Podcast: A Look Back at the Year in Music

As 2017 comes to a close, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz take a look back at the year in music. During the discussion, the two share some of their favorite albums from 2017, including releases from Kendrick Lamar, AFI, Lucky Boys Confusion, Paramore and much more. They also talk about what could have been and reflect on recent music news that shaped the year. Listen in!

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What are some of your favorite albums of 2017? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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The Best Albums of 2017

You can view our list of The Best Songs of 2017 here.

Another year is in the books, and while it’s easy to dwell on the negatives of one of the strangest years in recent memory, 2017 was certainly not wanting for incredible music. In fact, 2017 produced so many great albums, it’s hard to show end-of-the-year love to all that deserve it. But we’re going to try anyway.

Our list of the best albums of 2017 touched on a variety of powerful and important topics, from social injustice to mental illness to the strength it takes to shift power imbalances and overcome abuse. The artists below not only thoughtfully tackled important themes, but did so in a way that made us move and forced us to find hope in the mist of brokenness. Without further ado, take a look at some of the best albums of the year.

 

15. New Found Glory – Makes Me Sick

When New Found Glory release an album, there is a certain expectation for how it should sound. When they release an album that manages to branch out enough to rank as one of their more unique releases, it is something to pay attention to. Makes Me Sick is a true summer album that delves into cavity inducing pop while maintaining mosh-ready guitars (“Call Me Anti-Social”). The synth that make its way into the album make each song instantly recognizable, especially as the band take stabs at the world around them (“Party on Apocalypse”), and rarely has the band sounded so inspired (“Barbed Wire”). Makes Me Sick is the reason that after 20 years, New Found Glory are still as important as they were when they helped found the modern pop punk scene. – Kyle Schultz

14. Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming

The spirit of Eisley moves onward on I’m Only Dreaming, even in the absence of DuPree sisters Stacy and Chauntelle. In their stead, Sherri DuPree-Bemis carries the vocal load across an array of tracks that harken to the ambiguity and innocence of Room Noises. At once melodically gorgeous and sonically curious, I’m Only Dreaming offers the dream-like soundscape that put Eisley on the map well over a decade ago. DuPree-Bemis floats above her cousin Garron’s shoegaze guitar licks that range from grungier affairs “Louder Than a Lion” to indie pop numbers that stand as some of the band’s best work to date “Always Wrong”. – Kiel Hauck

13. The Early November – Fifteen Years

It’s hard to imagine an acoustic ‘best of’ album being one of the best of the year, but Ace Enders has always defied expectation. Fifteen Years not only finds a way to hit all of the band’s best songs, but in many ways, it surpasses the originals. Enders has always impressed with his acoustic songs, but the stripped-down versions of some of their biggest hits allows his vocals to truly shine like they never have before. What were some of the band’s biggest rock songs (“Decorations”, “In Currents” “Boxing Timelines”) become emotional ballads. It’s apparent that The Early November have spent their career deserving more credit than anyone ever suspected. – KS

12. Palisades – Palisades

Call it a progression, but reinvention works just as well. Palisades’ self-titled release finds the New Jersey post-hardcore act shedding the electronicore leanings they embraced across their first two records. On Palisades, the band finds a new voice within grunge and nu metal elements that serve as the perfect playground for vocalist Louis Miceli Jr. to display his new, commanding delivery. With the absence of party gimmicks, the band is free to cover fresh thematic territory, adding a welcome dose of levity to match their new style. It’s the kind of 180 turn that opens a variety of doors for a band that has a chance to make a splash in the alt rock waters. – KH

11. Neck Deep – The Peace and the Panic

Neck Deep are an endlessly fascinating band. They have managed to harness the best aspects of pop punk and continuously remind us why the genre matters. The guitars are harsh but sway with rich melody that make easycore bands envious. Every song on The Peace and the Panic demands to be sung along to as the band tackles every topic from rebellion against the government (“Don’t Wait”), depression (“The Grand Delusion”), or telling a story of romance (“19 Seventy Sumthin’”). Neck Deep are a shining example of what makes pop punk such a brilliant genre, and they do it with a sound that marches forward as much as it honors the bands of yesteryear. – KS

10. PVRIS – All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

Shedding any notion of a sophomore slump, PVRIS delivered with their anticipated follow up to White Noise. All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell zeros in on the best parts of the band’s debut and expands on both sonic and thematic levels. Making use of dark synthesizers and deep, grooving basslines, the trio build dread-infused soundscapes that allow Lynn Gunn to explore an array of fears and regrets. Whether she’s powering through anthems like “Heaven” or growling across the chorus of “No Mercy”, Gunn has become one of the most exciting voices in the scene, and PVRIS appears to have the legs to reach the next level. – KH

9. Kesha – Rainbow

To use a most tired cliché, Rainbow is a roller coaster, driving us through the turbulent aftermath of abuse and the will and strength of a survivor. The album is varied and messy, but works beautifully as a therapeutic outlet of the highest order. From the fist-pumping fury of “Woman” to the tear-jerking pleas of “Praying”, Kesha provides a voice for the broken and a song for the redeemed. Amidst tears and laughter Kesha weaves the story of life on the other side and embraces the freedom in letting go. Rainbow is truly the brilliant comeback everyone was rooting for. – KH

8. Lorde – Melodrama

Lorde (Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor) risked becoming irrelevant by releasing her sophomore album three long years after her debut. “Melodrama”, however, is an absolute masterpiece and refuses to be ignored. This album meets even the highest of expectations that led up to Lorde’s second release. She used the past few years to grow vocally and artistically, and with help from another pop mastermind, Jack Antonoff, Lorde has (once again) completely changed the face of alt-pop. – Nadia Paiva

