Perma Return with New Album “Fight Fair”

I have a friend named Zac who is a musical genius. Anything he touches in the music world becomes incredible. Instruments, songwriting, composition. The dude literally has talent in every aspect of music – except vocally, which isn’t to put him down, because he’ll literally be the first to mention it. But he married a woman who is a vocal mastermind. Everything they work on together is infinitely better than it would be if they were separate. All this is to say that my other favorite musical couple, as well as people who share this same relationship to music, Max and Sherri Bemis, have just released their second album under the name Perma.

You can stream Fight Fair on Spotify.

Perma released their first album, Two of a Crime, in 2013. If you’ve been paying attention to Max this year, you’ll know that he laid Say Anything to rest and is focusing on other aspects of the creative world, specifically writing comics. Sherri is still continuing with Eisley, as well as being an artist, wife and mom to their three kids. (She’s also a hero of mine.)

They released their latest album, Fight Fair on their 10th anniversary, which basically just solidified even more how much admiration I have for this couple. They’re very open about their life, and to watch them make it through the ups and downs and still have so much love and passion and respect for each other is beautiful.

Fight Fair is no Two of a Crime by any means. Since 2013, Max and Sherri have had two more kids, and released five albums between both of their respective bands. The album tells a story of a marriage that has aged. It’s aged like fine wine, of course, but the album sounds significantly more mature than Two of a Crime does. There’s a lot more grit and agression to be heard. It’s aptly named because even though they fight with each other and things aren’t perfect, they still fight for each other every day.

by Nadia Paiva

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

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Review: Say Anything – Oliver Appropriate

When I first read the 10-page treatise on Say Anything’s demise (which I strongly suggest you do, as well), I was disappointed. I was disappointed, of course, that one of my favorite bands would no longer regularly make music, but I was also disappointed at the concept album slated to be their last. In reading Max Bemis’s thought process for the album, I was disappointed to see that this guy, who I had cheered for as he sobered up and became a family man, was artistically back where he started so many years ago.

You can buy or stream Oliver Appropriate on Apple Music.

According to Bemis, Oliver Appropriate is a sequel to …Is a Real Boy. So Max decides he’s metaphorically gonna get back into all of these insecurities and coping mechanisms that he covered way back in 2004. Oliver is Max, but not really. If you read what he wrote, it was super hard for him to get back into that mindset to create the character. He had effectively put that behind him with the rest of Say Anything’s albums. The ones where he talks about his wife, his experiences with Judaism, his struggles with family situations, and the political climate of the 2000’s. The authentic ones. That’s why I was so discouraged when I read about what we were in for. I wanted Say Anything’s final moves to be made of the same authenticity. Once I listened to it though, I realized it is authentic.

I don’t want to say that Max failed in his attempt to create the worst of the worst in punk rock, but he kind of did. Even though it’s under the guise of Oliver and about Oliver, Max is actually the name written all over this album. And even though I was originally disappointed with this direction, it was the direction I think I actually wanted all along. I think IARB had some loose ends that needed tying up. Some final thoughts on what the character’s lifestyle ended up turning him into. And, without a doubt, Oliver is the kid from IARB, just a little more grown up. He’s still just as deplorable, so much so that he ends up murdering the guy he’s supposedly “in love” with, as Max and Sherri sing in “The Hardest”.

Musically, the album is quintessential Say Anything. From “Daze”, where we get the definitive sound, to “Your Father”, where we get the scathing lyricism, Max held nothing back. There are all the expected features of friends and family, including Brianna Collins from Tigers Jaw. He says that this might not be the last Say Anything project, but it’s true enough to form, which makes me think this could be. And that’s fine with me, because his reasoning is that “[he] won’t put himself in harm’s way for anything now.” I’d way rather see someone I’ve been invested in be healthy than see them crumble.

The most telling point in the album comes at the very end of “Sediment”, with Max’s spoken word. If we take Max’s advice and treat Oliver Appropriate as the sequel to …Is a Real Boy, then it’s only right that it ends that way. What’s different here, and perhaps the most bittersweet as the Say Anything door closes for now, is the confidence that Max delivers this piece with. He sums up virtually every album the band has released in this short but moving conclusion. We’ve listened as he says, “It’s only a few lines, but I’m having anxiety about it” right up until the point where he’s so vulnerable that it seems like he’s crying when he says, “I’m viciously hungering for someone  / To love me the way my parents never did”.

