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.

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Review: Queen of Jeans – If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid

When I saw Queen of Jeans open for Balance and Composure in 2017, I was thoroughly impressed. The trio from Philly gave their all on stage, describing their art as a “90s-esque band playing 60s music.” It was right up my alley, and I promptly purchased a t-shirt and told them how much I enjoyed their set. I became a casual listener, but when I learned they were releasing a full-length on Topshelf Records, I was psyched. The album isn’t what I expected based on what I know of the band. But it’s what the band members needed to release, and it’s what we all need to hear.

You can buy or stream If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid on Apple Music.

The lead single and first track, “Get Lost”, from Queen of Jeans’ newest album If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid, starts off unassumingly. It’s a song that lead vocalist Miriam Devora wrote about the process of losing her mom and how she’s had to learn to move on. It’s a tough song to listen to if you follow Miriam on social media and saw her heartbreaking post about the experience. The album continues on in the theme of learning how to become yourself, especially when you’re missing one of the most important people who has been such an integral part of that growth.

The album is about sadness in every sense of the word – from the loss of Miriam’s mother, to the past relationships that didn’t work out, to the social disparages women face. Miriam and guitarist Matheson Glass are very vocal about their sexualities and the difficulties that being so open have brought to both their personal and artistic lives. They deal with it in the most mature, yet raw way. In “Tell Me”, Miriam sings “While you spew sick intolerance / I’m afraid to leave my house”. I appreciate the fact that they’ve decided to keep things on their own terms. They own their opinions and won’t change for anything that comes their way.

Musically, there’s been a ton of growth. The production on the album is beautiful, and while still holding on to the original spirit of their past releases, took advantage of moving from a garage band to being signed to a label. Miriam’s vocals totally shine, and she’s clearly put a ton of work and practice into honing her skills.

My favorite tracks on the album are “Centuries”, “Not a Minute Too Soon” and “I Am In Love with Your Mind”. They all showcase both the band’s musical and lyrical strengths. 

The album is a lovely testament to how women have the tendency to feel deeply. It’s soft and thoughtful, and is the perfect catalyst to this band’s future as one of the biggest voices in indie rock.

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: Have Mercy – The Love Life

Photo by Benjamin Lieber

Have Mercy is consistently the saddest band I listen to. It makes me feel really bad because no one should be this sad for four whole albums. They’re so sad they surpass the emo label and they’re in their own league. I was hoping that Brian Swindle had turned over a new leaf with The Love Life, but here we are again with another album about the ways love fails us.

You can buy or stream The Love Life on Apple Music.

The album opens quietly with “We Ain’t Got Love”. It features a haunting acoustic guitar and ends with a slow but heavy breakdown. Here, Brian’s a man speaking to a lover in the past. She’s moved on, but Brian sings that “[Her] new boyfriend / Is a failure / Just like me”. It’s a great opener because it shows us exactly what to expect. This album won’t be hard hitting like the others. There’s not so much anger here, but certainly more regret.

“40oz” is one of my personal favorites. The band’s founding member, Aaron Alt, passed away earlier this year, and it’s hard to listen to the chorus of this song and imagine it to be about anything else. 

The fourth track, “Clair”, is my favorite. If you can get past the awkward first verse, the chorus is explosive, and I’d say it’s definitely the best track off the album. It’s the one that’s stayed with me the most. It’s the perfect combination of what we’ve grown accustomed to from the band and the lighter vibe this album has. 

“Mattress On the Floor” gave me the same sad nostalgia that Aaron West’s “Rose and Reseda” gave me when I first heard it. I love songs that get visceral with emotion, and this track feels extra raw. The second verse hits with the notion that things aren’t going so hot but they’re making it work, but the final lines are “And I don’t dream like I used to anymore / I still drink about that mattress on the floor”. It’s one of the things that drew me to the band. The way they use contrast in their songwriting always keeps you guessing. You know it’ll be sad, but you don’t always know where, when, or how. 

“Dressed Down” seems like a filler track to me. The album is definitely not uplifting in any sense, but it seems like the band really tried gave an effort to keep the musical side jaunty, as seen in the next track “So Like You”. The former track is a definite low point, and a track I skipped from probably the third listen.