7. Lucky Boys Confusion – Stormchasers

Coming back from the dead, Lucky Boys Confusion have rarely sounded better. Stormchasers exceeds expectations for a band that hadn’t written a song together for a decade. Biting into the personal tragedies that have plagued the band for the last few years, LBC manage to make some of the most inspired rock songs of their career. “It’s After Midnight” picks up directly off of the sound of their last EP (released in 2006), while “Stormchaser” taps into the sounds of the band’s career to honor fallen band member, Joe Sell.  “Sun In My Eyes” looks towards a brighter future and “Good Luck”, celebrates the band’s past and tells the story of making it as a band. Lucky Boys Confusion is a continuous story of perseverance and honoring a fan base that refuses to quit. – KS

6. Glassjaw – Material Control

Fifteen years have passed since Long Island’s post-hardcore kings released an album, and yet, somehow, Material Control feels like the most Glassjaw record ever put to tape. Material Control is the visceral blend of aggression and melody that put the band on the map nearly two decades ago, yet sounds as fresh as any heavy record released in 2017. The dirty bassline on “Shira” will cause you to break a sweat while Daryl Palumbo’s vocal acrobatics on “Golgotha” will make your jaw drop. Material Control is the kind of relentless record that hard rock desperately needed, and a worthy successor to Worship and Tribute, even if the wait was far too long. – KH

5. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

With Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples remains one of the most coy (koi) rappers around (get it?) Across the album’s 12 tracks, Staples wrestles with the fame that has lifted him from his home and threatens to numb him of the pain and struggle that still plagues those around him. Doing it all atop beats that embrace club and house leanings, Staples invites his listeners to dance, even as the themes force you to stop and think. It’s a juxtaposition as profound as the rapper himself, and just another reason why Staples may be one of the most underappreciated artists of our time. – KH

4. AFI – The Blood Album

AFI (The Blood Album) was one of the first records released in 2017 and it is still among the year’s top contenders as the year comes to an end. The Blood Album picks up where the band left things on 2013’s Burials, and pushes forward to make the record one of the best they have ever released. Jade Puget’s dark guitar lines still manage to impress and blaze with the power that other bands require multiple musicians for. Having been the second of three albums that Davey Havok sang for within the span of a year (Blaqk Audio and DREAMCAR), the intensity of his voice is mesmerizing. AFI’s dark pop songs are a masterclass in musicianship. As an amalgamation of everything they have released over the course of a 20+ year career, AFI (The Blood Album) is worthy of being the band’s first self-titled effort, and standing among their best releases. – KS

3. Paramore – After Laughter

Paramore’s long-awaited return came with a release defining some of the most overarching topics plaguing young adults today: mental illness, hopelessness, loneliness, and the idea that we can find the light we’ve lost. Taking a sharp turn from their alternative roots and moving into an ‘80s synth direction, Paramore provided a dose of reality packaged in both fun and reflective ways. We’ve watched Hayley Williams and co. grow up and face some difficult times and, somehow, they’ve always portrayed it gracefully. “After Laughter” is no different. – NP

2. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights

On Turn Out the Lights, Julien Baker does more than tug at our heartstrings, she dives deep into the crevices of depression without pulling punches. Whether accompanied by just her guitar or surrounded by organs and strings, Baker’s voice fluctuates from crackling despair to cries of strength, voicing a struggle familiar to many. What makes Baker’s songs so meaningful is her painful honesty – there is no sugarcoating – and when she searches for hope, she does so with every fiber of her being. At the end of the journey, her powerful final cry of ,“I wanted to stay”, is enough to shake any listener to the core. – KH

1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

How do you follow up one of the most heralded and important hip hop releases in recent memory? Like this, apparently. Whereas To Pimp a Butterfly stretched outward into the systematic oppressions of our society, DAMN. worms its way into Kendrick Lamar’s psyche, revealing the inner workings of one of the most important artistic voices of our time. Oscillating between “Pride” and “Humble”, “Love” and “Lust”, “Fear” and “God”, Kendrick fights for truth and hope amidst brokenness.

From the rumbling bassline of “DNA” to the throwback samples and drums of “Duckworth”, Kendrick paints a canvas that opens new possibilities for his own rhyme schemes and vocal delivery. At once timeless and fresh, DAMN. is the new bench mark for modern hip hop. There is little room left for debate: Kendrick Lamar is the best rapper alive. – KH

Honorable Mention

Bleachers – Gone Now
Halsey – Hopeless Fountain Kingdom
Jay-Z – 4:44
Tigers Jaw – Spin
Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Self-Destruction of Saves The Day

saves_the_day

UPDATE: On October 26, 2018, Saves the Day released their ninth studio album, titled 9. It’s pretty good.

The Chicago Bears lost their first regular season game this weekend. To be honest, I don’t know anything about football, but it’s a well-known inside joke that, although the Bears haven’t performed very well the last few years, their fan base continues to follow them relentlessly. The same can be said of Saves The Day.

Though most people know the band’s first few albums, their experimentation over the last decade has been met with enthusiasm from fans willing to listen to anything “Chris Conley and friends” create. However, the events of the Chicago Bears Block Party showed that even the most loyal fans have limits, and sometimes a band can damage the goodwill given to them by being obnoxious.

I love Saves The Day. They were one of my first obsessions in music. I’ve seen them almost annually for the last decade. At the Chicago Bears Block Party, they were the headline event with Lucky Boys Confusion (one of my more well known loves) performing immediately before them. Lucky Boys put on a stellar performance, per usual.

