Review: Jon Fratelli – Bright Night Flowers

Jon Fratelli has been one of my favourite songwriters for over a decade. His sense of electric storytelling, bouncing guitars and sing-a-long choruses have made some of the best Brit pop of the 2000’s. Allegedly recorded several years ago, Bright Night Flowers, Jon’s second solo album, was delayed after the reunion of The Fratellis. Freshly re-recorded, Bright Night Flowers finds its footing in that as much as it’s a continuation of Jon’s knack for storytelling, it is the least like his signature sound out of anything released throughout his career.

You can buy or stream Bright Night Flowers on Apple Music.

Bright Night Flowers is a soft album. Inspired equally from southwestern country and indie piano ballads, the album is a series of slow-burners, heavy on orchestration and slow escalation. On first listen, Bright Night Flowers has a tough time differentiating songs from one another. Violins, twinkling piano keys and Jon’s crooning vocals can sound remarkably similar from track to track. However, Bright Night Flowers is arguably the first album since Jon’s side project, Codeine Velvet Club, that sounds like it is meant to be taken in as a full piece.

Bright Night Flowers is a minor concept album of seeing the follies of being in love from the eyes of someone who is heartbroken, wishing the world around him the best with a cynical tone, such as in the title track (“A thousand Juliets are driving every boy out of his mind / Crying in the rain wishing she was still the first of her kind”). However, reading far too much into it as is my wont, it could potentially be argued that the album follows a loose concept of a heartbroken man who falls in love with a prostitute (“Hold out your hand, take whatever you please / How can you love when you’re down on your knees? / Burn this disguise, wipe those blue eyes”. – “After a While”).

Though it lacks the rock heavy elements from most of Jon’s various projects, Bright Night Flowers still sounds like a Jon Fratelli album. The signature curl of his vocals reflect throughout each song, even if he isn’t stressing his voice for something new. And though this album is slower, it’s not completely foreign. “Crazy Lovers Song” sounds like an acoustic track left off of The Fratellis’ Here We Stand and “Dreams Don’t Remember Your Name” is reminiscent of the style of In Your Own Sweet Time.

Bright Night Flowers isn’t as much a different direction for Jon Fratelli as much as it is a soft building of an idea from track to track. Different listeners will find either jaded love songs with dreamy lyrics, or a disenchanted storyline to follow depending on how much time they’re willing to put into it. Equally relaxing as it is brutally cynic, it’s a welcome return to the mesmerizing storytelling Jon does so well, even if doesn’t incite you to dance.

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

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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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #8 Blink-182 Go Back to Move Forward

Blink-182 have been extraordinarily prolific since acquiring Matt Skiba on lead guitar. After an impressive first release in 2016 with the new lineup and a re-release double album in 2017, the band is due for a proper new record. Fortunately, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker have been teasing for the better part of a year that a new Blink-182 album is in the works.

On top of that, Hoppus has claimed that the new music sounds similar to their legendary album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Although I doubt anything could be as seminal as that album at the time of its release, a return to the band’s roots is always welcome given the talents of all involved.

After proving that they were able to reinvent with California, a chance to reflect might be what is needed to propel Blink-182 to the next level of their already storied career.

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.

Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – Folie à Deux

Like the other albums I’ve reflected on this past year, I was eleven (and completely oblivious) when Fall Out Boy’s album Folie à Deux was released. Now I’m 21 and, while there are some who still feel like this wasn’t their best work, I’m of the other camp that considers this to be one of Fall Out Boy’s – and the scene’s – best releases.

You can buy or stream Folie à Deux on Apple Music.

One reason people didn’t like it when it came out was because it wasn’t the hard-hitting, pop-punk follow-up to 2007’s Infinity On High. This is where I feel that listening to it later gave me an advantage. I never liked Fall Out Boy until my best friend basically forced me to listen to them. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that “Sugar, We’re Going Down” was their song. I know, it’s looking bad for me.

Anyway, with that major confession out of the way, I’m a big Fall Out Boy fan now. I even almost gathered up the courage to use “(Coffee’s for Closers)” in a high school music theory class presentation on Baroque music because of how the strings are layered at the end of the track. I played it safe and used a piece by Handel, but I legitimately regret not using the FOB song.

I wasn’t a huge fan of MANIA, but I guess that puts me in the same position that everyone who didn’t like Folie was in when it released. Now that everyone’s gotten over thinking Folie is weird or whatever, it took its rightful place (where all underrated albums should go) at the top of the fanbase. Maybe MANIA will make it there at some point, but at that point I’ll be 31 and won’t care (Ed. note: Yes, you will).