We’ve essentially watched Max Bemis grow up through Say Anything and to have it end this way is something only he could do. Any other group can try to have their final (?) album echo their first, but it would sound cheesy and try-hard. Bemis has made his career this way so it’s not awkward — it’s expected. Say Anything has been a pillar of punk and emo since I can remember (admittedly not that long of a time, but still), and Oliver Appropriate is a fitting final chapter for them.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2018: #8 Say Anything Speak Up

I won’t lie: I haven’t been a big fan of Say Anything’s last couple of albums. Upon initial release, I will fan-geek out for a hot minute before moving along. That doesn’t mean I respect them any less or don’t obsess about the next thing Max Bemis touches.

Say Anything is one of the most unique bands around. I recently saw the band perform on their In Defense of the Genre 10th anniversary tour. Any feeling I had that perhaps they had lost some of their inspiration was tossed away by an absolutely killer performance. The confidence and power behind them was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

So far, the only hint of the band’s new album is Bemis’ description of it being “super fucked up.” While this could be a bad thing, I am incredibly intrigued nonetheless. The energy of their recent tour was proof of a band at the top of their game. If even half of that was forged into the new record, there is potential for a new album to look forward to seeing an anniversary event for in 10 years time.

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 takes any chance to have a conversation about Max Bemis and Say Anything at every opportunity.

Reflecting On: Say Anything – In Defense of the Genre

In many ways, In Defense of the Genre is the absolute time capsule of pop punk in 2007. The sounds spanning the double album run the gamut of what was popular at the time while still managing to be, arguably, the most “Say Anything” record that exists. Guest vocals appear on over half the songs in unique, significant parts. In Defense of the Genre isn’t for everyone, especially on first listen, but it is an opus that celebrates and challenges the genre in every way.

You can buy In Defense of the Genre on iTunes.

After the success of …Is a Real Boy, Max Bemis faced what seemed an impossible task: topping himself. What he produced is a masterpiece of collaboration, experimentation and craft. In Defense of the Genre brought the outward, judgmental venom of “Admit It!!!” and cast it in every direction. To counterbalance this, Bemis also provided uncomfortably reflective and humbling lyrics of himself. The colorful poetry describing drug addiction, psychosis and coming to terms with indiscriminate anger is equal parts enthralling and sickening.

In Defense of the Genre is a dark album that reflects the time of its release. The golden era of the early 2000’s had faded and the few bands that still seemed to have any traction were heavier and brooding. Nearly everyone took a stab at experimentation, and while some succeeded, this era saw a massive drop off of bands that had been big just a couple years prior.

Rather than remake another punk record, Say Anything delved to see how depraved pop punk could be. The entire album is a blur of genre. Techno, dance, ragtime piano, grunge and pop seamlessly traipse between tempo changes that would kill a song by a lesser writer. Somehow, each sound manages to survive a solid coat of production and make a cohesive sound. In Defense of the Genre is as much a masterful dark pop album as it is the sound of madness itself.

The stories about Max Bemis prior to this album are legendary. Wandering the streets before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mental hospitals, and drug abuse seemed to constantly filter in through the news sites for a while. In his writing, not only did Bemis not shy away from this, the entire album documents the process of finding himself in the midst of madness (“The Church Channel”) and crawling his way out (“Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.”)

While each song attempted something new, some of the true stand outs are the acoustic tracks. “An Insult to the Dead” is one of Say Anything’s most amazing songs. The wrangled guitar, the gentle tambourine and plinking piano, and Max’s voice, accompanied by the faint shout in the background during the chorus, create a haunted effect. More than anything, the heartbreak in Bemis’ voice as he sings, “Oh God, forgive me Moses, Jesus, Allah” is unparalleled.

