Review: Copeland – Blushing

Anyone familiar with Copeland knows that the band loves to push boundaries. In terms of their lyricism and their production, they always aim above and beyond with each new project. Whether it’s for their own creative necessity or as a way to keep the fans coming after all these years, we can always count on them to impress us with each release. Their latest, Blushing, is no exception — but it is exceptional.

You can buy or stream Blushing on Apple Music.

Blushing begins with “Pope”, the first single the band released back in November. It’s a perfect opener and really sets the tone for how this album plays out. The spoken word in the middle is an important part of the album’s overall theme and eventually comes back around in the second-to-last track, “It Felt So Real”. As much as I don’t want to call this a concept album, it kind of is.

I loved Ixora. I know there were a lot of people who didn’t, but I liked the idea of an evolved Copeland. They were interested in branching out on that album in a way they weren’t before, and it was exciting. A lot of people are commenting on the videos Copeland posted for Blushing that it’s a whole album of songs that sound like “Lavender” from Ixora, and while I can definitely see where that comparison comes from, I don’t think it’s fair to write off the album based on that.

In Ixora, we had the girl standing “in the whitest dress,” clearly signifying either a marriage or a new relationship that hasn’t been touched by negativity yet. In Blushing, though, a lot of the honeymoon period we saw in Ixora is missing. There’s still plenty of love to go around, as seen in “Lay Here” and “On Your Worst Day”, but somewhere along the way, things have gone a little bit stale.

Gone are the days of Copeland singing about running through wildflowers. Vocalist Aaron Marsh’s character on Blushing is a tired man. He’s remembering the better times through dreams, which is where the spoken word comes in. She’s calling him out of that dream state and back to reality. In “Strange Flower”, he wonders if he’s enough for her. It’s all too relatable for a long-term relationship, and I think lyrically this might be some of the band’s tightest and most poignant work.

Copeland has a way of perfectly matching their music to the story they’re conveying. They said that with this album, they wanted to overdo everything they’ve done before. On their site, Marsh says, “…we wanted to emphasize each element of sound harder, like an exaggerated version of Copeland’s sound.”

With Blushing, that approach has succeeded, particularly with the use of string and jazz instruments. Neither of those are new for Copeland, but somehow they’ve made it feel fresh and never-before-heard. They were diligent with where they put compositional elements, they didn’t waste a note. Every sound serves its intended purpose well, and every moment of silence is placed exactly where it needs to be.

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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Review: Bring Me the Horizon – Amo

I recently decided to play Bring Me the Horizon’s latest single, “Medicine”, back-to-back with “Pray for Plagues”, their 2006 deathcore breakthrough. The shock value of hearing those two tracks in succession highlights the unfathomable songwriting growth the band has experienced over the past 12 years while serving as a reminder of frontman Oli Sykes complicated past – something he still seems to be trying to outrun.

You can buy or stream Amo on Apple Music.

By now, you’re surely aware that Bring Me the Horizon’s new album Amo is unlike anything you’ve ever heard from the band, something that feels wholly unsurprising in light of 2015’s alt-rock excursion, That’s the Spirit. That the band have completed a full metalcore metamorphosis into something nearly uncategorizable is phenomenally impressive. That they’ve done so from within a cocoon of their own making – no producers, no co-writers – is jaw-dropping.

The breadcrumbs leading to Amo can be traced back to the addition of keyboardist and engineer Jordan Fish on 2013’s Sempiternal. While the band showed their first signs of life on There is a Hell in 2010, it’s now unmistakable that the songwriting vision of Fish made an unequivocal impact on the band’s trajectory – he and Sykes now serve as one of the most fascinating duos in alternative music. Just call them the new Stump and Wentz.

It feels like years have passed since “Mantra” was released last August as Amo’s first single – a red herring if there ever was one. We can now realize that grungy track as just one ingredient in a concoction that finds Bring Me the Horizon exploring electronica and pop rock in equal measure. That “Mantra” is immediately followed on the album tracklist by “Nihilist Blues” featuring Grimes (without a doubt the most ambitious and peculiar song the band has ever written) feels perfectly appropriate.

For most listeners, new and unexpected sonic explorations like “Nihilist Blues”, “In the Dark” or “Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down?” will take multiple spins to fully digest. Oddly enough, the schizophrenic nature of Amo and its constant genre leaps serve as the perfect entry for a fully streaming generation, yet still functions best as a sum of parts, especially when including the blippy, 1975-ish interludes.

Album opener “I Apologize if You Feel Something” sets the stage for the story Amo wishes to tell, often dealing with the confusing and sometimes messy nature of relationships. It’s here that Sykes first delivers lines that seem in response to the dissolving of his marriage with Hannah Snowdon, the hazy-yet-troubling details of which still hover over Sykes and the rest of the band. It’s clear that he’s still searching for the culprit, often finding his own reflection, as on “Wonderful Life”: “’Lone, getting high on a Saturday night / I’m on the edge of a knife / Nobody cares if I’m dead or alive / Oh, what a wonderful life”.

We’ll all find our own ways to process what we know of Sykes and whether his self-deprecation is worth of empathy. Is it a complicated kind of progress when he finds a sensitive side on tracks like “Mother Tongue”, which implores his wife Alissa Salls to speak in her native Portuguese when expressing her love? At a bare minimum, it feels like the right kind of growth. Whether in words or sound, Amo is rife with the kind of palpable inner wrestling that is unavoidably compelling.

When Amo loses its footing, it can be tied solely to the band’s decision to self-produce. Tracks like “Sugar Honey Ice & Tea” highlight moments when a producer could have taken a chorus or melody to another level. Instead, Sykes sometimes finds himself stumbling over awkward phrasings or nearly nonsensical lyrics. Even in those moments, the band’s sudden pop sensibilities are hard to deny – by my third listen, I was singing along to nearly every song.

All of this brings me back to “Medicine”, a track that caused an uproar amongst old guard fans and once again solidified Bring Me the Horizon as one of Britain’s most essential rock bands. As the sonic inverse of first single “Mantra”, “Medicine” finds the band very coyly trolling us all. As the ying and yang of an album that now has to be considered when discussing the band’s best releases, Bring Me the Horizon have proven that great songs can come in a variety of packages and great bands can still find new ways to get even better.

The fact that Bring Me the Horizon’s metalcore days are far behind them will continue to be a bitter pill for some people to swallow. For the rest of us, a dose of levity and melody are a small step toward salving old wounds.

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.

Review: Clear Eyes Fanzine – Season One, Episodes 1-6

I’ve never seen “Friday Night Lights”, movie or television series, but I constantly hear about how great of a series it is. The evidence is clearly mounting after the creation of Clear Eyes Fanzine, a side project from Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years and Ace Enders of The Early November. Season One, Episodes 1-6 is exactly what it sounds like. Both Ace and Dan provide three songs inspired by each episode. It’s a great concept that has created some of the most intense, provoking and emotionally wrenching songs either songwriter has ever written.

You can buy Season One, Episodes 1-6 on Bandcamp.

The main takeaway from SO, E1-6 is how much these songs sound like Campbell and Enders. The first three tracks, written by Campbell are basically tracks from Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties. The second half of the record is Enders prominently displaying his penchant for atmospheric minimalism that his I Can Make a Mess project has perfected. There aren’t any surprises, just damn good songs.

Campbell’s side of the record focuses on physical ailments and trauma. Whether that be physical exhaustion and determination from “On Tim Riggins as He Prepares for His Sophomore Year” (“I puked through my mask / And the smell never fucking leaves”), or brain trauma of CTE from “Coming Up for Air” (“I don’t talk about the headaches / I don’t talk about the nights when I forget where we are”), Campbell’s descriptions of the damage from playing football are brutal and unforgiving. It’s also some of his best work to date.

Enders, taking the back half, focuses much more on the emotional toll of the characters. His songs are ethereal and soft, feeding the energy of emotional drama. “Good Get Coach” begins with whispers and Enders harmonizing with himself before exploding with a chorus of, “Another rivalry begins, watching you watching him / I wish that I could let myself just let it all out”. Meanwhile, “The Fields” explores a back and forth conversation between characters. Enders sings, “I hate that they get applauded / It’s just a stupid game / In 15 years, that varsity jacket just won’t wear the same”, before the chorus kicks in with a differing viewpoint: “In the field, we fight for our tiny lives / It tore my father down, cuz nobody gets out”.

Clear Eyes Fanzine is fun, emotionally draining and comes from two songwriters who love “Friday Night Lights”. While each artist’s songs are incredible, the wasted opportunity for the two to share a song together is astounding. However, there’s always hope for the next few episodes. As a whole piece, the EP is an emotionally gripping exercise in writing.

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 TOO MUCH TELEVISION!!! There is so much to watch, and not enough time to learn how to make wicker baskets.