When I finally saw Fall Out Boy live this past August, they opened with “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes”, which was surprising to me. Folie is an album that has a lot of emotional baggage attached to it. I would understand if the band didn’t want to play any tracks from it again, because I’m sure it’s potentially salt in the beginning-of-their-hiatus wound. From a fan standpoint, though, I was disappointed that the only other track they played from Folie was “I Don’t Care”. It’s definitely selfish of me to want them to play songs written in the darker portion of their history, but I feel such a fondness for and an attachment to the album that I wanted it to have better representation.

I believe the experimentation that happened in the production of the album really brought the band to where they are today. If in 2008 they have released another Cork Tree or Infinity On High, I doubt they woud’ve come back in 2013, or in 2015, or just this past January. Maybe the fact that Folie wasn’t as popular as their past work was a blessing in disguise. I think they needed that lull in the action. It allowed them to take some time off and could be (should be?) seen as a sigh of relief rather than just a bad album.

Maybe it’s a bit of a cliché that I ended up being such a fan of Fall Out Boy’s best album. I think it’s their best because of where they were personally. Tensions were running high between the members, totally burnt out from their last, also very good, album. I feel like they realized they were over before they ever officially announced it and thus gave Folie à Deux their all. The vocals are some of Patrick’s finest, the musicianship is innovative, the guest vocals could fill a red carpet. It really does bring together all of Fall Out Boy’s best qualities and amplifies them.

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 Trenton Woodley of Hands Like Houses

On October 12, Canberra, Australia, rock band Hands Like Houses released their fourth full length album, Anon. on Hopeless Records. As the band hits the road for their headlining U.S. tour, Kiel Hauck caught up with lead singer Trenton Woodley to discuss the new album and the band’s sonic journey on our latest podcast. Woodley also shares details about the band’s songwriting progression over the years, how to evolve as an artist while bringing your fanbase along for the ride, and how Hands Like Houses keep up with an ever-evolving music industry. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Emery – Eve

I’m obsessed with Emery. The harmonies, musicianship and lyricism have both spoken to me and impacted the rest of my musical taste in a way (almost) no other band has. I get excited whenever they even think about releasing something new. This stems from the time I saw the music video for “Butcher’s Mouth”. Something about that song (the video was just a means to an end, I guess) opened up a possibility to me about the span of music that was outside my adolescent bubble, and I’ve followed the band ever since, from albums to podcasts. I’ve never seen them live, which is really to say, hey, Emery, please come to Boston.

You can buy or stream Eve on Apple Music.

With 2015’s You Were Never Alone, my personal favorite album, the band embarked on a Kickstarter journey to self-fund the music they create. They broke up with Tooth & Nail Records and, with no offense to Brandon Ebel, started creating the best music of their career. This led to the release of last year’s Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined, and their latest, Eve.

Eve looks like a heck of a long album with 15 tracks, but it’s only 41 minutes long. Throughout the album, the band gets personal in a way they haven’t really done before. Generally, an Emery album consists of a bunch of songs about breakups, but (and I’m not sure whether this is a correlation) with the split from Tooth & Nail, the band’s last two albums constantly touch on new themes for Emery. There’s an entire set of Break It Down (Matt Carter’s podcast) episodes about You Were Never Alone. I won’t give you the details of them because it’s much more fulfilling to listen to them. The time and thought Emery puts into their art is really showcased in the episodes and really made me appreciate them more than I already had.

“Fear Yourself” might be the heaviest track here. Talking about sin and the hypocrisy in the church, Toby sings in the chorus: “Fear yourself is all I heard / Horror-struck from the Holy Word” and, “…outside those walls they mauled the witness / And we got back to business”. Very on-brand for the members to sing about; they deal with it in virtually every episode of their “Bad Christian” podcast. I mean, they wouldn’t have to deal with it so much if it weren’t so true and physically visible, but c’est la vie. These guys have become a voice of dissension in millennial church circles, but I happen to think it’s necessary.

“Safe” is a song that Devin and Matt wrote after both of their mothers passed away during the recording of Eve. It’s a lovely tribute, and the harmonies Emery is so known for really shine here.

A highlight of the album is the ridiculously titled, “People Always Ask Me If We’re Going to Cuss in an Emery Song”. Emery did not. I’m pretty sure this is a song to everyone who listens to their podcast (in which profanity is abundant) and, other than the question in the title, ask: “How can you guys talk like that and still be religious?” Emery’s reply is that they’re just words and they don’t matter.

Needless to say, I’m psyched with the new Emery album. I’ve got to take a little more time to dive into the lyrics and figure out where it fits into my Emery album ranking, but, so far, it’s pretty high up there. Kickstarter was made to release albums like this. The band has proven three times now that they’re capable of producing exquisite art, and Eve is another great example of that.

