The Phoebe Bridgers Reunion Tour: An Experience Worth Waiting For

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It had been just over two years since the last time I had attended a concert. I was apprehensive. I wondered if that passage of time had somehow quelled my love of the setting. Maybe I didn’t need live music experiences anymore, at least not with the same frequency as before. That’s what I was thinking, but then the lights went down, a band came on stage, I raised my camera to capture the moment, and felt that familiar rush wash over me. I missed this more than I knew.

It’s wild to think about how much has changed for Phoebe Bridgers since the last time she took the stage. Pre-pandemic, Bridgers was still carving her path, building on the early momentum of her debut, Stranger in the Alps, and her collaborative projects, boygenius and Better Oblivion Community. But then came Punisher, a perfect album that changed everything, but all took place in isolation. There was Bridgers in February, in attendance at a bizarre Grammys in her skeleton pajamas, never having had the chance to perform the songs that had changed her life in front of a live audience.

Truthfully, after all we’ve endured, it has made this late summer’s Reunion Tour the perfect opportunity to finally re-connect and share our experience of Punisher together. The tour’s dates were recently moved to outdoor venues, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry. It felt about as safe as you can feel these days at an event filled with strangers.

MUNA opened the night – an electro pop trio I had no prior knowledge of. And guess what; it’s still so much fun to discover a new band at a concert. Led by vocalist Katie Gavin, the band exhibited an infectious joy onstage throughout their set, making it impossible to look away. Opening with tracks like “Number One Fan” and “Stayaway” from their 2019 full-length album, Saves the World, the band’s knack for creating dance-worthy tracks ranging in emotion and energy set the tone for the night. When they debuted their new track “Silk Chiffon” (featuring Bridgers), it made clear that MUNA is on the cusp of reaching another level.

To finally experience Punisher in person was…therapeutic? Healing? Relieving? It was something. Bridgers opened with “Motion Sickness” from her debut, making a subtle nod to the idea of our collective reunion. “Let’s experience something familiar before we dive into the new stuff.” From there, “DVD Menu” led into “Garden Song” which led into “Kyoto” and oh my god every song still sounds so perfect. Every track from the album happened in sequence with various other songs from Bridgers’ other works sprinkled within.

The setting fit the mood – dark, but lit with just enough light to create a “vibe.” A backing screen featuring an opening book that visualized the chapters of the performance. And of course, Bridgers and band decked in those skeleton PJs. Highlights of the show depended on your own personal attachments. For me, “Moon Song” proved just as sad and lovely as I had hoped. But it’s hard to outdo a choir of screaming to those final moments of “I Know the End”. Every song was delivered with care. Every moment felt worth absorbing.

In hindsight, I can’t think of a better show to reacquaint myself with the setting. Punisher has meant more to me in this past year than I can put into words. Having the opportunity, after all of this time, to experience it like this? In a weird way, it almost felt worth the wait.

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: Tigers Jaw – I Won’t Care How You Remember Me

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If there’s anything we all have in common in living the past year and a half together, it’s that we’ve all grown up a little faster. I was looking at pictures the other day and I was struck by how closely we were standing together. Clinging to one another like it was the last human contact we’d ever have. In I Won’t Care How You Remember Me, Tigers Jaw reflects on that with their most mature album yet.

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You can buy or stream I Won’t Care How You Remember Me on Apple Music.

It’s something that I would say everyone has gone through. I broke up with my childhood best friend and somehow we made our way back to each other. We don’t agree on everything and there are definitely things that we remember that caused our time apart, but all in all, it’s okay. Maybe Tigers Jaw’s next album will see that kind of redemption. For now though, these songs remind me of how I felt when I was a teen and high school got the better of me.

Spin was released to wide acclaim in 2017, and I came into I Won’t Care How You Remember Me warily. Despite having the same team and the same band, I wrongly found myself wishing I had Spin 2.0. 

The latest album was written before quarantine, but it really does echo how a lot of us felt without our friends this past year, and the fact that some of us are exiting pandemic times without some of those we held dear, whether we lost them physically or just emotionally. Songs like the title track, with lines like, “I see the pain not healing” and “Commit” with, “If you wanted to ask for forgiveness / Then commit and say it”, really do point to a true loss and hurt that they’ve experienced. 

Is this album Spin? Not quite. It is certainly an important chapter in their story, and I know these songs will translate well to live shows because of how relatable they are. The aesthetic of the band has grown up in this album cycle, and so has their songwriting and musical expertise. It’s difficult to say that I had different expectations, because none of us can truly know what an artist will do next, so I’m willing to look at I Won’t Care How You Remember Me at face value and as a stand alone piece, as I know Tigers Jaw intended.

