Saves The Day
Life has its share of ups and downs and no one knows that better than Saves The Day frontman Chris Conley. For the past seventeen years Conley has been bearing his soul and reinventing his musical identity with each successive step, a process that is clearly culminating with Saves The Day's seventh full-length Daybreak. The third part of a trilogy that also includes 2006’s Sound The Alarm and 2007’s Under The Boards, the act’s latest disc sees Conley moving past the anger and frustration that has defined the band’s last two albums and rediscovering a sense of wonder with the world that he can’t wait to share with his listeners.
Daybreak is also the first Saves The Day album to feature guitarist Arun Bali, bassist Rodrigo Palma and drummer Spencer Peterson (the latter of whom was replaced by Claudio Rivera shortly after the album was completed) and Conley insists that his band’s participation and encouragement was integral to the final product. “This album wouldn’t have been as good as it is now if we had put it out two years ago and I think the reason for that is because there’s a renewed energy in the band with this new line-up,” Conley explains, adding that many of these songs were initially recorded in 2009 with the band’s previous line-up but never felt right to him. “I feel like I have a united group for the first time ever and that feels like a gift.”
That transformed spirit is evident in every note of Daybreak (which was co-produced by the band and longtime collaborator Marc Hudson) from the ten-minute long, five-movement self-titled opener to instantly infectious pop gems like “Let It Go” and “Living Without Love.” That said, Daybreak also sees the band stretching out musically on the middle-eastern-inflected “Chameleon” and incorporating full-fledged guitar solos on “Deranged & Desperate.” “This album is so much more musical [then the past two albums] because my heart was coming back to life while I was writing this and I was starting to be okay with myself,” Conley explains. “In a way I was in the same mindset that I was in when I wrote [2003’s major-label debut] In Reverie. I felt like I was on cloud nine.”
Conley’s positive outlook took a dejected turn shortly after In Reverie’s touring cycle ended, due to both external and internal pressures—and the making of this trilogy is as much an artistic statement as it is a chronicle of Conley’s own cathartic journey from the depths of his own insecurity into accepting himself and the world for what they are. “I was so angry when I wrote Sound The Alarm and then I was looking back on all these situations with Under The Boards,” Conley explains, adding that a major turning point in his outlook was catalyzed by the recent birth of his daughter. “I didn’t want her to face the world the way I faced the world which was fighting, kicking and screaming so I decided I was going to bring myself back to life with this album.”
This therapeutic journey is evident on every song on Daybreak, mostly literally on tracks like “1984,” which starts with the Under The Boards-esque statement “I’m dead inside and dying every day,” but quickly resolves into “I need your love/I’m trying to rise above/I need you to bring me back to life,” during the song’s chorus. “I recognize what happened to me and now that I lived through it I can look back on it which is why I think the music breathes more on this album,” he explains. “The songs feel more expansive because there wasn’t the anger or confusion that dominated the first two albums in the trilogy,” he continues. “Daybreak feels like a huge sigh of relief to me.”
Conley is also quick to point out that despite its serious subject matter and introspective nature, he actually had a good time making Daybreak. “Trying to tie all of those strange themes and currents and raw emotions from Sound The Alarm and Under The Boards was an absolute a blast,” he says. “I had a huge chart where I listed all of the lyrics I had compiled for this album as well as the past two and I was drawing lines from one song to another; writing Daybreak was like trying to finish a screen play because I had to take all of these themes that just flowed out of me and through organizing this thoughts I was also able to make sense of my life.”
The word Conley says most while describing Daybreak is “acceptance”—and whether you’ve followed his music since Saves The Day’s hardcore-inflected ‘90s output or are a recent convert to the band, you’ll still be able to enjoy the album as a singular statement on what it means to let go. “This feels like I’ve wrapped up a chapter in my life and now I’m faced with a new beginning,” Conley says. “I can honestly say that I couldn’t be more excited about the future of this band.”
With a musical repertoire that spans the spectrum from hushed finger-picked narratives to bombastic rockers, Kevin Devine is one of those rare talents who straddles a multitude of genres and feels equally at home in each. Whether he's playing solo to hundreds of his devotees in a cramped NYC club, joining friends on stage at Lollapalooza or touring with artists varying from Rachel Yamagata to Brand New, Devine's songs enrapture a diverse set of ears like few musicians. Born and raised in New York and currently dwelling in Brooklyn, Devine is a singer/songwriter who has been quietly honing his craft since the release of his first album in 2002. He's since been adding idiosyncratic chapters to his unique success story by building his diehard international fanbase with incessant touring and a series of compelling releases that highlight his introspective lyrical wordplay, each displaying an impressive musical evolution. Brother's Blood, his fifth record and first with Manchester Orchestra's Favorite Gentlemen record label, is the most resounding evidence of that ethic and maturation – a sprawling, confident mission statement about conscience, culture, and personality. Brother's Blood is a response to the three years Devine spent touring relentlessly behind his major label debut, the Rob Schnapf-produced Put Your Ghost To Rest, initially released by Capitol/EMI in 2006 and later re-issued by Brand New's Procrastinate! Music Traitors following Devine's dismissal from Capitol during its bloody merger with Virgin. True to Devine's character, he turned a potentially grisly outcome inside out and instead exited the label with a healthier and more thriving career than when he went in. Devine accomplished this feat the old fashioned way: playing close to 600 shows between June 2006 and December 2008, further broadening his appeal and versatility, and doing it all without the centralized support from a label. These shows offered him opportunities to share stages (and vans) with artists as diverse as AA Bondy, Annuals, Manchester Orchestra, Elf Power, Rachel Yamagata, Lucero and Corinne Bailey Rae. He appeared at The Sundance Film Festival alongside She & Him and Mandy Moore and at Austin City Limits with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Andrew Bird. He traversed the globe at a feverish pace: the UK with All-American Rejects, Australia with The Offspring, England and Ireland, Europe and Japan, and of course, the States. Back home, he triumphantly oversold two headline gigs at New York's Bowery Ballroom and was asked to join two very different groups of friends, Brand New AND Okkervil River, on their respective stages at Lollapalooza 2008. Somewhere in all that motion, Devine managed to whip 15 or so songs into shape and started visualizing what would become Brother's Blood. He recorded barebones acoustic versions of the tracks in early '08 and eventually rehearsed and demoed those with his erstwhile Goddamn Band (Brian Bonz on keys & percussion, Chris Bracco on bass, Mike Skinner on drums, Russell Smith on guitar, and Mike Strandberg on guitar) in their Brooklyn practice space all summer. Carving away at and layering ideas with producers Bracco & Skinner and engineer Dan Long, the band bunkered down in Williamsburg's Headgear Studios (TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Au Revoir Simone, Son Volt) for the first two weeks of August. Devine consciously ceded more control of arrangement to his players, hoping to affect a more live, full-band feel for the first time on record. The results speak for themselves. Brother's Blood is both the next step and a break in form; it reflects the diverse talents and contributions of The Goddamn Band as much as it speaks to the scope of Devine's influences and commitment to exploring new stylistic territory. Lead single "I Could Be With Anyone" is a charging and hook-heavy pop song equally indebted to The Cars and Superchunk; "Another Bag Of Bones" (initially released as a Rob Schnapf-produced acoustic single around the ramp-up to the election) pins its dystopian and restless vision of a civilization in freefall to a dark and explosive groove before finding release in a choir's hopeful strain. Meanwhile, the title track is a massive and dynamic homage to the epic guitar freakouts of Neil Young and Built To Spill and the hypnotic and ominous "Carnival" sets the tone its with spacious, swirling flares of psychedelia – a dynamic exploration of tension and release which plays against a nightmarish hallucination about lost willpower and the fear of finally waking up to a reality that's even crazier than your dreams. But far from being one of Devine's rockingest recordings to date, many of Brother's Blood's finest moments are its quietest. Opener "All Of Everything, Erased" lays a bed of nimble and rhythmic finger-picking for its vivid description of a world left with no recourse but to cleanse itself of humanity and start over. "Fever Moon" is a sultry, Latin-influenced meditation on lust and its consequences that wouldn't seem out of place on a 1970s Leonard Cohen album, while "Murphy's Song" features a dazzling vocal turn from Jaymay that adds some jazz-era sensuality to the song's trumpet and piano-sprinkled Carribean lilt. On "Tomorrow's Just Too Late," Devine and Brand New's Jesse Lacey deliver a delicate and weaving full-song harmony that would make Simon & Garfunkel proud. Whether he's joined in a duet, backed by his Goddamn Band, or singing quiet ruminations into his microphone alone with just his acoustic guitar, Devine deftly illustrates his unique versatility and breadth with each note. Brother's Blood not only serves as a reminder of this but as the next step in his exciting evolution.