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

Justin-Courtney-Pierre-2018-cr-Dan-Monick

“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.

Pronoun 1.jpg

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.

Justin 1

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: Saves The Day – 9

“Turn it up, we’re Saves The Day!”

Saves The Day have written a theme song for themselves. If that sentence makes you happy, you will love their latest endeavor, 9. The new album celebrates Saves The Day’s 20th anniversary as a band by delivering an incredibly meta album. 9 tells an oral history of the band that explores as much new territory as it merges the sounds of Through Being Cool and Daybreak. For new fans, this album might feel utterly alien and hard to access. However, 9 is an album aware that it is an album. But it is also a massive thank you to anyone who has taken the time to ever listen to Saves The Day at all.

You can buy or stream 9 on Apple Music.

This era of Saves The Day is a different beast than the band of the mid-2000’s. Singer/ songwriter Chris Conley is in a zen place that emanates positivity. Conley is stoked to be writing this record. After 20 years in the game, anyone even remotely familiar with pop punk knows who Saves The Day is, and Conley knows it. Every song reflects on two decades on the road, stories from the band’s start in the late 90’s and telling the fans directly how much they love them.

What makes 9 special is that the record knows what it is. It is essentially a mini double album that tells fans of Saves The Day “Thank you” every chance it gets. Each song is an experiment in rock that gives a small history of the band and is a message of appreciation for the support throughout Saves The Day’s career. The first eight songs are an album unto themselves, while closing song “29” is a 21-minute epic that takes a more surreal approach to the same topic.

Opening track, “Saves The Day”, is now the band’s official theme song, much in the same way that The Monkees have “(Theme from) The Monkees”. It’s remarkably on the nose, ridiculous and ungodly catchy. The first time you hear, “You know we love it when you sing along / Turn it up, we’re Saves The Day”, you want to roll your eyes. By the end of the song you’re singing along. Punctuated by a double layered guitar solo, “Saves The Day” feels like it was pulled from an updated version of Ups And Downs: Early Recordings And B-Sides and should have been opening up live shows for years by this point.

The rest of 9 plays as a mini oral history of the band. “Suzuki” sounds like a Sound The Alarm song ripped straight from Can’t Slow Down. With harsh bass and ripping guitars, Conley reflects, “On a black and red couch playing a burgundy Les Paul / I played on Can’t Slow Down so many years ago / Writing album number 9 right now”.

While some songs sound like B-sides from previous albums (“Suzuki”, “1997”), others forge utterly new ground. “Kerouac & Cassady” is a simple song with a melody reminiscent of The Black Keys. As the guitars rage from verse to chorus, Conley reflects on the drag of touring nonstop. “Groundhog Day on a loop on a five hour flight / Wednesday sleepwalk around backstage when 10:10 flashes in neon green / Drown in silver light before a four-hour show”.

Near the end of the record is “1997”, a song influenced by classic rock as much as it is Saves The Day’s most recent punk offerings. It’s a hybrid song that encapsulates the band’s 20-year legacy as Conley sings, “20 Years go by like pages from a calendar blowing in the wind / Under highway signs and f‌lashing lights and fading stars and black nights / Days turn into years and seconds last longer than decades fall like sand”.

Album closer “29” is an epic, the likes of which is almost unseen in the genre today. Essentially seven songs combined into one piece, “29” is more or less the other eight songs of 9 combined into one surrealist piece. Not as direct as the rest of the album, “29” tells the same story as the first eight songs in a massive piece that presents 9 as a “classic” Saves The Day album.

“29” is a song that hides an insane amount of Easter eggs for fans of Saves The Day to look for. References to “Shoulder To The Wheel” and “Morning In The Moonlight” not withstanding, “29” feels like an updated version of “Daybreak” that follows the course of Saves The Day’s career.

The sound of “29” changes every three minutes. It’s something that creates a sense of typical pop punk songs while maintaining its own identity compared to the rest of the album. Retracing the rest of 9 step-by-step, “29” reflects, “Put the record on, blow the speaker up / Tear the dial off, push the pedal down, 99 on the 101 / Flip it over come on sing along”. “29” is reminiscent of songs like “Jessie & My Whetstone” where vague imagery creates a specific story that is pieced together by the listener. Conley describes incidents such as an almost fatal van accident, (“We were driving in my mother’s car / Chicago-Minnesota overnight / Over the frozen overpass over black ice”) or a rift between friends (“Turning all my friends into your allies / Might have been born in a crossf‌ire hurricane / But don’t think twice it wasn’t yesterday”).