 

Most Anticipated of 2019: #4 Dua Lipa Dances into 2019

For Dua Lipa, the period between her debut and forthcoming sophomore album has been anything but quiet. In June of 2017, her self-titled release dropped to relatively modest fanfare, but 2018 saw the English pop star’s profile reach a fever pitch. Following the success of early singles like “New Rules” and “IDGAF”, Lipa struck gold last summer, featuring on Calvin Harris’ number-one single “One Kiss” before later partnering with Silk City for “Electricity” – one of the best dance tracks of the year.

In gearing up for what comes next, Lipa let slip that her anticipated follow-up would be heavily influenced by Prince and Outkast, an intriguing concept, to be sure. Both acts made names for themselves by pushing the limits of their respective genres and exploring new territory with each release. It stands to reason that 2019 may present us with a sonic side of Dua Lipa that we have yet to hear.

At the age of 23, she has already proven herself to be a hit factory with one of the most fun and inviting personalities in pop music. It shouldn’t be long before Dua Lipa’s name rings out among the elite popular artists of our time.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #5 Taylor Swift Leaves Her Reputation Behind

Though Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in the world, Reputation left many wanting. Swift claims that each new album is used to document a new chapter of her life. Although Reputation is barely a year old, this chapter seems to be closed after an extremely popular worldwide tour and Netflix Special.

There are already hints that Swift is already hard at work on her next album and there’s no reason to think it will be anything less than a stellar deep dive into the pop ether. Since most of her albums come after about two years, it’s par for the course to expect her seventh album to drop before the end of 2019.

After defending her reputation against feuds with Kanye West, Katy Perry, and public perception, this next chapter is looking to pick of the pieces of what’s left and run free.

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 could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #6 The 1975 Go for Two

The 1975 surprised everyone this past November with how well A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was received. It was album of the year for many a music fan and I’m curious to see how this next piece of the 1975 puzzle will fit in. According to the band, the album is titled Notes on a Conditional Form.

We’ve got two options: It could potentially fall into the same category as A Brief Inquiry and totally blow our minds, or it could be too soon for the band to release something else, no matter how important it might be to the first album’s storyline. I would like to say I’m confident, but there’s a good chance that it’s just too soon.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to watch it play out. We don’t have a set release date for it, much like last year, but rumor has it that the album will drop on May 31.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #7 Halsey Blazes Her Own Trail

By almost any measure, 2018 was a year of resounding success for Halsey. Sure, she went through two very public breakups with G-Eazy, but the year also found Halsey making her first SNL performance, appearing in two films (A Star is Born and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies), completing six more legs of her hopeless fountain kingdom world tour, and releasing another number-one single: “Without Me”.

It’s a small wonder that she’s had time to start writing new music, but according to Halsey, some winter writing sessions will give way to her third full-length album, which could potentially drop before year’s end. One of the most subversive pop artists of our time, Halsey has made a name for herself through storytelling, and in an interview with PopBuzz, she stated, “I don’t think I could ever not make a concept record.” Thus far, the format has suited her well.

Never one to play by the rules, Halsey has forged her own synthpop path over the past four years, and every indication is that 2019 will give us all another reason to sing along.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #10 The Weeknd Keeps Us on Our Toes

Last year saw the music of The Weeknd take a stark turn. The dark, moody vibe of My Dear Melancholy shirked the celebratory pop vibes of Starboy in favor of the sounds that made Abel Tesfaye’s early mixtapes such an underground success. Personally, Melancholy was an unexpected treat, with my own tastes leaning more in the direction of the experimental alternative R&B that has made the Canadian singer such a unique outlier compared to his peers.

Nevertheless, The Weeknd is back in the studio working on a new full-length album, tentatively titled Chapter VI. Tesfaye has hinted that Melancholy was a necessary exorcising of hard feelings and that his new music would move back in a more positive direction. Whatever the case, The Weeknd has proved his ability to make music that fits the vibe of both dark, smoky clubs and explosive, ear-rattling arenas.

The Weeknd’s continuing ability to shape-shift, keeping listeners on their toes while using his signature croon to match any mood has made him one of the most essential pop artists of the decade.

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: Interview with Lindsay Zoladz of The Ringer

On our latest podcast, Kiel Hauck talks with Lindsay Zoladz, music and pop culture critic with The Ringer. During the conversation, Zoladz talks about the evolution she’s seen take place in music journalism during her time with The Ringer, Pitchfork and more, while also discussing the obstacles still facing women in the music industry. Zoladz also shares her thoughts on how the current political climate shaped pop music in 2018 and breaks down some of her favorite albums of the year. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Hellogoodbye – S’only Natural

Hellogoodbye has become an indie darling through a daring evolution of synth pop. Hellogoodbye mature each album cycle into something new. However, the risk is that sometimes these projects have mixed results. S’only Natural, the band’s newest album, is an infuriating record that I loved and hated in equal measure for the first two weeks after its release. However, after seeing Hellogoodbye live, I can finally appreciate the album in a way that otherwise may not have been possible.

Hellogoodbye played the Subterranean in Chicago two weeks after the release of S’only Natural. I have seen the group live twice before, and am familiar with the energy of their performances. However, this show lacked the stacked keyboards and intimacy of a ukulele. Instead, a glitzy golden sheet flowed across the stage with the words “Club Forrest” emblazoned on in in bright neon. Singer Forrest Kline strode across the stage in a lounge suit, dancing with a relaxed swagger. That’s the moment that S’only Natural finally clicked.

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Hellogoodbye

S’only Natural is a disco record. It is arguably the best instrumentation of Hellogoodbye’s career. The bass lines are extraordinarily melodic (“S’only Natural”). The guitars are restrained, but flesh out a full-bodied sound encouraging the listener to dance. The keyboards take their time and play a more integral, natural element to the music (“Let It Burn”). Additionally, the percussion is relaxed, but rich. While no song finds the frenetic pace of past records, the beats find a healthy balance between dance numbers and somber tones that perfectly match the bass (“Hang Loose”).

Trumpets, violin, and piano also take center stage at key points. Both “Overture” songs, which start and end the album, are primarily gorgeous violin ballads that sound straight out of the 1950’s.

One of the key things about S’only Natural is that it is a full, single piece. Many songs seem to bleed into the next, or end in such a way that it sets up the next perfectly. It keeps the album moving, but also can cause many songs to sound remarkably similar if you’re not paying attention. The music is amazing, but it lacks the variety of past records. It’s not until after the album is already done that you really see the crescendo of the first half and the soft ballads that swell to end the record (“Mysterious You”).

The most off-putting part of the album is singer Forrest Kline. For a singer who is so full of creativity, he takes zero chances with S’only Natural. Every song is sung in the same quiet pitch, with a backing track of himself almost whispering. Each song, I expected him to finally put a bit of effort into his voice, but instead maintains the same tone and quiet drawl. It’s maddening and beautiful at the same time. At times, it almost renders the lyrics useless.

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Hellogoodbye

After multiple listens over several weeks, I still had no opinion of this album. It was fun and boring, vibrant and bland at the same time. Which is why it seemed so odd to watch Forrest confidently strut in front of the mic stand. There was far more energy here than anything on the album. Opening the set with album closer “Honeymoon (Forever)”, Kline crooned over the soft taps of the snare and a keyboard, “I will come away with you / You look like you know what to do / Missing both your shoes, disheveled and amused / I’m in love with you”. Gliding over the gold blanket, the lounge jacket buttoned tight, the soft nature of his voice made absolute sense. Even during faster, poppier songs when the percussion and keyboards picked up volume to a staggering pitch, such as “Put It Out”, Kline simply crooned. “You were the autumn that bathed me in gold / And I’m a fool that thinks you were a flame I could hold”.

Almost the entire setlist of the live show was from S’only Natural, with only a few select favorites and fan requests from other albums peppered throughout. By night’s end, S’only Natural finally made sense to me. The instrumentation was the true star of this record. While the band’s music evolved over past records, Kline’s voice and lyrics always seemed to take center stage. This album is a jam. It wants you to dance. It wants anyone listening to be able to sing along with minimal effort. The confidence to play mostly new songs live plays straight into the album’s strength. And while past albums became poppier, S’only Natural looks back at the classic sounds and styles that influenced today’s music. The result is a romantic blend of current dance beats and crooner swing.

S’only Natural is an anomaly of an album. It’s soft, restrained and bursting with energy all at once. Though the lyrics are catchy, they’re a device to bring more attention to the music itself. This era of the band is just as progressive as it is classical. The mountainous bass lines eventually give way to gentle ballads that culminate in a rich album that forces listeners to discover the band’s music in a completely new way. S’only Natural isn’t an album for everyone, but it rewards anyone willing to put in the effort.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and realized Forrest Kline was standing behind him watching the opening band. When Kyle introduced himself to Forrest, he said, “We’ve actually met before in Columbus. You grabbed my nipples [because I complimented Joseph Morro instead of you].” Forrest looked shocked, took a drink and then danced away into the crowd. He is literally the best people.