A Half-Assed Theory on Discovering New Music

Over the last several years, I have been been improving myself mentally. I heard new music but wasn’t listening. Now in a better place, I am revisiting some albums with fresh eyes to see what it means to me now. Cheers.

Finding new music is easy, but loving new music is a chore. When I think of the bands I love the most, it’s because I discovered them during a transition in my life. Going to high school (New Found Glory), first girlfriend (Saves the Day), college and first apartment (Panic! at the Disco, Lucky Boys Confusion), and discovering the real world (The Wonder Years), led to me listening to this music nonstop for decades, as well as other bands that cropped up in the same eras.

However, stagnation and depression hamper the joy in personal growth. In retrospect, it seems obvious that such memorable moments imprint themselves in the music we listen to. But seeing it in action in real time is a special moment everyone should experience. Thus, I have developed a theory!

I recently started a new day job, which is the biggest change to my life in years. It required spending two weeks in Wisconsin by myself for training. I tried to prep music for the trip, but felt bored looking over my usual soundtracks. Instead, I prepped a bunch of music I’ve reviewed for It’s All Dead in years past or bought for my collection and then (for no reason at all) never listened to again: Neck Deep, State Champs, We Are the In Crowd, Superet, Honeyblood, and many more.

There are many ways to connect to music, whether that be a connection with the lyrics or the music filling your veins with energy. Oftentimes, music means so much to us because of the nostalgia and memories we associate with it. My theory on falling in love with music is obvious, but is proposed as such: the most direct appreciation to new music is during a new life experience.

The first nerve-wracking day of my job, I played Neck Deep’s Life’s Not Out to Get You twice throughout the day, as it seemed appropriate for someone who waits for the worst to happen and then adjusts accordingly. Checking into my hotel, “Threat Level Midnight” played as I walked through the halls. As vocalist Ben Barlow sang, “I’ll see your face down here real soon / A welcome home to a swift farewell”, I opened my door and found another family staying in my room. Dirty clothes, pool toys, suitcases and children’s toys were spread across the room, so I panicked and quickly shut the door.

The hotel told me that there was a family refusing to leave and squatting in the room; they had torn the phone from the wall and refused to respond to maintenance knocking on the door as “Can’t Kick Up the Roots” rang through one ear bud (“Yeah this place is a shipwreck / But this shipwreck, it is mine”). Although a misunderstanding all around, it took an hour to get me a room and Neck Deep kept me company at the counter during frenzied calls and panicked looks from the staff in my direction after being told, “Everything is under control.” Ironically, Neck Deep was also playing when the keys to my room didn’t work the second week and the entire staff recognized me as I told them I was locked out (“All eyes on me, but that’s not reality /… claustrophobic in my own skin / From holding it all in” – “The Grand Delusion”; The Peace and the Panic).

There is a massive public pathway that traces the lake in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. My first night there, I found myself alone in the dark, walking a treacherous path with only the moon lighting the lake to my side as I hurried back to the hotel with Superet jamming away in my head (“And when the lights go out / Will you be having fun alone? / I need revolution / It’s you, only you” – “Bone Bag”; How To Work a Room).

I discovered smoking in bars is still acceptable in Wisconsin, as I stepped into a pub and saw 20 locals starring at me with suspicion with We Are The In Crowd blasting away through my phone (“I guess it was wishful to think / I was different from the rest / Now I’m red in the face / I don’t think I’m impressed” – “Better Luck Next Time”; Best Intentions). I fell asleep to State Champs playing quietly, vividly aware that I didn’t have to worry as much about money for a while (“Wash away all the thoughts that come at you like monsters at night / I don’t wanna live this way / Strong enough to break these chains / Broken pieces can mend…This is our time, our time to go” – “Our Time To Go”; Living Proof).

This massive life event has spawned moment after moment that I will never forget, each accompanied by bands I should have been in love with years ago. I can blame depression for hampering my ability to connect to the music before now, but the truth is I should have been listening regardless. The fact that I felt a connection to so many bands the last couple of weeks means I should have enjoyed them before now. Using a life event to listen to them finally feels like a crutch, and I wish I had spent more time loving them on my own. However, I will never forget these bands or the memories I made listening to them during these two weeks that changed my life.

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 watched a framed picture fall off the wall of his hotel room for no particular reason while writing this. He blames earthquakes for it so that he doesn’t have to think about ghosts before bed. What a fool!

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Review: State Champs – Living Proof

The worst thing about Living Proof, the new album from State Champs, is that it was written in 2018 and not 2004. This is an album that is full-blown pop punk in every way, wearing the genre proudly on its sleeve. Every single song is a potential single, expertly crafted to play on repeat in your head, even when you’re not listening to them.

Had this been released last decade, this is an album that could compete for the fame of Sum 41 or early Fall Out Boy. However, in 2018, it struggles to find an identity of its own. Instead, the album feels like an amalgamation of the best parts of every pop punk band in the last two decades combined to create one super album primed to dominate your summer.

You can buy Living Proof on Apple Music.