Almost from the moment Saves The Day took the stage, Chris Conley seemed off. From the slow build up to the first song (“All-Star Me”), to the point where the band was actually getting booed on stage, Conley was an example of nearly everything musicians are mocked for. Even now, a few days later, I can’t tell if it was the worst show I’ve seen, or the most entertaining. I don’t even know if it was because he was too inebriated or if it was some type of Shia LaBeouf ‘performance art’ horseshit. But I am worried for the future of Saves The Day. And Chris Conley.

***

Let’s start at the band level. Though the rest of the band played well enough, it seems like they barely played more than 10 songs (including the clusterfuck that was a 10-minute-long session of “A Drag in D Flat”) in a set that was over an hour long. About 20 minutes in, to say that the band looked annoyed would be an understatement. The fact that they continued to play at all, is merit to their professionalism as musicians.

I don’t know what was wrong with Chris Conley in Chicago, or if it is a bigger problem that is plaguing the group. The band actually said at one point that they had “drank all the free beer,” but this appeared to be something more serious. Between the continuous shouts of, “We’re alive! We’re alive!” and the non-stop references to how “crazy the world is and we’re all alive together in the cosmos,” it became far too easy to speculate about Chris’ state of mind.

I would like to say that the low point of Conley’s night was the off-key vocals or stopping to tune his guitar three times, instructing an already pissed crowd to “talk amongst yourselves.” It could have been when he stopped playing music entirely for nearly 10 minutes (I might be exaggerating, but not by much) to talk about how great it is to be alive while the crowd started booing him. Or that during one of his monologues, the crowd actually started chanting “LBC! LBC!” for Lucky Boys Confusion.

But none of that compares to the disastrous performance of “A Drag in D Flat”, a beloved song off of Through Being Cool. Even now, I am not entirely sure that this was the song they were even playing, because I was so focused on how fucked everything was. The band turned a three-minute pop punk anthem into a 10-minute sadness nightmare.

Though Chris seemed like he was about to sing several times, he instead proceeded to turn the song into an extremely long guitar solo and jam session, followed by him looking skywards, seeming to be lost in the continuous verse of guitar riffs from Arun Bali. Then he passed out.

I assume he passed out. I don’t know how else to describe someone toppling over, knocking the mic stand towards the crowd, and laying on the stage for about 30 seconds. The rest of the band continued to play, looking down on him until he returned to the guitar solo while lying on his back. When he got up, he stumbled around the stage and leaned on bassist Rodrigo Palma and Arun for support. This happened for what seemed like minutes at a time. The crowd (at least in my section) alternated between laughing at him and looking around nervously. One woman wondered aloud if “someone should get a medic.”

Chris Conley has always been quirky, which is what gives his music so much charm. Listening to any number of podcasts or interviews he’s been a part of shows that. His music harnesses an innocence interlocked with anger. Conley hasn’t been as angry in his last few recordings, and it’s healthy for artists to change over time, especially if it is towards a happier mentality. But this isn’t healthy, and I’m fucking worried about him.

If this is where Conley is in his life, I don’t know if I want to continue following the band. Everyone has a bad night on stage. Everyone experiments a bit. But there is something darker beneath the surface when a crowd of faithful fans start cheering for another band. At one point, the crowd shouted at the stage, “play a song!” Conley responded with “We can just talk. We’re just people, and we can talk to you.”

***

Saves The Day never make the same album twice. Conley even announced that this was the last show they were playing before going into the studio to record. I hope he is just worn out and blowing off steam before recording. Because if not, I have no idea how this entire process won’t be an absolute mess.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a musician wanting to banter with the crowd or give a message during their set. Usually, the music punctuates those statements into something meaningful. This was someone shouting the same nothing sentence over and over.

I don’t know where his mind was or how annoyed his bandmates were. I don’t know if it was an isolated incident or a more common problem. I hope it’s out of his system. I have a new fear that I never expected: that Chris Conley could ruin his own music if he’s approaching his own work like this.

As much as I have given to support this band over the years, I hesitate to say if I will see them live again if this is how they treat their shows. More than anything, I’m worried about Chris. That wasn’t healthy behavior for anyone. I hope he finds whatever he’s looking for and gets help if it’s needed.

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 saw Saves The Day as his first concert ever. He drove three hours to see them, multiple times.

Review: Lucky Boys Confusion – Stormchasers

lucky-boys-confusion-2017

By the time I had discovered Lucky Boys Confusion, save for one collection of demos and B-Sides, the band had already released all of their material and the various members had decided to split off to work on their own projects. None of that stopped a large group of us from driving hours to Chicago to see their annual one-off shows.

You can buy Stormchasers on iTunes.

In the time since then, several events, namely divorce and the unfortunate passing of guitarist Joe Sell in 2013, acted as a catalyst to reevaluate and spawn a new spark of creativity for the band. Once known for drinking songs, the group has tempered themselves slightly, finding the same lively spirit in rebuilding themselves once the party is over. Stormchasers isn’t a depressing record. It’s the concept of following the havoc in life and cleaning the wreckage into something new, for better or for worse, while looking back fondly on what came before.

Picking up where the How To Get Out Alive EP left off over a decade ago, Stormchasers forgoes many of the ska and hip hop elements of early LBC in favor of the of the immediate punk and waves of Americana rock of guitarist Adam Krier’s side project, AM Taxi. However, that’s not to say that it doesn’t sound like a Lucky Boys record – Stormchasers is loud, aggressive and quickly gets to the heart of the issues that may have held the group back before breaking free of those constraints to forge a natural progression of the band.

As a concept record, LBC addresses the elephants in the room within the first three songs; feeling stuck at this point in life (“I Slept with the Devil”), divorce (“It’s After Midnight”) and carrying on after losing Joe Sell (“Stormchaser”). However, instead of wallowing in sadness, Stormchasers uses nostalgia as a tool of empowerment to search for a better future (“Good Luck”).