I personally like this album the most out of their four album run, but I will admit that it isn’t their strongest. The band works better when they lean towards their post-hardcore sound. This is the most mellow of their releases, and while it’s a great addition to their discography, the ways they held back left me wanting a little bit more.

3.5/5

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 Black Keys – Let’s Rock!

If you’re like me, you thought The Black Keys were never going to come back. They were a has been of the mid 2000’s and early 2010’s, and then they were gone forever. Well, not so fast. They have returned with Let’s Rock!,  an album that celebrates the ups and downs of life in the unconventional way that The Black Keys do. 

I say “unconventional,” because the inspiration for the album title and cover is a convicted murderer’s execution. He was executed using, you guessed it, the electric chair, and his last words were reportedly, “Let’s rock.” Other than that morbid tidbit of trivia, the album was made for summer beach drives.

You can buy or stream Let’s Rock! on Apple Music.

Putting aside the distasteful influence of the album, there’s part of me (the conspiracy theory side) that wants to believe there’s more to it than meets the eye. There’s a part of me that feels like it’s kind of the murderer’s Death Row story. They obviously don’t murder anyone within the lyrics of the album, but it’s very reminiscent, much like someone on Death Row might be when facing their last days. There’s a lot of begging for mercy, and remembering past loves, and eventually, a kind of acceptance of fate. 

The opening track, “Shine a Little Light”, is explosive and really drives forward the themes of the album. It packs a punch — easily one of the best tracks here. The only downfall is it sets the album up to be more energetic than it ends up actually being. The next few tracks are largely forgettable, in my opinion. They have some nice sentiments here and there but the album slows down far too quickly for me. The band seems to rely on their guitar solos pretty heavily this time around. The first single, “Lo/Hi”, is a standout on the album, with lyrics addressing a concern for emotional wellbeing and then being fed up with the person in question while watching how their lifestyle choices are detrimental.

There are a couple of love songs on the album, something I feel like doesn’t happen very often with The Black Keys. “Eagle Birds” and “Walk Across the Water” are definitely wedding playlist worthy. My other favorite tracks are “Sit Around and Miss You” and “Under the Gun.” 

A lot of the album is very 70’s Southern rock-esque, but it doesn’t really do it for me. They’ve strayed away from the cool garage band sound into their own take on the bluesy rock hitting the radio today, à la Greta Van Fleet. It’s kind of sad, seeing as the band paved the way for bands like the aforementioned. It’s almost as though they waited too long to come back. I feel like if it had been two years ago, Let’s Rock! would have really brought the house down. All that’s left for The Black Keys is the fame of 2009. It’s a worthy offering, but falls just a little bit short.

3.5/5

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.

Reflecting On: The Killers – Hot Fuss

It wasn’t until after I saw The Killers that I realized how much I enjoyed their music. They played in Boston for their farewell tour and I literally hopped in the car with my friends when someone couldn’t make the show. It’s still the best spontaneous thing I’ve done. After the show, I embarked on a Killers journey, which I started to chronicle on Twitter, but then stopped bothering everyone with it, as one does. I listened to each album in chronological order – one album a day – to find out my favorite album. And, no pun intended, 2004’s Hot Fuss came out on top.

You can buy or stream Hot Fuss on Apple Music.

It’s hard to believe that one of alternative’s most important albums could be 15 years old, but here we are. The Killers were a band way ahead of their time in 2004, cranking out songs that were both radio friendly and edgy enough for those youths looking for the next big thing. “Mr. Brightside” continues to dominate charts 15 years later, and that’s a real accomplishment. As of May, it was #93 in the Top 100 on the UK singles charts.

The album tells a heck of a story about a high school kid trying to make it work. “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” is (supposedly, but I wholeheartedly accept this conspiracy) the third in what’s known as the Murder Trilogy, in which Jenny has been murdered. The trilogy starts with “Leave the Bourbon On the Shelf”, which can be found in their 2007 B-sides album Sawdust, and continues with the Hot Fuss track “Midnight Show”. The other theory about the album is that the main character, personified by Brandon, is actually gay, and the motive for Jenny’s murder is the fact that the unnamed boy is secretly in love with Jenny’s boyfriend. They’re both plausible if you listen to the album, but I’ve always had a penchant for conspiracy theories, in music and otherwise.