I’m not terribly familiar with State Champs, but after my first playthrough of Living Proof, I immediately went back to listen to their earlier albums. I’m in love with the band, and won’t be making the mistake of sitting on them again. Living Proof is one those rare albums designed to be a hit. Every song is radio ready and hypnotically enchanting. The production is crystal clear and does its best to propel the energy of the music.

Guitarists Tyler Szalkowski and Tony Diaz are a perfect duo, wrapping melody and sharp power chords in smart ways. There is a massive amount of pop on this album, but the energy and mayhem behind it is gorgeous and rests somewhere between the punk aesthetic of New Found Glory (“Criminal”) and the pop of All Time Low (“Safe Haven”). Bassist Ryan Graham is thankfully turned up to be heard clearly in every song and adds a noticeable backbone that other bands could only hope for (“Cut Through the Static”). Drummer Evan Ambrosio may be the hidden MVP of the album, as his wall of percussion constantly stole my attention at odd times with thunderous beats (“Mine Is Gold”). Vocalist Derek DiSanio pushes himself to great lengths throughout the record. He finds a great balance between crisp notes and letting his voice struggle to hit the high notes, adding an urgency and envious power.

The best and worst feature of Living Proof is that it is so enamored in pop punk that it fails to carve it’s own path. In fact, comparing the album to All Time Low circa 2010 is almost impossible not to do. The record sounds like a b-side collection of singles ATL forgot to release. This problem could be remedied if the songs had more substance to them, but each line is forged from classic pop punk archetypes. Vague lines about relationships permeate throughout.

The nice thing is that the lyrics fit perfectly together and make you want to shout them as loud as you can. However, there is no weight behind them, such as “Safe Haven” as DiSanio sings, “Congratulations, I’m a wreck again / Messed around, feeling down, thought it was all pretend / I’m realizing I’ve got time to kill so / give me a remedy to lift me up / Until it all falls back just like you said”. There are vague ideas of hope, such as when he sings, “And I feel when you’re looking at me / that you’re far from happy / If only we could wait for the truth / When you know it’s not so dramatic / Let’s cut through the static and be the living, the living proof”.

Living Proof is an album that will absolutely enchant half of its listeners and possibly turn off others hoping for something more than pop punk basics. But that shouldn’t take anything away from what State Champs have accomplished­ – a masterful pop punk album that relishes in every aspect of the genre. This album will potentially dominate the summer season and could potentially revive mainstream interest in the genre if it received the attention it deserves. After this album, I simply can’t wait to see them live at the first possible opportunity.

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 accidentally splattered a girl with gym sweat as she fled from a spider hanging on its web today. Not his fault, but no one was happy about the encounter. Especially the spider. It was crushed by a train and mocked mercilessly by a crowd.

Podcast: Backstage at Vans Warped Tour 2016

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Summer is here – and so is the Vans Warped Tour. On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel Hauck catches up with bands backstage at this summer’s tour. Interviews include The Word Alive, State Champs and Against the Current. Get the inside details about the country’s longest running music festival and learn how bands survive on the road – listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here. What are you favorite bands on this summer’s Warped Tour? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

5 Songs to Add to Your Autumn Playlist

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The leaves are turning, the days are growing shorter, and the air is carrying a chill. Even though summer drives are in the rear view mirror, it doesn’t mean that the music has to stop! In fact, it’s time to place those summer soundtracks on hold and start building your autumn playlist.

Luckily for you, we’ve done a little work to help get you started. Below are five new tracks that fit the bill for any autumn night and are sure to tickle your eardrums. Take a look and be sure to share your favorite new songs in the replies!

Pentimento – “Sink or Swim”

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Pentimento have been mastering the craft of thoughtful pop punk for several years now, leading up to their recent release, I, No Longer. It’s a powerful record full of crisp guitars and soaring choruses. “Sink or Swim” is the perfect track to sing along to during those late night drives as you reflect on your summer memories.

CHVRCHES – “Leave a Trace”

The latest album from CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye, is a testament to the band’s growth since their debut. Lead single “Leave a Trace” finds vocalist Lauren Mayberry holding her own over the danciest beat you’ve heard this year. It’s prime listening to keep you moving during those pesky household chores like leaf raking.

Deafheaven – “Brought to the Water”

After their heralded 2013 album Sunbather, Deafheaven are back with another black metal expedition in the form of New Bermuda. This time, the band is just as bold as you’ve ever heard them, shifting gears relentlessly on “Brought to the Water”, an eight-and-a-half minute track that builds towards its eerie piano ending.

State Champs – “All You Are is History”

If you’re just not quite ready to admit that summer’s over, State Champs have you covered with their new album Around the World and Back. State Champs defend pop punk with gritty vocals, swirling guitars and sugar-coated choruses. “All You Are is History” is catchy as hell and the perfect track to get you amped up on the way to those early morning classes.

Mayday Parade – “One of Them Will Destroy the Other”

Florida rock act Mayday Parade just released a career defining record in Black Lines, a driving rock album influenced by 90s alt-rock and post grunge. “One of Them Will Destroy the Other” kicks things off to a raging start as vocalist Derek Sanders cries, “I don’t know man, I think I’m starting to feel something peculiar”. It’s just gritty enough to blast through those dark, autumn nights.

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.