Review: The Black Keys – Let’s Rock!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5/5

by Nadia Paiva

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

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Sleeping with Sirens “Leave it All Behind” with New Single

Last week, Sleeping with Sirens returned with a new track, “Leave it All Behind”, their first new song since the release of Gossip in 2017. No longer signed to major label Warner Records, the band now resides with Sumerian and will release their new album How It Feels to Be Lost on September 6.

For a band that spent the past several years evolving toward a pop sound, cultivating in Gossip, “Leave It All Behind” feels like a course correction back to the sound that helped the band break through on earlier work like Let’s Cheers to This. While the band’s pop sensibilities are still present, vocalist Kellin Quinn allows his signature scream to return while the band sounds refreshingly aggressive once more.

While the accessibility of Gossip undoubtedly opened new doors for Sleeping with Sirens, its reception was mixed among critics and longtime fans. Apparently, the album cycle took a toll on the band as well, as Quinn recently revealed to Loudwire that felt directionless after the album and considered taking a hiatus. On a person level, Quinn admits, “I had a really hard time going on stage and believing the things I was saying.”

In many ways, it’s a tale as old as time, but if Sleeping with Sirens’ stint on a major label brought us back to a sound that feels honest and fresh, perhaps the brief exodus was worth it. Matt Good helmed the production for How It Feels to Be Lost, and Quinn communicated to Good early on in the recording process, “I want you to go back to the Heroine From First to Last days and just write something you wouldn’t expect Sleeping With Sirens to do.”

Given Good’s growing track record as a producer (The Word Alive, Asking Alexandria, Memphis May Fire), along with his own journey as primary songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist for From First to Last, this feels like the perfect match to capture a new spark for Sleeping With Sirens. Take a listen to “Leave it All Behind” below and be sure to preorder the album if you like what you hear!

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: The Best of Emery

Last month, Emery released a new 4-song EP as part of Emeryland, an interactive online community that promises exclusive new music leading up to the band’s eighth full-length album. Nadia Paiva joined Kiel Hauck on the pod to break down the band’s discography and discuss how their unique evolution has helped sustain their career and make them one of the most interesting bands to come from the modern post-hardcore genre. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Interested in checking out Emeryland? You can learn more on the band’s Indiegogo page.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Jonas Brothers – Happiness Begins

It’s been 10 years since we received a full album from Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas. We got a single six years ago called “Pom Poms”, along with some potential tour dates that never happened. The single was nothing to write home about, and we kind of forgot about it for the most part. But finally, six years after a live album flopped and 10 years since Lines, Vines, and Trying Times, they did it. They came back for real.

Happiness Begins is largely based on the fact that Joe and Nick both got married, to Sophie Turner and Priyanka Chopra, respectively. Kevin’s been married since 2009, and basically continues to be the forgotten Jonas (which sucks and is rude of everyone to keep doing).

You can buy or stream Happiness Begins on Apple Music.

The album opens with the lead single, “Sucker”, which is a fitting opener for the thematics of what’s to come in the album. They really love their wives, which is great. It continues with the next single, “Cool”, where Joe and Nick talk about what they’ve been doing since The Jonas Brothers broke up. It includes album references, Nick’s cologne venture and, of course, their wives. But this is still Kevin erasure and I won’t stand for it. Kevin has also had a great decade, Joe and Nick.

The album really doesn’t do much else but brag about how great their wives are. That’d generally be fine with me, but it’s been 10 years. Lyrically, I was hoping for a little bit more of a mature offering. Basically the only differences here are the facts that they’ve hit puberty, so their voices are deeper, and they’re singing about their wives, not their girlfriends.

Musically, the album is a treat. You can hear Joe’s DNCE influence, as well and Nick’s solo albums. There’s some reggae, some sultry Justin Timberlake pop and, of course, the original pop rock sound we fell in love with. What the album lacks in thematic diversity and lyrical depth, it’s made up for with the musical aspect. The boys have always been talented musicians, and it’s nice to see that they’ve paid attention to what they wanted their comeback album to sound like. It’s trendy, but it has enough originality to be recognizable.

I don’t want to say that I’m disappointed by the album, because felt like I knew what to expect. I wasn’t looking for a deep expose on social issues. That’s not their brand and that’s fine. They’ve always been in the bubblegum sphere of pop, but I suppose I thought they’d rise above that label, like they did with their solo music. This is definitely going to be the album of summer, if not for its sound then simply for the band it’s come from. The Jonas Brothers could probably release an album of screeches and tire squeals and we’d all buy it without shame. Their brand is stronger than any musical mistake they could make, but I feel like they definitely played it more on the safe side with Happiness Begins.

3.5/5

by Nadia Paiva

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

Podcast: Carly Rae Jepsen Bracketology

Recently, Buzzfeed asked Carly Rae Jepsen to fill out a bracket to choose the best Carly Rae Jepsen song. We thought this was funny, cool and interesting, so Kiel invited Carly Rae superfan Richard Clark to join the podcast and break down every matchup on the bracket. While dissecting some of Carly Rae’s best tracks, the two discuss what has made her such a compelling pop artist, how her music has rapidly evolved since her breakout single “Call Me, Maybe”, and how her recent album, Dedicated, holds up against some of her best work. Which song took home the crown? Listen in and find out!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite Carly Rae Jepsen song? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Queue It Up: May 27, 2019

Sorry for the Debbie Downer Queue It Up this week, but if you had to listen to the new Waterparks song as many times as I did, you’d be sad, too. If you like either of the first two bands, I’m sincerely sorry. If you like the third band, though, I think you’ll be just as happy as me.

“Easier” by 5 Seconds of Summer

I’ve never really been a huge fan of 5SOS. They came around after the whole One Direction break-up happened and, even though I preferred the music style of 5SOS to 1D, they still never hit a chord with me, and I never really listened to anything but their radio singles. And I gotta say: this new single still ain’t it, chief.

“Turbulent” by Waterparks

Another very immature song from Waterparks. Maybe you all remember my review of their last album, Entertainment, in which I expressed that I was anything but entertained. The trend has continued with their latest single. Apparently, the new album may be titled Friendly Reminder, or it may be titled Greener Pastures, but nothing is confirmed as of yet. Where Entertainment was basically a love letter from Awsten Knight to his girlfriend, this new album is about their break-up. *whomp whomp* But in better news, the band signed to Hopeless Records, which is not a surprise to anyone. Still, I can’t call myself a fan.

“Shatter Us” by The Rocket Summer

The Rocket Summer has long been a staple pop artist for me and I’m excited to see that he’s returning with another album, called Sweet Shivers. It’s been a couple of years since he released something, but his music never fails to make me smile. The new single is bright and cheerful, and a great picture of what we can expect from the album. It’s the piano driven sound we’ve come to expect, but it’s a whole new facet of what Bryce Avery can do.

by Nadia Paiva

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

Review: Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

Four years is a long time to wait between albums. While fans clamor for new music, artists risk losing cultural cachet. This is, of course, inherently dumb because time is a flat circle and, also, art doesn’t work on a schedule. Nevertheless, the antiquated expectation is a real thing. Just maybe not so much for Carly Rae Jepsen.

You can buy or stream Dedicated on Apple Music.

In the four years since the one-time one hit wonder reinvented herself with 2015’s Emotion (my personal favorite album of the decade so far), Jepsen has become meme-able in the best of ways. Her newfound niche fanbase has found community in her quirky pop and personality, often inciting viral moments to spread the good news.

It helps that Jepsen has offered up appetizers in the form of 2016’s Emotion: Side B, 2017’s summer single “Cut to the Feeling” and last year’s new-album-primer “Party for One”. Even when she was on hiatus, it never really felt like she was gone.

But here we are – finally – with a new full-length album called Dedicated. To cut right to the chase, Dedicated does not match the masterful execution of Emotion, but it’s a hell of a fun pop record. Whereas Emotion found synchronicity in theme and sound, Dedicated reads more as a collection tried-and-true tactics and delightful experiments. When you write more than 100 songs leading up to a record, they may not all live in harmony, but the best of the crop are fairly certain to be good.

Unsurprisingly, Jepsen has already shared the obvious singles to quench our expectations – light, bubbly pop anthems with big hooks. “Now That I Found You” is the “I Really Like You” of Dedicated, an easy anchor to draw us in. Similarly, “Too Much” and “No Drug Like Me” fit the bill for heart-on-her-sleeve Jepsen material, equally catchy and eccentric. Where Dedicated really excels, though, is when she leans into experimentation and allows herself to get a little weird.