So, why the heck are we all still listening to Hot Fuss? I’d venture to say that it’s both a mix of nostalgia and the fact that the album is truly timeless. I’m not trying to bash anyone, but Panic! At the Disco’s first album sounds very much like the year it was released in – 2005. The early 2000s were obsessed with creating something new and exciting, but I feel like The Killers were able to do it more efficiently. They created a musical experience that perfectly encapsulates growing up in a small town and feeling trapped. And yeah, of course we associate Hot Fuss with the year it came out, because for many listeners, it was a justification of the niche genre they had fallen in love with. It truly brought the alt scene to the mainstream.

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.

A Quiet Evening with Copeland and Friends

If you listened to our podcast on Copeland a few weeks back, you’ll know that I had never seen the band live. I bought tickets for their Boston show in December, before I had even heard the new album. You’ll also know I ended up loving the new album. I also loved how it translated in the atmosphere of the live show.

They toured with Many Rooms, whom I’d never heard of, and From Indian Lakes, a long time favorite of mine. Generally, the first act on the lineup isn’t who I’m there for, but by the end of Brianna Hunt’s set, I was wondering why Copeland wasn’t opening for her. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an opener sing something more than just fluff. A lot of times, I feel like headliners take the easy way out and pick bands that won’t steal the spotlight from them, but for me, Many Rooms was the highlight of the night. Her honest lyricism about religion and faith in today’s society really hit a chord with me. She just released an album last year called There Is a Presence Here, and her latest single is called “99 Proofs”.

From Indian Lakes was up next, and played a very classic set of tracks from their past two albums, as well as two new tracks. Their lead vocalist commented that this was the “most chill” tour they’d done, and it’s really true. They had a couple of new faces to go along with their new tracks, one of those featuring a new vocalist. I’m assuming we’ll get an album (or at least an EP), and I’m psyched about that — three years is a long time. On a slightly more critical note, it wasn’t my favorite set from the band, but I think that was due to the mechanics of the venue.

Copeland was the last act of the evening. They opened with “As Above, So Alone” from their latest album, Blushing. The songs from the album were great live, and the band used the help of some tracks to recreate some of the vibes the album put off. They played several fan favorites, of course, and following some technical difficulties with “Pope”, Aaron played “California” from Beneath Medicine Tree. The setlist was varied, and I appreciated how many songs from You Are My Sunshine they played.

All in all, it was a great night. The crowd was respectful and the music was great. It was a real privilege to see Copeland play and I hope they’ll come back aorund again soon.

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.

Perma Return with New Album “Fight Fair”

I have a friend named Zac who is a musical genius. Anything he touches in the music world becomes incredible. Instruments, songwriting, composition. The dude literally has talent in every aspect of music – except vocally, which isn’t to put him down, because he’ll literally be the first to mention it. But he married a woman who is a vocal mastermind. Everything they work on together is infinitely better than it would be if they were separate. All this is to say that my other favorite musical couple, as well as people who share this same relationship to music, Max and Sherri Bemis, have just released their second album under the name Perma.

You can stream Fight Fair on Spotify.

Perma released their first album, Two of a Crime, in 2013. If you’ve been paying attention to Max this year, you’ll know that he laid Say Anything to rest and is focusing on other aspects of the creative world, specifically writing comics. Sherri is still continuing with Eisley, as well as being an artist, wife and mom to their three kids. (She’s also a hero of mine.)

They released their latest album, Fight Fair on their 10th anniversary, which basically just solidified even more how much admiration I have for this couple. They’re very open about their life, and to watch them make it through the ups and downs and still have so much love and passion and respect for each other is beautiful.

Fight Fair is no Two of a Crime by any means. Since 2013, Max and Sherri have had two more kids, and released five albums between both of their respective bands. The album tells a story of a marriage that has aged. It’s aged like fine wine, of course, but the album sounds significantly more mature than Two of a Crime does. There’s a lot more grit and agression to be heard. It’s aptly named because even though they fight with each other and things aren’t perfect, they still fight for each other every day.

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.

Artist to Watch: Wallows

Unlike my husband, it took me a solid year to get in line with the vibes Wallows has been putting out. He immediately jumped on board with their late 80’s/early 90’s-inspired rock and roll, but for some reason, I didn’t follow suit right away. They’ve since become a staple band for me, and their newest full length, Nothing Happens, has completely chained me to the Wallows train for good.

You can buy or stream Nothing Happens on Apple Music.

