A Half-Assed Theory on Discovering New Music

Over the last several years, I have been been improving myself mentally. I heard new music but wasn’t listening. Now in a better place, I am revisiting some albums with fresh eyes to see what it means to me now. Cheers.

Finding new music is easy, but loving new music is a chore. When I think of the bands I love the most, it’s because I discovered them during a transition in my life. Going to high school (New Found Glory), first girlfriend (Saves the Day), college and first apartment (Panic! at the Disco, Lucky Boys Confusion), and discovering the real world (The Wonder Years), led to me listening to this music nonstop for decades, as well as other bands that cropped up in the same eras.

However, stagnation and depression hamper the joy in personal growth. In retrospect, it seems obvious that such memorable moments imprint themselves in the music we listen to. But seeing it in action in real time is a special moment everyone should experience. Thus, I have developed a theory!

I recently started a new day job, which is the biggest change to my life in years. It required spending two weeks in Wisconsin by myself for training. I tried to prep music for the trip, but felt bored looking over my usual soundtracks. Instead, I prepped a bunch of music I’ve reviewed for It’s All Dead in years past or bought for my collection and then (for no reason at all) never listened to again: Neck Deep, State Champs, We Are the In Crowd, Superet, Honeyblood, and many more.

There are many ways to connect to music, whether that be a connection with the lyrics or the music filling your veins with energy. Oftentimes, music means so much to us because of the nostalgia and memories we associate with it. My theory on falling in love with music is obvious, but is proposed as such: the most direct appreciation to new music is during a new life experience.

The first nerve-wracking day of my job, I played Neck Deep’s Life’s Not Out to Get You twice throughout the day, as it seemed appropriate for someone who waits for the worst to happen and then adjusts accordingly. Checking into my hotel, “Threat Level Midnight” played as I walked through the halls. As vocalist Ben Barlow sang, “I’ll see your face down here real soon / A welcome home to a swift farewell”, I opened my door and found another family staying in my room. Dirty clothes, pool toys, suitcases and children’s toys were spread across the room, so I panicked and quickly shut the door.

The hotel told me that there was a family refusing to leave and squatting in the room; they had torn the phone from the wall and refused to respond to maintenance knocking on the door as “Can’t Kick Up the Roots” rang through one ear bud (“Yeah this place is a shipwreck / But this shipwreck, it is mine”). Although a misunderstanding all around, it took an hour to get me a room and Neck Deep kept me company at the counter during frenzied calls and panicked looks from the staff in my direction after being told, “Everything is under control.” Ironically, Neck Deep was also playing when the keys to my room didn’t work the second week and the entire staff recognized me as I told them I was locked out (“All eyes on me, but that’s not reality /… claustrophobic in my own skin / From holding it all in” – “The Grand Delusion”; The Peace and the Panic).

There is a massive public pathway that traces the lake in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. My first night there, I found myself alone in the dark, walking a treacherous path with only the moon lighting the lake to my side as I hurried back to the hotel with Superet jamming away in my head (“And when the lights go out / Will you be having fun alone? / I need revolution / It’s you, only you” – “Bone Bag”; How To Work a Room).

I discovered smoking in bars is still acceptable in Wisconsin, as I stepped into a pub and saw 20 locals starring at me with suspicion with We Are The In Crowd blasting away through my phone (“I guess it was wishful to think / I was different from the rest / Now I’m red in the face / I don’t think I’m impressed” – “Better Luck Next Time”; Best Intentions). I fell asleep to State Champs playing quietly, vividly aware that I didn’t have to worry as much about money for a while (“Wash away all the thoughts that come at you like monsters at night / I don’t wanna live this way / Strong enough to break these chains / Broken pieces can mend…This is our time, our time to go” – “Our Time To Go”; Living Proof).

This massive life event has spawned moment after moment that I will never forget, each accompanied by bands I should have been in love with years ago. I can blame depression for hampering my ability to connect to the music before now, but the truth is I should have been listening regardless. The fact that I felt a connection to so many bands the last couple of weeks means I should have enjoyed them before now. Using a life event to listen to them finally feels like a crutch, and I wish I had spent more time loving them on my own. However, I will never forget these bands or the memories I made listening to them during these two weeks that changed my life.

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 just watched a framed picture fall off the wall of his hotel room for no particular reason while writing this. He blames earthquakes for it so that he doesn’t have to think about ghosts before bed. What a fool!

Advertisements

Review: New Found Glory – From The Screen To Your Stereo III

In general, I find covers albums to be useless. Often times, the original song was good enough that it’s hard to top it, or the band covering them find nothing new to add and just make a grab for the attention. While I have counted New Found Glory as part of that group in the past, From The Screen To Your Stereo III has broken that mold entirely. Instead of mostly covering movie theme songs from the 80’s, the pop punk figureheads have grappled with several contemporary songs and found new ways to express them. New Found Glory haven’t just made punk versions of popular movie ballads, they unapologetically owned the material and forced it to bend to their sound.

You can buy or stream From The Screen To Your Stereo III on Apple Music.

New Found Glory’s From the Screen to Your Stereo series has always annoyed me. They’re decent enough albums, but it’s usually a reminder that it will be another year or two until a proper new NFG release. It’s filler to remind you that the band is still active. However, this ‘threequel’ is by far their best and most consistent. Instead of just plucking from the 80’s and 90’s, FtStYS3 jumps across the decades, grabbing songs that the band grew up with as well as those of their newer fanbase.

Unlike songs from their past covers albums, these songs don’t sound dated. Whereas Tears For Fears “Head Over Heels” sounds distinctly like the 80’s even when given a punk makeover (From the Screen to Your Stereo Pt. II), most of these sound as though they could have been written by New Found Glory, but someone else just got to them first (“Accidentally in Love”).

It’s hard to argue why a new version of The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” is needed. The original is a broadway-esque masterpiece, and Panic! At the Disco’s version shines as an equally glitzy pop hit. However, New Found Glory turns it into a grungy powerhouse that pays homage to the original broadway sound with a backing choir and angelic bridges. “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen bounces between harsh power chords to enormously melodic choruses. This song also tests vocalist Jordan Pundik’s abilities to their fullest. I forgot about Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love” (Shrek 2) to such an extent that I was sure that it was a brand new song until I went back to hear the original.

As much as I have railed against it, where the band shines the brightest is on their versions of 80’s anthems “The Power of Love” (Huey Lewis and the News) and “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor). New Found Glory lean into the spirit of the originals entirely, including the syth during the chorus of “The Power of Love.” These versions are fast, heavy and embody the spirit of New Found Glory while amplifying the originals in every way.

From the Screen To Your Stereo III is easily the best of New Found Glory’s cover albums. The band takes full control of the material and turns it into an album that proves cover songs can be as thrilling as new material.

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 eaten HALF A BAG OF TWIZZLERS?! ….. He needs Twizzler rehab ;-;

Queue It Up: March 27, 2019

Last week’s releases were, in my opinion, few and far between, but they’re stellar. To supplement those new albums, here are a couple tracks to throw in the mix as well.

“Just Stay (Cover)” by The Front Bottoms

I was so excited to see a new track from The Front Bottoms. I first heard about them when they toured with Say Anything and have been a fan ever since. Their latest track is a cover of Kevin Devine’s 2006 song “Just Stay” for the album Devinyl Splits No. 12. Their take is a bit harsher than the original, but it’s a wonderful tribute.

“This is Me (Cover)”  by New Found Glory

I’m not a New Found Glory fan at all. I never have been and I probably never will be. But I did enjoy The Greatest Showman, so a good old rock and roll version of the track “This Is Me” was a nice addition to my weekly listening. It comes from their latest movie covers album From the Screen to Your Stereo 3, which releases on May 3.

“Lo/Hi” by The Black Keys

Finally something that’s not a cover! The Black Keys are back after some time away. Their last release was 2014’s Still Blue, and needless to say we’ve all been hoping and waiting for something new. “Lo/Hi” is exactly what we’d expect from the band; they’ve stayed pretty true to form with their throwback 60’s/70’s rock vibe. There’s no album announcement, but they are touring with Modest Mouse this fall. 2009 is back, amiright?

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.

Ryan Key to Record New Music in 2018

Last year’s disbanding of legendary pop punk act Yellowcard wasn’t easy on anyone, but fortunately, it won’t be long before we hear the voice of Ryan Key again. The former Yellowcard vocalist will be hitting the road this spring with New Found Glory, Bayside and The Movielife.

According to a recent tweet from Key, he’ll be heading into the studio soon to record new songs that will be played on the tour, in addition to some classic Yellowcard tracks. Take a look at the tweet below:

You can currently purchase tickets on New Found Glory’s website. What do you expect from Ryan Key’s new music? Let us know your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: New Found Glory – Makes Me Sick

New Found Glory is the second band I ever fell in love with. The thing about their albums is that you walk into them without expectations of biting social commentary, crazy departures of sound or veering artistic licenses. Their records are going to be fun, with the melodies stuck in your head after a single listen and the lyrics memorized on the second.

You can buy Makes Me Sick on iTunes.

Makes Me Sick is perhaps the second album to attempt breaking free of the standard mold. Coming Home, 2006’s oozing pop album was the first to make a departure to varying results. Makes Me Sick is much, much more successful in the attempt. Perhaps more surprising is how it retains the pop elements of the earliest New Found Glory albums just as much. The result is a record that pushes the band’s sound and writing through new experiments, but sounds like a particularly well-aged set of B-Sides off of Sticks and Stones.

Marking a perfect blend of Sticks and Stones era punk rock with Coming Home‘s alternative takes on songwriting (and synth!), this is an album that relies on and defies the legacy of pop punk that has come before it.

The songs are lavish and pop with a flare that sounds almost classical these days. With some alternative rock sounds and a better use of synth than on Coming Home, Chad Gilbert’s guitar work feels timeless. Focusing less in the easycore hard punk riffs of Resurrection, fleshed out rhythm guitar and solos relish in pop. Bassist Ian Grushka is allowed to carry the melody more than he was on the guitar-heavy Resurrection, which sets him apart from the uplifting synth. Drummer Cyrus Bolooki, yet again, absolutely crushes the kit with poppier beats that sound timeless to the band’s career.

The one song that truly stands apart is “Two Voices”, a Caribbean-style jam that sounds absolutely nothing like New Found Glory save for the vocals, but it doesn’t feel out of place when paired with Makes Me Sick as a whole. It’s the biggest leap stylistically the band have ever made, despite being a simple pop song.

Vocalist Jordan Pundik sounds eternally youthful, throwing some of his most inspired work in the last decade. While the lyrics aren’t gnawing at aspects of society, they are instantly memorable. Subtle jabs are thrown at youth culture run amuck, such as “Party On Apocalypse”, where Pundik sings, “This self-centered generation, taking pictures of themselves then changing features / Pleasing over critical creatures / Everyone’s got a cause but how strong is the foundation / Moving like the waves of the ocean / Do you care or just throw stones in?”

While the classic topic of relationships isn’t snubbed (“Barbed Wire”), “The Cheapest Thrill” is one of the most noteworthy songs on the album. A song about overcoming lust so as not to hurt others anymore, and finding self-respect in yourself and others, it stands out with more depth than the average New Found Glory song. The realization is a great passage, and one of the more heartfelt lines the band have penned, as Pundik sings, “Suddenly, I can see through my own eyes again / But I don’t like what I’m feeling / You can’t help your thoughts, but you can change your actions / If I don’t I’ll be consumed.”

I’ve listened to New Found Glory continuously for almost the entirety of their 20-year career, and even minor changes to their formula can sound drastic when compared to their discography. Makes Me Sick treads the fine line of not only finding a new charm to their signature pop, but they make it sound like an homage to their early work as well. Few bands get the chance to see 20 years, much less release an album that pays tribute to a genre they helped forge without being sickened by the sound of them.

4.5/5

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 fondly remembers that New Found Glory was the first album he ever bought on his own. He forced his friends to listen to it relentlessly until there was a NFG-loving army at his beck and call. He failed to conquer and rule Quebec with them.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #5 New Found Glory’s Homecoming

new-found-gory-e1412745707469

Having come off an undeniably difficult year, New Found Glory released Resurrection in 2014, an album that refined the band’s sound down to one guitar and revitalized their career. The band’s sound retained the classic pop punk feel, but added a much harsher edge throughout that had been teased in earlier releases, such as the Tip of the Iceberg EP.

With confirmation that the band is working on their next follow-up, I’m excited to hear where they are now as a group. What made Resurrection special was that it sounded like they were excited again. While I’ve fallen in love with every record they’ve released, certain eras of their career didn’t feel nearly as inspired (Radiosurgery).

Resurrection felt like it rekindled the fire that made New Found Glory the pioneers of modern-day pop punk. With the re-release as Resurrection: Ascension, even the songs that were originally cut and a liberal use of guest vocalists made it feel like the band was having fun experimenting in ways they hadn’t before.

I have reasonable assumptions of what the new record will sound like. But I’m excited to hear what a band 20 years into their career and at the height of their ability can pull off nonetheless.

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.

Pop Punk Legends Yellowcard and New Found Glory Rock Concord Music Hall

NFG_YC

A New Found Glory show can only be measured in one way: how drenched in sweat you are when it’s over. If you’re dry, you never cared for their music in the first place.

