Podcast: Cove Reber Reflects on Saosin’s “In Search of Solid Ground”

Ten years have passed since post-hardcore act Saosin released In Search of Solid Ground, the final album to feature lead vocalist Cove Reber (now in Dead American). On the latest episode of It’s All Dead, Reber joins Kiel Hauck to reflect on the events leading up to and during the recording of the album and discuss why its legacy has changed so dramatically over the past decade. Reber shares stories from the studio and explains how tensions within the band, and with their record label, impacted his experience in creating the record. Listen in, and be sure to check out Cove’s new band, Dead American!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Podcast: Making Sense of Blink-182’s “Nine”

It’s been three weeks since the release of Blink-182’s new album Nine, so Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz hop on the podcast to break down the release. The two discuss their opinions on the new album, break down their favorite tracks, and attempt to rank it within the rest of Blink-182’s discography. They also share their opinions about the band’s music since their 2009 reunion and discuss the band’s legacy after two solid outings in Nine and California. Listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Blessthefall – Witness

“We’re not dead / We’re not like you said / We’re not dead / We’re not like you!”

In music, there are those special moments that send a chill up your spine no matter how many times you’ve heard them. The opening refrain of Witness, the sophomore album from blessthefall, still cause my hair to stand on end. It’s the rallying cry of a band that many had written off after the departure of lead singer Craig Mabbit, and it’s an explosive introduction to a new era of metalcore that would set the tone for the next decade of heavy music.

You can buy or stream Witness on Apple Music.

Even though blessthefall have released better albums over the course of their 15-year career (Hollow Bodies, Hard Feelings), I go back to Witness constantly – multiple times a year. With an October release date, the record brings back memories of autumn, but truly, this is an album that could spin year round. It’s heavy, but not punishingly so. It’s full of melody, but you’d never confuse it with the pop-screamo scene that proceeded it.

By late 2009, a new wave of metalcore acts were beginning to become household names in the scene. The Devil Wears Prada had achieved a rapid rise through Plagues and With Roots Above and Branches Below and Bring Me the Horizon had bled into the States with the success of Suicide Season. But those bands required a certain proclivity for and background in heavy music to fully appreciate. Witness offered an entry into metal while never feeling like it was compromising. It’s a heavy album that allows you space to breathe.

New lead singer Beau Bokan was just that – a singer. The band’s heaviness came from bassist Jared Warth’s brutal screams, guitarist Eric Lambert’s drop-D riffing, and drummer Matt Traynor’s machine-gun drumming. That opening cry of “We’re not dead” still resonates because of its urgency and authenticity. With Mabbit leaving for the seemingly greener grasses of Escape the Fate, blessthefall had a lot to prove in 2009, having just signed to Fearless Records with a new lead singer and a new sound. What the band delivered was nothing short of astonishing.

What Bokan brought to the band that Mabbit hadn’t with the band’s decent, but relatively pedestrian debut album, His Last Walk, was personality. Getting called up to the big leagues from indie band Take the Crown, Bokan immediately resonated with fans through his live performance and soaring vocals. That opening track leads into “What’s Left of Me”, which finds Bokan singing, “Blood is dropping from my hands / Tell me, is this what you wanted?” The entire album feels rife with bad blood – towards Mabbit and anyone who dared doubt the band could carry on. On the title track, Warth bellows the lines, “Don’t try so hard / We see right through you / You’re a liar, you don’t need to breathe / You said, you said, you said we’re done”.

Even the album’s iconic artwork hammers the point home. A lone monarch butterfly amidst a post-apocalyptic wasteland with the word “WITNESS” in all caps lets us know we’re about to watch something rise from the ashes. It’s at once beautiful and menacing, but mostly, it’s a statement of purpose.

Yet for all of the vigor, anger, and drive found throughout Witness, the band still manages to find small moments of space for reflection, such as album closer “Stay Still”, in which Bokan carries the vocals entirely. On fan favorite “Hey Baby, Here’s that Song You Wanted”, the band leans into scene dramatics, kick-starting the track with a voicemail from a spurned former lover of Bokan’s that I’m still not sure is real or staged. The energy never dies, but the pace does shift enough to allow you to rest your neck.

One of my personal favorite moments on the album comes on “We’ll Sleep When We’re Dead”. Bokan, a vocal fan of Fall Out Boy, drops some of his most Pete Wentz-esque lyrics, singing, “Hide your makeshift hearts / We’re taking aim / And we won’t be leaving”. On “Five Ninety”, a track that bookends melody with crushing breakdowns, finds Bokan digging at the nerves the band likely felt when crafting this debut-redo, “This road is getting darker / You’ve been dying to find your inspiration”.

Though I have no definitive proof, I feel strongly that Witness was the gateway drug that led to the full metalcore explosion that came in the following years. Blessthefall (along with bands like A Day to Remember) allowed both musicians and fans alike to realize that there was room to write for multiple audiences and that the traditional pop punk Warped Tour crowd was open to listening to something a bit heavier if crafted in the right way. Witness doesn’t suffer from a weak moment or a lack of identity. It sets the stage for not only the next 10 years of a band that has become a mainstay and trendsetter, but a decade’s worth of bands hoping to catch that same fire.

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: Tiny Moving Parts – Breathe

I first heard Minnesota’s Tiny Moving Parts when they opened for The Wonder Years in 2016. I was a very casual listener until they released Swell last year. Swell became one of my favorite albums and one I consider to be among 2018’s best. When they announced that there would be a new album this year, I was psyched. They’re one of the most creative bands in the scene at the moment, and they bring some much needed positivity to a genre that is often a beacon of the opposite. 

You can buy or stream Breathe on Apple Music.

Their new album Breathe features artwork by guitarist Matt, and really it couldn’t be more fitting for they album it belongs to. While being their softest album, it’s also arguably their best. With each release, the band keeps refining their sound, and I feel like they’ve finally hit the sweetest spot. I was never a math rock fan until I found Tiny Moving Parts, and now it’s one of my favorite subgenres, and they’re at the forefront.

The album opens with “The Midwest Sky” – one of my personal favorites. It’s a peppy start and definitely a great opener and would also make a pretty great single. Breathe is the perfect mix of what was so cool about Swell, with some new aspects, like the banjo found on “Vertebrae” thrown in for good measure. 

In the lead single, “Medicine”, lead singer Dylan regards death as something that helps us grow rather than something that should tear us down. He doesn’t ignore the fact that it’s painful, but he prefers to give us a reminder that we can grow through the things that hurt. That’s something that’s been prevalent across all of their albums, but here in Breathe, the band tells us to do exactly that — breathe. It’s refreshing in comparison to both their previous albums and the scene in general. I think that’s what made the album stand out to me so much. 

My biggest crisis regarding the album is that there’s not a track where I’m like, “Eh I could skip this.” Some people would say that this review is too positive and lacks critique, but I would say that the album deserves no critique. It’s wonderful from front to back. It’s got fluidity, fantastic musicianship, and they’ve still managed to keep the aspects that have made them a staple in my playlist for the past couple of years. Breathe is a treasure. 

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.

A Night with Marina on the Love and Fear Tour

Seeing Marina live has been on my bucket list since I started listening to Electra Heart. I have always loved her cinematic approach to music and if you watch any of her music videos, you know she likes to go big or go home. So naturally, when she announced the accompanying tour to her album Love + Fear, I knew I had to be there. I know I say that about every show I go to, but after years of wondering whether I would ever get to see her perform, I really did have to be there.

She brought Daya as her opener, but we got stuck in traffic and only got to hear her play her last song, the song she did with The Chainsmokers, “Don’t Let Me Down”. You could tell that she had done a good job of opening, because everyone was already dancing and having a great time. I was bummed to miss her set.

Marina came on at about 8:30 p.m. and opened with the lead single from Love + Fear, “Handmade Heaven”. She was accompanied by a team of four dancers/background singers and a drummer. She then played “Hollywood” from her first album, The Family Jewels. She split the show in half, the Love half and the Fear half. She chose other songs from her discography that fit into each section and it was pretty cool to think about her sitting and planning her tour, picking and choosing songs that have connected throughout her whole career. 

She played an acoustic version of “Teen Idle” that I mention not only because she played it beautifully, but because of that particular song from Electra Heart. It’s one of the darker songs on the album but she hid that behind a lot of synth and effects. When it was so stripped back, though, it really drew attention to the despair in the lyrics. I think it was a testament of how she’s grown since 2012. Even though Electra Heart was a character she created, Marina’s gone through a lot in her career. She’s dealt with a lot of personal things in the spotlight, and it’s no doubt that she stepped back from music to deal with those things privately. So to hear “Teen Idle” so bare like that was really special. She clearly doesn’t relish in those lyrics anymore, and she doesn’t want us relishing in them either.

All in all, I would absolutely follow Marina through this tour. Her use of dance was a lovely choice, and the setlist couldn’t have been more perfect. From “I Am Not a Robot” to the unreleased track “I’m Not Hungry Anymore”, she really gave everyone something to look forward to. It was a pretty chilly night in Boston, but Marina’s high energy show made us all forget about that for a while.

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: Summer 2019 and the Death of Genre

This year’s song of the summer is undeniable, but what does it tell us about the future of music? Evan Sawdey of PopMatters joins Kiel Hauck to break down the success of “Old Town Road”, the rise of Billie Eilish, and the odd absence of some of pop music’s biggest stars on the charts this summer. They also discuss Taylor Swift’s new album, Lover, break down their “deserted island discographies,” and share their most anticipated albums set to release in the back half of 2019. Listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Saosin – In Search of Solid Ground

By the time Saosin’s second full-length album, In Search of Solid Ground, arrived in September 2009, I felt like I’d been waiting forever. In hindsight, three years doesn’t seem all that long. It would be another seven years before the band would reconvene for 2016’s Along the Shadow. New Saosin music never comes on time, but it’s usually worth the wait.

You can buy or stream In Search of Solid Ground on Apple Music.

By the time the band finally released their full-length self-titled debut in 2006, I was all-in on the band and practically obsessed with everything they did. I owned multiple t-shirts and hoodies, was in attendance at every Saosin show that came near me, constantly talked about the band with my friends, and was a frequent visitor to the band’s online message board. I followed every detail and clue I could find as the band worked on their follow-up to Saosin and waited anxiously outside a Best Buy on release day to be first in line to purchase the album.

In truth, there was no way In Search of Solid Ground could ever live up to my expectations, which had reached a crescendo by the time I picked up The Grey EP the previous fall during the band’s fall tour with Underoath. Saosin was more than an album to me – it was a life experience. It was the kind of record that shapes your musical tastes for the better part of a decade. It was the kind of record you measure every other record against.

But even if a voice inside my head told me that In Search of Solid Ground wasn’t all I had hoped for, I brushed those notions aside and repeatedly dove into the album day after day. First, it was the revamped demos of “I Keep My Secrets Safe”, “The Worst of Me” and “Why Can’t You See?” that grabbed my attention. Then it was upbeat tracks like “Deep Down”, “Changing”, and “Is This Real?” that took center stage. Finally, it was the odd, experimental tracks like “Say Goodbye” and “Fireflies (Light Messengers)” that stole my heart.

Over the past 10 years, In Search of Solid Ground has become a unique kind of record in my collection. One that I revisit once or twice a year and think back to a time when a band could make me feel the way Saosin did, and really no other band has since. Of all of the band’s releases, it’s the one I reach for the least, but it was undoubtedly the one I was most in-the-moment with at the time it released.

To look back, it’s easy to see why the album didn’t land for many fans. Its logjam of producers certainly led to a lack of direction. There’s a little something for everyone on the album, but not necessarily for longtime fans of the band’s chaotic early sound. In Search of Solid Ground contains actual pop songs (“It’s All Over Now”, “What Were We Made For?”) while still containing heavier moments that don’t quite fit in with the rest of the band’s catalogue. If you had to label the album, you’d probably call it alternative rock, but even that ambiguous term fails to capture the full breadth of sounds displayed here. Over time, I’ve found it best to digest the album in various chunks that fit together.

It’s true that I wish the album had contained more of the wild guitar work from Beau Burchell and Justin Shekoski, blistering drums from Alex Rodriguez, and soaring vocals from Cove Reber that had defined their earlier work. But the thing is, the earlier work is kind of perfect – what was left to prove? If In Search of Solid Ground was either an experimental journey for the band or a last gasp before a 2010 fallout left the band nearly defunct, it’s undoubtedly a moment in time that feels different from anything else coming out of the scene at the time.

Ten years later, I’m mostly happy that the album wasn’t the band’s last. It always felt like Saosin was on the verge of either world domination or complete self-destruction, and walking that fine line resulted in some of the best and most unique sounds of the 2000s. After all this time, the band still insists on doing things their own way, which is what makes them so compelling.

And come to think of it, it’s been three years since Along the Shadow. While my youthful superfandom may be long gone, I still await anxiously what, if anything, comes next.

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.

Podcast: Perusing Our Spotify “Made For You” Playlists

As summer winds down, Kiel Hauck and Nadia Paiva pull open the Spotify app to walk through their playlists. A few years ago, the streaming service began utilizing machine learning to curate a variety of endless playlists based on your listening habits. Kiel and Nadia discuss how this technology has changed the way they listen to music and helped them discover new artists before debating whether these advances are inherently good in terms of our overall experience with art. Take a listen!

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What is your favorite music streaming service? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Talking Emo Music with Author Taylor Markarian

On the latest It’s All Dead podcast episode, Kiel Hauck is joined by Taylor Markarian, author of “From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How it Changed Society”. Taylor has written for publications like Alternative Press, Kerrang, and Revolver and also served as an intern at Epitaph Records. Her new book explores the cultural, social, and psychological factors surrounding emo and indie music. On the podcast, Taylor shares about her years growing up in the New Jersey punk and emo scene and the importance of music in mental health. Take a listen!

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Like what you heard from Taylor? Pre-order her book on Amazon.

Posted by Kiel Hauck