The band has been together since 2011, but one of the guys has since become famous for starring in Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” – which is something I really didn’t want to mention because we’re about the MUSIC here at It’s All Dead. However, one can’t deny the uptick in Spotify plays once the show was released. Just so we’re clear, I’m of the belief that fame from other avenues doesn’t matter if your music is good. I’m just salty because I can’t get tickets to their Boston show and want someone (Netflix) to blame.

Their music IS good and I wish their rise in popularity wasn’t so closely tied with TV but here we are. Nothing Happens, is energetic, like their other singles and EPs, touching on interpersonal relationships and waxing nostalgic about the days of their youth. With the album, though, I feel like they really took the opportunity of having our attention for 11 whole songs to build some rapport in the maturity field.

Thematically the album touches on things like adolescence (“Treacherous Doctor”), and how touchy a new relationship is (“Are You Bored Yet”). It’s relatable and bouncy in just the right ways. If you’re in your early 20s, like the guys in Wallows, this album is definitely for you. It’s a picture of how we navigate our ever changing world, and how we really don’t navigate it that well sometimes. Either way, I know it will be at the top of many summer playlists this year.

Photo credit: Alexis Gross

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: Hozier – Wasteland, Baby!

When I first listened to “Nina Cried Power” late last year, I could tell that whatever Hozier was cooking was going to be something worth listening to. It wasn’t just that I was excited to hear a new Hozier song, but it was clearly a song meant to impact. Other than being the first taste of new music, it’s the track that ended up opening his new album, Wasteland, Baby!

You can buy or stream Wasteland, Baby! on Apple Music.

A lot of people talked about “Nina Cried Power” when it was released, because of how well it captured today’s activist culture – featuring, of course, an activist herself, Mavis Staples. In the description of the music video, Hozier called it a “thank you note to the spirit and legacy of protest.” It’s very fitting as the first track to the album because throughout it, Hozier speaks again and again of the change the world needs to see.

The second track, “Almost (Sweet Music)”, continues the name dropping. Virtually every line refers to a jazz song or artist from the past. “Movement” slows things down a bit, as a low, sultry track about dancing with someone you love. One of the things I love about Hozier’s music is the way his allusions make you feel like he was there when these things were happening. When he talks about listening to Chet Baker, the familiarity and fondness with which he refers to him makes you feel like he and Chet are old friends. The same in “Movement” – you almost feel like he stood by as Atlas was holding up the earth. The way Hozier writes is so timeless and I think that’s one of the things that makes him such a great musician.

In “No Plan”, we swing back around to looking at society as a whole. He talks about how life is what it is – “There’s no plan / There’s no race to be run”, so we may as well take things for what they’re worth and appreciate the beauty in them.

The love songs on this album are truly unique. Where guys like Ed Sheeran have their metaphors down, Hozier zones in on an experience. We see this in “Shrike” and then a little bit later in “Dinner and Diatribes”. Comparing his partner to a shrike, which is a bird that impales its prey on thorns, he sings that he can’t leave, even though he knows that staying will leave him on a thorn. The latter track is about being at a party and deciding that you and your lover don’t want to be there anymore. It’s a really cute track.

“Be” is a track about life. He talks about life from the beginning and how constant his love has been. The world isn’t the kindest place, and Hozier makes a reference to Trump, and says that when he’s reincarnated, he could be one of the refugees at the border, and that those he shuns could be “On TV giving people the sack”. It’s scathing, but he finishes the line by saying that even though the world isn’t as great as it seems, his love will be the thing that lasts the longest.

The album closes with the title track. He sees that society is a wasteland, but that there’s still good to be found. There’s positivity in his relationships, in nature and in just the idea of enjoying what life has to offer. As a whole, Wasteland, Baby! is an ode to the way we live now, crying out that change is possible, and the idea that even though it’s a wasteland, it’s a wasteland with the ones we love.

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.

Podcast: The Best of Copeland

Recently, heralded indie rock act Copeland released their sixth full-length album, Blushing. On our latest podcast episode, Kiel Hauck is joined by Kyle Schultz and Nadia Paiva to discuss the band’s fantastic new record and the 16-year journey that brought them here. The trio also rank each Copeland album, break down their favorite songs from the band’s discography, and discuss the legacy of a band that has clearly carved out its own place in indie music history. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite Copeland album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck