Review: Emery – Rub Some Dirt On It

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I originally wasn’t going to write anything about the new Emery album, Rub Some Dirt On It. Anyone who has followed my pieces here on It’s All Dead knows my love for Emery and I think I’ve written or talked about almost every one of their albums in the five years since I started contributing here. I just kind of felt I had nothing new to add to the conversation. But where I was lacking inspiration, Emery stepped up and filled in the blanks for me.

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You can buy or stream Rub Some Dirt On It on Apple Music

Rub Some Dirt On It is Emery’s hardest hitting album to date. I think one of the privileges of being a band for 20 years is being able to drop the filter and really lean into the art you want to make. Over the past few years, the scene has often been up in arms over the members of Emery’s podcasts, or artistic choices with album art, or the shift in their lyrical content. A few years ago, they released a song called “People Always Ask If We’re Gonna Cuss in an Emery Song” for God’s sake. They’re basically an ouroboros now, just devouring the criticism and turning it into more incredible and thought-provoking art than ever before. Just when you think it’s quiet on the Emery front, they release a single like “I Don’t Know You At All”, and you’re sucked right back in. If Emery has anything going for them 20 years into their career, it’s their talent for constantly staying in the back of the scene’s mind.

For Rub Some Dirt On It, I wrote off the title as an uber-masculine dude-fest at first, but Emery is at their most vulnerable here. The songs detail church abuse (“Stranger”), the way faith falters over the years (“You Stole God From Me”), and just the regular old guy/gal songs we know and love from South Carolina’s post-hardcore darlings (“You Said Enough”). And just in case we get too overwhelmed or in our feelings over it, they end the album with “Lovely Lady”, a complete turn-around musically, but a cool picture of just how well they mesh as a band, and a fitting closer to a very deep and personal album.

The album has some of Emery’s most interesting instrumentation, and more cutting lyrics than even in their edgy era when they were young. The 20+ years together have only tightened their sound and refined their artistic presence. They were a force to be reckoned with in the scene when they began, and they’re even more of a force now.

The band recorded this album in one take on a 2-hour livestream spectacular, and other than some minor tweaks here and there for recording’s sake, gave us the album as it was originally performed. I’ve said this before, but Emery really took the independent release format by the horns and completely flipped the script. Every time they’ve released something in their indie era, it’s better and fresher than what they did before. It’s almost like they challenge themselves to try something new every album cycle, and we’re privileged enough to come along for the ride.

5/5

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.

Review: Valleyheart – Heal My Head

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Well it’s time, folks. Time to talk more about an album I haven’t been able to shut up about: Valleyheart’s Heal My Head. It’s finally out in the world, and it’s just what I’ve needed. This is an album perfect for spring and summer, and it is the perfect offering to usher us into sunnier days.

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You can buy or stream Heal My Head on Apple Music

What drew me to Valleyheart initially is their lyrical honesty and fresh take on the alt genre. Their first album, Everyone I’ve Ever Loved, hit me deeply in a way only a kid who grew up in New England churches can get hit. In a part of the country affectionately known by other religious areas as the “frozen chosen,” what Valleyheart had to say about church and the way that kind of upbringing tosses you into adulthood with little else but questions really resonated with me.

Their new album, Heal My Head, feels like defrosting. The sounds are lighter, the chords are major, and it’s all around giving me a chance to catch my breath. Vocalist/guitarist Kevin Klein and the guys have focused on time, and the way it ebbs and flows. We get songs about their success, songs about hoping for more, songs about friendship. There’s something here for everyone.

From the initial notes of “Birth”, a soft entrance through the door of this house Valleyheart built, we are pushed into the lead single, “The Numbers”. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year thus far, and a great representation of what we can expect here from the rest of this piece. This song is about Spotify stats at its core, but it really is about more than that: It’s about slowing down and taking the time to appreciate where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s a song about gratitude. 

“Warning Signs” is the most different track, a very pop heavy song that was instantly a favorite for me. It’s catchy, and it breaks up the album just enough to keep things interesting. I fell head over heels for their harder rock sound, but tracks like this, along with “Back and Forth” and “Vampire Smile” are reminders that this band can do whatever they want and make it sound incredible, while keeping it congruent with the rest of what they’re trying to bring forth.

I love this album more every time I listen to it. Each time there’s something new for me to find or to think about. There truly are no highs or lows here. Every track has been chosen and placed with the steady hand of a master, and everything fits together like the pieces of the clock in the album art. The album is filled with joie de vivre. As I’ve spent time with it, I’m struck more and more of how this came at the perfect time for me. I am continually in awe of when things in my life completely sync up with a band’s releases, and this album has already begun to feel like home to me.