There’s an energy in the air the entire show, no matter who goes on before, or even after. It’s one of the reasons that their legacy and career has endured the rise, fall and rebirth of pop punk. It’s something that seems to emit from the bands that grew from the early 2000’s, and one that only another band from that era can replicate.

Yellowcard is one of those bands, and one of the most engaging. After almost two decades, the kids who grew up on these bands have refused to give up on them; a full house at the Concord Music Hall in Chicago consisted of everyone between the ages of 18 and 35 ready to open a circle pit.  As Yellowcard’s Ryan Key himself said, “If we had done this same tour in 2003, it would have been magical. But it’s 2015, and you’re still here.”

It was the first time Yellowcard and New Found Glory have toured North America together in their careers. If the first of their two night stay in Chicago was any indication, fans have been waiting a long time for this team up. Before opening band Tigers Jaw even took the stage, the room was packed. The sleek interior of the theater spaced people out nicely while filling the center, the entire eclipsing balcony full of onlookers. When Tigers Jaw finally emerged, they had a nearly full house.

Tigers Jaw mesmerized the room, jamming to a somber indie sounding version of pop punk. Dual vocalists, Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh trading and sharing vocals held firm against the popping guitar and hypnotic keyboard. Being unfamiliar with the band, I had no idea what any of their songs were or which album they could have come from. But they were wonderful. Their music took me back to a simplified style of songwriting that still managed to hit every correct note that hooked you in and refused to let go. I could understand why they had been around so long as a band, and why so many people had arrived early to see them.

Though they never hit the high mark of energy or noise of the rest of the night, their relaxed and steady stage presence paved their own path. The biggest mistake bands that tour with behemoths like Yellowcard or NFG can make is to sound like a pale imitation of either one, which is a trap that Tigers Jaw never fell into.

Yellowcard

Yellowcard

Yellowcard took the middle spot, demolishing the room upon entry. Guitars blazing and violin ripping, they tore immediately into the early catalog from Ocean Avenue with songs “Way Away” and “Breathing”. Every major single was hit, from “Lights and Sounds” to “Always Summer” and yet another riotous performance of “Ocean Avenue” enveloped the crowd, encouraging violinist Sean Mackin to do a back flip mid-song early on. One of the highlights of their set included vocalist Ryan Key alone on stage playing the keyboard for a softer, intimate version of fan favorite “Empty Apartment”.

The biggest detriment to Yellowcard is their range in discography. Each album has its favorites, and no concert will ever be able to cover everything fans want to hear. Aside from the hits, the band focused on two albums specifically; Ocean Avenue and Lift a Sail. “Crash the Gates” and “Lift a Sail” sound much better and harder in person than they ever could on an album, and it breathes new life into a record that sounds unlike anything else the band has put out.

While the band themselves put on an amazing performance, of note is current drummer Tucker Rue, formerly of Thursday. Longineu W. Parsons III is a brilliant drummer (my personal favorite), and filling his shoes is no small feat. Obviously a veteran, Rue managed to engage and make missing Parsons not hurt quite as bad.

New Found Glory

New Found Glory

New Found Glory headlined the evening, opening with a scorching rendition of “Resurrection”. From there, it didn’t matter what they played; each song might as well have been their big hit. Fan favorite “Hit or Miss” jolted the crowd early (rather than be a closing song) and spurred multiple circle and mosh pits. “All Downhill From Here”, “Selfless” and “Vicious Love” with a guest appearance by Brianna from Tigers Jaw were a few of the highlights, but the energy never so much as wavered throughout the set.

The only thing that paused the band from jumping across the stage at any time was when they pointed to a fan in the front row named Brad and not only invited him on stage, but asked him to pick a song that wasn’t on their set list and sing it was Jordan. He chose “Second to Last” from the band’s self-titled album, prompting the crowd to chant “Brad! Brad! Brad!” and guitarist Chad Gilbert to momentarily throw quick glances at the rest of the band to make sure they all remembered how to play it before rampaging through the song as though it were their big single.

New Found Glory remains one of the few bands that have not only retained their fanbase the entirety of their career, they have also kept their core sound intact while making each release sound new and intimidating among a new generation of musicians inspired by and evolving off of NFG. Every song they play, regardless of which record, sounds just as important as any song that could have made them a radio phenomenon. The audience jumped as though they had seen the band a dozen times before, and would see them again a dozen more. One man held his young daughter up on his shoulders in the back for her to see, and although she couldn’t have been more than five years old, NFG was already shaping her to be a new generation raised on their music.