One true highlight is the use of guest vocals. They’re expertly chosen and provide a snapshot of who was popular. What’s amazing is how many of them are still wildly relevant today. On top of that, their placement in songs reflects the guest’s own personality. Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara provides the evil voice of paranoia on “Surgically Removing the Tracking Device”. Paramore’s Hayley Williams is the defiant angel on his shoulder in “The Church Channel” that urges him to seek help (“You were forlorn in despair / With your drugs and your hardcore porn / Trust me, those days won’t be mourned”).

Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba provides a haunting melody in the background of “Retarded in Love”. Anthony Green is the voice of alcoholism (“Hangover Song”). Gerard Way appears in the title track, a song attempting to make sense of why musicians write. The song breaks into a momentary country western jamboree as Way sings, “I’ve got an empty wallet and a record cover”, reminding himself that the best art doesn’t guarantee reward.

Max Bemis never hid his adoration of Saves The Day. I remember hearing a rumor about how the band dropped off of a tour with Saves The Day, allegedly due to drug problems. “Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.” seems to address this directly. Max asks his bandmates for help, and swears that evil shouldn’t be in their tour van. Saves The Day’s Chris Conley appears after an interlude of people offering help. Hearing Bemis’ personal hero shout, “If you want it, then come and get it /We’re all with you now”, still gives me chills 10 years later.

In Defense of the Genre is a true artistic endeavor. It was a massive risk taken at the height of Say Anything’s popularity. It’s also the last ‘classic’ Say Anything record. After this, the band’s sound became poppier and Max’s struggles less dire. What should be a hot mess of a record manages to be a cohesive concept album that finds the sound of madness itself. It’s an album that truly deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary, even though it may not be to everyone’s liking.

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 fighting the pesky Baratheon hordes! …..Or battling his cat to the death over small flakes of chicken.

Most Anticipated of 2016: #7 Say Anything Get Weird (Again)

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In Defense of the Genre

There are few bands who truly take the term “reinvention” to heart the way that Say Anything’s Max Bemis does. With an extremely loyal fanbase still hypnotized by …Is a Real Boy, Say Anything inspires a unique sound every record, even going so far as to remove all of his signature guitar work and replace it with synth and orchestral instruments on the fantastic Hebrews. It’s difficult to predict what type of album will be next, but it’s guaranteed to force the fans to argue where it ranks amongst the rest of them for the next year.

The other reason to be excited is that Max Bemis is extremely, and unapologetically honest in his songwriting. The lyrics are bittersweet and hopeful at best and horrifically brutal at worst. His storytelling is enchanting and finds themes that other bands skim the edges of, if not avoid altogether. Although Bemis has been much more positive for the last several years, it hasn’t impacted his ability to write engaging lyrics that hold the listener’s attention just as much as guitar solos.

Bemis is one of the most prolific writers in the scene, and has been since he caught the nation’s attention over a decade ago, and personifies the phrase “unafraid to experiment.” Each album feels fresh and tends to provide an update to past releases, making the entire discography relevant again.

If nothing else, the chance to read interviews with Max Bemis as he explains the new album, attempts to explain what it sounds like, and describes his mindset with it are almost as entertaining as the album itself.

BONUS:
There have been rumors for a long time that Two Tongues, the side project for members of Say Anything and Saves the Day (Yay Chris Conley!) would be releasing an album in 2015, spurred by a tweet from Max Bemis early last year. Unfortunately, Two Tongues didn’t materialize last year, but if work was underway on a new album, it may be the first new release from the band since 2009. Until concrete details are released, it’s not a good time to get one’s hopes up, but at least there is a good possibility that it will come sometime in the near future.

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 takes any chance to have a conversation about Max Bemis and Say Anything at every opportunity.

Top 10 Songs of 2014

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Making a list of the top 10 songs of any year is a challenge. Each of us journeys through 12 months filled with highs and lows, challenges and dull moments. The soundtracks that fill those times are often created by our need for a particular sound or feeling in any given instant.

Does ranking these songs require us to distance ourselves from the emotions that helped them resonate? That’s debatable, but perhaps the true measure lies somewhere in between a relatable song that offered purpose or aid and a well constructed, perfectly executed track that showcases a band’s talent.