The evolution in sound for Lucky Boys Confusion is obvious to anyone who has followed the band. They have doubled down on the rock aspect of the music, forgoing the hip hop genre that aged their older albums. While it negates the unique draw of their early discography, it verifies the band as an essential punk band and the flag bearers of the modern rock scene in Chicago. Adam Krier’s guitarwork comes in waves of stiff power chords that create walls of sound while maintaining extraordinary melody. Whether loud and erratic (“Insomniac”), gentle and subdued (“Sun in My Eyes”), or a throwback to the band’s classic era (“Stormchaser”), Krier is at his best, carefully bringing the band’s sound back from into the modern age.

Bassist Jason Schultejann has ample time to carry the songs entirely (“Burn a Little Birghter”, “Name In Lights”), providing substance to a genre that can easily out-loud the bass. Drummer Ryan Fergus is a powerhouse, carrying tempo across the spectrum and maintaining a foreboding presence even in the softest moments.

Vocalist Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav once again proves himself as one of the best vocalists in rock. Pandav pushes himself in nearly every song, maintaining every ounce of the enigmatic energy that made him a captivating singer two decades ago. His voice was made for pop punk, and the effect carries through effortlessly (“Sun in My Eyes”, “Your Friends Are Whispering”).

Thematically, Lucky Boys delve into finding the hope at the end of the dark moments. “Slept With the Devil” sets the tone, as Pandav chants, “Our dreams are burning, we breathe the smoke / There’s only so much time before we choke / So stop complaining, embrace the thrill / There’s only so much time here left to kill”.

However, the darkness they describe runs deep. Pandav finds the helplessness through the hell of divorce on “It’s After Midnight”, pleading, “You stopped loving me right when I turned around / I wasn’t chaste enough for you / You took the battleground, you won the war in a wedding gown”. “Stormchaser” particularly strikes deep, reflecting on Joe Sell. “Welcome to life as a stormchaser: searching for love and black bitters /… and I’m tired of being cynical, but it’s catching up / And I’m tired of being practical, but it’s catching up / And I’m seeing the possibilities, and they’re catching up to me / But you’re catching up to me”.

However, the use of nostalgia is used as a tool to pave a way forward and creates a message of hope out of the initial depressing lyrics. On “Sun in My Eyes”, Pandav sings, “How did we go from getting so high off of feeling shallow? Most of these days we make it up as we go”.

One of the true highlights is “Good Luck”, an AM Taxi-esque rocker that gives guitarist Adam Krier lead vocals. He reflects on memories of the band’s inspiration and career, making a declaration of what drives the band to keep going after everything. “Got a varsity letter? Screw ‘em, we get endless memories / Playing songs together, keeping up all the neighbors on your street / And if we burn out fast, come whatever / Summer songs will last, that’s forever. Now and forever, good luck”.

Stormchasers is a massive return for a band many had thought was more or less put to rest. Without retreading ground already covered, the band picks up where they left off. While the songs may not be the soundtrack for hard drinking, the mature aspect refines the storytelling that LBC are known for that cuts through what would be a sad album and makes it one of that yearns to find hope when there doesn’t feel like any.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has so far seen LBC live twice in 2017. It’s not creepy if you call it “enthusiasm!”

Reviving the Future: An Interview with Ryan Fergus of Lucky Boys Confusion

Last week, Lucky Boys Confusion released their first new single in nearly a decade. “It’s After Midnight” is an aggressive rock song that finds a slick balance of crunching harmonies balanced against a swirling story of a relationship spiraling out of control.

As a long-time fan of Lucky Boys Confusion, the song is a refreshing answer to the curiosity of what a band that hasn’t written a full record for almost 15 years looks to create, and how it balances against the rest of their career. For a smaller band, Lucky Boys Confusion has an exceptionally strong and loyal fan base that follows them from show to show, and “It’s After Midnight” certainly beckons their attention.

With just a month until the release of new album Stormchasers, I spoke with drummer Ryan Fergus about the build up leading to its creation and what it means for the future.

***

First off, “It’s After Midnight” is awesome. I’ve been listening to it since it was released and it really feels organic for the band. Do you think it reflects how the album sounds stylistically, or does it branch and venture out more?

Oh thanks! Yeah, we’re really excited about it and it’s been getting a lot of really great feedback. You know, when you go away for as long as we did, and we really created this record in a vacuum, you get a little bit nervous. We really love this, we’re really jacked about this but we don’t know how people are going to receive it. It was such a relief to finally get at least one song out there to kind of show people what we’ve been working on, and the reception has been really positive, which is really encouraging for the rest of the record.

To answer your question, it would definitely be a song that we thought would kind of bridge the gap, so to speak, in terms that it does sound reminiscent of a lot of songs off of Commitment or Throwing the Game. It’s really reminiscent of the How to Get Out Alive EP, but it is a bridge. There are a lot of songs on the record that sound like the older stuff, but there is some modernization and maturity to it and we’re trying different things.

It’s probably our most cohesive record. It’s very fortuitous that we’re talking today, as we just got the final master of the whole record back today. To hear everything together as one rolling, cohesive piece, I’m just on cloud nine right now. We’re really pumped up about it.

That’s fantastic! I was going to say, the single reminds me of How to Get Out Alive. It’s interesting that it’s more cohesive. Closing Arguments, I know it was a mix of demos and B-sides, but it did feel like a patchwork of songs.

