Review: Harry Styles – Harry’s House

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It’s no surprise that Harry Styles chose to open his newest album Harry’s House with a jazzy, larger than life track. “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” is the perfect opener for this latest iteration of Harry’s talent, and was an immediate fan favorite. It fits in well with his past discography as well. Is Harry becoming…predictable?

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You can buy or stream Harry’s House on Apple Music

“As It Was” starts with a piece of a voicemail from Harry’s goddaughter: “Come on Harry, we want to say good night to you!” In the video, this plays as he is seemingly stuck behind a door, and the song itself is about shutting himself out from everyone. It’s the closest we get to true self expression here, and even though it’s a great track for radio, it’s a risky set of lyrics to base everyone’s initial opinion of an album on. Some could say it follows suit from “Sign of the Times”, which is nothing short of gut-wrenching even (and especially) now, with its use of melancholia to pull us in.

What shocks me most about this new album is the amount of references to substances. Cocaine has at least three mentions and it’s clear he’s had a struggle with alcohol as well. Gone are the days of a carefree Harry singing about treating people with kindness or a girl who he wants to bring home to his mom. It seems these past few years have taken their toll on him, and it shows. He hides it pretty well behind the synths and harmonies, and callbacks to 70’s arena rock, but it’s there nevertheless.

Other than glimpses here and there, not much is said here about how Harry’s personal life is going, given the title of the album. Mentions are made of him and his lover riding bikes in New York (“Daylight”), and making breakfast (“Keep Driving”). 

I do love this album. It feels carefree, and will be a summer soundtrack for most of us, surely. The production is perfection, something we’ve come to expect from him. What I think has been missing from Harry’s career as a whole is intimacy. He talks a lot about his experiences in therapy, most recently in his interview with Zane Lowe, but that doesn’t seem to translate to his bodies of work. I truly wonder whether there will be a time when we get a softer, more personal album from Harry, and whether he will stop concealing himself behind power pop.

Harry’s House is a misleading title. It leads us to believe he will finally let us in, finally give us a real, genuine taste of who he is and who he is becoming. But, like his past releases, he sings so little about himself that he seemingly lets us in the foyer only to say, “Thank you so much for coming, hope you can come again soon!” before ushering us out and away from getting too close to him.

4/5

Photo by Lillie Eiger

by Nadia Alves

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

Review: Florence and the Machine – Dance Fever

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I always have trouble figuring out how to open a review, especially when the body of work speaks for itself and anything I add won’t be any more enlightening, maybe even less so. I almost never feel this way more than when I think of Florence Welch. A startling force to be reckoned with in the music world. She stands like justice above it all, with the past in one of her scales and modernity in the other. With Dance Fever, she first uses her sword to rip away her blindfold, and then ours.

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You can buy or stream Dance Fever on Apple Music

Never am I more anticipatory of a release cycle than one of Florence’s. Her attention to detail and obsession over the visual arts in combination to her musical craft are second to none, and Dance Fever is no different. From billboards that look like Renaissance paintings from a museum wall to a series of music videos telling us exactly what she wants us to glean, Florence spares no emotional expense to bring us into her world.

The album begins with Florence being torn between two lifestyles: domesticity and the quietness it brings, or the energy of being on the stage and creating new life with her words. “King” was the first single and I mentioned it in a past Queue It Up. I bring it up here because in tandem with the rest of the singles it provides a personal look to Florence’s recent struggles, but in the context of the album it is a tale of womanhood in a broader spectrum. When she lets loose at the end, it’s a nod to any woman who has ever been frustrated by whether she should settle for a life of nurturing, or to keep growing the thing inside of her that longs for freedom and the desire to run from anything that will tie her down. 

It ends with “Morning Elvis” and her having made her decision through song. Throughout, she sings of feeling like she is at once too much and not enough. She sings of old times at shows and cutting her teeth on her own career. She sings of traveling and feeling big feelings and dealing with her addiction on her own. She sings of being strong and being weak and being alone and yet when she is feeling love she feels uncomfortable. She contains multitudes, as do we all.

I think the album as a whole is a lament on years lost to time. Maybe for some that is through the pandemic that prevented us from being as close to normalcy as we wish, and for others it is through choices that have taken them far away from where they thought they could or should be by now. I know for me I feel at 25 I should feel more secure in where I am and where I am headed. It’s comforting to know someone like Florence, who exudes pure confidence in her stage presence, struggles with the same idea.

Lyrically, this is a call back to Lungs and Ceremonials, where she spins her words into gold from ages ago –  even calling a track Cassandra”, a woman from Greek myth whose curse was telling the truth but never being believed. I think it is telling that we hear a song like this from Florence. She has been singing  about the same thing for years, songs of bettering society and taking care of nature and finding the worth in ourselves, only for the world to sink deeper and deeper. 

Back in 2018, when Florence’s last album released, none of us could have foreseen that we would be stuck in time for almost three years. Months and months of not being able to personally partake in art has taken its toll on artists and listeners alike. I am certainly not the same person who put up a piece on High as Hope. Even the title is hard to bear, because hope feels so far away these days. But if High as Hope was Florence at her most demure, an ode to where we have been, then Dance Fever is an ode to where we are going. Nowhere but up.

4/5

by Nadia Alves

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

Reflecting On: Michelle Branch – The Spirit Room

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A couple of times a year, I find myself spending days at a time inside The Spirit Room. I’ve said it countless times in the two decades since its release, but the debut album from Michelle Branch is perfect. And as it reaches its 20th anniversary, I’ve thought a lot about its legacy, and how the album unexpectedly became a blueprint of sorts.

We’ve talked extensively this year about Sour, the debut from Olivia Rodrigo, and how it so perfectly encapsulates the emotions and experience of adolescence. One of the many things that makes Sour so impressive is Rodrigo’s ability to shape-shift within genre, often tapping into nostalgic pop rock sounds that feel both fresh and familiar. It’s hard to listen to the album and not think of Branch.

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You can buy or stream The Spirit Room on Apple Music

The story of how The Spirit Room came to be back in 2001 has been reported in detail, but it’s still fascinating to think about a teenager operating independently from major label influence and creating an album so different from what was expected from a young female artist at the time. It worked, and what followed was a new wave of young singer-songwriters following in her pop rock footsteps. Even Taylor Swift has spoken of the album’s influence in her own writing.

It was a sound that clearly caught my attention at the time, and Branch’s lonely, bedroom daydream songwriting resonated as well. When I listen to the album now, I’m transported back to a very specific time in my life in the best way. There isn’t another album that captures those feelings quite as well for me. When I hear “Goodbye to You”, I see Branch performing the song from the stage of The Bronze on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When I hear “All You Wanted” I’m reminded of late night drives in my first car. “Everywhere” transports me back to my freshman dorm room.

For all of these reasons, it was captivating to hear Branch’s 20th anniversary re-recording of the album. Unlike Swift’s current explorations of her past work (which I also love), Branch has allowed the passage of time to change her approach to these tracks. Her voice sounds slightly weathered, the songs have more room to breathe and move at a slightly slower pace. If you close your eyes, you can imagine her playing these songs to a small audience in a smoky lounge room. There’s an innocence that’s missing and it gives the album an entirely new feeling. The fact that it works this well speaks to the timeless beauty of the songwriting.

Last month, I purchased a ticket to Branch’s live stream performance of the album, expecting a full band rendition of the songs I know so well. When the stream began with Branch sitting on a stool, holding an acoustic guitar and strumming her way through “Everywhere”, I was taken aback. But by the opening moments of second track “You Get Me”, I was sold. The songs just work in every context, and in this case, some of them became even more alive with emotion and meaning. 