Needless to say, a lot went into the creation of this list. We did our best to break down what we feel were the best moments of 2014 – the songs that not only defined our lives this year, but the songs that made us perk up with rapt attention. Take a look and let us know what you think in the replies!

10. Merriment – “Backwards”

Perhaps best known as the younger siblings of the DuPree’s of Eisley fame, Merriment has certainly carved their own path with their debut album, Sway. The highlight comes in the form of “Backwards”, perfectly blending the band’s acoustic pop sensibilities with a folk sound that sets them apart from their peers. Christie DuPree’s vocal range is stunning here, especially on the song’s beautiful chorus. Dupree opens the song with the haunting lines, “Holding high your little head / Walking backwards in your steps / Nobody knows you’re dead”. The song is just as mysterious as it is charming, but catchy enough that you can’t listen to it just once. – Kiel Hauck

9. I Can Make a Mess  “Deciduous”

On an album of delicious pop songs, “Deciduous” stands out as one that has every ingredient of a good ICMAM song; gorgeous hooks, minimal production, Enders’ working every note of the vocal scale and the themes of finances and that love will overcome any problem. The song is at once a love song about being a musician, but acknowledges the fears that come along with it, including a singled out line where he quietly worries, “I hope one day my kids think I’m cool / Didn’t sell the farm to be the mule / I’m a fool”. – Kyle Schultz

8. Anberlin – “Stranger Ways”

Fans of Anberlin were fortunate to receive a final goodbye from the band in the form of 2014’s Lowborn. The best moment from the album comes on the 80’s inspired “Stranger Ways”, weaving the band’s tried-and-true songwriting formula with eerie electronics and synthesizers. In truth, it sounds like the best song Depeche Mode never wrote. Vocalist Stephen Christian opens with the chilling lines, “Locking eyes, a waning glance, mistook chance / Of adding meaning to the words forever”. The song climaxes during the bridge as Christian pleads, “Would you say with me, here in my dreams / If I promised you this heaven?” Alas, there will be no staying for Anberlin. Even so, we’re thankful for the fond farewell. – KH

7. XTRMST – “Conformist”

XTRMST are a welcome return to form for straight edge hardcore. The new project from Davy Havok and Jade Puget is what fans of AFI’s hardcore days have spent years hoping for. The guitar work is loose, hypnotically dark and as heavy as a physical attack. “Conformist” shows Havok in perfect form, swooning between spoken word and nightmarish screaming. The song is one of the few singles for an album that highlights the record succinctly. Each lyric is an attack on the listener, critiquing not only their way of life, but their tolerance of any other type of subculture with the repeated accusations of “You are conformist”. It’s an uncomfortable listen, but demands your attention for the rest of the record. – KS

6. Childish Gambino – “III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)”

Perhaps it’s odd that the best track on Because the Internet fits into the context of the album’s overarching story as a song sung by someone else. It opens as we hear the main character climb into his car and turn the key. The radio comes on, introducing the track, sung by “Lloyd”. Childish Gambino channels his inner-Drake on the track – it’s silky smooth as he sings of the confusion tied to romantic commitment. It’s background noise for our main character as he drives, but it’s speaking both to us and to him. “Everything you won’t say, you tweet it”, sings Gambino. It’s commentary on our internet culture – and an indictment on us all for our willingness to dive head-first into it. – KH

5. Say Anything  Judas Decapitation

Max Bemis’s most ‘Say Anything’ song is about how blogs, fans and the music industry criticize him for not making ‘Say Anything’ music the way they want. It couldn’t be more meta if he mentioned your name in the middle of it. Like the rest of Hebrews, “Judas Decapitation” forgoes the guitar work in favor of a hybrid mesh of flaring pop synth and intense percussion. The song is a scathing attack on the industry and his own fans about their interpretation of his music, which is one of the things that made his music so well respected to begin with. Lyrics like, “I hate that dude now that he’s married / He’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri”, and “Spike his fifteenth espresso with drugs / So he’s convinced it’s a manic delusion to know true love / Be nineteen with a joint in hand / Never change the band”, show that not only is Bemis aware of every criticism of his music, he’s attacking them head on. – KS