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve found a new band to obsess over. 2013 began my love for From Indian Lakes, in 2015 came Pianos Become the Teeth, 2020 brought Gleemer. 2021 up to now and far into the future has brought me Valleyheart. A band close to home and now close to my heart and soul. Heal My Head is an album that will stay with me for a while, to say the least. It feels like coming up for air.

5/5

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.

Hayley Williams and Billie Eilish Steal the Show at Coachella

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If you had told me a year or so ago that Hayley Williams would be performing alongside Billie Eilish, one side of my mouth would say, “No way”, and the other side would say “Makes sense”.

“No way”, because, what a pairing. “Makes sense”, because, what a pairing. Two of the top women in alt music on stage together is nothing short of exciting. And it’s a hell of a way for Hayley to make her first Coachella appearance. But of course, as we’ve come to know, Hayley is always one for surprises.

The afternoon of Coachella Weekend 2, I saw a tweet that said something to the effect of, “Billie is bringing Hayley on stage tonight.” I didn’t think anything of it, not being a particularly heavy Coachella follower, and knowing the Paramore rumor mill has been positively swirling with P6 news. An early morning (or I suppose a late night, depending on your relationship with sleep) for myself was punctuated by the news that Billie in fact did bring Hayley onstage. The rumor was real. I woke Jeremiah up I was so excited. I said “Oh my gosh Billie Eilish brought Hayley on stage and she sang ‘Misery Business.’” It didn’t receive the reaction I expected, being 4 a.m., but any hope of getting back to sleep that night for me was gone.

Someone on TikTok joked that Hayley sang “Misery Business” because MGK’s cover was so terrible. Having not played the track since 2018, I think we can all agree it was a shocker. But I think it’s not only because Hayley is ready to move past these last few years and get back to the crux of Paramore that she brought it back around. I think she chose it specifically to perform with Billie. From what I can see she has taken Billie under her wing in a sense, and I think it’s because Hayley can see her younger self in Billie. She was 14 when she first started Paramore and Billie was 13 when she recorded “Ocean Eyes”. In these later Paramore years, Hayley has been brutally honest about her relationship to fame, and quite honestly her disdain for it, and I think this was her way of letting people know not to mess with Billie.

Whatever the motivation behind it, it was an incredible ending to Billie’s first headlining Coachella set, and an incredible beginning to Hayley and Paramore’s walk back into the public sphere.

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.

A Night with Semler and Relient K

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I’ve very much enjoyed getting back into the swing of live music. Freshly boosted and ready for a taste of the good old days, Jeremiah and I dropped by Paradise Rock Club in Boston to see Relient K. It is a fact universally acknowledged that Jeremiah’s favorite band is Relient K, and I get tickets every time they come around because one day, I know they won’t come around anymore. And I feel as though that day is closer than we all may realize, so I don’t want him to miss a chance to see them.

This is Relient K’s first tour since 2017, when they toured with Switchfoot as every 90s youth kid’s dream lineup. A killer show, one I will always viscerally remember. At that point, I don’t think I was writing for the site, or else you definitely would’ve heard me gush about it. But before that, I saw Relient K for the first time in the same room I saw them in just last week, for the Mmhmm 10th Anniversary Tour in 2014. Jeremiah and I weren’t together yet, so I lured a friend who could drive to take me under the guise of “You’ll get to relive your youth group days.” It all feels very full-circle.

Opening that first night was From Indian Lakes, one of my all time favorites. Opening this past show was Semler, a queer Christian artist. I won’t lie, one of the reasons I got tickets to this Relient K show was to see Semler, who I have followed on social media for a little while now. Something about a person who goes against every religious norm we were raised with, who can still sing truthfully, drew me in. When Relient K announced that Semler would be the opener, the comments on their socials were honestly awful, and I wasn’t sure how it would play out. But the night of the show, there were just as many Semler fans as Relient K fans. I bought a t-shirt, obviously.

Generally the opener is supposed to get you pumped for the main event, but by the time her set was over, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. You could feel the church hurt palpably. It was like a therapy session. I fell in love.

Relient K came on not much later, opening with “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been”. They played an energetic, career-spanning set. Obviously, we couldn’t get enough. One of the things that made the show even more fun than it could have already been (if that was possible) was the audience. It really was just a bunch of us having a great time vibing and remembering how it used to be. We met up with a couple of friends and just generally danced all night. The band has as much energy as ever, and Matt Thiessen somehow hasn’t aged a day.