Yeah, it wasn’t as coherent. It was basically seeds of what would have been the next record, and obviously that would have changed a lot. And we had a chance to start fresh. We didn’t revisit any of those old pieces so this is all new ideas and arrangements. All new ideas we really cooked up in the last year, year and a half. Once we started working on it and decided that we could do this, it all came together very quickly. It does feel like one piece. There’s no little skips, there’s no 30-second interludes – it’s 12 songs, and it’s a story.

Really, it’s closure in a lot of ways. That’s not to imply that this is the last thing we’re ever going to do, because if anything, we’re more invigorated than ever. What I mean by that is everything that happened to us over the last four of five years, we didn’t really comment publicly on it. Most notably, our guitarist, Joe Sell died suddenly, tragically and very young. I think we left a lot of people in a lurch. We didn’t really have a way of addressing everything we’ve been through in the last few years.

This is kind of our statement to everything that has gone down and what we’ve been through, and there were some pretty dark times, I won’t lie. But I think this has been really therapeutic for us, and we’re all in a really good place. And we’re excited to be working together. We really couldn’t be more pleased with how everything came out.

Everyone has been kind of focused on their side projects for quite some time. Was it natural to be writing together again? Especially since Stubhy (Pandav) and Adam (Krier) went their own way for a while and wrote in their own ways for so long, did things mesh well when everyone came together again?

Yeah, it felt like home, I think, a lot for all of us. Especially for the two of them from a song writing perspective. What happened after Joe passed, it kind of spun us all out in different directions. For Jason (Schultejann) and Adam, they started AM Taxi. Stubhy had multiple projects that he was involved in. My project was kind of having a normal life. Having a job, getting married, having two great kids and living a more normal day-to-day. To do that and then come back into this, and bring a lot of lessons learned with maturity, the things we’ve gone through and bring those together… It was comforting.

The joke of it is, the creative part of this thing has been the easy part. The songs really came together quick, we didn’t have a lot of knock-down, drag-out arguments about arrangements. Even the recording process was a really smooth situation. Honestly, the difficult part for us has been everything else.

We’re doing this completely self-sufficient. There’s no label, there’s no manager, nobody. If anything, the difficult aspect of setting this up and launching it is that we’re doing everything on our own. Every day is a thousand tiny decisions with a constant text thread between the four of us during all hours of the night, starting at 7:30 in the morning. It’s just an ongoing dialogue for a year of, “Hey, did you call that guy?” or “Johnny K (producer) needs an answer today for the mix.” The difficult part has just been the little technical aspects. The creative part was actually quite wonderful and really did feel like coming home again.

Listening to “It’s After Midnight”, the lyrics are about a pained relationship, and they’re fairly vindictive. Lucky Boys have been known for a slight storytelling aspect as much as you are for party songs. With everything that has happened, is Stormchasers more of a serious record, then?

It’s not a kind record, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. If anything, it’s a celebration record. It’s celebrating life, death, love, losing love. All the aspects that kind of make up the human condition. There are darker aspects and you can make the claim that the world is going in a darker direction than it was five or 10 years ago. It’s definitely a reflection, and I think people will see a lot of things they identify with on the record.

There’s a lot of stuff about Stubhy’s marriage, which he’s been very open about and I’m proud of him that it’s out there. But his marriage ended. He’s since fallen in love again, engaged and getting married this summer so it’s been this roller coaster in a lot of ways. He’s been very transparent about that. There are a lot of lines on the record, where you just go, “Wow, he went there.” And I’m so proud of him for not holding that back and not pulling punches.

In that regard, I think people will be surprised at the lengths we’ve gone with some of this stuff and ultimately, it’s a lot of things people will identify with. We got older, but a lot of the folks that are listening to us have been along for the ride and gotten older too. They’ve got responsibilities, they’ve got relationships they’re maintaining and dealing with, someone in their family that have been through some pretty tough times as well. It’s stuff people can relate to, tear apart and identify with.

Speaking of the fan base, I just moved to Chicago a few years ago, and everyone I’ve met who has any kind of interest in rock music knows who Lucky Boys Confusion are. A lot of them seem to have the same type of story, where it’s almost an urban legend where someone finds a copy of Throwing the Game tucked away in a closet somewhere and just falls in love with it after listening to it. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed being at live shows, it’s a lot of the same people coming again and again, talking about past shows. Do you pick up on that from the fan base in general?

It’s stunning to me. It’s stunning to all of us. I’m not sure that you know this, but this year is actually our 20 year anniversary. We started this band when we were 18 years old and just out of high school, and there are a lot of people who have been there since year one or year two. It’s unbelievable. We’re starting to get to the point where some of these folks are starting to bring their kids. Their kids are old enough to go to shows now. It’s definitely a surreal thing.

But you’re right, there are so many stories about, “my older brother left the CD with me before he went to college and then I got into you guys.” It’s really been amazing, and what we’ve kind of said all along is that if they keep coming, then we’re going to keep showing up.

Especially for this long stretch here where we weren’t putting out any new content and you start to think, it’s gotta be here, right? You’re gonna start to see a drop off, kids are going to stop coming and we’re kind of back where we started, playing for 30 people. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

That was definitely in the back of our minds, but these folks have been coming out to hear the same older songs for however long now and we owe them something new. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we wanted to come out with something new, especially for the folks that have been around for so long and have been patient and just waiting. We thought maybe there never would be a record. We’re excited to make that happen for the diehards throughout the many years and we’re just so appreciative of that.

I know it’s a hack question, but do you have a favorite song off of the new record?