4. Yellowcard – “Lift a Sail”

The title track on Yellowcard’s triumphant Lift a Sail is quite possibly the best song the band has ever written. Gone are the pop punk riffs the band was so well known for – “Lift a Sail” is an anthemic rock song, born from a painful, traumatic event. There’s certainly a sadness here, but the track itself is about rising above the wreckage. It’s something we can all connect to, because in one way or another, we’ve all been there before, struggling to make the choice to press on amidst the pain. When vocalist Ryan Key cries out the song’s massive chorus of, “If a cold wind starts to rise / I am ready now, I am ready now / With the last sail lifted high / I am ready now, I am ready now”, it’s undeniably the most chill-inducing moment of the year. – KH

3. Against Me!  “FUCKMYLIFE666”

This is easily one of the catchiest songs on Transgender Dysphoria Blues due to the melody alone. The bouncing guitars and opening strings tear against the throbbing drums to make a fast, energetic hell of a song. Each verse bleeds into the chorus, hiding the fact that the song is a traditional styled pop song elegantly layered in harmony. It also contains one of the strongest verses on an album full of memorable lines as Laura Grace sings, “Chipped nail polish and a barbed wire dress / Is your mother proud of your eyelashes? / Silicone chest and collagen lips / How would you even recognize me?” The song is short, brutal and incredibly memorable. It manages to stand as one of the best songs in Against Me!’s infamously great catalogue. – KS

2. PVRIS – “My House”

On their debut album, White Noise, synthpop trio PVRIS have promptly destroyed any notion of what a Rise Records band should sound like. Originally formed as a post-hardcore act, PVRIS made the surprising and wise choice to turn pop, littering their landscape of atmospheric synthesizers with bouncing drums and pulsing bass. “My House” is one of the most powerful pop songs you’ll hear this year, thanks in large part to the vocal work of Lyndsey Gunnelfsen. During the track’s massive, dance-worthy breakdown, she howls, “Haven’t you heard? I’m not yours anymore, I’m not yours anymore!” The song is ferocious as it is infectious, making it the most captivating pop song of 2014. – KH

1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe”

On an album whose theme is caving in, “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe” is the lynchpin for Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties that sees our main character breaking down in his mother’s kitchen. It’s a powerful acoustic epic fueled by the slow burn of electric guitar and the tortured cry of a steel guitar yowling in the background. Dan Campbell’s vocals mimic the story perfectly, sounding on the verge of breaking into tears as he describes Aaron’s walk home, eventually building to screams of “Take the car and run!” The descriptions alone would be worthy of being one of this year’s best songs, but the true gem is what should be an impossible feat: Aaron and his mother having an actual conversation. Around a kitchen table, they lean and cry on each other’s shoulders as Campbell sings, “I know things ain’t been good since dad died, I know you don’t need this from me / But mama I’m breaking, there’s no light in the dark, Diane left this week / She said, ‘Son look at me, I know we ain’t been this low before and I’m sorry Aaron / I know this year has been hard’”. – KS

Honorable Mention:

Emarosa – “People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play”

Kendrick Lamar – “I”

Architects – “Gravedigger”

Fall Out Boy – “Centuries”

Taylor Swift – “Style”

 

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.

The Past is Present: Riot Fest 2014 – Day 2

RiotFest

Believe it or not, this year marks the 10th anniversary for Riot Fest, Chicago’s own punk rock music festival and carnival. While locals can likely recount the event in its early days, only in recent years has the festival become a full-blown, internationally respected gathering. The 2014 lineup was one for the ages, honoring both past and present movers and shakers in the punk scene and far, far beyond.

Saturday was marked by big names that spanned multiple genres: Indie rock (The National, The Flaming Lips, Metric), hip hop (Wu Tang Clan, Die Antwoord), punk (Samhain, Descendants), rock (Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Dashboard Confessional), and much more.

If you had difficulty putting together your personal schedule, you weren’t the only one. The good news is that no matter where you found yourself, it was nearly impossible to feel disappointed.

One of the things that has made Riot Fest so noteworthy of late is its ability to showcase bands that are reuniting at the event, saying goodbye, or paying homage to their past. At this year’s festival, 10 major bands played classic albums from front to back, adding even further motivation to attend (as if you needed it).