The early years of the 2000s were a transitional period for popular music, which is perhaps why it feels as though The Spirit Room sometimes gets forgotten in conversations around modern classic albums. It feels out of place when you think about the final gasps of bubblegum pop giving way to the oncoming avalanche of garage rock, hip hop and pop punk. But taken in a vacuum, it’s hard to poke holes in the album. It’s stellar songwriting paired with impeccable production. It moves. It captures hopeless romantic feelings you chase into your adulthood without ever feeling forced or cliché. It opened a new door for young female songwriters to lean into their own individual sounds. It invites you to get lost within it again and again.

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Haim – Women in Music Pt. III

“I know alone and I don’t wanna talk about it”, sings Danielle Haim on the bridge of “I Know Alone”; one of many highlights across the 13 tracks of Women in Music Pt. III. It’s a line that resounds for anyone that knows the kind of depression that Danielle and her sisters Alana and Este spend time processing throughout their third full-length album. It’s a line that feels poignantly un-forced and authentic – one of the great strengths of the band.

You can buy or stream Women in Music Pt. III on Apple Music.

But for all their ability to translate those feelings in such relatable words and sounds, this third offering from Haim has so many other notes to play. Make no mistake – Women in Music Pt. III is easily the band’s darkest offering, but the way in which it gets playful and creative in those valleys is what truly sets them apart.

Haim caught my attention with their 2013 debut Days Are Gone, largely for the way in which they seemed to be winking at the camera in the subtlest of ways. The video for my favorite track from that album, “If I Could Change Your Mind”, seems to find the band blatantly leaning into common visual tropes for female-fronted pop music without ever feeling like you’re supposed to laugh at the joke. The same could be said of this current album title.

And maybe laughter isn’t the right response anyway. On the stripped-down “Man from the Magazine”, the band explores the ways in which the industry at large has treated the trio (and assuredly so many other women). “Man from the music shop, I drove too far / For you to hand me that starter guitar”, Danielle sings on the same track that ends its chorus with, “You expect me to deal with it / ‘Til I’m perfectly numb / But you don’t know how it feels”.

Even the booty call intro of “3 AM” feels perfectly douchy, coupled with lines like, “But I’m picking up for the last time”, delivered with an inferred, resigned sigh. The track crackles with R&B influence not felt this robustly since “My Song 5” from the band’s debut.

The creativity in which Haim explore these myriad themes across Women in Music Pt. III is why you could argue it as the band’s best work. The glitchy electronics of “I Know Alone” sound fresh and moody. The sliding guitar work of “FUBT” rightfully comes to the front of the mix, at times covering Danielle’s vocals. 

Other tracks like single “The Steps” and “I’ve Been Down” are driven by the jangly, folk-rock guitars that occupy the band’s wheelhouse and feel familiar and inviting in this context. The album meanders sonically from the track to track, just as its lyrics spill across subjects, much like a 45-minute session with your therapist.

It’s the kind of imaginative songwriting that felt missing from Something to Tell You, the band’s long-awaited 2017 sophomore effort. That album showcased the sisters’ uncanny ability to write exceptional songs, but lacked the unique, tongue-in-cheek personality that sets Haim apart from any of their contemporaries. The lack of restraint felt on Women in Music Pt. III is an exciting reminder of what we all felt Haim was capable of upon the release of Days Are Gone.

The fact that such a personal and specific work of art could feel so relatable and intimate to so many, in so many different ways, makes Haim one of the most essential bands of the past decade.

4.5/5

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: The Killers Aren’t Done Yet

Only a few who are reading this were subjected to my 2018 challenge to rank all of The Killers’ albums. This was in response to seeing the band on what was to be their final tour/album cycle for 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful. Surprise, surprise, just like Coldplay, The Killers changed their minds and are back with a new album they are calling Imploding the Mirage.

I ended my Twitter thread prematurely and never officially ranked them, but as they moved closer to the pop phase of their career I found myself falling out of love with the band. In listening to Wonderful Wonderful now though, I’ve gained a new appreciation for The Killers in what I will put affectionately as their “dad phase.”

Based on the single released in January of last year, “Land of the Free”, the band seems to be heading in the vein of politically charged pop-rock – not to be confused with punk. I doubt it will be another Hot Fuss, or even another Sam’s Town, but I trust that this latest offering will be full of the same spirit they’ve put into their past albums.

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: Interview with John Floreani of Trophy Eyes

Summer is in full swing, and with it comes an avalanche of summer music festivals. In its inaugural run, the Rockstar Disrupt Festival hosts a stacked lineup, including Newcastle, Australia, rock act Trophy Eyes. Vocalist John Floreani took some time out after one of the band’s recent sets to chat with us about his new solo album Sin, the sonic evolution of Trophy Eyes, and how festival life compares to a typical tour. He also shares about Warped Tour’s impact and how the many tours and festivals taking its place this summer tell the story of a scene that is alive and well. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What tour are you looking forward to the most this summer? Share in the replies!

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.

Goodnight Hiroyuki: A Night with Justin Courtney Pierre

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“I went to the show last night. It was like shitty Beach Boys.” – Justin Pierre

Tonight was the first show of Justin Courtney Pierre’s first solo tour. Seeing Motion City Soundtrack live half a dozen times over the years, I am familiar with Pierre’s stage presence. Tonight was something new. Pushing through nerves, Pierre spoke at length with the crowd between songs and gave those in attendance a night just for them. His tour will undoubtedly get tighter by the end of its run. But on his first solo show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Justin joked to the crowd the best summary of his entire solo venture.

“I’m incredibly nervous. I talked to my daughter before the show, and she said, ‘You’ll do great, dad!’ I said, ‘Shut up, idiot.’”

Opening the show was surprise darling, Pronoun. I had never heard of them before, but like many others tonight, I’m a fan for life. It says a lot about a band when, after the show, more people are holding their vinyls instead of the headliner. Surprisingly simple, their songs contain an insane amount of melody.

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Pronoun

Pronoun, headed by singer/ guitarist Alyse Vellturo, are what rock stars are made of. Watching them play, I couldn’t help but think of the manga Nana, and seeing character Nana Osaki bend rock music to her will. Each song swam with a full, rich sound that made it seem like twice as many musicians took the stage. Despite Vellturo nervously telling the crowd, “This song only uses two chords,” (or “This one uses three!”) Pronoun are remarkably talented.

If nothing else, Pronoun played a song that “they hoped to record some time.” I assume it will eventually be a single. Though unsure of what the title of it is, it’s the type of song that can instantly turn a small band into a sensation.

By contrast, Justin Courtney Pierre was loose. He warned the crowd before the first song, “Some of the melodies and words might change. That’s not on purpose.” Where Motion City maintained a tight, coordinated live show, Pierre allowed his solo work room to breathe. The band had only practiced a hand full of times before hitting the road. Music stands were placed front and center, with Pierre eyeing pages of lyrics and/or sheet music before and during songs.

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Justin Courtney Pierre

In The Drink was played in its entirety, broken up with a great mix of songs from Pierre’s career. An older song written for a gay youth site, “Everything That Hurts” was played alongside a new solo song, complete with surfer rock vibe (see the ‘Beach Boys’ quote above) that will be released on an upcoming EP, My Girl Margot.

More than anything, Pierre had the chance to talk to the audience and try something new. Between each song, he’d talk at length with the crowd, changing topics and regularly filling the room with laughter. After one interaction asking about asthma medications, when someone from the crowd shouted, “Doctor says yes!”, Pierre instantly shot back, “You’re not a doctor!”

This solo tour allowed Pierre a chance to play anything. Rushed to learn the songs, the band flew through three Farewell Continental songs, including one called “Tossing and Turning” that he hopes will be on FC’s next release. When it came time for Motion City Soundtrack, Pierre took the stage alone. He wanted to play “without feeling like he was cheating on MCS,” and only played songs that he brought to the band in the first place. Requesting the audience to help sing, he played through intimate versions of “It Had To Be You”, “When You’re Around” and “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die”.

At this point, it’s impossible to tell if the rest of Justin Pierre’s solo tour will follow the same path, or if this truly is a chance for him play with his live shows and look for something new each night. But if this was him at the height of his insecurities on stage, Pierre is about to start something truly special.

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 realized he was petting a toy Tyrannosaurus Rex instead of his cat. Boooooo.

Review: Justin Courtney Pierre – In The Drink

Despite the mounting evidence, Justine Courtney Pierre is fun. His musical career has been a series of self deprecation and hapless attempts at romance set to the tune of upbeat synth pop. That’s why it makes sense that his first solo outing, In The Drink doesn’t stray too far from familiar territory. In fact, it feels reassuring to know that Motion City Soundtrack’s lyrical content came from a place so honest that it follows through to his own music.

You can buy or stream In the Drink on Apple Music.

It is going to be impossible not to compare Pierre’s first solo album to Motion City Soundtrack. The album is still a pop rock album filled with dreamy lyrical downers. However, this is the first time Pierre has allowed himself to truly experiment with sounds. Produced by former Motion City guitarist Joshua Allen Cain, Pierre adds more garage influences to an otherwise MCS styled album. Be it the faded drumming and horn section of “Undone”, the fuzzed guitar nightmare of “Goodnight Hiroyuki”, or adding influences from Weezer’s Pinkerton to Motion City’s My Dinosaur Life to create a pop rock chimera like “Anchor”, Pierre somehow surprises as much as he plays to his base.

Perhaps most surprising is the fact that Pierre himself plays every instrument except for drumming duties, which are handled by David Jarnstrom (Gratitude, BNLX). Pierre’s lead and rhythm guitar sections are as hypnotic as anything he’s ever done. He truly finds a career-spanning range from the soft pop of Even If It Kills Me in “Moonbeam” to the raging guitars of My Dinosaur Life in “In The Drink”. Perhaps most surprising is how much his bass lines pop and stand on their own. At times, the bass threatens to overtake the lead guitar as the main instrument (“Ready Player One”, “Shoulder the Weight”) in surprisingly diverse ways.

Pierre himself remains as versatile as ever. While his vocal range doesn’t attempt anything new, he remains one of the most impressive singers in pop punk. Silky smooth, Pierre manages to sound both relatable and impressive as his imagery-filled lyrics slide off of his tongue. Subtle wavers of the voice (“I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away”) and confident bellows (“In The Drink”) fill the album. While he doesn’t sound like a choir boy, it’s absolutely impossible not to want to sing along because you feel like you can.

Thematically, In The Drink is on par for anything else Justin Pierre has written. On the opening track, “Undone”, Pierre admits, “Hey, I won’t leave the party today / I have nothing new to relate / There is only sadness, it always ends this way”.

“I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away” feels like a sister song to the Motion City Soundtrack staple “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”. Not quite as lively, the song still revolves around a man trying to put the pieces together about a broken relationship with Weezer-esque guitars raging behind the vocals. “Don’t stay. Baby please stay, you can’t stay / Every night of my life ends the same way / I want to. I don’t want to. It’s both true / Why can’t I figure this out?”

However, Pierre isn’t constantly in the ditch. “Ready Player One” sees him coming to terms with himself and finding balance with his demons, even in the midst of relationship turmoil. “Think what you will I was never as bad as they say / Okay maybe I was but back then I was outta my mind / And I’m all quips and chatter each quivering section of spine / And I’m here to it, here like I never could ever before cause I was afraid, but now I’m ready”.

In The Drink is the next logical step for Justin Pierre, even if it sounds like the next Motion City Soundtrack album. Aggressive, experimental and familiar, Justin Courtney Pierre delivers a hell of an album, even if it’s somewhat expected. What makes In The Drink so spectacular is the fact that it justifies every song Justin Pierre has written and shows not only how authentic Pierre has been throughout his career, but how close to the vest Motion City Soundtrack was through their lifetime. Whether you’re discovering Pierre for the first time, or coming for the nostalgia, In The Drink is an album that we’ve been waiting for.

