Review: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

It took a long time for me to get into The 1975. I thought they were another record-company-manufactured English boy band because, if you recall, we were still in the age of One Direction when their first album, The 1975, released in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 when their second album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it came out that the band caught my interest. Now, both albums are in heavy rotation for me, and I found myself excited for their third.

You can buy or stream a Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships on Apple Music.

According to every signal we got from the band throughout 2018, the album was slated for a release in the summer. We got a single instead, the first of several, and the album got pushed until now. They changed the title from Music for Cars to A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The album is perfectly titled.

At the crux of this album is a picture of today’s society. We’re a generation rampant with social anxiety, and science shows that this is due largely to the presence of the Internet in our lives. We’re constantly within arm’s length of what’s happening in any part of the world, whether it’s positive or negative. Matty Healy and the other members of The 1975 have taken two-and-a-half years forming an album that’s really a plea for change in these habits. Heck, Healy even sings that we should be “going outside” in the lead single, “Give Yourself a Try”. He has seen firsthand the negative effects that fame and constantly being in the spotlight has brought him and is begging us to use responsibility in our social media habits and other personal spheres of influence.

Like the other two albums by The 1975, A Brief Inquiry talks a lot about heroin and other drug use. Healy has excitedly been clean and sober for some time now, but does talk about his experiences in some of the tracks – largely, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “Surrounded By Heads and Bodies”, as well as some smaller references sprinkled in others. Like any medical problem, addiction is so hard to recover from, and Healy tells us that it’s even harder when he is “…connecting with 10,000 people and then going to a hotel room by myself.”

The band prides itself in its creativity. They’re never one to do the same thing twice. Each iteration of the first track on each album, “The 1975”, is composed as an entrance into the world the album intends to transport us to. In their first album, we had songs about partying and doing drugs and other frivolous behavior. In I like it when you sleep, Healy went on a personal journey of introspection. There were songs about drugs and parties, sure, but there was also a song about losing his grandmother, and a song about fighting to find some faith somewhere. Healy had started the growing-up process.

This third album, though, is taking an outrospective look at what’s around him. He sees where he’s failed in relationships because of the intense need to be connected to the rest of the world. He looks at the political climate of the United States and is appalled at what he sees. He wrote a song about gun control.

Sometimes, an album can have such a great lyrical depth that the musical side is left lacking. Not so with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The band has equally composed a soundtrack that very well may have gotten the point across even without lyrics. Where there are many electronic and computer-y effects toward the beginning, there’s a change in the middle, followed by songs like “Mine”, which is straight-up jazz.

One might say at first glance that the constant stylistic changes don’t work, but it’s The 1975. If they don’t care about what works, why should we? It took me a little while to get used to how the album flows – or rather, doesn’t flow. Each track sits well on its own, but the way it’s all tied together lyrically is enough to counteract how strangely it jumps from both genre to genre and era to era. There are some 80’s inspired synths, and then there’s “Be My Mistake”, a song I could see being performed at a Woodstock Festival.

I would be making a huge mistake if I didn’t draw special attention to the final track. “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” starts like it could be the end-credits track to a sappy emotional movie, but it’s a great picture of how depression can cloud everything. A person who’s deep in that mindset can feel like it’s always been that way, that there’s never been a time they’ve been truly happy. But the truth is, it’s only sometimes. Healy is reminding us to remember the “sometimes.” I think it’s the most beautiful thing The 1975 has offered us, and it’s a perfect ending to an album that is imploring us to live life to the fullest.

Conceptually, the album is wonderful. It puts forth a strong message about how the world desperately needs to change. There are hard-hitting lines about politics, climate change, and even a spoken word about a man who falls in love with the Internet (a.k.a. all of us, in some way or another).

It’s a hard lesson to learn on our own, never mind when we’re being reprimanded for all of these bad habits by a band who we’ve generally just enjoyed the music of. Now they’re asking us to put effort into being present in our daily lives? Yeah, they are. Which is what makes The 1975 so great. They’re obsessed with pushing their own creative boundaries so much, that we’re forced to grow with them. So maybe we should close our browsers, but I think we should keep our headphones plugged in.

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.

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Summer Soundtracks: Cobra Starship – ¡Viva la Cobra!

