Dead Sara’s first full length album came out last year, but the world was not ready. Or at least they weren’t aware. I first heard of them because I saw Muse in concert in March, and Dead Sara was the opening band. I had checked out a song or two on Spotify, liked what I heard, and was hoping for the best. From the opening notes of “Sorry For It All” to the crashing end of “Weatherman”, the band left an impression. The crowd had fallen to a hush between songs. Not a talkative hush. A pin drop hush. Lead vocalist Emily Armstrong had commanded our full undivided attention along with the rest of the powerhouse band, made up of Siouxsie Medley (another Siouxsie? hmmm.. that’s a bold statement) on guitar, drummer Sean Friday, and Newark, Ohio (hey that’s 20 minutes from here!) native Chris Null on bass. How often do you see an opening band that makes an impression like that? For me it has been a while. After the Muse concert, the band stayed after to sign CDs and take pictures. Sometimes people roll their eyes at that kind of thing, but they all were very nice and gracious to those that stuck around despite the snowstorm that was happening outside that night. I brought my newly signed CD home and the next day fired it up.
The album follows through on the punch of their live show. “Whispers and Ashes” comes out swinging and goes right for the gut. The band has a heavy rhythm section here, the guitar touches jump between heavy and delicate, keeping things interesting. From seeing Emily’s smaller stature it’s hard to believe a voice this big comes from her body. Even though the song is heavy, there’s lots of attention to detail in their playing. So many bands these days forget about that part. “We Are What We Say” follows second. This one is a self-empowering rocker, with Emily belting out “I bet you thought I’d give up!” and “You can’t back out now!”. I’m so glad they didn’t.
Next up is the monster track “Weatherman”. This song was the first released as a single but somehow never made it to my ears at first. The lyrics seem a bit cryptic but seem to be about the hypocrisy of war. Emily’s cries of “Go for the kill!” just give goosebumps. This song was the ferocious finale of their concert set. It has the kind of intensity that makes believers out of onlookers instantly.
The grip lets up slightly with the delicate beginning of “Dear Love”. But not for long. This is a heavy and heavy-hearted song about letting love go and trying to understand the aftermath. If this is Dead Sara doing a power ballad, then they get the power part right. The next track to rip loose is “Monumental Holiday”. The band recalls some of Nirvana’s most fueled In Utero moments and Emily’s voice gets a workout here, roaring “Scratch the surface! Nothing is perfect!”. Next is “I Said You Were Lucky”, which melodically sort of starts from the same place as “Weatherman” and heads in a different direction. The creepy guitar breakdown in this one is a lot of fun. The vocals turn angry as Emily seems to be scolding a lover for cheating.
“Face to Face” slows down a bit sort of hard rock torch song style. This song flips roles from the previous one and is about being the one caught in a dying relationship. Emily bares her soul on this one, belting out in sadness “That’s who I am, I’m not in love”. Then “Testing My Patience” explores empty promises and unclear future of a relationship that might be a bad fit.
“Timed Blues” takes a different turn into heavy rockin’ bayou blues, but amped up to 11 Zeppelin style. This one simply smokes. The lyrics are about battling the bottle and contemplating the choices ahead. This one is definitely a favorite of mine. The band members are all on fire here.
“Lemon Scent” is next. This is one of the most angry and in-your-face tracks on the album. This one seems to be both about the fight a woman must go through to prove herself as a serious musician, and also about the fight against the plasticity of the music industry to be an individual with something to say. This is amplified to huge effect in the video just released for this track (see below). I am always impressed when an artist uses music video to get a point across in an artistic way.
Last is my personal favorite, “Sorry For It All”. This song took me from interested to jaw-on-the-floor in just a few lines. Emily’s voice shines so strong here. The song starts quiet and beautiful but sad and blooms into an over the top soul-on-my-sleeve confessional that seems to be about the pain of self-realization after a bitter breakup. At least that’s what I take from it anyways. The main point is that you know the pain in Emily’s voice is real heartache, and the band makes you feel it.
So I may sound a bit over the top describing this album, but my intent is to capture the reaction I had when I first listened. There’s something very real about this band that makes them different. That thing would be *soul*. If the members of Dead Sara keep going with the energy and intensity they have right now, there’s no stopping them. Thank you Dead Sara… for caring enough to give it your all.
Check out some videos from this great album…
“Sorry For It All”