continues on in the next song, “Smiling On the Surface”.

I took “Hear What You Want” to be referencing either a relationship with someone else or another way that he’s talking about himself. “I can’t leave you / You can’t leave me”, could refer to a toxic relationship or it could be talking about his mental illness. You can’t always get rid of what’s going on in your thoughts, and by hearing what you want, Lambton could be saying that the intrusive thoughts are a lot louder than he wishes they’d be, and even though one part of him knows he should ignore it, he can’t.

The next song, “Unconditional Love”, led me to believe that the past song is about a relationship. “You let me down / But you never let me go”, is saying that the relationship wasn’t beneficial, but they’re still trying to make it work despite knowing that it’s only a matter of time before things really go south. The last line of the song is “So let me go”, making clear that our character knows that what’s best for his mental health is to drop things that aren’t fulfilling and healthy.

On the title track, Lambton sings, “I’m reclaiming my composure”. He’s learning how to work through some of the tougher moments in his life. The second verse is where a lot of the darker ideas reside, quite literally. “I never told anyone / But the truth is I see / The shadow hanging over me”. I think this song is about not keeping cool, but losing it. He’s trying his absolute best to keep up with the meds and the preventative measures, but he still feels off.

The biggest thing about mental illness is how it makes you feel closed off from the rest of the world. Being in a crowded room and feeling like you’re the only one there. Doing something you love to do or being with people you love and, right in the middle of it, thinking to yourself that you don’t want to be there anymore.

“Get By” carries on the theme from “Hear What You Want” and “Unconditional Love”. This is the part of the story where our character decides to do something about the weight of this relationship. He breaks it off. An important note here is that it’s never implied that it’s any kind of romantic relationship. Mental illness messes up all kinds of friendships and family ties that, when they fall through, have that emotional attachment that is hard to get over.

A lot of pop punk is based on dating and breaking up (even some old Real Friends songs), but I feel like this album is trying to strike a different chord. The band’s character here is in a tough spot with someone, but not necessarily who we think. I think it’s important to remember that the impact of mental illness isn’t just something to romanticize, but it’s something that tears people apart. It’s hard to look back on your life and replay the conversations where something wasn’t quite over, but being able to notice signs that things weren’t right. Hindsight is 20/20.

The second-to-last track on Composure is “Ripcord”. In the vein of “Get By”, we see this situation from the opposite perspective, looking purely at the other side of this conflict. The other party feels like the character is using them for their support and only calls out when it’s convenient.

This is another facet of mental illness people don’t really talk about. It’s true that someone with a mental illness often fails to see past their struggle and watch the impact it’s having on others around them. Sometimes, though, it’s a protective measure for the person themselves. If they’re not getting the support they need from those around them, their last resort can be just focusing on making themselves able to cope and function. This isn’t an excuse, it’s a fact. So yeah, maybe in “Ripcord” other people in the character’s life are having trouble dealing with the way things are going, but our character himself is also having trouble.

The album ends with “Take a Hint”, where things turn around and settle down. Dan sings, “I’m learning to take a hint / Stay convinced / We’ll see the other side”. Despite the toll this whole ordeal has taken on our character, he’s still willing to find the optimism and works hard to stay in the place of positivity.

You may notice that I only talked about the lyrical merits of Real Friends’ new album Composure. I didn’t talk about how vocally dynamic it is, or how well produced it is, or how the band has matured musically. It is all of those things and more, but I think what’s important here is the message. It’s a cry for a help. It’s an explanation. It’s a warning. It’s a piece of art that highlights one of the most prevalent issues of today. It’s worth listening to not because you love the band or love pop punk, it’s worth listening to because with a little bit of effort, you might learn something.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.