I’ve often said that autumn is my favorite season for music, with so many albums in my collection deeply associated with zip-up hoodies, campfire crackles, crunching leaves, and cigarette smoke inside gritty venues. Even so, every single summer, I find myself drawn to the albums that have defined the warmest of seasons in my life. Thus, I decided it was worth my time to start a series that highlights my favorite soundtracks to summer.

***

Like most people, I first heard Cobra Starship while inside a movie theater. Also like most, I assumed that the “Snakes on a Plane” post-credits music video for “Bring It” was a one-off joke track featuring a stacked lineup of scene stars. By the time While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets dropped later in 2006, I remember a flicker of curiosity, but my prevailing reaction was one of indifference.

You can buy ¡Viva la Cobra! on Apple Music.

With that in mind, it’s hard for me to remember how I came to fall in love with ¡Viva la Cobra!, the first full band release from Cobra Starship. To my memory, there wasn’t a standout track that pulled me in. Nevertheless, the album ruled the summer of 2008, rarely leaving my car’s CD player. The highlight of that summer came while standing near the front of the main stage at the Vans Warped Tour as Gabe Saporta strutted back and forth and Elisa Schwartz rocked out on keytar.

I vividly remember smiling wide and singing along with those around me before losing my mind when William Beckett came on stage to perform “Bring It” with the group that day in Cincinnati. I remember buying a purple, hot pink, and neon green Cobra Starship shirt at Hot Topic and wearing it at least once a week throughout the summer. I remember driving around Louisville at dusk, playing tracks like “Angie” and “Kiss My Sass” on repeat.

Oftentimes, these nostalgic memories are shared en masse as songs of summer impact millions of music listeners, creating a collective moment. However, ¡Viva la Cobra! was far from a smash, as Saporta would experience a greater fame with hit singles on later albums. To be honest, none of my friends listened to Cobra Starship in 2008, making this random sophomore effort all the more personal.

The album itself is sultry and danceable, but is a tongue-in-cheek end-of-the-world “party” built atop somewhat satirical electro pop songs pumped full of scene cred. It’s the kind of album only a select group of listeners could truly “get,” making it even more niche and peculiar. Saporta wouldn’t lean fully into cranked up club pop until Hot Mess and Night Shades, realizing the opportunity that this groundwork had provided him. At least for 2008, Saporta was still winking at the camera with the same smirk he flashed before the screen went black during “Snakes on a Plane”.

During a time when a younger version of myself was enraptured with metalcore, regularly blasting the likes of Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada, ¡Viva la Cobra! was a reprieve from the breakdowns and raging guitars. How can you not roll down the windows and belt the chorus to “Smile for the Paparazzi” or bounce to the beat of “My Moves are White (White Hot, That Is)”? ¡Viva la Cobra! is a crash landing of pop bliss and emo influence that still stands as an oddly satisfying experience.

My interest in Cobra Starship was fleeting – I never owned another album before the group disbanded, and I return only to ¡Viva la Cobra! when the temperatures rise and I’m in the mood to move. It reminds me of a time when I was willing to privately expand my musical palate and begin to explore my love of pop music, even if I was still holding some resistance. Most of all, it reminds me carefree summer nights – the ones I still chase even as they become rarer and rarer.

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: CHVRCHES – Love is Dead

As Memorial Day weekend arrives and temperatures creep into the 90s in the Midwest, I can’t help but be reminded of days past when this setting would be accompanied by the newest summer soundtracks. It’s a nostalgic sort of feeling that leaves me pining for long drives with windows down and late nights with old friends where the music tells our story.

Love is Dead, the third full-length release from Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES, scratches this itch well, in both expected and unexpected ways.

You can buy Love is Dead on Apple Music.

Calling the music of CHVRCHES carefree, or, more specifically, the sort of tunes you’d play in those happy summer moments, might feel peculiar. The band has excelled at digging deep into pain underneath a blanket of shiny synthesizers, leaving just enough uncertainty to let the listener decide the mood. On this latest effort, the music is glossier and poppier than ever, while Lauren Mayberry’s lyrics forgo ambiguity, leaving no room for misinterpretation.

