lovelytheband’s “finding it hard to smile”: unedited review

By Rhiannon Levengood

Lovelytheband has a very explicit way of using their music and lyrics to portray the day-to-day struggles of battling depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, and how that can affect relationships and everyday life. The trio’s debut album finding it hard to smile as a whole embodies the hold that mental disorders have on your life, your social interactions, and your productivity. So, in the spirit of having no energy to get out of bed, combating anxiety-induced writer’s block, and tackling a complete lack of motivation to create something beautiful enough to do this record justice, I present you with my unedited notes.

finding it hard to smile – lovelytheband

finding it hard to smile (prelude):
The vibe is mystical and serene. Almost hypnotizing in how meditative it is. I’m really enjoying it already. The build toward the end of this prelude transitions well into the first song.

pity party:
The guitar riff in the beginning is so mellow and feels like it doesn’t completely reach my ears. The vocals remind me of a song that’s popular on the radio but idk what it is yet, so I’ll figure it out. The vibe is really…upbeat and feel good, even when the lyrics aren’t entirely the same way. the song explains depression and anxiety, and how it affects someone’s social life. The first verse talks about how hard it is to find the energy to get out of bed and go out when you’re overcome with anxiety. The chorus itself reminds me of “Fake Happy” by Paramore in that they put on a fake smile when out partying with friends. Verse 2 goes on to explain how this person copes with their mental illness by treating themselves to things that make them happy. They even explain how being on their phone, connected to a world outside their own, makes them feel less lonely. This song is 100% relatable. Definitely sounds like a song that would be played on the radio.

make you feel pretty:
This song is SO FUCKING CATCHY. So basically, it’s telling the story of a girl who’s trying to make it famous in LA. She’s part of the drug scene and this guy is head over heels, trying to make her feel pretty and make her feel worthy, then the guy falls into the scene by becoming addicted to the lady, and alcohol maybe?? This song is so good. I wanna dance to it and scream it with the windows rolled down. The instrumentals are so feel good. I love this song so much.

broken:
Oh. I just figured out they sound like their own band that I’ve heard on the radio. LMFAO okay so we all know this song. It’s super catchy and overplayed on the radio, but it’s a good song that’s overplayed. Like, you don’t get pissed off and change the station. You’re like yes, this song is good let me turn it up. The song is about meeting a chick at a party and comparing battle scars. They’re both broken and both lonely, and life’s fucking them up, but they have each other. The bridge sorta makes us all seem like puzzle pieces waiting to become whole with someone else. The song has a hopeful spirit to it and the synth is always good to dance to.

alone time:
Much slower than the first few songs. There’s a driving beat that’s nice. Another song about mental illness probably. So basically, they’re feeling lonely, and in a quiet, lonely world, depression tends to kick into overdrive. They want to spend this alone time with someone else because maybe depression won’t be so loud, then. There’s a little guitar solo that’s nice. It reminds me of the beach, like I wanna hear this on the shore, margarita in hand, seagulls begging for fries.

these are my friends:
This song is kind of really cute. I think it’s talking about the voices of people who have given you advice your entire life, and taught you as you’ve grown up, and now you’re remembering those little mantras from them as you navigate life, find love and company, meet people and lose people. In the second verse, I think the friends are drugs/alcohol, though. So first it’s your conscience, then it’s what you drown your conscience out with, but both coping mechanisms work for you, they are your friends.

coachella:
This song is starting really mellow. Instrumentally, it sounds like a song that would be on a car commercial. Okay, so this song has a free spirit like morale. “We were young, we were beautiful” just reminds me of having the time of your life and laughing and living without thinking about tomorrow or the consequences. It reminds me of those drug/party scenes from Skins. In fact, the instrumentals remind me of the Skins theme song. I’ve never been to Coachella, but I like to think that’s how people feel during the festival. Carefree. This is such a relaxing jam. I might learn it on uke.

filling a void (interlude):
So, I listened to the entirety of this song before I typed up notes for it. It reminds me, again, of Paramore’s “Fake Happy”, but the intro verse of it. The lyrics alone are really beautiful, and describe an unrequited love. I really love how the vocals sound like they’re being played on a synthesizer, it kind of gives the message an automated vibe. Almost as if it hurts too much to sing the words yourself, you have to let a machine do it.