Pop punk is a scene meant to push its way into your life, and immediately leave to some degree. Whether that means that you outgrow the sound, or the bands you love dissolve after an album or two, its rare to see a group stay together for a 10-year reunion tour, much less two bands together and better than ever after almost 20. Yellowcard and New Found Glory have carved their way into legendary status within music. Both have evolved with a generation of music that they helped shape and mold, and remain at the forefront.

I only managed to see the first of a two night headlining gig in Chicago, allegedly with different songs played each night for New Found Glory. But the fact that these bands can manage two nights worth of shows for fanatic listeners means something. Thankfully, it seems like they’re here to stay.

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 New Found Glory was his first major band. Long live NFG!

Reflecting On: New Found Glory – New Found Glory

new_found_glory_2000

This is easily the weirdest thing I’ve ever tried to write, so let’s start here: New Found Gory is to pop punk what Johnny Cash is to Country. The name is inseparable from the genre. Five years ago, I saw them play a nearly sold out show in Cincinnati celebrating the album’s 10th anniversary, but this last week, the band’s self-titled album, New Found Glory celebrated its 15th anniversary with a quiet nod to those paying attention. Any album will celebrate 15 years if someone is paying attention, but when a band is still together after all that time is when we should truly take notice.

A thousand people have written about this album, so I will keep it short and sweet. New Found Glory is the quintessential pop punk staple. It’s the album that dozens of my friends know word for word, despite the fact that they have long since stopped following the band. The self-titled album established what pop punk should sound like, despite the fact that bands like Blink-182 had been around years beforehand.

It’s hard for me to listen to New Found Glory these days all the way through; 15 years and half a dozen albums worth of work later, it’s hard for me to define New Found Glory by the songs that they wrote at 18 or 19 years of age. But this album means the world to millions of people, maybe half of which still actually listen to music. Even so, if one band were to have successfully defined their sound with a self-titled album, New Found Glory is the one.

New Found Glory is a timeless album. Pop punk has evolved over the years, but if the album was released today, it would still work , and possibly sound just as good for an up-and-coming amateur band. The songs are simple, loud and devastatingly memorable. It’s hard to deny that a thousand bands have grown up learning to play the songs on New Found Glory and the influence it has left on the scene, if not music as a whole, is incalculable.

This album landed just a year or two before Napster destroyed the music scene, and as such, was one of the last albums that needed to be purchased to hear the music on it. And people bought it. I found it through Adam Carolla. One random night, I happened to be listening to his radio show Love Line when the opening notes to “Hit or Miss” played over the radio and I heard who the band was. New Found Glory was the first band I discovered on my own, bought on my own, and told my friends about. This was the first album I lent to a friend, and one of the first bands I took the same friends to for a concert.

It would be easy to say that this album means the most to my generation, but it’s simply not true. Even now in concert, the band plays a good portion of these songs live.

New Found Glory is hard to describe, as it doesn’t age in the same way that Green Day’s American Idiot does, or differ in sound from how the band writes now, the way that Oasis did at the end of their career. New Found Glory was simply the start of an obsession that has lasted for decades, the spark of a central sound that hasn’t deteriorated. The only other band I can think of that has held up as well is Saves the Day, but even they have changed their sound throughout the years.

I believe that part of the album’s longevity is that the band haven’t particularly changed their core sound as much as they have evolved with the times. New Found Glory is pop punk in its infancy, Coming Home its awkward teenage emo years, and Resurrection the current, rebellious young adult form. Where most bands attempt a new sound so that they don’t write the same record twice, New Found Glory knew who they were in the beginning and wrote their music in a way that matched the maturity of their audience.

There are dozens of bands I listened to when I was fifteen, but nothing gets my blood pumping the way that “Better Off Dead” does. Friends of mine don’t listen to music anymore (literally, at all), but still quote “Sincerely Me” in texts and in inside jokes. And nothing, absolutely nothing, gets a crowd jumping or open a circle pit the way that “Hit or Miss” can.

Last year at Riot Fest in Chicago, I ran in a circle pit during New Found Glory’s set for almost 20 minutes with people ranging in age from their teens to people well into their 30s.

After this much time, I don’t know how else to describe New Found Glory in a way that hasn’t been done before. I can’t even say that it’s my favorite NFG album. What I can say is that this is the album that launched my love of music in a way that Blink-182 never did, that made me fall in love with their albums year after year in a way that Green Day never did.