“Want You in My Room” is a great example, proving that the Jepsen/Jack Antonoff partnership is just as fresh as when it began. A track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the last Bleachers record, “Want You in My Room” matches deep bass and organic instrumentation with Jepsen’s breath-y delivery of lines like, “I’ll press you to the pages of my heart”. It’s everything fans of Carly already love about her, freshened up with new sounds and tempos that sound specifically built for Summer 2019.

Similarly, “Happy Not Knowing” uses the sonic building blocks of Emotion to achieve something new, coupling shoegaze guitar licks with the synth sounds we’ve come to know so well. It’s also peak CRJ in the best way, honing in on those feelings of longing and the insecurities that keeps us from acting on them: “I don’t have the energy / To risk a broken heart / When you’re already killing me”.

“The Sound” lays a tinkling piano behind the synthesizers while “Automatically in Love” finds Jepsen experimenting with pitch and pace to create a fantastic chorus to match the most Carly Rae song title in history. All of the new pieces seem to come together on “Feels Right”, where the partnering of Jepsen and Electric Guest results in one of Dedicated’s highlights.

On the whole, Dedicated feels like the output of an artist who has earned the opportunity to test some new waters without losing even one iota of who she is, allowing her to stay firmly in her own wheelhouse while still creating something new. What a treat for fans that identify so deeply with her penchant for leaning hard into her feelings.

At a time when it feels more enticing than ever to disengage, Jepsen invites us to do the opposite without ever sounding forced or cheesy. Just listen to the lyrics of “Too Much” and try not to smile: “So be careful if you’re wanting this touch / ‘Cause if I love you, then I love you too much”. At every step, Jepsen reminds us that it’s good to feel completely and without shame or fear. It’s likely what keeps her from ascending back into the upper echelon of pop music, but it’s something that makes her music so much better and refreshing.

4/5

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: Who Won the 2009 Hip Hop Title Belt?

Crossover episode! In our latest podcast, we share another podcast (meta, right?) Kiel Hauck and Brock Benefiel recently launched a new show called Decade Rewind, and in the latest episode, the two discuss which rapper took home the hip hop title belt in 2009. In a year of transition for hip hop, a slew of new artists hit the scene (Drake, Kid Cudi, etc.) and would shift the sound of the genre. Meanwhile, hip hop greats like Jay-Z, Eminem and others were holding fast to the sounds that led to their success. Listen in!

Like what you heard? Be sure to check out Decade Rewind and give us a review! Subscribe here.

What was your favorite hip hop album in 2009? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Issues Return with New Single “Tapping Out”

I’ll be honest – with three years passing since their last album and the loss of vocalist Michael Bohn in 2018, I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that Issues were hanging it up. What a treat then to receive new music in the form of single “Tapping Out” last Friday.

I’ve been a fan of Issues since their inception in 2012 when the band formed from the ashes of Woe, Is Me’s first fallout. While the Black Diamonds EP showed their potential, it was 2014’s self-titled debut album that has remained a summer staple of mine. Full of infectious hooks from Tyler Carter and a manic blend of pop, electronic and metalcore, Issues is the kind of album you can let down your guard with and have a good time.

“Tapping Out” feels like it has the potential to tap back into (no pun intended) that kind of energy – something that felt lacking from the band’s 2016 follow-up Headspace. For over a year, fans have wondered what this band would become with Bohn’s absence, and unsurprisingly, Carter holds his own here atop a track as heavy as any the band has written. Sure, the screaming is nearly gone, but those drop-D tuned guitars provide a nostalgic crunch that keeps your head nodding.

It’s clear that Tyler and company have some bones to pick, and it’s likely that the as-of-now unannounced third album will dig deeper into those feelings. Regardless of what’s to follow, it’s exciting to know that Issues are still here and still capable of writing the kinds of songs that make you want to turn up the volume and roll down your windows. Take a listen to “Tapping Out” below and hear for yourself.

You can download “Tapping Out” here.

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: Diving into Taylor Swift’s New Track “Me”

There is new music from Taylor Swift and it is in the form of a song called “Me”. Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz dive in to unpack the new single and talk about the career trajectories of Swift and Brendon Urie, along with Swift’s many random ties to the scene. They also break down the gorgeous music video for the track and speculate wildly on what Swift’s upcoming album might bring. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are your expectations for Taylor Swift’s new album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck