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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Armor for Sleep
What To Do When You Are Dead
Equal Vision Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

April 22, 2005
Call it a concept album or a progressive step for emo, but What To Do When You Are Dead is an interesting notch along the battered branch of emo's legacy - only moderately so musically, but in idea, presentation, and production, Armor For Sleep gives its peers food for thought. The next time the over-played flavor of the month sits down to churn out another piece of trash, pop this disc in, try and imagine a cohesive effort from start to finish, and leave the high-school-crush songs in your notebook.

The opening track, "Car Underwater," (also the disc's first single) has 'breakthrough' plastered along its haul. It's melodic and catchy, a good standalone that resonates after a single listen. More importantly, it's the springboard for the disc's story, in which the album's protagonist ends his life and then meanders about as a ghost, from the suburbs of earth to the halls of heaven.

From this point on, we become bystanders as the ghost ponders his existence, revels in remorse and regret and follows his living love about, hoping she'll catch a glimpse as he strolls by her side, or hear his whispers shouted from the skies. His existence is bleak: It rains in heaven and we steal glimpses of his thoughts while living; as miserable as he was, he's more so now.

Musically, Armor For Sleep follow the cleared path, straying every so often into the woods only to see the footprints in the dirt meander back towards a clearing. For the most part, they dwell on the lighter side of emo(core), a poppier brand, but still zealous. The vocals are melodic and stray into a mild screech every so often, the riffs tight and driving, but not overwhelming, fulfilling their function.

One of the most interesting tangents on the disc is the use of electronic elements, with one track, "A Quick Little Flight," completely loop- and beat-driven. Essentially a mid-disc interlude and a welcome respite, eerily appropriate given the subject matter, with the protagonist wandering mentally, floating in the sky and keeping his pursuit.

Spread throughout, though, mechanized beats and keyboard counter power chords, intertwining the twain and adding aural perspective to life as a ghost. It's effective and necessary in helping What To Do When You Are Dead rise above the confinement of its genre.

Even the packaging immerses the listener, bridging sound and text in the album's concept. Throughout the lyrics booklet, shots of a suited man floating and passing through walls break the lyrics, but it's a tiny booklet, that greatly contributes visually to album's theme. A small, illustrated supplement relaying guidelines for ghosts to follow that really enhances the strength of the release.

Armor For Sleep didn't just set out to create another 40-minute schmaltz fest; they vested thought and idea into their work. It can be construed as surface - melodrama even - but detractors would be missing the point... if emo is about exploring emotion - about conveying it unto the listener - then Armor For Sleep succeeds in creating a surprisingly original work in a drowning genre.

Reviewed by David Spain
Based in Chicago, Illinois, David Spain is a contributing writer for LAS magazine.

See other reviews by David Spain



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