Hayley Williams and Billie Eilish Steal the Show at Coachella

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If you had told me a year or so ago that Hayley Williams would be performing alongside Billie Eilish, one side of my mouth would say, “No way”, and the other side would say “Makes sense”.

“No way”, because, what a pairing. “Makes sense”, because, what a pairing. Two of the top women in alt music on stage together is nothing short of exciting. And it’s a hell of a way for Hayley to make her first Coachella appearance. But of course, as we’ve come to know, Hayley is always one for surprises.

The afternoon of Coachella Weekend 2, I saw a tweet that said something to the effect of, “Billie is bringing Hayley on stage tonight.” I didn’t think anything of it, not being a particularly heavy Coachella follower, and knowing the Paramore rumor mill has been positively swirling with P6 news. An early morning (or I suppose a late night, depending on your relationship with sleep) for myself was punctuated by the news that Billie in fact did bring Hayley onstage. The rumor was real. I woke Jeremiah up I was so excited. I said “Oh my gosh Billie Eilish brought Hayley on stage and she sang ‘Misery Business.’” It didn’t receive the reaction I expected, being 4 a.m., but any hope of getting back to sleep that night for me was gone.

Someone on TikTok joked that Hayley sang “Misery Business” because MGK’s cover was so terrible. Having not played the track since 2018, I think we can all agree it was a shocker. But I think it’s not only because Hayley is ready to move past these last few years and get back to the crux of Paramore that she brought it back around. I think she chose it specifically to perform with Billie. From what I can see she has taken Billie under her wing in a sense, and I think it’s because Hayley can see her younger self in Billie. She was 14 when she first started Paramore and Billie was 13 when she recorded “Ocean Eyes”. In these later Paramore years, Hayley has been brutally honest about her relationship to fame, and quite honestly her disdain for it, and I think this was her way of letting people know not to mess with Billie.

Whatever the motivation behind it, it was an incredible ending to Billie’s first headlining Coachella set, and an incredible beginning to Hayley and Paramore’s walk back into the public sphere.

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: Wallows – Tell Me That It’s Over

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Wallows is back with their sophomore offering, Tell Me That It’s Over. They dove even deeper into the stoner rock/Britpop mix that made me fall in love with them a couple of years ago, but for me, this newer album seems to be a step backward rather than a leap ahead.

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You can buy or stream “Tell Me That It’s Over” on Apple Music

It starts off promisingly with “Hard to Believe” and first single “I Don’t Want to Talk”. This is the Wallows we know and love; energetic, youthful tracks. The album as a whole though sounds like a continuation of Nothing Happens, while losing the punch some of those past songs packed. I feel like they definitely put their best foot forward with the singles they released, as opposed to how those play out across the album as a whole.

I think the problem I have here is not that I don’t like this album, but I just like Nothing Happens so much more. Even though a lot of the vibes and lyricism here are similar, it’s lacking a certain something. I think it feels more like a predecessor to the perfection that their last album was, and so it feels a little bit out of order to me. The sounds here are mellower and laid back, and that’s a weird shift from the harder hitting stuff I’m used to.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Tell Me That It’s Over is bad, it’s just a different direction. I appreciate some of the more 80s-esque synths and one of my all-time favorite tracks from the band, “At the End of the Day” is from this album. I feel like this could be their Pinkerton, where they really decided to go with what they felt like writing rather than continuing in the vein that brought them the majority of their popularity. Tracks like “Marvelous” are just kind of a step away from what I’ve come to expect. They do have a knack for writing a closing track, and “Guitar Romantic Search Adventure” is a heck of a closer. “My life’s going by / But it’s just begun” is one of those lines that sticks with you for a long time.

This album is definitely built for a live show experience, and I’m bummed that I still haven’t been able to catch them live. The pandemic forced a refund of my tickets last time, and this tour has sold out so quickly I never even got a chance to look at tickets. And this is to their credit –  they’re a talented group of guys who have a tight sound and know what they want from their art.

I am always partial to a band’s previous releases until their newest has a chance to grow on me, and that’s no different here. Tell Me That It’s Over is a bouncy, colorful album, but for me it lacks a lot of the body that Nothing Happens had.

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: Mitski – Laurel Hell

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Mitski is back with Laurel Hell, a hard hitting album about capitalism, heartbreak, and the death of our youth and culture as we know it. Mitski surprised all of us and none of us at the same time when she announced a hiatus after the release of 2018’s Be The Cowboy. On one hand, she seemed at the peak of her career with her hit single “Nobody” booming from countless speakers. On the other, as seasoned Mitski fans know, she always seems a bit dissatisfied with where she is in life. We wondered whether she would truly be gone forever, leaving us with five albums and a Mitski-shaped hole in our hearts.

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You can buy or stream Laurel Hell on Apple Music

In November, it hit the stands: A new single and an upcoming album from Mitski. “The Only Heartbreaker” was also released that day as a single, and quickly became my favorite of the singles, and my favorite new song of the year as well. It was happy and quirky with those dark undertones we had come to expect from her music, and it’s smack in the middle of Laurel Hell’s track listing. Center stage, if you will.

The album as a whole is cohesive, but in a shy way that you have to look for. Amidst the Elton John-esque piano synths in “Should’ve Been Me” and double entendres like “Stay Soft”, is a portrait of a woman who has grown since we first heard from her all those years ago. She is reminiscing on her time in the music industry and reflecting on how things weren’t how she expected they would be. Songs like “Working for the Knife” and “Everyone” are paramount to her experience in the limelight, and almost a warning for those wishing to follow in her footsteps.

It’s hard to say I have a favorite track on Laurel Hell. They all hit me in such different ways and different places. In “Love Me More” it was like she ripped a page out of my life where my husband asks how he can possibly give me more attention when I ask why he is leaving the room. In “Heat Lightning” she sings about insomnia, pointing toward the hopelessness I feel when I see another car drive past my window at 2 a.m., the headlight casting just that one long shadow that leaves as quickly as it showed up. In “Working for the Knife” when she says “I used to think I’d be done by 20”, spitting back into my face the obligation of waking up each day. It’s effortlessly relatable. I’m starting to think I should get a therapist.

“I’ll be the water main that’s burst and flooding / You’ll be by the window, only watching”, Mitski sings in “The Only Heartbreaker”. I at first thought maybe it was the wrong song to release as a single due to the upbeat nature of what ends up being a darker album, but now I realize it was the perfect choice. But of course it was perfect, because Mitski does nothing less. She is the perfectionist of all perfectionists. Such an explosion of feeling could only come from her mouth, and we are here on the sidelines, watching it unfurl.

4.5/5

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.

Most Anticipated of 2022: Mitski Opens a New Chapter

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I remarked to my husband at the end of 2021 that I was officially entering my indie sad girl years, not to be confused, of course, with my emo sad girl years. I said this after spending a particularly emotional week in the world of The Mountain Goats, and I kind of moved away from the notion as I looked at my Spotify Wrapped and realized I’m still very much emo. And then I listened to the (now three) singles from Mitski’s upcoming album Laurel Hell. And unlike my other most anticipated projects, it’s real and tangibly close to being in my hands.

Not only is this album coming very soon (February 4th), but it is proving to be my favorite Mitski project so far. She is so consistently good at what she does, and for a lot of artists, we would see “sixth album” and write it off as a has been or a reach. But Mitski gets better with age. Her lyricism improves, her confidence in using new instrumentation or new influences improves. Based on the singles so far, I am already placing Laurel Hell in my running for favorite album of the year.

Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz

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.

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.