Noticeably (or not noticeably) missing were any tracks from Collapsible Lung, but there was a great rep from Forget and Not Slow Down, one of my top Relient K albums. They obviously played all the popular tracks and saved “Be My Escape” for last. When I first saw them, I captioned my instagram post, “It’s funny how you find you enjoy your life / When you’re happy to be alive” and it still rings true. I don’t know if I’ll have another chance to see Relient K before they finally hang it up for good, but what I do know is that they made me who I am today, and it’s always a joy to be in a room where we all have that in common.

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: Wallows – Tell Me That It’s Over

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Wallows is back with their sophomore offering, Tell Me That It’s Over. They dove even deeper into the stoner rock/Britpop mix that made me fall in love with them a couple of years ago, but for me, this newer album seems to be a step backward rather than a leap ahead.

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You can buy or stream “Tell Me That It’s Over” on Apple Music

It starts off promisingly with “Hard to Believe” and first single “I Don’t Want to Talk”. This is the Wallows we know and love; energetic, youthful tracks. The album as a whole though sounds like a continuation of Nothing Happens, while losing the punch some of those past songs packed. I feel like they definitely put their best foot forward with the singles they released, as opposed to how those play out across the album as a whole.

I think the problem I have here is not that I don’t like this album, but I just like Nothing Happens so much more. Even though a lot of the vibes and lyricism here are similar, it’s lacking a certain something. I think it feels more like a predecessor to the perfection that their last album was, and so it feels a little bit out of order to me. The sounds here are mellower and laid back, and that’s a weird shift from the harder hitting stuff I’m used to.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Tell Me That It’s Over is bad, it’s just a different direction. I appreciate some of the more 80s-esque synths and one of my all-time favorite tracks from the band, “At the End of the Day” is from this album. I feel like this could be their Pinkerton, where they really decided to go with what they felt like writing rather than continuing in the vein that brought them the majority of their popularity. Tracks like “Marvelous” are just kind of a step away from what I’ve come to expect. They do have a knack for writing a closing track, and “Guitar Romantic Search Adventure” is a heck of a closer. “My life’s going by / But it’s just begun” is one of those lines that sticks with you for a long time.

This album is definitely built for a live show experience, and I’m bummed that I still haven’t been able to catch them live. The pandemic forced a refund of my tickets last time, and this tour has sold out so quickly I never even got a chance to look at tickets. And this is to their credit –  they’re a talented group of guys who have a tight sound and know what they want from their art.

I am always partial to a band’s previous releases until their newest has a chance to grow on me, and that’s no different here. Tell Me That It’s Over is a bouncy, colorful album, but for me it lacks a lot of the body that Nothing Happens had.

3.5/5

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.

Review: Knuckle Puck – Disposable Life EP

When I was 15, I remember coming to understand politics for the first time and not knowing how to navigate it. I knew I would have to make decisions about the world outside of what I could see within the next few years. And while most of the music I listened to didn’t focus on this, I knew I had to discover how to figure my way through this mess. Years later, and having worked in the field of research, the feeling that simple information is filtered and given with an agenda is something that not only frustrates me, it affects my job.  

Disposable Life, Knuckle Puck’s latest release, is a reflection on looking outside of the box. It rages against agenda over honesty (“Gasoline”), and that breaking free and putting objective thought toward individual struggles is how to avoid being looked over (“In The Bag”).

You can buy or stream Disposable Life on Apple Music

Knuckle Puck have been slowly evolving their sound from the midwestern emo scene that influenced their early albums, but Disposable Life doubles down on the influences of the early naughts. The guitars are heavy but melodic, the vocals crisp and dark.

Disposable Life is a sonic history lesson of pop punk, taking influence from the early days of The Starting Line and Senses Fail, but incorporating the lessons learned in the time since those bands released their debuts. Rather than harp on relationships, Knuckle Puck have focused on being smarter as people and making better decisions as a whole.

Although the guitars could have been influential 20 years ago, they sound incredibly fresh in the moment. While Disposable Life could be written off as a throw-back EP, the lyrics bring it to a modern perspective and bridges the gaps between decades of genre. 

