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.

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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

Review: Copeland – Blushing

Click here to check out our new podcast breaking down Copeland’s discography

Anyone familiar with Copeland knows that the band loves to push boundaries. In terms of their lyricism and their production, they always aim above and beyond with each new project. Whether it’s for their own creative necessity or as a way to keep the fans coming after all these years, we can always count on them to impress us with each release. Their latest, Blushing, is no exception — but it is exceptional.

You can buy or stream Blushing on Apple Music.

Blushing begins with “Pope”, the first single the band released back in November. It’s a perfect opener and really sets the tone for how this album plays out. The spoken word in the middle is an important part of the album’s overall theme and eventually comes back around in the second-to-last track, “It Felt So Real”. As much as I don’t want to call this a concept album, it kind of is.

I loved Ixora. I know there were a lot of people who didn’t, but I liked the idea of an evolved Copeland. They were interested in branching out on that album in a way they weren’t before, and it was exciting. A lot of people are commenting on the videos Copeland posted for Blushing that it’s a whole album of songs that sound like “Lavender” from Ixora, and while I can definitely see where that comparison comes from, I don’t think it’s fair to write off the album based on that.

In Ixora, we had the girl standing “in the whitest dress,” clearly signifying either a marriage or a new relationship that hasn’t been touched by negativity yet. In Blushing, though, a lot of the honeymoon period we saw in Ixora is missing. There’s still plenty of love to go around, as seen in “Lay Here” and “On Your Worst Day”, but somewhere along the way, things have gone a little bit stale.

Gone are the days of Copeland singing about running through wildflowers. Vocalist Aaron Marsh’s character on Blushing is a tired man. He’s remembering the better times through dreams, which is where the spoken word comes in. She’s calling him out of that dream state and back to reality. In “Strange Flower”, he wonders if he’s enough for her. It’s all too relatable for a long-term relationship, and I think lyrically this might be some of the band’s tightest and most poignant work.

Copeland has a way of perfectly matching their music to the story they’re conveying. They said that with this album, they wanted to overdo everything they’ve done before. On their site, Marsh says, “…we wanted to emphasize each element of sound harder, like an exaggerated version of Copeland’s sound.”

With Blushing, that approach has succeeded, particularly with the use of string and jazz instruments. Neither of those are new for Copeland, but somehow they’ve made it feel fresh and never-before-heard. They were diligent with where they put compositional elements, they didn’t waste a note. Every sound serves its intended purpose well, and every moment of silence is placed exactly where it needs to be.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #3 Copeland Put an Emphasis on the Experience

Blushing will be Copeland’s sixth studio album. It’s been almost four years since the release of their comeback album Ixora, and Blushing seems like it will be a worthy follow-up to what was a beautiful representation of where the band was in the six years they were quiet.

The band self-produced their upcoming release, and as we all know, Aaron Marsh’s production skills are top tier. They seem to have a big emphasis on the experience the listener will have with the album, rather than it just being a group of songs thrown together.

A piece on the band’s website explains what their aim with the album is and I couldn’t be more excited about the new direction. It, very appropriately, releases on Valentine’s 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.