your whatever:
Ooh, it fades right into this song. At first, this sounds like a love song, but I think it’s a lost love song. It’s like a post breakup song. The lyrics are describing an unconditional love, telling this girl that he’ll be her whatever so long as they’re together, you know? Even if she smokes cigarettes, which he hates, he still loves her and her free spirit and the way she idolizes the 70s. The instrumentals are really simple sounding, but it complements the story really well. I love this song a lot. I think it’s my favorite so far.

maybe, i’m afraid:
This song is a little aggressive, but not in a bad way. It gives me this like…panicky feeling, like when you’re arguing with someone and you know it’s going to end badly and you don’t want it to ruin your relationship, so you’re trying to say anything that’ll make it all stop. I really love that I can truly envision the scene, a couple drunk on champagne, dancing around their living room maybe just getting home from a party. She’s singing Frank Sinatra out of tune and he’s pulling her closer because right now, all they have is love. I feel like they’re on the verge of a breakup, but nights like these happen and remind them why they’re still fighting for one another. It’s a really pretty ballad.

emotion:
The instrumentals are super mellow, but also kinda funky during the verses. It’s about wanting to receive more out of a relationship that’s sort of tanking slowly. It kind of feels like a friendship more than a romantic relationship, honestly. But basically, the other person isn’t really showing interest in the relationship anymore and our singer wants more from them. I really like the guitar riffs in this song.

walk from here:
Ahh! I love this song. I love the lyrics, “I might be no good/Sweetie you’re no better/We used to be sugar/And now all I taste is bitter” just because it’s so so so relatable. When arguments happen, each side always thinks they’re better than the other, but in all honestly, we’re all horrible to one another at some point. I also really love the lines, “There’s no need to drive me crazy/Honey, I can walk from here” because it’s clever in a self-sabotaging way.

stupid mistakes:
I really enjoy the synth and beat feel of this song. I think everyone can relate to the lyrics because it tells a story of a guy who’s still in love with an ex significant other and even though they don’t want to talk to him, he calls/texts them from time to time when he’s drunk or lonely. “My brain holds too many poisons/They helped me make the wrong choices” is one of my favorite lyrics from this song just because I understand battling demons and doing the wrong thing because of them. I also really love the death imagery with the lines, “And it’s my fault that I live my life/Running away from ghosts/Too many skeletons/Too hard to keep them in the closet where they’ve been.” I love songs that have CLAP CLAP parts because they’re the most fun to sing while driving, and “stupid mistakes” has that.

make believe:
Oh oh ohohohohohoh I love this song just because it’s savage af. He’s dragging this girl he likes because she lives with her parents and doesn’t have to pay rent, and hosts pity parties for herself, and never follows through with plans. She’s basically this toxic sort of person that’s hard to love because she won’t open up. There’s a call back to the song “filling a void.” The guitar part is really dancey, giving the song a nice groovy vibe.

i like the way:
“You seem cool/I seem anxious” is a mood. This song is so catchy and feels like it should be on the radio. I’d love to see this song live, standing in a crowd that’s jumping to the beat and screaming the lyrics. It’s about having a love that is far from perfect, and hurts a lot sometimes, but is truly the best thing you’ve ever had. The two people are complete opposites, but they work so well together.

everything I could never say…to you:
This song is so serene and so sincere. It’s heartwarming in a way, too, because there’s just all this love pouring out for someone who isn’t ready for it. It hurts to lose this person, but there’s also an element of understanding, too. Again, the vocals have an echoey, synthesized sound to them, which is relaxing. This song honestly brings the record to such a wonderful and hopeful end, really.

Be sure to follow lovelytheband on Instagram and Twitter, and if you like what you hear, you can catch them on tour now!


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My writing process is usually very strategic. When I sit down to write a review on a full-length album, I open Spotify, Genius.com, and a word document. I read the lyrics as I listen to the record and take notes on each song. The notes are usually sporadic and pieces of thoughts, but they are my initial reactions to each song on the record. After a much needed food break, I’ll come back to my notes, pull out common themes, and build an article that translates my impressions from a verbose mess to a cohesive, readable piece.

It sounds very easy, but sometimes I struggle to find the motivation to take that final step. I have the words in my head, I know what I want to express, but I can’t form sentences that will make sense to our readers while giving the band the well-versed recognition they deserve. My own insecurities tie into my writer’s block and create anxiety as I write a review. Sometimes, I wish I could just keyboard smash my way through a piece, using CAPS to emphasize my love for a certain lyric, and !!! when I don’t have real words to convey my excitement over a key change. Sometimes, being formal is mentally draining on an already exhausted mind, so I’ve tried something different this time. I’m publishing those chaotic notes; the unedited, uncensored, and completely raw reviews. Maybe I’m just being lazy, or maybe it’s actually creative art.

Emily Kinney Reminisces on “Boy Band Hero”

By Rhiannon Levengood
Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

With her soft, innocent voice and distinct, creative lyrics, Emily Kinney gifts us with a brand new single “Boy Band Hero” straight off her third full-length album Oh Jonathan, due to release August 24. Similar to her last single “Mermaid Song”, Kinney’s newest release takes on the same rounded, electronic vibe as she experiments with beats and synthesizers, as opposed to her typical acoustic guitar and keyboard combo. The new sound is fresh and showcases her vocals so well, giving her music a more mature energy than before.

“Boy Band Hero” begins with a gentle beat and sets an illusory scene of a younger Emily daydreaming in the middle of class about her “boy band hero from junior high.” Throughout the lecture, she dreams about meeting him at a concert, the two falling in love, and just as her daydream is getting good, her teacher slaps a ruler against her desk and snaps her right back to reality. The instrumentals, especially during the bridge, directly portray that dreamlike trance of staring out the classroom window.

The music video for “Boy Band Hero” is reminiscent of Kinney’s high school days and includes pictures from her childhood along with staged footage of kids attending school and football games to effectively paint the illusion of being a hopeless romantic teen again.

Emily Kinney’s new single mirrors two of her older songs, “Rockstar” and “Kids.” In “Rockstar”, she describes her plans of marrying the frontman of a rock band, following him on tour, and growing old with him. The song is hopeful in contrast to “Boy Band Hero”, which could be viewed as Kinney giving up on her dream of living that glamorous, rockstar life with her beau: “Oh, oh, oh, I’m sending up a prayer. Oh, oh, oh, a little goodbye cry for that boy band hero from junior high.”

“Kids” is a single off Kinney’s debut album Expired Love and recounts a story of the pure kind of love that children have. It’s fearless and carefree, young and naive, shiny and new. “Boy Band Hero” alludes to “Kids” directly with the line, “grass-stained jeans, my head in the clouds,” which parallels with, “wash off all your grass stains, I’ll pull off my shoes” from “Kids.”

This little peek into Emily Kinney’s new album is just what her fans needed to get them excited enough to pre-order Oh Jonathan in various merch bundles on her PledgeMusic page. Stay tuned for August 24 and make sure to follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss out on a possible tour before the end of 2018!

“Pray For The Wicked” is Cherries on Top

By Rhiannon Levengood

Quit folkin’ around and get your dancing shoes on because Panic! At the Disco just dropped their latest record Pray For The Wicked, and Brendon Urie is not shy about making those high heels work. From jazzy start to soulful finish, Urie delivers nothing but an absolute masterpiece featuring 11 brand new bops for his congregation of sinners. And if you thought that wasn’t enough, he’s already got you covered with a comedic, but blatantly dark music video for his newest single “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” and international tour dates for 2019.

Take a breath. It’s a lot to absorb.

Pray For The Wicked opens with a starry-eyed dreamer of a jam “(Fuck A) Silver Lining”, which was one of the first two singles from the album. This song sets an ambitious tone for the record as Urie aims high and expects nothing less than a shiny life full of gold linings. He even gets a little nostalgic by explaining the success of the band as “[falling] to the top.” A booming horn section accompanies Brendon’s Broadway pipes, and together, they create a mind-blowing first track. That loud, brassy sound continues right into the album’s first single “Say Amen (Saturday Night)”.

The music video for “Say Amen” adds a much needed prequel to the trilogy that Panic! has been building since their fourth album Too Weird To Live! Too Rare To Die! The storyline follows Brendon, who finds himself in possession of the “devil’s key” and a butt-load of trouble. Check out the three-part, miniseries below!

Panic!’s sixth album mellows out a little as it transitions into “Hey Look Ma, I Made It”, another song with reminiscent elements. Urie reflects on just how far he’s come as a musician conquering the industry one successful record at a time, and even addresses those who have tried to tear him down. Fittingly so, the music video, while amusing and theatrical, shows the sinister side of the music industry as a Brendon look-alike puppet takes a beating from record label pimps, drugs and alcohol, a couple of BDSM dominants, and even critics in the form of muggers.

The upbeat and optimistic lyrics give the album such a feel good vibe that only rolls right into the fourth track “High Hopes”, yet another sentimental anthem about relentlessly “shooting for the stars.” In this song, Brendon proclaims that he’s always had high hopes for his career in music, and again, looks back on just how far he’s come. With a band of vibrant horns and well-worked beats, Urie victoriously rewrites the history of Panic!’s sound, giving it a funky alternative rock sound you’d hear with Imagine Dragons.

Pray For The Wicked takes an unexpected, showtuney turn with its fifth song, “Roaring 20s”. Written as musings on his experience as Charlie Price in Broadway’s Kinky Boots during the summer of 2017, Urie describes his personal struggle with anxiety, which he is transparent about with his fans. The instrumentals are catchy and sound like they came straight out of a cabaret from the 1920s, but the lyrics are a bit more modern, leaving Panic! fans with an inevitable jazzy earworm. As you finish your perfected Charleston dance and jazz hands, you can slide right into a moonwalk with “Dancing’s Not A Crime”, another bop with Broadway musical allusions, specifically to Footloose. This whole record has given off a jazz-like vibe until now.

“Dancing’s Not A Crime” is an ode to living your life to the fullest without a single care as to what those around you are thinking. The song is dancy and light-hearted, but most importantly, it sounds like a song that Prince would release. Every aspect from the lyrics to the rhythm, the dramatic saxophone, and even the spoken line, “Whatever they tell you…” is evocative of Prince. On top of how big this song is, Brendon adds a little Easter egg for his LGBT+ fans with the line, “I just wanna be your boyfriend/girlfriend, oh yeah.”

With more than half of the record finished, Brendon finally gives us a couple of party songs. “One Of The Drunks” and “The Overpass” are two feel-good jams that remind us of crazy college parties complete with cheap booze, good friends, and guilt-free love. “One Of The Drunks” in particular describes a not-so-healthy lifestyle of binge-drinking in search of a numbing high. While the story itself sounds like a good time, Urie adds components of regret with the words, “Damn, it’s all good, I guess.” In contrast, “The Overpass” feels like the backing soundtrack of an action movie. It has a big, funky sound with a solid driving beat, perfect for a video montage in a James Bond film. Lyrically, the song represents a story of forgotten love and the longing one feels for it and every little detail of it, right down to your past love’s perfume.

The most anticipated song off the album was “King Of The Clouds”. After teasing his fans with a short snippet of the song tacked onto the end of a mini-tour recap video, Brendon Urie finally dropped the song a few days before the official album release and gave his fans its backstory. The lyrics were collected by one of Urie’s friends one night when he was stoned out of his mind and talking out of his ass, and then composed into a song that delves into the idea of interdimensional travel and the possibility that parallel universes could actually exist. It gets melancholic and portrays the effects Urie’s anxiety has on his life. Out of context, the song could even represent depression, dissociation, and thoughts of suicide.

Instrumentally, “King Of The Clouds” doesn’t quite fit into the general sound of Pray For The Wicked. As the last track to be added, it is one of two songs on the record that does not have an elaborate horn section. Despite the differences, “King Of The Clouds” is actually Brendon’s, and many others’, favorite track on the album.

That subtle shift doesn’t stay for too long as “Old Fashioned” takes us right back to the previous boozy vibe. Brendon once again reflects on his past lifestyle choices as he describes his habit of binge-drinking during his years as a teenager freshly severed from the Mormon church he grew up in. He opens up about his mental health disorders again during the very first verse as he recounts his experience with being medicated. Aside from the regrettable bits of his past, “Old Fashioned” slaps like any good rock anthem and could easily be a high school graduation song.

Which brings us to the final installment of Pray For the Wicked. “Dying In LA” is much slower than the rest of the album. It’s a beautiful piano and string piece about the struggles one faces when moving to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. “Dying In LA” is metaphorically similar to Panic! At The Disco’s song “LA Devotee” from their fifth album Death of a Bachelor in that Los Angeles is both extremely powerful and desirable, but also spiritually draining. The ballad closes Pray For The Wicked in such a quiet and serene way that it’s actually reflective of the album itself as a whole.

Altogether, Pray For The Wicked embodies an optimistic sense of nostalgia. It progressively moves forward while not forgetting the band’s upbringing and success. This album is a step in the right direction for Brendon both musically and cognitively. Check it out below!