Opener “Gasoline” ignites the anger of realizing that the source of information you have trusted has been feeding you a narrative (“We’ve all been force fed lies / While each bull and bear bets against the truth / All told we’re free to choose, but all thoughts get drowned out in the noise”), while simultaneously taking pride in not only overcoming narratives but directing information to benefiting your own life, such as in “Levitate” (“There used to be demons hanging over me / But now they can’t touch me / Don’t you see me levitating?”)

Perhaps most telling is closer, “Here’s You Letter”, where the band comments on the lack of real conversation between people and the misunderstandings that haunt us all (“Here’s a letter for you, but the words get confused, and the conversation dies / Apologize for the past, talk some shit, take it back, are we cursed to this life?”). 

Disposable Life documents the feelings of a generation that feel lied to by their elders and are forced to learn harsh lessons on their own. Meanwhile, it explores the sound of a genre decades old that influenced the band in the present day. 

Knuckle Puck continue to prove themselves one of the most influential bands in the emo scene by simultaneously paying homage to the pop punks bands of old while forging new ground lyrically with ideas most people develop years beyond the band’s age. Disposable Life serves as both a reflection and a warning for the generations influences by them.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle 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 is freezing to death like an old hen left out in the backyard.

Review: Underoath – Voyeurist

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What an album rollout, huh? A lot has happened since last July, when Underoath kicked off their latest chapter with the release of “Damn Excuses” and began the rollout for the ninth studio album, Voyeurist. Originally slated for an October release, the album was pushed to January, leading to a slow trickle of single releases and even a brilliant album livestream event called Digital Ghost. But perhaps most typically for a band that has thrown more sonic curveballs than just about any other of their ilk, that six month stretch left room for plenty of discourse.

When the band reunited back in 2015, they kicked off their return with a massive tour which leaned into all the hits (namely, fan favorite albums They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line). But Underoath’s proper return in album form came in 2018 with Erase Me, which turned that celebrated reunion tour into a red herring. Erase Me was yet another new version of a band that has pushed its own boundaries since inception. While responses to the album varied widely, there’s no denying its impact, as the band solidified itself as a modern day hard rock powerhouse, playing to bigger crowds than ever before.

From the moment of “Damn Excuses” release until now, fans have debated which direction the band should take, but as always, Underoath have chosen to forge their own path. Voyeurist is another brilliant, fresh, and captivating chapter for a band that feels as in-the-moment as ever. Choose whichever era of the band you like best, but Voyeurist undeniably showcases Underoath as they are right now. And it’s really fucking exciting.

For fans that have avoided saturating their brains with those early singles, it’s truly rewarding to hear “Damn Excuses” and “Hallelujah” in rapid succession to open the album. The former feels just as angry as it did last summer, featuring some of the meanest guitar riffs Tim McTague has put to tape. “Hallelujah” is a modern day, bonafide Underoath classic, adding the haunting refrain of, “Cut the lights, face yourself / We’re not dreaming, this is hell” to the band’s short list of lyrics that feel custom-made for live audiences.

But it’s the following track, “I’m Pretty Sure I’m Out of Luck and Have No Friends” where the story of Voyeurist begins to crystalize. The song starts off slow, with interspersed phone calls to out-of-service numbers and 911, before Spencer Chamberlain’s quiet, breathy vocals provide context: “Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, you’re fine / All of this is in your mind / Focus on the rising sun, slow down”. Voyeurist is rife with anxiety and anger, generally captured as a period of questioning and recovery in the wake of the tolls of religion. “It’s not in my head” he concludes by the track’s end, inverting his original stance and kicking off a scorched-earth rampage.

It goes without saying that Underoath is the perfect band to explore this concept. While Erase Me began chipping away at the idea, it never reached the existential depths of death and dread that Voyeurist does, in part because the album’s music is expertly crafted to do so. Large swaths of the album are as heavy and manic as anything the band has ever written. Other parts lean hard into the atmospheric passages that have always set the band apart, driven largely by the work of Chris Dudley. 

When those worlds collide, as they do on “Cycle”, it creates something breathtaking. It’s a punishing track from start to finish, with an exasperated Chamberlain roaring, “Carve out my eyes, I can’t see anyway / Darker than heaven, empty as god / There is nothing to live for”. “Thorn” spotlights another of Voyeurist’s strengths: the dueling vocals of Chamberlain and drummer Aaron Gillespie, a trademark from the band’s early days that has fluctuated in its use throughout the years, but is on full display here. The two elevate one of the album’s most thrilling choruses to its peak, with Chamberlain howling, “I’m your thorn” repeatedly. It’s a testament to his growth as an artist and vocalist over the years that it feels like no one else in the genre could carry the weight of such a moment.

Speaking of dueling vocals, “We’re All Gonna Die” is an album highlight that blends the heaviness of the rest of the album with a Chasing Safety-like melodic sensibility. Gillespie and Chamberlain’s one-two punch of “Let’s be honest, I’m heartless, I could care less / Hey, we’re all gonna die, don’t pretend to be alive” on the back half of the chorus is one of the catchiest moments the band has ever captured, which feels oddly disorienting considering the song’s thesis. 

For all of its twists and turns, the back half of Voyeurist is all leading towards its finale: “Pneumonia”. For a band with a long list of epic album closers, “Pneumonia” may be its best. For an almost three-minute stretch in the middle of the song, Dudley, Gillespie, and McTague combine for what may likely go down as Underoath’s crowning musical achievement. It’s a stretch that captures the entire emotional journey of the album without the need for a single spoken word. It’s truly breathtaking. It’s the reason so many have followed this band for so long.

It all ends with some of the most guttural screams of Chamberlain’s career: “Weightless. Lifeless. Endless. No way back.”

Underoath have had the good fortune of working with some of modern rock’s most lauded producers over the years. James Paul Wisner, Adam Dutkiewicz, Matt Goldman, Matt Squire. The output of those sometimes strained relationships has always lent itself well to the tug-of-war thematic and music elements that set Underoath apart. But this time around, Voyeurist is self-produced, and you can feel it deeply in a way that’s hard to put into words. 

Now nearly 25 years into their existence, throughout all of the lineup changes, the breakups, the internal struggles, Underoath feel as confident in who they are as ever before. It’s impossible to know what comes next, but right now, in this moment, Voyeurist may be the crowning achievement of a band that continues to carve its own path in the most interesting of ways.

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 of 2022: Dashboard Confessional Moves On

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I truly wouldn’t have imagined myself including Dashboard Confessional on a most anticipated feature like this in the year 2022. And nothing against Chris Carrabba – his music has meant the world to me since he joined Further Seems Forever for The Moon is Down all the way back in 2001. But I guess that’s the point. He’s delivered so much that’s felt so meaningful over the years. There really isn’t anything else I could imagine touching me quite so deeply at this point.

But then he released first single “Here’s to Moving On” from his upcoming album All the Truth that I Can’t Tell. Before my first play of the song was even finished, I reached out to It’s All Dead senior editor Kyle Schultz to tell him to drop everything and listen. It’s the kind of nostalgic throwback that hits every note perfectly without feeling forced. It took me back to those college nights listening to Swiss Army Romance and all of the emotions that only Carrabba can invoke with the strum of an acoustic guitar.

So here we are. It’s 2022 and I’m more ready than I realized to shed some tears to the sounds of Dashboard Confessional.

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 of 2022: My Chemical Romance Deliver Another Dose

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In late 2020, My Chemical Romance announced a return to form with a worldwide tour that set the scene rampant with excitement at not only seeing the band again, but hope that after so long there might be new music on the way. Just as the band began their tour, complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic paused the reunion entirely, with the band postponing dates around the world, including a headlining gig at Chicago’s Riot Fest.

A year later, it looks like MCR may be preparing to get back into the world’s collective consciousness. With the 2022 tour dates still on the docket from March through October, My Chemical Romance is going to be busy. As one of the most anticipated reunions in the rock world, an active and energetic My Chemical Romance offers a universe of possibilities, stories and concepts that are ripe for the taking. With the band back in full swing, there is always the possibility that new music is one tweet away from being announced.

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 is currently braving the coldest of winters, snuggled close to his cat.

Most Anticipated of 2022: Hozier Returns to Form

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Hozier has given us crumbs since the release of Wasteland, Baby! in 2019. He released a dance song with Meduza in October, and recently posted on his Instagram story that we will receive a project called Unreal Unearth at some point this year. Whether that’s an album, an EP, or just a single remains to be seen. I liked Wasteland, Baby!, but it’s not an album that remained in my rotation much longer than the year it released, unlike Hozier’s first self-titled album.

With Unreal Unearth, I’d like to see a return to form from Andrew, and based on the title, I think that’s what we’re in for. Please Hozier, give me the tunes of a Celtic god who has just awoken from his hundred-year slumber. I want “In A Week” part 2, please and thanks. Oh and I want a collab with Florence Welch. Of course, we know Hozier will do what he wants, and we will still sit at his feet and ask for more, and then he will retreat back into his songwriter’s cave and emerge again when he sees fit.

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.