Looking at the massive crowd, it’s easy to tell that this method of attraction is working. Riot Fest feels like Warped Tour grown up, drawing in thousands of former punk rock youths now turned adult, feigning for a chance to see their favorite band one last time. It’s hard to remember an event becoming this relevant by celebrating the past.

Personally, my day was awash in nostalgia. My main reason for attendance was to say goodbye to one of my favorite bands – Saosin. The group recently reunited with original lead vocalist Anthony Green after being dormant for over four years. The resulting one-off shows have appeared to come to an end with their Riot Fest appearance.

Even with their set landing in the middle of the afternoon, Saosin still drew a large crowd of devoted fans who appeared both excited and anxious about what appears to be an impending end. Green appropriately addressed the crowd upon taking the stage by stating, “Hi, we’re Saosin from ten years ago” before launching into “Lost Symphonies”.

These sorts of nods to the past abound throughout the day. Dashboard Confessional took the stage on Saturday for only the fourth time in the past four years as Chris Carrabba’s new project, Twin Forks, has taken the lead. Nevertheless, Carrabba looked elated as the band performed fan favorites from Swiss Army Romance and The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most with every crowd member singing the words.

If that last sentence sounds familiar, it’s probably because we’ve all lived it before. There’s something about Riot Fest that causes these performances to seemingly live outside of the norm – a time capsule that allows you to emotionally transport back to youthful excitement.

That’s not to say that this isn’t good music in the present. Far from it. In fact, Say Anything sounds at their best during their set when playing tracks from their latest album, Hebrews, even if they still rope you in with classic cuts from …Is a Real Boy. The Used show off ferocious new songs from Imaginary Enemy, but still bring the house down with “A Box Full of Sharp Objects”.

Finishing off the day at the Rock Stage is Taking Back Sunday, drawing one of the festival’s largest crowds of the day. A veteran band with a large following built during their early days, they waste no time in breaking out “Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)” before moving on to newer songs from Happiness Is and older classics. It’s not a trip down memory lane for the crowd – it’s the experience of a band with a now monstrously strong front-to-back catalogue.

Lead vocalist Adam Lazzara may no longer be a spring chicken, but he flashes glimpses of youthful exuberance, highlighted by his signature mic swinging and capped by his climbing of the stage scaffolding during the band’s final song.

Lazzara isn’t alone in his impassioned performance. Carrabba, Green, Bert McCracken, Max Bemis – they all shared a fire on Saturday, looking and sounding as sharp as ever. Call it an anomaly if you will, but there’s something about the friendly confines of Humboldt Park that seem to bring out the best in the bands we’ve loved for the past decade.

Rock and roll is a young man’s game, but if this year’s Riot Fest proves anything, it’s that punk’s current, and even past, generations aren’t quite ready to hand off the baton just yet. Judging from the crowd response, it won’t be any time soon, either.

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.

Say Anything stream new music video for “Six Six Six”

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Say Anything recently released their acclaimed new album Hebrews on June 10 via Equal Vision Records. A music video for the album’s first single, “Six Six Six” is now available. The video, directed by Rylan Morris Scherer, can be viewed below:

If you haven’t purchased Hebrews yet, you really should. You can download the album on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Say Anything – Hebrews

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Max Bemis has always been one of my guitar gods. The frantic solos and crushing melodies were what initially drew me into the band in the first place. When I heard that the band’s newest album, Hebrews, was made without any guitars, it left me with a single reaction: “WAT.”

Bemis has always been known for his eccentric tendencies and often quirky song writing, but there was something so off-putting about a rock band opting for a plethora of keyboards and orchestral instruments. To be completely honest, I was turned off to the idea and ultimately wasn’t excited for the album at all. What I didn’t expect was for Hebrews to be the album that Say Anything fans have been wanting since In Defense of the Genre, if not …Is A Real Boy.