It’s an interesting choice, and one that will likely leave fans of the band feeling slightly off-center upon first listen. In truth, it might be the most impressive thing the band has done – expanding their own existing gap between sound and substance, making the bridge of that divide all the more impressive.

Album opener “Graffiti” is delightfully buzzy as Mayberry examines the vanishing of a youthful love, singing, “I’ve been waiting for my whole life to grow old / And now we never will”. At first glance, it’s the most straightforward track the band has penned, leaving room for reflection instead of targeting a culprit. But Love is Dead is far from one-dimensional, shifting emotions and wrestling with the very idea of what love means and looks like in a time of political and cultural turbulence.

On “Deliverance”, Mayberry takes a candid look at the harmful side of religion, crafting what might be the band’s most ear-pleasing track to date. On “Graves”, she targets sexism in the music industry, a topic she has spoken brilliantly and powerfully about in the past, singing, “You can look away / While they’re dancing on our graves / But I will stop at nothing”. These moments are so direct, it’s impossible to divorce them from their juxtaposed sonic surroundings, making the music of CHVRCHES just as engaging as ever.

In handing over the production reigns for the first time, the band allowed Steve Mac and Greg Kurstin to guide these moments that will likely transition CHVRCHES from indie darlings to full-blown pop stars. Kurstin’s work with Tegan and Sara seeps through so many tracks on Love is Dead, like blissful closer “Wonderland” and “Heaven/Hell”, which finds Mayberry being pushed to new vocal heights.

With any such transition to new territory, you will undoubtedly find missteps, and Love is Dead shows those growing pains at times. Early single “Miracle” strips the band of their distinctive edge, harnessing the type of beat that drives Imagine Dragons into pop purgatory. There are also repetitive moments that provoke disinterest, making the album feel about 10 minutes too long.

But when Love is Dead is at its best, it provokes the kind of feeling that a summer album should, while still providing plenty to dialogue about. In such a short time, CHVRCHES have toed a fine line between pop bliss and gloom, making them one of the most unique bands to blossom from the 2010’s 80s-inspired synth boom. That more people than ever may now feel compelled to join the conversation should be cause for rejoicing, even if you miss the quirkiness of The Bones of What You Believe or the sharp, ambiguous edges of Every Open Eye.

On “Deliverance”, Mayberry questions, “Is it deliverance / If you can never change?” For those rankled by a band growing their much-needed platform while inviting more participants to the party, this might be a good thought to ponder.

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.

Photo credit: Danny Clinch

Hayley Williams Reflects on One Year of “After Laughter”

On Saturday, Paramore’s fifth studio album, After Laughter, turned one year old. The year passed quickly and the album still feels just as fresh, painful, and meaningful as it did upon its release. With After Laughter, Paramore worked through painful trials to new wave and synth-pop sounds that expanded the band’s repertoire.

For the one year anniversary, singer Hayley Williams took to Instagram to reflect on what the past year has meant – both for the band riding the wave of the album’s success and for her personal journey. In a heartfelt letter, Williams shares about her struggle to find light and her quest to love those around her well, even in the midst of hardship. You can read the full letter below:

“Sometimes I feel just as lost and confused as I did a year ago. But there is laughter now just as there was in the midst of that heavy grey cloud. And when that cloud threatens to darken every delight and beautiful color that we strive so hard to see… sometimes I let it. Welcome it, even. But I think I feel a tiny bit more hopeful that it will soon give way to something else. Maybe not even sunlight. Maybe just as laugh. A big, ugly, takes-over-your-body laugh. And I will forget to worry. Forget to care. And simply be right where I am, hopefully with someone or something that I love (still learning the art of solitude > isolation).

And when I see my dearest friends struggling to escape that cloud, I will try my best to sit with them, cry with them, and let them feel. Because that cloud will give way to them too. I believe that now. More than I did. More than I used to preach. What matters more is that we aren’t forced to sit, stand, or dance alone underneath it. And when there is laughter, someone – or many! – we love are there to witness it.

Thank you – anyone – for supporting this album. It means a lot. Of course it does. Hopefully, it has helped in some way to comfort you in times that weren’t so comfortable. Hopefully, it can continue to. Hopefully you can read this god-forsaken penmanship.

See some of you very soon where we will be able to dance – rainclouds, be damned! – and celebrate together, our life, with AL.”

Personally, After Laughter was an album that hit close to home – identifying the real and personal struggle of depression and the pressure to put on a smile, even when one is hard to find. It also solidified Paramore‘s place in the pop culture ethos and continued an incredible run of amazing music amidst continuous shake-ups.

What are some of your favorite songs on After Laughter a year later? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Matt and Kim – Almost Everyday

I’ve been on a huge indie pop streak this year. I loved MANIA by emo kings Fall Out Boy, but lately I keep returning to Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life by The Wombats and Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand. My spring playlist consists of Bad Suns and Smallpools, but nowhere to be found was anything from the Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim. That may have been because they haven’t released any music since 2016 and simply fell off my radar. The real reason is that I’ve never listened to anything but their 2009 single “Daylight.” Sorry, Matt and Kim.

You can buy Almost Everyday on Apple Music.

I don’t know what it is lately but all the albums being released seem to be about death and loss and how generally bad the world is to live in these days. While these things are all inevitable and true, Matt and Kim took the opportunity to lighten the mood with their latest album Almost Everyday. Okay, the songs are still sad but at least there’s some synth as a distraction. We’re all having a hard time with trying to find the silver lining in society, and Matt and Kim express it this way in the first single, “Forever”: “Don’t want to live forever / If things stay like this.” Big mood.

The album has a lot of 80s vibes and, if I can make a weird comparison, sounds like those jackets covered in random geometric shapes look. I know that’s vague and doesn’t make much sense, but it has a very cubic feel to me.

“Like I Used to Be” reminisces on how things were when Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino were young. They talk about broken down cars and partying late. He sings, “And yeah, the sails have set / But I’m not dead yet”. This theme continues in the next track, “I’d Rather”, which is one of my favorites. One of things that sets Matt and Kim apart is their recognizable use of piano, and it’s displayed best on this track.

My other favorite track is “Happy If You’re Happy”. I really like the lyricism and tone of it. I just think it’s adorable and can imagine it playing at my wedding. A lot of this album talks about being sure to live a life with aspects worth remembering. They talk a lot about being older and remembering things but they also have a lot of present memories that they talk about, too. They haven’t lost their sense of fun. It’s a nice reminder that growing up doesn’t have to mean growing up. Sure we’ll have bills and funerals and a lot of “adult” things to do, but we can also make memories that don’t involve the mundane. We can still have adventures.

Almost Everyday isn’t my favorite album. I don’t think it’s my style. I’m sure it will resonate with some people, but I don’t think this will be one I’ll play regularly. I think the synth is a little bit overdone for my taste. It sounds almost industrial at times, which is a cool effect, but it’s used too much and kind of makes up for the fact that it isn’t very lyrically exciting. All of the songs touch on the same themes and while that usually makes for a cohesive album, the way Matt and Kim went about it just makes it redundant. That being said, it’s still well produced and has some gems that may end up on a playlist.

3/5

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.

The Contagious Joy of Echosmith on Inside a Dream Tour

There’s just something about watching someone do something they truly love that’s genuinely rewarding. It brings a smile to your face and fills your heart. It’s familiar and it can even instill you with confidence about yourself and your own aspirations. That’s the feeling I got watching Echosmith on stage at Old National Center in Indianapolis last week.

Even without a promised new full-length, Echosmith has managed to maintain the steam they generated in late 2013 with single “Cool Kids” and the success of their debut, Talking Dreams.  Last year’s promised new album turned into an EP titled Inside a Dream, which may have been one of the most overlooked releases of 2017, harnessing the band’s charm with the introduction of well-executed synth-pop.

Echosmith

With those new dance beats now in their arsenal, Echosmith’s live performance has morphed into a therapeutic party of excitement and release. As the band took the stage to “18” from their recent EP, singer Sydney Sierota’s smile lit up the room. The band, consisting of siblings Sydney, Noah, and Graham, parted with their eldest brother Jamie in 2016 when he stepped away to care for his newborn. In his absence, the band has carried on without losing a step on stage.

Despite their early success, it’s these unheeded new tracks that steal the show in the band’s live performance. Yes, it’s easy for onlookers to sing along to Talking Dreams tracks like “Let’s Love’, “Terminal”, and “Bright”, but fresh performances of “Future Me”, “Get Into My Car”, and “Hungry” breathe excitement into the crowd. The best moment of the night includes a stirring performance of “Goodbye”, complete with exploding balls of confetti that rain down on the bouncing congregation.

Echosmith

The tracks on Inside a Dream succeed in tackling the frustrations of youth, regret, and heartbreak while operating atop sparkling synth sounds akin to 1989 or the latest release from PVRIS. It’s a juxtaposition that harkens to the band’s early days while providing a look at what it means to say goodbye to your innocence.

All of this is what makes the smile on Sydney’s face as she sings such a joy to watch. At one point during the evening, she asks the crowd who came to the concert alone and invites those nearby to put arms around their shoulders and sway to the song. It’s a communal experience, which makes sense, because Echosmith has continued to so confidently convey what it means to grow up. Does it hurt at times? Of course. But there’s something to be said for finding comfort in those that journey alongside you.

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.

UPDATED: Chvrches Tease New Single “Get Out”

UPDATE: Chvrches have officially released “Get Out” as the first single from their upcoming album, Love is Dead. Listen now!

It would appear that a new album from Scottish electropop act Chvrches is just around the corner. Today, the band teased a new song (presumed lead single “Get Out”) on Twitter with a short audio clip and video, along with a Facebook messenger link. Check out the band’s tweet below:

Earlier this month, we listed a new album from Chvrches as our fourth most anticipated album of 2018. Recently, vocalist Lauren Mayberry revealed in an interview that the album will be titled Love is Dead. Expect a full single to drop soon.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Watch Halsey Perform “Bad at Love” on SNL

This weekend, Halsey made her first appearance on Saturday Night Live, taking the stage at 30 Rock to perform her hit single “Bad at Love” along with “Him & I” with G-Eazy. Since bursting onto the scene in 2014, Halsey’s profile has continued to rise, capped by the release of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom last summer, which peaked at number one on the Billboard 200. Check out the performance of “Bad at Love” below.

Halsey’s unique brand of synthpop offers thoughtful reflection on relationships and life, while often uprooting traditional ideas of sexuality and gender dynamics. As we noted in our Best Songs of 2017, Halsey’s feel for the pulse of modern pop sets her apart from her peers. If you like what you hear from her SNL performances, you can buy Hopeless Fountain Kingdom on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2018: #4 Chvrches Turn Up the Pop

As synth-pop continued bleeding back into the mainstream in 2017, it’s almost hard to believe that we didn’t hear from Chvrches. The Glasgow-based trio delivered a sophomore effort for the ages in 2015 with Every Open Eye, capitalizing on every strength the band displayed on their debut.

It appears that we won’t have to wait long to find out what comes next. Near the end of the year, vocalist Lauren Mayberry began sharing details about the third Chvrches album, set to drop sometime this year. The biggest news is that the band decided to work with famed pop producer Greg Kurstin instead of self-producing. The result is the band’s “most pop” work to date, according to Mayberry.

That’s saying a lot, considering the band’s knack for melody. Mayberry has consistently excelled in the juxtaposition of her cheery delivery and her fiery words. If Chvrches’ third album is another step forward in pop progression, go ahead and pencil it in as being one of the top releases of 2018.

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 2018: #9 The 1975 Cruise into Another Album Cycle

Ever since their debut in 2013, The 1975 have wowed music fans everywhere with their unique expression of pop rock music. They’ve been teasing us for months now about a project called Music for Cars, and after what they accomplished with 2016’s i like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, I’m psyched.

The 1975 never fail to impress when it comes to their experimental view of music and they’ve managed to grow their sound in exciting ways across their first two albums. The band hasn’t given us anything but a title and a potential release date for their third full-length, but that doesn’t mean the buzz will cease. Everyone is excited for the new soundscapes Matty Healy and company have created for us.

The album title is also the name of an EP the band released in 2013, which leads me to believe that they’re returning to their roots. Hopefully they’ll expand on that theme a bit more, because even though I loved i like it when you sleep, I enjoyed the musical direction they took in their first album.

Music for Cars is to be released on both Dirty Hit and Polydor. There’s no preorder, no singles, no videos. Just high expectations. In the meantime, you can listen to the live album they just put out called DH00278.

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.