[sigh] No, it’s a great question. [laughs]

No, it’s probably changing by the day. Again, it’s a record that finally feels like a whole thing. But we’ve got a song called “Sun In My Eyes” that’s probably going to be our next single. That’s going to come out this month, actually when the preorder goes up on iTunes and whatnot. But I think it’s going to throw some people for a curve ball. It’s a bit more different than anything we’re really tried. “It’s After Midnight” is a call to arms and the announcement that we’re back and Lucky Boys are grown up. “Sun In My Eyes”, I think is something totally different. It’s poppy, kind of a mystical tune but it really crunches, it really rocks. It still feels like us, and I’m really digging that right now.

We close the record with a tune called “Candle in the Window” and it’s the same thing, it’s really different. It sound kind of like an old Elvis Costello B-side or something. It’s really powerful and kind of punctuates the record. And there are a lot of different fields and different directions. Listening to it today as a cohesive piece, it really feels like one statement. I’m really excited to get it out there.

Lastly, what do you think Stormchasers means for the future of Lucky Boys Confusion, especially after you said everyone seems more invigorated now than they have been for a while?

You know, its funny. I like serial dramas on Hulu, like “The Americans” and shows like that, and a lot of these shows are in a bubble. They don’t always know if they’re going to be renewed, so what they do is have this year end finale that wraps up the current storyline and resolves those problems, but it leaves the door open for more story. I think it’s an analog to Stormchasers in that, if it ends up being the last record, I think it’s turning the last pages of the book.

But it’s not a full resolve. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of time, a lot of hard work, a lot of intense moments here and there, but overall this was a really pleasant, really great experience. A lot of that was based on working with our producer, Johnny K, who is just amazing. He produced it, engineered it, mixed it so that this became one single vision.

I would feel very open, and I think the way the guys are feeling right now, that they would probably agree that there’s no reason that this couldn’t be the beginning of a really nice creative era for us. This year is really about the new record, and celebrating the 20 year anniversary. We really want to mark that and will probably be doing some stuff later in the year to mark that. It’s kind of a big deal – not many bands get to 20 years.

But there’s nothing saying that there couldn’t be more in the future, especially with as excited as everybody is right now. It’s definitely viable.

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 has been to a Lucky Boys Confusion show at least once every year for a decade. Their shows have never once gotten stale in that time. It really was an honor to talk to someone who has kept the attention of myself and my nonsense friends for that long. My apartment suddenly smells like spray paint, and that can’t be great.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #7 Lucky Boys Confusion Show Their Commitment

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In 2009, I found myself standing front row at the Double Door in Chicago for the CD release party of what we all thought was the final Lucky Boys Confusion album, the fittingly titled Closing Arguments. While it was all new material to me, it was released as a collection of unreleased demos and b-sides they’d collected over the years, but I was thankful for one last record from one of the most unique and underappreciated bands I know.

Since then, I’ve seen them sell out the House of Blues and half a dozen other venues at least once a year to a frenzied audience that can’t seem to be satiated. For a band that has been more or less defunct, save for the occasional live show, LBC continue to be at the forefront of the Chicago punk scene with some of the most loyal fans I’ve ever seen.

How fitting then that on New Years Eve, standing in almost the same spot inside the Double Door as I watched the band ring in 2017, they announced the title of their long-gestating return album: Stormchasers. As a band that is still active, nearly exclusively because of a fanbase that refuses to quit, this new release is something that can’t come fast enough. Stormchasers is set for release on April 15.

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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Review: AM Taxi – Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea

am-taxiFollowing their departure from Virgin Records, Chicago’s AM Taxi was relatively quiet for a couple of years. Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea is their second EP of 2014. At only four songs, the release is short, sweet and succinct where the earlier King of the Pond EP felt a bit uneven. AM Taxi don’t quite expand their sound as much as they play to their strengths to dominate the release.

Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea shows AM Taxi at their best with loud guitars, stadium style choruses and professional hooks. “Frostbit” is a fast song that fits in amongst the band’s most energetic works, while the more somber “Reckless In the Moonlight” sounds like a low-fi dance song ala’ Bloc Party.

One of Adam Krier’s (Lucky Boys Confusion) main strengths as a songwriter is crafting colossal hooks and chord progressions leading up to an incredibly powerful chorus (“I Don’t Like Your Neighborhood”). This time around is no different as he and Jay Marino’s guitars wield a healthy mix of punk and alternative sounds that take the current scene bands to task even though they would’ve fit in perfectly anywhere in the last two decades. Krier is also behind the newly implemented keyboards that feature prominently throughout the first couple of songs.

Jason Schultejann’s (LBC) bass is slightly hidden under the production but isn’t held back from waging incredible melodies to bounce the song along. Although he doesn’t venture too far out to steal the show, Chris Smith’s drumming and percussion is thunderously hypnotic as I often found myself drawn into just the beat alone.

Krier’s vocals are an addicting mix of Brian Fallon’s (The Gaslight Anthem) scratchy vocals and fellow Lucky Boys Confusion member Stubhy Pandav’s timing and emotional outpour. It does sound like he has two volumes that he likes to fall back to (quiet almost spoken-word and loud shouts) but they’re put to effective and rigorous use. Krier’s voice was made for rock music, and his shouts are highlighted with swarming gang vocals.

Lyrically, Krier leans on the anthems of rebellion and inner strength. On “Reckless in the Moonlight” he sings, “The kids on Center Street are reckless in the moonlight/ We stay together, we’re drinking through the night we are nothing if not brave, we’re stronger than before/ But hey, We’re not afraid to be afraid of anything anymore”.

Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea is a nice taste of the band back in action. Although they’ve been actively touring the Chicagoland area, it took four years for a proper release of any kind from the band. The main downside to the EP is that it’s over before you’re able to really bite into it. If the writing is any indication though, their next LP is going to be phenomenal.

3.5/5

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 has seen LBC almost a dozen times over the last five years. It’s not creepy obsessive, it’s love.

Lucky Boys Confusion: Playing Chicago’s signature album

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“All I Ask is You Play Something Good.”

Lucky Boys Confusion’s Throwing The Game is a staple to the Chicago punk scene. Thirteen years after its release, and after several years of minimal activity from the band, it is still wildly beloved and worshiped, a fact proven by the animalistic sold out show at the downtown House of Blues to hear it played start to finish.

“I was standing right here last year when they played Commitment all the way through,” said one random guy I met in the crowd of eager drunks. He throws back a wide gulp of beer before smiling widely, saying simply, “This one of the best albums ever written. They’re playing it front to back acoustically in August. I bought my tickets for that show the day they went on sale”.

I wrote once before about how literally everyone I’ve met in Chicago knows about Lucky Boys Confusion, and though their entire discography is a magnificent lesson in stylized punk, Throwing The Game is the album that most people refer to when talking about the band. It’s a party album with songs about drinking, getting high, the perils of relationships and outrunning the cops. These themes are the backbone of what Lucky Boys Confusion embodies: making a mess of trying to find yourself and enjoying the hell out of every second of it.

Lucky Boys Confusion from a terrible camera

Lucky Boys Confusion from a terrible camera

Lucky Boys Confusion is set to start at 11:30 p.m. and run until 1 a.m., but the crowd has rushed the pit in the House of Blues well before that and show no signs of getting tired. While the normal teen rockers are crushed in the crowd, it’s filled more with men and women in their upper twenties and early thirties; literally the people who have supported the band their entire career. And they’re lit.

Alcohol of every variation in hand, they’re joined as one excited entity, talking to each other about how many times they’ve seen the band over the years. The same conversation is literally spilling across the floor until the chant of, “LBC! LBC!” fills the air.

By the end of the first song, the crowd is completely drenched in sweat and spilled beer; every single word being sung back to the stage. This sets the stage for the entire night: nonstop jumping, dancing and singing. While I’ve heard these songs played many times by the band, there was an extra energy in the air. Everyone knows that Throwing the Game is the main reason most everyone fell loyally in love with the band and LBC are vividly aware of how important the record is to their fans.

Tiny details are a part of the set to help this feel like an authentic experience of Throwing the Game, such as the full-blown salsa-jazz breakdown in “Not About Debra”, complete with saxophone solo and maracas while the pit shifted from jumping and moshing to dancing, or at least as much as was possible in the cramped conditions of the floor. “40/80”, a song about hiding weed from the cops, was complimented by a fake cop on stage, saying the lines that pop up between verses in the song; “I can smell it, but I sure can’t find it”.

As the lyrics shift from crooning punk to brash, lightning quick rap, the entire crowd knows each line and provides the backup gang vocals while singer Stubhy Pandav plows ahead. These aren’t just songs, they’re the soundtrack to a generation of young adults still finding their own way in the world. Lyrics like those from “Saturday Night” carry an extra weight as the pit opens up, “This room is like a bottle, it’s never full enough”.

Vocalist Stubhy Pandav paced the stage like an expert, owning every inch. Drummer Ryan Fergus blasted away, swaying the tempo of grueling punk beats. Guitarists Adam Krier and Jason Schultejann, also of their incredible side/ main project AM Taxi, crunched out their power chords, easily shifting from punk to ska. As is Adam’s signature style, even in the sweltering body heat and the seeping sweat, he incredibly played the entire show in a leather jacket.

LBC

LBC

The final twenty minutes of the concert though, was a plethora of crowd favorites to close out the night, with Stubhy briefly walking to the side of the stage, only to return with a bottle of Jack Daniels that he chugged. One of the bands’ oldest songs, the appropriately titled “LBC”, made a surprise appearance as one of the hidden gems to celebrate the occasion. Although not one of their most well-known songs, a majority of the crowd knows each word enough to be heard singing over the sound of the music.

“Hey Driver” sent the entire venue into a last minute fury of fist pumps and falling sweat, only to act as the precursor to the finale of their signature cover of Dramarama’s “Anything, Anything”, a guitar heavy song that has Stubhy showing his full vocal range.

Throwing the Game could possibly be one of the biggest records that no one has heard, save for the Chicagoland area. It’s such a large part of people’s lives that it brought out the older crowd that most bands would kill to have, partying and jumping until early in the morning without losing a drop of energy. What could have been just another sold out show for a band that comes around every few months turned into a celebration for the songs that have ingrained themselves into the city itself.

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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

The best reunions and revivals of 2014

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This year may be one of the most memorable for long-sought reunions and revivals. There haven’t been many (previous years have seen more in comparison), but in less than five months, the few that have cropped up are of such impact that it’s impossible to deny how exciting it is.

While we may need to say goodbye again, the fact that there is a even a glimmer of hope is enough to at least fan the flames a little longer, if only for a proper send off. Below are six of the best reunions to come about thus far this year.

1. Midtown
midtownNews that Midtown were reuniting for Skate & Surf was both unexpected and alarmingly nostalgic. It’s been so long since the band has made any waves in the scene that their reunion was unexpected, especially given the overshadowed success of Gabe Saporta’s Cobra Starship endeavors.

For anyone who saw the golden age of Drive-Thru’s pop punk legacy though, Midtown was one of the major players. We learned their songs at the same time as New Found Glory’s classic records. Being one of the headliners for Skate & Surf is a beautiful nod to their influence of the genre, especially since pop punk bands aren’t normally in that position.

Whether they stay around to tinker around with new music or not remains to be seen, (it doesn’t look promsing at the moment, since Cobra Starship appear to be back in the studio) but I’ll settle for them getting some of the recognition that they never got the first time around.

2. Copeland

copelandCopeland’s reunion nearly caused a panic amongst their fans, as the news broke on April Fool’s Day. Like Fall Out Boy a year ago, the band marked their return with a new single and announcement of a new, surprise album.

The fact that the band plans to fund the record with pre-order packages from a vibrantly loyal fan base touches back to the indie roots the band sprouted from. As one of the most talented writers and performers of the scene, if they can capture even a hint of the magic and energy from their prime, Ixora is already a contender for album of the year.

3. Finch

FinchDespite the success of their groundbreaking 2002 release, What It Is To Burn, Finch have always felt like the underdogs. While the band has been touring quite a bit over the last few years, the WIITB anniversary tours and subsequent live CD/DVD release seem to have spurred them to fully commit once again.

Not only will they be on Warped Tour this year, they’ve signed with Tragic Hero Records and finally promised their first new album in nine years. Given how long fans have waited for this release, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s a return to the more traditional pop punk aspect of their roots or a further exploration of hardcore.

4. Saosin

saosin_2014The history of Saosin in well known by anyone paying attention, as well as their struggle with lead singers. Unfortunately, it looks like Saosin may be calling it quits soon, but not before reuniting with original vocalist Anthony Green.It’s one of the most requested and sought after reunions in recent memory and is a hell of a note to go out on.

There haven’t been any details of whether they’ll only really be playing the songs that Green himself helped create, or if he’ll be participating throughout Saosin’s amazing discography. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get one last live CD out of one of their four scheduled performances.

 5. Day At The Fair

day_at_the_fairIn the waning days of Drive-Thru Records, Day At The Fair released an absolutely stellar album about growing up in The Rocking Chair Years, putting every other band on the label in check. Unfortunately, it went largely overlooked instead of making the band a standard in the scene.

After nine years, they’ve reunited to release a final album to give the band a proper close. A new single, “The Brightening” retains their massive energy and catchy hooks and paves the way for the new record, The Epilogue. It may not be a new tour, but hopefully it will help the band gain some of the recognition they always deserved.

6. Lucky Boys Confusion

lucky-boys-confusion-featureLBC have never really broken up, instead playing one-off shows in the Midwest for the last few years. Having seen the overwhelming support the band has received for their live shows, they’ve decided to write together again for the first time in nearly a decade. The band’s last (and intended final) record, 2009’s Closing Arguments was a collection of b-sides and unreleased material.

It may not be a full national touring revival, but a new album means complete recognition of the support from a rabid fan base. While it may not garner the attention that the band deserves in the scene, it’s sure to set the entire Midwest ablaze.

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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Lucky Boys Confusion: Soundtrack of the Midwest

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“Thank you for letting us pretend to be rock stars for a night.” – Stubhy Pandav, singer of Lucky Boys Confusion

Chicago is known for being a hub for the punk scene, having been the home to bands like Fall Out Boy and Rise Against. But those bands don’t have a connection to Chicago itself; they’re a national brand. It requires a unique sound to associate any band specifically with a city and Chicago is lucky enough to have one in the form of Lucky Boys Confusion.

Lucky Boys Confusion is both Chicago’s greatest secret and arguably the most beloved band in the city. This is a band that never made a big splash nationally but is nothing short of hometown heroes in the Midwest.

The makeup of the band has all of the ingredients of perfection – masterfully written, frantic pop punk, relatable lyrics telling the stories of parties and heartbreak and subtle influences from rap, ska and reggae thrown in at odd intervals to keep the listener on their toes. Songs like “Fred Astaire”, “Hey Driver” and “Do You Miss Me (Killians) Gutierrez” are stadium shattering anthems comparable to the energy that Green Day emits onstage.

I moved to Chicago six months ago, and although the band has been relatively quiet over the last few years, there’s one thing I have noticed: everyone with any interest in the punk scene knows who this band is. Everyone that I’ve met has a collection of their concert tickets, their CD’s are in something of a constant rotation and everyone’s older brother passed the band down to them.

With a small tour capacity, LBC quietly conquer the scenes of Milwaukee, St. Louis, Iowa City and Chicago when they’re in town. It’s a weird thing to see a band perform when they’ve more or less retired their group and gone on to other projects.

Oftentimes, songs lose their passion after so many years, especially if the band has been inactive. It can feel like you’re seeing a cover band attempt to hit the spark that drew you to the song in the first place. But after the release of their most recent record (and most likely last) in 2009, their shows have grown tighter and the heart of the music is still raging. I’ve managed to see them play almost yearly when the odd show crops up, and almost every time, the venue has been sold out, especially at the House of Blues.

What is genuine about the band is how quiet the buzz surrounding them appears to be. They don’t do any major touring and play as a side project to not only the other projects that the band members have moved on to, but steady day jobs as well. Despite this though, the groundswell of fans who come to the shows keeps LBC coming back to play again and again. This is a band that exists to please their fans and to keep the sound of a city alive.

It always sounds cliché to say it’s a travesty to the scene when a band doesn’t make it big, but the case of Lucky Boys Confusion is a double edged sword. While it seems a travesty that the band never became the household name that they should’ve, what came of it is a band with a relationship to their fan base that is unparalleled. There’s an amount of love and reminiscent wonder to the group akin to remembering your first Disney movie (if your first Disney movie’s theme was about drinking and marijuana).

If you’ve never listened to Lucky Boys Confusion over the last fifteen years, you’re missing out on one of the most individual sounds to come out of Chicago. But what they missed out on in a mainstream vein of the scene, they’ve more than made up for in a loyal allegiance of the city and surrounding region. In the end, that’s what punk was made for.

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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.