Podcast: Cove Reber Reflects on Saosin’s “In Search of Solid Ground”

Ten years have passed since post-hardcore act Saosin released In Search of Solid Ground, the final album to feature lead vocalist Cove Reber (now in Dead American). On the latest episode of It’s All Dead, Reber joins Kiel Hauck to reflect on the events leading up to and during the recording of the album and discuss why its legacy has changed so dramatically over the past decade. Reber shares stories from the studio and explains how tensions within the band, and with their record label, impacted his experience in creating the record. Listen in, and be sure to check out Cove’s new band, Dead American!

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What is your favorite Saosin album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Review: Blink-182 – Nine

Blink-182 were my first musical love. Over 20 years later, I remember hearing “What’s My Age Again?” for the first time, and the shockwave that it sent through my life, as well as the aftershock of obsession with pop punk. As Blink-182 continue to forge their second identity, it’s easier to see who they are and where they are going. If California (2016) was meant to reassure fans that they were the same band fans fell in love with, Nine is the album that reassures us that Blink-182 aren’t ready to settle on the merits of their past.

You can buy or stream Nine on Apple Music.

What stands out the most about Nine isn’t the new ground that it forges, but how it reaffirms what they have already done. If there is any of Blink’s past albums that this most resembles, it is the often neglected Neighborhoods (2011). Much like their first comeback album, Blink-182 are still searching for an identity years after creating a bedrock for the modern pop punk genre. As much as it takes a step forwards to test the boundaries of modern rock, Nine takes just as many backwards.

Nine suffers from an identity crisis. While a song like “The First Time” calls back to staples such as “Feeling This”, others such as “Happy Days” reflects the mediocrity of rock, and “Run Away” attempts to find a middle ground. Nine isn’t a bad album, it just doesn’t know what direction to lean into. Years after adding Matt Skiba as a permanent member, Blink-182 somehow sound less cohesive than ever. Some songs sound like they were included as an excuse to show off Travis Barker’s insane drumming (“I Really Wish I Hated You”).

Where Nine shines is how well it melds the legacy of Mark Hoppus’ high marks with the new sounds the band have forged over the last few years. “Heaven” provides Hoppus the chance to shout one of the catchiest choruses on the album, or meld so effortlessly into the anthemic verse and chorus sing-a-long of “Blame It On My Youth”. The signature pop of his bass is refreshing to hear, like seeing a family member again after a long time (“Happy Days”).

The effort Matt Skiba unleashes is astonishing on this album. Skiba manages to somehow make his guitar parts sound reminiscent of Tom DeLonge’s crisp style while still creating a sound different than that and of his work in Alkaline Trio (“No Heart to Speak Of”). However, while his vocals are amazing, Nine attempts to cut the difference between him and DeLonge by adding filters over many of his singing parts. These help bridge the gap between Skiba and DeLonge’s vocal pitches, but do not allow Skiba to shine through the way he should given how powerful of a singer he is.

Drummer Travis Barker erupts through each song, as he should, given he is one of the best drummers currently working and Blink-182’s long-time secret weapon. Oftentimes, Nine feels like it is designed around letting Barker shine through more than anything (“Black Rain”). Barker never stops moving and elevates what would otherwise be a mediocre rock song to become something great (“Blame It On My Youth”).

In many ways, Nine feels like a second attempt to make Neighborhoods, complete with a sequel to “Heart’s All Gone” (“No Heart To Speak Of”). Nine is catchy, fast, and melds rock with R&B drumming in a way that seems to stem directly from the Self-Titled (2003) album, but with less cohesion. Where a song like “Black Rain” pushes Blink-182 to the brink by relying on a post-punk guitar riff and near-EDM style drumming, a song such as “Hungover You” relies on tired guitar heavy choruses and lazy vocals to push it to the finish line. However, something like “On Some Emo Shit” works brilliantly by being a callback to songs from the early 2000’s, complete with a guitar solo pulled straight out of a Get Up Kids song.

Blink-182 have never been known for the weight of their lyrics, but rather for the precise catchiness of them. A Blink-182 song should make you want to sing every time you hear it, no matter what the words may be. In that regard, Nine succeeds in spades. However, if there is one song that actually says something of significance, it is the single “Blame It On My Youth”. Hoppus and Skiba reflect on the path that led them to be who they are today (“I was raised on a rerun / I was bored to death, so I started a band / Cut my teeth on a safety dance / My attention span never stood a chance”).

Other times, small lyrics cut canyons the longer you listen to them. This is especially prominent in “Generational Divide”, which uses about 30 unique words over 49 seconds of raging guitars and drums (“Are we better, are we better now?”).

Nine sees Hoppus, Skiba, and Barker testing the waters of what they want to be as a band and how deep Blink-182 fans can swim. The album pushes boundaries beyond past releases, but still settles in patches that feel far too safe. The combined talents of Blink-182 have earned the right to push themselves and forge new ground. However, Nine finds only hints of what is possible. Much like Neighborhoods, it faces the possibility that it will be forgotten in the shadow of brilliance of whatever follows it.

3/5

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 loves The Crimes of Grindelwald. Yeah, he said it and he’ll say it again to your mother.

Reflecting On: Saosin – In Search of Solid Ground

By the time Saosin’s second full-length album, In Search of Solid Ground, arrived in September 2009, I felt like I’d been waiting forever. In hindsight, three years doesn’t seem all that long. It would be another seven years before the band would reconvene for 2016’s Along the Shadow. New Saosin music never comes on time, but it’s usually worth the wait.

You can buy or stream In Search of Solid Ground on Apple Music.

By the time the band finally released their full-length self-titled debut in 2006, I was all-in on the band and practically obsessed with everything they did. I owned multiple t-shirts and hoodies, was in attendance at every Saosin show that came near me, constantly talked about the band with my friends, and was a frequent visitor to the band’s online message board. I followed every detail and clue I could find as the band worked on their follow-up to Saosin and waited anxiously outside a Best Buy on release day to be first in line to purchase the album.

In truth, there was no way In Search of Solid Ground could ever live up to my expectations, which had reached a crescendo by the time I picked up The Grey EP the previous fall during the band’s fall tour with Underoath. Saosin was more than an album to me – it was a life experience. It was the kind of record that shapes your musical tastes for the better part of a decade. It was the kind of record you measure every other record against.

But even if a voice inside my head told me that In Search of Solid Ground wasn’t all I had hoped for, I brushed those notions aside and repeatedly dove into the album day after day. First, it was the revamped demos of “I Keep My Secrets Safe”, “The Worst of Me” and “Why Can’t You See?” that grabbed my attention. Then it was upbeat tracks like “Deep Down”, “Changing”, and “Is This Real?” that took center stage. Finally, it was the odd, experimental tracks like “Say Goodbye” and “Fireflies (Light Messengers)” that stole my heart.

Over the past 10 years, In Search of Solid Ground has become a unique kind of record in my collection. One that I revisit once or twice a year and think back to a time when a band could make me feel the way Saosin did, and really no other band has since. Of all of the band’s releases, it’s the one I reach for the least, but it was undoubtedly the one I was most in-the-moment with at the time it released.

To look back, it’s easy to see why the album didn’t land for many fans. Its logjam of producers certainly led to a lack of direction. There’s a little something for everyone on the album, but not necessarily for longtime fans of the band’s chaotic early sound. In Search of Solid Ground contains actual pop songs (“It’s All Over Now”, “What Were We Made For?”) while still containing heavier moments that don’t quite fit in with the rest of the band’s catalogue. If you had to label the album, you’d probably call it alternative rock, but even that ambiguous term fails to capture the full breadth of sounds displayed here. Over time, I’ve found it best to digest the album in various chunks that fit together.

It’s true that I wish the album had contained more of the wild guitar work from Beau Burchell and Justin Shekoski, blistering drums from Alex Rodriguez, and soaring vocals from Cove Reber that had defined their earlier work. But the thing is, the earlier work is kind of perfect – what was left to prove? If In Search of Solid Ground was either an experimental journey for the band or a last gasp before a 2010 fallout left the band nearly defunct, it’s undoubtedly a moment in time that feels different from anything else coming out of the scene at the time.

Ten years later, I’m mostly happy that the album wasn’t the band’s last. It always felt like Saosin was on the verge of either world domination or complete self-destruction, and walking that fine line resulted in some of the best and most unique sounds of the 2000s. After all this time, the band still insists on doing things their own way, which is what makes them so compelling.

And come to think of it, it’s been three years since Along the Shadow. While my youthful superfandom may be long gone, I still await anxiously what, if anything, comes next.

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: Queen of Jeans – If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid

When I saw Queen of Jeans open for Balance and Composure in 2017, I was thoroughly impressed. The trio from Philly gave their all on stage, describing their art as a “90s-esque band playing 60s music.” It was right up my alley, and I promptly purchased a t-shirt and told them how much I enjoyed their set. I became a casual listener, but when I learned they were releasing a full-length on Topshelf Records, I was psyched. The album isn’t what I expected based on what I know of the band. But it’s what the band members needed to release, and it’s what we all need to hear.

You can buy or stream If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid on Apple Music.

The lead single and first track, “Get Lost”, from Queen of Jeans’ newest album If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid, starts off unassumingly. It’s a song that lead vocalist Miriam Devora wrote about the process of losing her mom and how she’s had to learn to move on. It’s a tough song to listen to if you follow Miriam on social media and saw her heartbreaking post about the experience. The album continues on in the theme of learning how to become yourself, especially when you’re missing one of the most important people who has been such an integral part of that growth.

The album is about sadness in every sense of the word – from the loss of Miriam’s mother, to the past relationships that didn’t work out, to the social disparages women face. Miriam and guitarist Matheson Glass are very vocal about their sexualities and the difficulties that being so open have brought to both their personal and artistic lives. They deal with it in the most mature, yet raw way. In “Tell Me”, Miriam sings “While you spew sick intolerance / I’m afraid to leave my house”. I appreciate the fact that they’ve decided to keep things on their own terms. They own their opinions and won’t change for anything that comes their way.

Musically, there’s been a ton of growth. The production on the album is beautiful, and while still holding on to the original spirit of their past releases, took advantage of moving from a garage band to being signed to a label. Miriam’s vocals totally shine, and she’s clearly put a ton of work and practice into honing her skills.

My favorite tracks on the album are “Centuries”, “Not a Minute Too Soon” and “I Am In Love with Your Mind”. They all showcase both the band’s musical and lyrical strengths. 

The album is a lovely testament to how women have the tendency to feel deeply. It’s soft and thoughtful, and is the perfect catalyst to this band’s future as one of the biggest voices in indie rock.

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.

Underoath and Fever 333 Hit the Road with Korn and Alice in Chains

The first time I saw Underoath was nearly 15 years ago at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the time, the Tampa post-hardcore act was riding high off their breakthrough record, They’re Only Chasing Safety, and you could have argued that the sold out crowd, which went bonkers the entire night, represented what would be the height of the band’s popularity.

Since then, Underoath has released multiple gold records, landed at #2 on the Billboard 100, toured the world multiple times over, become one of the most influential bands in hardcore, broke up, and reunited, only to achieve even more success. This summer, a year after the release of their comeback album Erase Me, the band has landed a slot on Korn and Alice and Chain’s massive summer tour. You can’t make this stuff up.

Fever 333

Fever 333

The night Indianapolis began with an old friend. Since the disbandment of letlive. three years ago, vocalist Jason Aalon Butler has achieved newfound success in the form of Fever 333 – a rock band hellbent on getting their message across. That message, consisting largely of giving a voice to the marginalized, is soundtracked by ripping guitars and Butler’s signature flair on stage. It only took a few short songs before he found his way down into the pit and out into the audience, screaming toward onlookers seated on the lawn.

The band’s 2019 full-length debut, Strength in Numb333rs, as well as their 2018 EP, Made an America, are both full of fire, and songs like “One of Us” and “Trigger” are enough to wake up the early birds in attendance. Butler’s stage presence feels just as authentic in an amphitheater as it does at a club show, with the singer bounding and bellowing across the stage. It’s clear that the rock community at large has taken notice of Fever 333, and we’re all the better for it.

On this tour, Underoath finds themselves in a unique situation as opener, playing largely in front of an audience who is unaware of their history. While Erase Me has obviously opened new doors for the band and introduced them to an entirely new community of rock fans, they’re still newcomers in the eyes of mainstream listeners. It seems obvious then, that tracks from Erase Me dominate the setlist.

Underoath

Underoath

The band still finds time to sneak in performances of fan favorites “Writing on the Walls” and “Breathing in a New Mentality”, but everything else is fresh material. “On My Teeth”, which snagged a Grammy nomination earlier this year, leads the set, followed by a recently released b-side titled “Loneliness”, which is one of the best tracks the band has penned since their return.

Interestingly, the band sidesteps recent singles “Bloodlust” and “Wake Me” in favor of the more heavier tracks from their new album. “Hold Your Breath” and “Sink With You”, in particular, seem to reel the crowd in, while a brief slow down for “ihateit” invites some onlookers to sing along. At one point, vocalist Spencer Chamberlain asks the crowd, “Who here is seeing us for the very first time?” I look around me as most of the crowd inside the Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center amphitheater raise their hands. It’s a site I never would have imaged all those years ago in Tulsa.

Korn and Alice in Chains, both with well over two decades of experience end relevancy, and both with recent new releases, obviously highlight the night for the packed crowd. It’s a stark reminder of the divide between mainstream rock and the underground, especially when music from the scene has at times felt like the last stand for rock as a whole.

Still, both Butler and Chamberlain take time on stage to share stories from their youth about how these bands impacted and shaped them. If it weren’t for Korn, would Butler have ever grabbed a microphone? If not for Alice in Chains, would Chamberlain have ever found his voice? It’s interesting to ponder, but regardless, it’s impressive as hell to see these two worlds collide.

 

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: The Best of Eisley

Over the past decade and a half, Tyler, Texas, band Eisley have made a habit of releasing delightful, poignant, purposeful indie pop. On this episode of It’s All Dead, Kiel Hauck and Nadia Paiva break down the band’s discography, ranking all five full-length albums, from Room Noises to I’m Only Dreaming. They also share their top 10 songs and discuss the band’s wild ride from their early major label breakthrough to their return to their indie roots. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What’s your favorite Eisley album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Is This Goodbye (Again)? A Night with Anberlin in Boston

You might’ve done a double take when reading the title of this piece. Anberlin? In 2019? It’s more likely than you think. After a couple of acoustic shows in their homestate of Florida, they announced an Australian tour, then eventually, the much-anticipated U.S. tour we’d all been hoping for.

The first time I saw Anberlin was actually the last time, too. I went to the Boston date of the Final Tour back in 2014. It was the first show I was able to go to without any kind of adult supervision, and I had crappy seats in the House of Blues balcony. It was still one of the best nights of my life and I cherished the fact that, finally, I had seen Anberlin. They’re arguably the most influential band in terms of my musical taste, and I’d say that there’s not one song of theirs I won’t listen to. So obviously, when the tickets went on sale, I was first in line.

Anberlin chose I the Mighty as their supporting band. I’d heard of them but never got around to listening to any of their music. They’re signed to Equal Vision, my favorite label, so I was interested to finally hear what they had to offer. They played a good selection of tracks from their three studio albums, and are talented at the prog-rock they aim to create. They played a great set and aside from some cheesy stage antics, I’d say Anberlin made a good decision.

Despite the great set from the opener, I feel like everyone was too busy waiting for the main event to really pay much attention to them. I almost feel like they didn’t need an opener, but that’s mostly because I’m selfish and wanted six more Anberlin songs. Upon taking the stage, they opened with “Godspeed” from Cities. From there on, the room was totally enthralled with their 21 song set.

Stephen cut the set in half with “Down” from Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, and took the opportunity to talk about Children International, which calls on people to sponsor third world children’s needs. The mellow track and call to action didn’t take away from the energy at all, and they continued the next hour of their set with “(The Symphony of) Blase”. They played all the fan favorites (a.k.a. literally any one of their songs) and ended the evening with, of course, “(*Fin)”.

I don’t know what the future holds for Anberlin, and clearly, neither do they. They seem okay with this run of shows being their real final tour. As much as I love Anberlin and have missed them every day since they announced their end, I think I might be okay with it, too. That’s borderline blasphemous, I know, but the members seem to be doing well post-band. They’ve moved on to other side projects, or simply went home to be with their family. I believe they made the right choice in calling it when they did. It made this brief return all the more sweet.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: The Best of Emery

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

Subscribe to our podcast here.

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Frank Iero and The Violent Futures – Barriers

Frank Iero’s passion for rock music shines through his solo work more than the heavy mood would have you believe. Barriers, Iero’s third solo album, celebrates rock music. The album is moody and constantly blitzing with wild energy. He sounds raw—similar to some of the best emo releases of the mid-2000s. Barriers sounds like a lost masterpiece from a decade earlier, but isn’t dated in the least. Iero doesn’t have to work too hard to craft his own identity from past work with My Chemical Romance and Leathermouth. Barriers is an album that overcomes every obstacle to stand tall on its own, possibly as Iero’s best solo release.

You can buy or stream Barriers on Apple Music.

Each new interpretation of his solo career has refined his sound and not shied away from the gloom that helped define him as a musician. The guitars are fuzzed, but still release a hard melody. Iero’s writing channels the best aspects of rock and focuses it down to a grungy tip. It allows the album to be a cohesive collection while adding a massive variety to the sound.

Opener, “A New Day’s Coming” mixes blues and a gospel-heavy keyboard with heavy, raw guitars. The chorus of “Fever Dream” rages with simple power chords, reminiscent of classic-era Green Day. Meanwhile, “Moto-Pop” rages with metal inspiration from Black Sabbath. Iero and fellow guitarist Evan Nestor are clearly relishing their ability to play whatever they want.

Bassist Matt Armstrong (Murder By Death) provides a hard, dark mood throughout the album (“Medicine Square Garden”). Keyboardist and backing vocalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy adds just enough to crank the effect of Iero’s demons throughout the album. She hides like an angel or a demon haunting Iero’s highs and lows (“Six Feet Down Under”). Former Thursday drummer Tucker Rue adds an energy to the album that keeps the music charged even in more somber moments (“No Love”).

Where Iero impresses the most is in his vocals. The wild change in singing styles throughout the album keep each line engaging. The preference to get the emotion out, even if it means falling flat, lends a haunting urgency to each line. Clean, lazy singing on “A New Day’s Coming” is inspiring. Slurred, charged shouting during “Young and Doomed” channels a blend of AFI’s Davy Havok’s eccentricity and Thursday’s Geoff Rickly’s angst. Meanwhile, singing through gritted teeth, grunge whispers and hedonistic shouting, “Fever Dream” is wave after wave of unfiltered energy thrown at the microphone.

Barriers is a thick album. There’s certainly an argument that it could have benefitted from being a couple tracks shorter. However, Iero’s passion for music shines through each track. Although it’s hard not to compare him to a few legendary bands he was a key part of, Iero has forged a solo career defined by the freedom to lay waste to expectation. Barriers is Iero at his best—doubling down on a genre he helped forge and paying homage to rock music from every region of the genre.

4/5

Photo credit: Mitchell Wojcik

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 stepped in a puddle this morning. Now he is known as “Dumb ol’ Wet Foot.”