9 is an album that will mean a lot to longtime fans of Saves The Day, though may be hard to jump into for new fans. The album is a thank you note to fans that plot the biggest events in Saves The Day’s career over the last 20 years. It can be a bit on-the-nose as much as it is a dreamy summary of Saves The Day. Regardless, 9 is a true celebration of a band that doesn’t back away from the absurd, and has the confidence to make fun of its own legacy as much as it cherishes it.

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 lives less than a mile from where he first saw Saves The Day, his first concert. This nostalgic zilch really dived face first into this album without concern for neighbors or loved ones. Please help.

Review: mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

I feel like everyone prefaces mewithoutYou’s music in the same way that I’m about to. I apologize if this is redundant, but learning the backstory of main lyricist Aaron Weiss is an imperative step in making any sense of this band and their music, which, to the outside, seems to be from another world.

Aaron and his brother, Michael, had an intensely religious upbringing. Their father followed Jewish teachings and their mother followed Episcopal teachings before eventually converting to Sufi Islam. It’s no wonder then, in their artistic outputs, that all of these ideas and more come out. I think this is part of what makes mewithoutYou fit into so many categories. So much religious diversity means that no one is left out – which is also part of the message that mewithoutYou aims to spread.

You can buy or stream [Untitled] on Apple Music.

It took seven albums for mewithoutYou to finally throw up their hands and say, “We don’t know what to call this.” Pretty impressive that it took that long, if you ask me. But for something with no definitive name, this album hits you hard. If you’re not taking a deep dive into the lyrics (and if you aren’t, why?), this album moves fast. There were times when I put it on mindlessly in preparation for writing this and was surprised when it started again. “Lyrical detective” should be a job, and there should be a whole department devoted to mewithoutYou.

I’d like to make the proposition of [Untitled] being A to B Life’s younger brother. Genetically similar with the same attitude, but different enough that no one can mistake the two. This new album is harder than either of the past two they released. It doesn’t even follow the same lyrical patterns of the past two. The last albums have been whimsical and, for the most part, easy to listen to. Aaron decided to look at the tougher side of his religion in [Untitled].

I want to try to go into every track in this album, because it’s so rich and detailed. It would be wrong of me to pretend like I understand every reference and every idea that is brought before me in the album, because I don’t. Like I said, there’s a lot to process, but I hope you’ll take the time to try. I’ll do what I can here, and I hope it can start a discussion.

***

So Aaron’s gone a little bit doom and gloom with the first track, “9:27a.m., 7/29”. He talks about whether salvation is a lasting experience or whether it can be taken away. He talks about the state of current events and laments, ”It’d be a pearl of a time now for a virgin birth”.

“Julia (or, ‘Holy to the Lord On the Bells of Horses’)” is a lovely example of their call to societal unity. He paraphrases Rumi in the first verse: “‘Out beyond ideas of right and wrong is a field / Will I meet you there?” Again at the end of the verse, “So many ways to lose / So many faiths”. A fitting first single — both from a professional sense and a cultural one.

“Another Head for Hydra” is about the influence we have on those around us and the example we’ve set for our children. Aaron talks about fame and how that changes us. He warns us about the dangers of materialism and worrying about a worldly perception that fame and social recognition can bring.

Sonically, two of my favorite tracks are “[dormouse sighs]” and “Winter Solstice”. They’re lyrically interesting, but I can’t really draw any concrete conclusions on what they mean for myself yet. But from a stylistic standpoint, they’re both wonderful. The former is just classic mewithoutYou and sounds like home. The latter, though, is sung in such a soothing and lilting way that reminds me of the mewithoutYou that I fell in love with. I started listening religiously (pardon the pun, I suppose) when Ten Stories was released.

“Flee, Thou Matadors” is written from the perspective of Ferdinand VIII and Isabella, king and queen of Spain. Historically, he’s known as one of the worst kings, while his wife, Isabella, was religious to the extreme. The spin that mewithoutYou puts on the story is the battle of good (Isabella) and evil (Ferdinand) they face as humans in everyday life.

There’s a lot of talk about responsibility in this album. This is seen in “Tortoises All the Way Down”, which is about how actions have consequences and is kind of Ecclesiastical, honestly. The mistakes we make will be made again at some point in history.

“2,459 Miles” and “Wendy and Betsy” are kind of a new direction for the band in the sense that they’re relatable. In the first, Aaron’s talking from the perspective of tour and being away from home and missing his family. In the second, he talks about his wife. They’re great tracks just in themselves but also (strangely enough) they’re a reminder that Aaron is a real live human. I think we all get so caught up in how head-in-the-clouds Aaron usually is as a songwriter that we can forget he has a real life away from mewithoutYou.

“New Wine, New Skins” brings up something that older Christians say a lot: ”God willing”. Aaron says, “‘God’s will’ or ‘come what fortune gives’ / Or is this truly how you’d choose to live / Managing the narrative”, as almost a taunt to his fellow believers about their (lack of) faith.

“Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore”, while also being a paramount spiritual in the hymnal, is a heavy track in which, like in the first track, Aaron wonders about his eternal state, as well as the eternal state of his family. He sings in the last line: “Have you heard from heaven today? / Tell me then, what’d Gabriel say? / Am I still on that narrow way?”

***

It’s fitting that the last line of this album is “Someday I’ll find me”. Throughout each track, Aaron has gone to each of the spiritual struggles he’s facing and dealt with them head on.

“Someday I’ll find me” is such a poignant way to end that search. Did he succeed? I think that when we take a deep look into ourselves and see who we truly are and who we’re becoming, it brings up more questions than what we bargained for. Maybe that’s why the album is [Untitled]. Maybe it’s because Aaron found more than what he planned – and maybe he didn’t like it.

If you have the time and perseverance to take a real look at this album, I think you’ll find what I found. I, like Aaron, have to take that look at myself and decide where I stand with the issues that plague society, the issues that I see in my personal life that affect only myself and those close to me. That’s what I love the most about mewithoutYou. They always force me to turn the lyrics right back onto myself and do some self-reflection. Sometimes, I don’t like what I find, but it’s okay, because the art that mewithoutYou creates is a reminder that I’m not alone not liking what I find within my heart, and I’m not alone in that I want to be better. Someday, I’ll find me.

4.5/5

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.

Review: Twenty One Pilots – Trench

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Twenty One Pilots are one of the biggest bands on the planet. I’d say it’s been that way since they released Vessel in 2013, although maybe that’s because I found them during that album cycle. Either way, I’m unironically and unapologetically obsessed with them.

I was just as excited as everyone when I saw their social media go dark. A little sad, sure, because Blurryface was such a good album and really marked when the band gained the most acclaim. 2015 was a great year for Twenty One Pilots.

You can buy or stream Trench on Apple Music.

So, let’s get into Trench. As themed as everything had seemed leading up to the album’s release, there are only a couple of instances where the concept of Trench as a physical place and the bishops we saw in the “Jumpsuit” video are brought to life. To me, Trench seems to be the new incarnation of Blurryface from the last album.

Per the usual, the band continues to create new standards for how good an album’s production can and should be. I think that what makes Twenty One Pilots who they are isn’t the band as a concept. It’s the members. The band’s incarnation, in a sense, changes with each album. What is always consistent, though, is how Tyler and Josh treat the art they’ve created — with reverence and ingenuity. They’re obsessed with moving higher and higher up the creativity ladder and it’s paying off. My favorite example of this on Trench is “Pet Cheetah”.

There’s only one pitfall to this album for me: they built it up as having a continuous storyline and created a narrative that, when listening to the album as a whole, doesn’t really come out for me. It worked for the singles they released, but it does kind of jump around a little bit. To be fair, perhaps I just haven’t spent enough time with it — it isn’t even a week old — but it seems a little rollercoaster-y.

I’m not going to get into favorite tracks here because there are 14 total songs on the album and they’re all good in their own way. TOP has found a formula with how their albums are laid out and this one is no different. There are tracks that are significant changes of theme in their discography here, though. Somehow, they’ve become bolder — how they talk about mental illness in “Neon Gravestones” and how Tyler addresses faith in the final track “Leave the City”.

I do want to touch on “Legend”. Written for Joseph’s deceased grandfather, this song is intensely meaningful in a way the band has never touched on. We see vulnerability about mental health and other personal issues everywhere in music, but nothing could compare to how I felt when I heard the last couple of lines: “Then the day that it happened / I recorded this last bit  / I look forward to having / A lunch with you again”.

I’ve touched on the loss of my own grandmother in other contributions for the site but nothing really hit so close to home as this line when it comes to bringing back that feeling. I get it.

I’m sure they wouldn’t want to admit this, but fame has changed Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. They have a different attitude with this album cycle than the last. It’s not necessarily a negative change, but it’s still evident. They’re more protective over the thing they’ve created — and I think they have every right to do so.

By now I’m sure you’ve guessed that I really like Trench. It’s continuously original and interesting, and they’ve brought up new views to the topics they’ve proven to be passionate about in their past offerings. Trench is a masterpiece. They (again) topped an album that didn’t seem top-able. Take some time to digest this album; I think there’s a lot we can glean from it.

4.5/5

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.