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 accidentally let his apples go bad. Who does that? Has anyone ever bought TWO APPLES and gone, “No, I’ll hold onto these until they rot”? Literally no one until today.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – Saves The Day

In 2013, I was brand new to Chicago. It was a scary move, but I thought I had made it for the right reasons. My first job here was a painfully boring temp job that left me feeling remote and empty, even compared to my new friends who worked menial jobs. Feeling rejected from an avalanche of unanswered job applications, I would drive alone as the summer sun baked the feeling of regret into my head under the glare of expressway signs, and I wondered how it would ever get better.

You can buy or stream Saves the Day on Apple Music.

When Saves The Day’s self-titled album released that fall, I was ready. I had backed its PledgeMusic campaign earlier that year, listening to the first single, “Ain’t No Kind of Love”, an energetic song about a breakup, with a pure hunger. The chorus was exactly what I was going through, as Chris Conley sang, “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again”.

I truly anticipated an album from one of my first musical loves that would let me bask in my oncoming depression without guilt. Instead, Saves The Day unexpectedly lifted my spirits.

For almost 20 years, Chris Conley was a flag bearer of the emo movement. He never shied away from diving headfirst into the fragility of the human spirit. The three albums before Saves the Day were a trilogy that tackled depression and the depths it can actually go. His songwriting is morbid, but captivatingly catchy.

With the release of Saves The Day, an album bearing the name of the band itself, it felt like a shock to the system to discover that it was a positive album. Despite being released at the start of fall, it was a pure summer album, complete with cover art of a bright orange grapefruit. Similar to how In Reverie stunned fans with a change in style, Saves The Day was a full thematic shift. Instead of glorifying loneliness, Saves The Day is an extremely loose ‘concept’ album about two people falling in love through a chance encounter outside of a bar and reflecting on the good and bad of their lives after years of happy marriage.

Saves The Day was the first album by the band that wasn’t burdened with expectation. There just wasn’t a need to compete with the emo wave of the early 2000’s or attempt to recover ground after the backlash of a stylistic change. Instead, it used the harsh guitars of the Daybreak trilogy of albums to forge a new identity.

After 15 years, to hear a real love song from Conley felt extraordinarily out of place. This was someone who wrote songs like “The End” from Sound The Alarm (“I’m a danger to myself / Always blaming someone else”). But here he was, singing “Beyond All of Time”. It’s the first slower song on the record, with an enchanting chorus of, “Together forever tonight / I’ll always be right by your side, tonight / I love you beyond all of time”.

The true peak of the album is the dual lineup of “Verona” and “Ring Pop”. “Verona” tackles the struggles of a relationship. The verses hint at the fights and sacrifices a couple have to go through against harsh guitars and a depressing drum beat, only to launch into a gloriously hopeful chorus of, “After the end when he tells her he loves her / She promises not to let go / They hold on to hope”.

Immediately following this is “Ring Pop”, arguably the happiest pop punk song of all time. The song radiates with a sappy and childlike wonder of love, and caps off the theme of the record in an incredibly uplifting arc unlike anything else Saves The Day has ever written. “Born on opposite coasts for the two of us both / Knowing in 20 years we would not be alone / Might have made us a pair of zen-like two-year-olds / With a couple of ring pops, no need to propose”.

Saves The Day drastically helped curve my depression for some time as I struggled to adjust to living in Chicago. If Chris Conley, a poster child of dark songs, could find happiness, so could I. That is also when I finally noticed the last line of the chorus from “Ain’t No Kind of Love” that I had somehow missed on each listen since the song was released. Suddenly, the album made sense, as did my outlook on where I was going. “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again / Until then keep on breathing / The love you long to know is within”.

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 killed a spider with a broom while writing this. He is brave and a hero.