Music changes very quickly (remember dub step?). Fifteen years later, I feel like it is safe to say that New Found Glory is the reason that pop punk has survived this long and the basis to which all of the current styles have evolved from. They helped launch the golden age of pop punk and the entire Drive Thru Records lineup. Their music is essentially untouched from what it was all those years ago, save for being louder and more mature than anyone ever saw it becoming. It’s more than anyone ever expected to see from a band all those years ago, especially when there were so many pop punk bands, and I can only hope to see where they land years from now.

All in all, this is an elaborate way to say, “long live the kings of pop punk.”

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 might be slightly biased because NFG was the first band he discovered 15 years ago. But that doesn’t matter because no one reads this lil’ bit anyway. Bwa hahahahaha!

Review: As It Is – Never Happy, Ever After

as_it_is

Five months in, and it feels like 2015 is the official year of the classic pop punk revival. There have been nothing less than a swarm of albums that sound like they were torn straight out of 2002. The debut album from As It Is is no exception, and the world is better for it.

First off, it’s important to admit up front that I grew up on the pop punk sound of the early 2000s and am a complete sucker for any band that does it well. It’s hard to ignore that bias, even when a band might not quite deserve the amount of praise I sometimes give.

It’s hard to find much in the way of innovation on Never Happy, Ever After. If anything, it adds the effect of double vocalists (ala Taking Back Sunday) and strained shouts over snappy riffs circa early New Found Glory. The benefit of that, though, is that Never Happy sounds timeless. I could have just as easily have been pumping my fist to Never Happy, Ever After as I did to The Starting Line’s Say It Like You Mean It.

Smooth energy and grind house guitar riffs dominate the album, creating an effective love letter to the forefathers of modern pop punk. For anyone getting into the scene now, it’s easy to imagine As It Is being just as important 0f a band as New Found Glory was to my generation. The music hypnotically balances itself between poppy mosh-ready riffs and glossy sweet strings over raging drums and bass. If there is one thing to complain about, the vocals sound like there might have been too much production or auto tune used. It’s obvious Patty Walters is a good singer, but a little more raw energy would have served him better.

It’s becoming rarer and rarer to find a band that immediately knows who they are when they release their first album. It’s obvious after a single listen that As It Is are not only well versed in the most important bands to pop punk, they’re determined to recapture the magic of a Sticks and Stones. If anything makes the album feel modern, it’s the fact that the band shifts the lyrical focus away from high school romances to a more introspective place that eat away at you slowly, such as “Drowning Deep In Doubt”, when Walters sings, “If the only place I belong is an afterlife that I just can’t believe in / At least I’ll know I was born so not everyone lives and dies on their own”.

This band is a collective of good songwriters. There’s more to their music than a three minute guitar slamming. There is nothing quite as invigorating as listening to “My Oceans Were Lakes” and hearing the drumming slowly take center stage after two and a half minutes of acoustic guitars so soft they could be have been a lullaby. The energy that builds is awe inspiring.

There are a lot of soft spots on Never Happy, but there’s a power behind the pop that puts most bands in the genre in their place. “Concrete”, the chorus to “Turn Back To Me”, “Can’t Save Myself” and “Dial Tones” are some of the best songs in the scene since The Wonder Years stepped into the spotlight.

There are a lot of good lines in every song, and it’s just a matter of picking your favorites depending on your mood. “Turn Back To Me” has Patty Walters and Andy Westhead alternating the verse, “I can only take so much before I spill my guts / But I’m terrified of letting you see what I’m thinking / But you left before I could and if I could too, I would / Cause my mind’s a frightening and lonely place I can’t escape at night”. “Speak Soft” includes the lines, “Can I give you an answer? / The beauty and the cancer / You’re an open shining, self-relying / And I’m a fucking born disaster.”

There’s a good chance that As It Is will disappoint you depending on your preference in musical styles. There’s a good chance that I’m looking too much into them, which is a fair assessment. What I see is a band that recognizes that pop punk has more to offer than people are willing to give it.

As It Is somehow combine over a decade’s worth of pop punk and emo styles into a single disc and make it sound organic enough that it could have been album of the year at any point during the last 15 years. That’s an easy thing to say, but I’ve listened to Never Happy over a dozen times in the last 48 hours and I don’t intend to stop now. The only bad thing I can think to say about Never Happy, Ever After is that I have to wait at least a year or two just to see what As It Is comes up with to top it.

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 plans to attend Warped Tour just to see this band. I truly love Never Happy, Ever After and I’m proud to give it the score I did. If you disagree, kindly go piss right off. 😀