I’ve always gone to Tigers Jaw no matter what I’m feeling. They’ve consistently been a more positive band in the alt scene and I almost need them to remind me to smile a little bit. Now, we finally see Tigers Jaw move away from that and make a breakup album. But of course, there’s a Tigers Jaw flair to it — we’re not mourning lost love here, but something that can honestly be more painful: the ending of a friendship.

3.5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves 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: Julien Baker – Little Oblivions

In Greek mythology, there is a river in the Underworld called the River Lethe, which was said to bring forgetfulness to those who drank from it. John Milton wrote about it in Paradise Lost and called it “Lethe, the river of oblivion.” In Little Oblivions, Julien Baker makes the same comparison, but she uses a few more words (and instruments) to do it.

You can buy or stream Little Oblivions on Apple Music.

This time around, Julien starts her story with a relapse, which she talks about in “Hardline”, the second single. The album moves quickly, not pausing for reflection so much, like her past albums have. When I first added Little Oblivions to my most anticipated, we only had “Faith Healer”, a song about church trauma, in a sense, but when wrapped into the album as a whole, it’s more about the idea of searching for a solution. 

I’ve seen my fair share of people who claim they can heal, and maybe when I was younger, I thought it was a feasible idea because it was a normalcy in my religious life. But as years passed and people in my life didn’t receive the healing I thought they deserved, or things generally didn’t turn out the way these (obviously fallible) humans said they would, this aspect of faith began to lose its luster for me. And yet. I understand Julien’s desperation in “Faith Healer” probably better than a lot of folks who have found solace in her music. She longs to believe the way she used to, and so do I.

As a person who deals with depression and anxiety from things in the past that shook me when I was too young to be shaken, the question that Julien asks in “Favor” hit me deeply, because I saw myself: “How long do I have until I’ve spent everyone’s goodwill?” We know our hurts affect those around us, and it’s so hard to get out of our own way. I guess that’s why Julien writes songs about it.

I could write forever on each one of these songs that Julien has offered up, and as I finish typing these paragraphs I’m sitting in my own church parking lot, which I feel is symbolic in some strange way. Every one hit me deeply in places I hadn’t expected. In the final track, when she sings, “Good God / When You gonna call it off? / Climb down off of the cross / And change your mind” I feel like Julien is talking to God about herself.

We have the obvious biblical and religious allusions and implications of Christ freeing Himself from the cross at face value, but I feel like Julien is asking to be free of her cross. The religious upbringing, the lack of acceptance across the board in church, the struggles with addiction — it’s all tied together. It seems like Julien feels she’s been ziptied to this cross and wants out. 

Julien has opened herself here, adding more instruments than we’ve ever seen from her — and she played everything herself. The sheer talent she holds is incredible. She has given us three albums that are pretty close to perfect in a short timespan. What takes many artists decades to accomplish has taken Julien Baker, in a professional sense, six years.

But in a personal sense, Julien begs for forgetfulness. She longs to leave her darkest nights in the past, but she just can’t stop singing about them. It’s like she sits at the mouth of the River Lethe, filling up her cup again and again, only to be met with disappointment. These things stay with her, and so they stay with us.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves 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.

Most Anticipated of 2021: Tigers Jaw Finally End the Wait

I sit at the feet of Tigers Jaw, waiting patiently for the day they decide to toss an album into my eager, outstretched palms. Brianna Collins looks down at me in disgust; it has been three years of this waiting game. I Won’t Care How You Remember Me comes out on March 5th, so I will sit at the gates of the Tigers Jaw kingdom for two more months, hungrily feasting on each single and promotional photo they leave for me, the lowliest of listeners.

This is absolutely my most anticipated album of the year, and I’m glad that it’s a guaranteed release because I can’t take any more disappointment. I often insert my pipe dream albums in the most anticipated segment of the year, and it almost always ends up backfiring on me, so I’ve tried to stop. Tigers Jaw is one of the few bands that make my pipe dreams come true — a solid album every time. They have production god Will Yip on their side and that has always been to their absolute benefit.

Dramatic monologue aside, you obviously all saw this coming. I’ve seen Tigers Jaw play several shows and with each performance my love for their infectious pop rock grows. Each album is better than the last, and Spin (2017) has remained in my frequent listening pile since release day. Hopefully the latter half of 2021 will allow me to see them play the new tracks live, but who can even have any hope at this point? You can watch the videos for “Cat’s Cradle” and “Lemon Mouth” now, and the third single, “Hesitation” dropped on January 7th.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves 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.

Most Anticipated of 2021: Julien Baker Brings Healing

Phoebe Bridgers gave me my album of 2020, so her friend Julien Baker has some shoes to fill with Little Oblivions, slated for February 26th. Her gentle instrumentation and grating lyricism in the first single, “Faith Healer” is a great first taste of what we can expect from her third studio album. She plays almost every instrument this time around and I’m interested in hearing her perspective with a richer sound.

Having recently been thrown into an unexpected time of loss, I’m excited for the balm I know Julien’s album will be. Her juxtaposition of religion and reality has always been grounding and a good reminder that it will get better, whatever “better” ends up meaning.

Her music, while deeply personal for her, has been a great source of what I think of as “responsible escapism” — the idea that leaning into media and art that that highlights our emotional state is paramount to healing.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves 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: Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

In true Phoebe Bridgers fashion, her new album Punisher runs the gamut, with a title that fits the bill. She sings about childhood, faith, substance abuse, and loads of other realities that cut to the core. From the beginning of “DVD Menu” to the final notes of “I Know the End”, listeners are brought to their knees. It’s beautiful.

You can buy or stream Punisher on Apple Music.

I’ve casually enjoyed Bridgers’ music since 2017’s Stranger In the Alps, but unlike many others, I didn’t give her much thought until lately. When I think of women in recent music that stick out to me, I often think of Bridgers’ friend Julien Baker, who joins Bridgers on track 10, “Graceland Too”. I don’t know what it is about women who write sad music, but I can’t get enough. I suppose I feel a kinship to those who believe that women can be both forceful and feminine, and the way that Phoebe and others in her class tackle these subjects embody that for me.

The album begins with “DVD Menu”. She said in her Apple Music interview that it samples the final song from Stranger, and it’s a sweet bit of continuity that ties the two projects together. It continues with the single “Garden Song”, a track about personal growth. The next track, also a single, talks about how the foundations built in our childhood influence the adults we grow to be – even when we don’t think they will.

The ideas about feeling unworthy of the love and success she’s garnered over her years of traveling and playing music are relatable for anyone who has tried to make a difference in any way. The title track about meeting her musical hero, Elliot Smith, and worrying that she’ll simply be a nuisance rather than a welcome guest is relatable to anyone who looks up to those who have made a difference. The album is deeply introspective and offers a raw look into how Phoebe has grown as a performer since stepping away from PAX AM and paving her own path.

My personal favorite track is “Moon Song.” It stuck out to me from my first listen and I’ve looked forward to it every listen since. It cuts deeply in a way that I guess I don’t understand. Maybe I’m just not ready to face that emotionally yet? Either way, it’s a masterpiece and even though it’s smack in the middle of the album, I think it’s the best track.

Suffice to say, I love the new Phoebe Bridgers album. The gentleness in her delivery completely counteracts and dulls the knives she sings about. It’s a true escape in a time where it can be necessary to step back and take a breather.

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.

Review: The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form

It’s that time of the year again, folks. Time for us to painstakingly take apart another album by The 1975, this time titled Notes On a Conditional Form. Matty Healy and friends have given another long album, featuring 22 tracks and clocking in at about an hour and a half. It’s got seven more tracks than its sister album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, and it continues the band’s story of learning to step away from our intensely connected world.

You can buy or stream Notes on a Conditional Form on Apple Music.

The album begins with the eponymous track “The 1975”, but instead of the usual reworking of the same lyrics like the past three albums, Notes switches it up. We are given a spoken word from climate activist Greta Thunberg, including lines from her powerful “Our House Is On Fire” speech. It’s a strange way to start the album, given that the rest of it barely touches on the subject, but it’s another example of how the band has changed from a Top 40 staple to a group of people who genuinely want to change the world with their art.

The album continues with “People”, which was the lead single and released last August. This has been a long album cycle — the album was delayed twice. It continues the theme from Thunberg’s introduction, featuring a call to action and the end of apathy. It also takes us back to the early days of a more punk rock 1975, modernizing it with scathingly political lyrics.

To their merit, this album is more meat than potatoes for me. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was revolutionary when it was released, and yet as I listened to it over the year it’s been out, it became lacking for me. In Notes, the band has really figured out what they want to say and how they want to say it. With the addition of more fun tracks like “Me & You Together Song” (a personal highlight) and “Guys”, the album feels more personal and complete.

A Brief Inquiry and Notes are not recreational albums. Notes is almost there and is inherently easier to listen to, but I know I’ll still cherry pick. I wonder what would happen if The 1975 could write an entire album without feeling the need to fill it up with instrumentals. When I listen to the band when I’m in the car, I go for their self-titled or I like it when you sleep.

For a band who is so obsessed with making change, they’re sometimes stuck in a formula. If you listen to any of their albums, it’s evident, even so far as using pieces of past music — see I like it when you sleep’s “Please Be Naked” and Notes’ “The End (Music for Cars)”. Their need to stick to their formula is almost religious, and I feel that sometimes, though sacrificing continuity, it would be beneficial to really break away from what they’ve previously done.

All in all, Notes On a Conditional Form is set to be an album of the year contender for many. The idea that we can use music to foster conversation is something that The 1975 does well, and I’m grateful that they’ve chosen to use their platform in this way.

4/5

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.

Review: Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

In our BandCamp-led indie scene these days, there’s been a swell of success that would otherwise leave us with a deficit in the alt scene. The underground has bloomed like never before due to the independent release era we’ve found ourselves in for the last decade. One of the shining stars of the movement is Sophie Allison, who calls her project Soccer Mommy.

You can buy or stream Color Theory on Apple Music.

I first heard about Soccer Mommy in the process of making a playlist of new and notable women in music. I then had the chance to see her play when she opened for Paramore in the summer of 2018, but missed it because we had a four hour drive to New Hampshire. I’d love to catch her show the next time she’s in Boston, though, because the fact is, missing her set made me fully listen to her discography. My favorite album ended up being 2018’s Clean, but her latest album, Color Theory, may have taken precedence.

I’m a sucker for music with a strong theme, whether it be a true concept album or just an album with a great sense of continuity. Sophie Allison has chosen to create this album around synesthesia, with the colors in question being blue, yellow, then grey. She said in an interview that blue represents depression, yellow represents anxiety, yet positivity, and grey represents death and loss.

This all makes more sense when you learn that her mother has been ill for a long time. Many of the tracks, including the single “yellow is the color of her eyes”, deal with this fact. She has managed to wrap these emotions in a soft, lo-fi pop sound, which makes it an easy listen. But there’s no denying that this album isn’t meant to be played on Top 40. It’s an honest expression from a young woman who has been put through life’s wringer — from her mom’s illness to her own long struggle with mental illness.

Allison holds nothing back from the beginning to the end of the album. Each track is meticulously placed to further tell the story of this chapter in her life. On “bloodstream” she sings, “Happiness is a firefly / On summer free evenings / Feel it slipping through my fingers / But I can’t catch it in my hands”. 

These sentiments are rampant through the album — a potent loss of hope — but the real kicker on the album is “royal screw up”. She sings in an almost a childlike way, remembering being young and wanting to be a princess. She has since come to believe that she’s the “princess of screwing up,” but she also has a sense of confidence in herself. It’s a feeling women are all too familiar with — the dichotomy of not needing anyone but yourself to further your success but also desperately wanting to be appreciated and needed for who you are.

On surface level, we’ve received a soft offering of a girl who’s dealt with too much in her short life (she’s my age). But digging deeper, we get a bigger picture of a person trying to rise above these hardships, trying to work through them and come out on the other side. She’s an Alanis for the new age, grappling constantly with the way she wishes her world was better, but still managing to find a bright side. Sophie Allison has painted an incredible picture of humanity with Color Theory, and I can tell it’s an album I’ll be thinking about for a while.

4.5/5

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.

Switchfoot Sets Sail on the Fantastic Traveling Music Show

Back in 2017, something that I never thought would happen happened. Switchfoot announced an “extended hiatus.” I actually wrote a piece lauding them for the 20 years of music they had given us. Well, fast forward almost two years later and Switchfoot pretty much played a huge practical joke on us all. They took 2018 off, sure, but then ended up releasing a new album, Native Tongue, in January of this year.

They spent February to April touring the new album and then announced another fall tour – The Fantastic Traveling Music Show. My husband and I try to catch their Boston show whenever they happen to be on the East Coast, but there wasn’t a Boston show this time around. We made a three(!) hour trek up to Connecticut, and it was totally worth it.

The premise of the concert was a shipwreck. The band went crazy with the set design, and had a literal boat on stage, which was pretty rad. They didn’t bring any openers, instead playing two sets. The first was an acoustic portion, where they took audience requests by pulling songs from a bottle, keeping with the maritime theme. I’ve seen Switchfoot play twice before this date, and there were songs I had never heard live. Even though it was cool as a fan to hear those older tracks like “Company Car”, I almost feel like the whole show’s concept was a way for the band to keep things fresh for themselves. They’ve been playing together for so long at this point; I don’t blame them for mixing it up.

The second act was a full band set. Instead of the boat, they suspended a hot air balloon above their instruments. The highlights during the second half were definitely “Meant to Live”, “Float” and “This Is Your Life”. Even now, into the later years of their career, the band has intense chemistry that makes every set seamless.

Accompanying the requests were reasons the person had chosen them and a very poignant moment was when they played “Where the Light Shines Through” for a family whose daughter was born with severe complications. The band has always been open and genuine about their own personal lives and struggles and it was nice to see them acknowledge the part their music plays in others’ lives.

They often bring a charity on tour with them and this time around they chose Food for the Hungry. Their goal is to have 365 children sponsored to receive food, clean water, and education. You can find more information about their partnership on their website. Switchfoot has been an irreplaceable band in so many lives throughout the past 22 years. I am so grateful to see them continue to make music and invite us to celebrate with them.

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: 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.