What it lacks in the comfort of guitar rock, it more than makes up for in the intensity and storytelling of classic Say Anything song writing. For an album that sounds similar to a Ben Folds/Hellogoodbye hybrid, it’s easily one of Bemis’ best works, if not the album that is ultimately able to equal Is a Real Boy. It’s adventurous, intimate and cleverly orchestrated chaos. There are so many layers to these songs – each one demands multiple listens just to catch everything being thrown out there. Ironically, this is also the hardest record since IDotG.

While keyboards act as the primary instrument of the record (dueling with Bemis’ voice for lead), they never feel overdone or in the way. Bemis essentially destroys the instrument, banging viciously before gently pumping out a circus-styled melody and gentle sound. Constant synth is used in the background for added layering throughout several songs, similar to Hellogoodbye.

The real surprise is how effective the use of unconventional instrumentation affects the songs. The orchestration is subtle, but extraordinarily efficient. The faint grump of a tuba adds just the right layer of bass to supplement. Or a song like “Boyd”, easily the hardest and fastest song on the album, that uses a fiddle and violin where hardcore punk guitar chords would have normally been. In essence, the hardcore punk melody is there, but with a completely unique sound unlike most anything else I’ve ever heard.

Garron DuPree’s bass melodies are among the best of Say Anything’s discography. He’s a relentless musician and more than capable to stand toe-to-toe with Bemis’ nightmarishly demanding writing. It’s almost alarming how entrancing his bass lines are when they manage to crash into the forefront of the song. Where the keys take over normal guitar parts, DuPree’s bass keep the songs on course and give the punk edge expected of Say Anything. New recording drummer Reed Murray is able to match the quality that we all grew to love from Coby Linder with sleek precision and hard beats.

Arguably the most prominent instrument is Bemis himself, providing the best vocal performance since IDotG. His vocal range races from one end of the scale to the other, from gentle crooning (“Lost My Touch”) to guttural punk screams and growls (“Boyd”). The guest vocals for each song are very similar to IDotG, as each guest adds small segments to the songs, either just hidden in the background (Chris Conley in “John McClane”) or complete take over (Jeremy Bolm and Christie Dupree in “Lost My Touch”). For an album that features guest vocals on literally every song, each instance feels necessary and special.

Lyrically, this is the most intimate Bemis has been since Is a Real Boy, which is part of the magic that gave his initial songs so much gravity. They’re deeply personal, self-deprecating and funny. In many ways, Hebrews feels like the sequel to Is a Real Boy that we always wanted, as well as a continuation to the “story” concept from that album as well.

“Judas Decapitation” is more of a sequel to fan favorite “Admit It!!!” than “Admit It Again” was, as Bemis tears away at himself through the eyes of his own fans and their apparent waning support of his recent albums. He sings “I hate that dude now that he’s married / He’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri…So he’s convinced it’s a manic delusion to know true love / Be 19 with a joint in hand, never change the band”.

In “Lost My Touch”, Bemis croons “Some say I’ve lost my touch at crafting Say Anything songs / I suppose I’ll let you take my place on stage; it’s not a difficult job to supplant, young one”, biting himself against the complaints of fans.

However, as hateful as he can be towards himself, Bemis still harbors the uniquely dark lyrics we expect from him in songs like “Six Six Six,” where he sings “I belong in jail but I lied my way to heaven with a wife who hasn’t learned that I’m Satan yet”, before breaking out into the chorus amid sweeping keyboards.

Hebrews isn’t just the new Say Anything album; it’s the quintessential Say Anything album, comparable to Is a Real Boy in how unique and important it is to the discography of this band. Each song is adventurously elaborate and surprising in how it makes up for the lack of rock’s primary instrument.

Bemis lifted any restrictions he’d had lyrically, rampaging through themes of inward reflection, family, the views of his own fan base and religion. For any band other than Say Anything, this would best be a side project. However, Hebrews is easily one of the best albums of the year, and hands down one of Max Bemis’ best works.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Stream new Say Anything album “Hebrews”

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Start your day off right by streaming the new Say Anything album Hebrews on Spotify! The band’s new album is streaming a week early and officially releases next Tuesday, June 10, on Equal Vision Records. The album features a ton of great guest appearances and absolutely no guitars. Check it out below:

You can preorder Hebrews on iTunes.

What is your favorite song on the album? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck