Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Healthy Dose, 008: Get Better Sleep

In which I give some tips on how to achieve some better sleep during college

I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of students since starting my job in February—many of which have a common response when I ask, “how are you doing?” They, “I’m tired.” Or, “I didn’t sleep well last night.” Or, “it’s too early—please stop talking to me.”

That last one is a personal favorite of mine.

At many of my campus talks, I ask every student in attendance how much sleep they get in an average night—the recommended amount is of course 7-8 hours per night. Yet, not many students claim coming close to that amount—which is very understandable, given the workload many students have.

However, it’s no secret that I’m a morning person. But I did not used to be this way. It took lots of effort to recognize that I function much better first thing in the morning, well-rested, and eager for the day—instead of exhausted from the day, and pushing myself to stay awake even though I was ready for bed hours ago.

When I made the switch to being a morning person, I knew I had to make some other changes in my life as well. These changes transformed the way I eat, function, and thrive throughout the day. Granted, many of these changes are gradual and cannot be done all at once. So I suggest seeing what can work for you.

Put the coffee down:
At least as the day drags on, begin lessening your caffeine intake. If you can limit yourself to one cup in the morning, or early afternoon—that should be enough. Believe it or not, the energy boost you can get is from fresh fruits and water. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life, so if you’re drinking it later in the evening, it can stay in your system and disrupt any chance of sleep you might have had. Transition to tea in the midday, or focus solely on water to make this transition possible.

Exercise during the day:
I suggest starting your day with some form of exercise—biking, walking, running, lifting weights. Something that will get your body moving. This will kick-start your endorphins and give you some solid energy for your day, and slowly you will need less and less caffeine, and you’ll come home ready for rest after a long day.

Turn off your screens:
Many students I talk with claim that the last thing they do before bed has something to do with looking at some sort of screen—TV, phone, iPad, etc. Again, understandable. Netflix is a hot commodity these days—even though I remember the days when it wasn’t a streaming platform. Yet, many studies have shown that looking at screens before bed is greatly decreasing the quality of good REM sleep—so it’s important to supplement something else if you need stimulation before bed.

I suggest either reading a book (traditional Kindle readers are okay for this since many have dimmed displays), listening to music, or, if you’re feeling frisky, even having sex before bed is a pretty good way to ensure some comfortable rest. Sex often reduces stress because it also releases endorphins, which are comforting for the brain. The Berman Center in Michigan found that sex before bed can often lead to less chances for insomnia and offers deeper sleep.

Early to bed, early to rise:
Creating a routine of getting to be before midnight is a good way to transition yourself into becoming a morning person. And then work to 11pm, or even 10pm if you feel the need to do so. And start waking up earlier—7am, or 6:30am, or 5:30am. When you train your body in these ways, your resetting your internal clock, which allows you to function better in those early morning hours instead of having to stay up late cramming for a test. Or, having to stay up late writing—with a tired brain that may not be creating your best work.

None of this stuff is easy—but I can strongly suggest that if better sleep is a priority for you, please take these lifestyle changes into consideration and give it a shot! Making some of these changes will take finding out what works for you, your body, and your schedule. But it’s all totally doable.

I’m always available to chat about how to initiate these changes into your life in a comfortable and desirable manner, so let me know if you need a little extra support! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Healthy Dose 007: Creating a Mental Health Support Network

In which I discuss a major aspect of social wellness and mental health on college campuses.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Mass Media at UMass Boston.

Stress is a natural aspect of college. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but there are many ways to balance your stress to make sure you take care of everything on your plate.

However, our mental health is one aspect of our lives that often gets ignored when we get stressed. And to me, there is no excuse for not taking care of your mental health—no matter how busy you get, this should be a major priority for you.

Making your mental health a priority is important because if you let it slip for even a few weeks, you may find yourself in an irreversible struggle to reclaim control.

While discussing mental health is pretty taboo in some cultures—and still pretty stigmatized here in America—I argue that we must be willing to discuss what is going on with our brains in order to find some form of relief from the grief our brains can cause us.

Stress tends to complicate our mental health when we aren’t taking the best care of ourselves. So getting busy means we often leave the things that are important to us behind for the sake of simply trying to complete an assignment, a paper, or to study for an exam.

It’s okay to ask for help if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, and/or stress. And I’m going to explain some simple ways to create a mental health support network.

The easiest way to ask for help is to reach out to your friends—those closest to you. Your friend group is the best way to create your own support network. Be willing to say, “Hey, I just need to talk with someone right now. I’m not feeling great about myself right now.” If your friend is a good friend, they will listen.

Now, if you’re a friend who is being confided in, please listen.

Listen to the needs of your friends. Do not write off their struggles or desire for support as an annoyance or prying into your life. Do not make your friend seem like an inconvenience. Sure, mental health issues do tend to arise at inconvenient times, but that’s no reason to treat your friends—those who trust you—as if they are an inconvenience to you.

If you know any of the coping strategies of your friend in need, suggest those things! Offer to make your friend some tea, or dinner, or simply watch some Netflix. Try anything that will help a friend relax during periods when their depression or stress might be acting up.

If many of your friends are in another state or country, utilize social media! Skype with friends and family and maintain those relationships that bring you joy. These little moments of connection can mean the world to folks who live a stressful life. I know it helps me to Skype with my best friends back in Oregon, or those who have moved all over the country. It’s always nice to escape my reality for a moment and relax with a familiar face or voice.

If you are a writer, use a blog, Twitter, or Facebook, and share your struggles. This is something I do regularly just so that I can lend a face to what it looks like when people live with depression and anxiety. I’m a pretty enthusiastic and fun-loving dude, but sometimes my brain likes to trick me into thinking otherwise.

So I share these moments.

I do this so that others know they aren’t alone if they struggle with these issues as well. And it opens the door for folks to reach out to me if they need someone to talk with about what’s going on in their lives.

Being willing to open up about what’s going on in your life can help you tremendously and it can help those in your life to know that none of us are alone in this struggle with mental health.

Reach out to your friends when you need a break from studying or writing a paper. Do something creative together, go to a concert, or find an exercise buddy! Or just talk it out.

Don’t have any available friends? Well, this is where I come in! I’m available to chat with you anytime you need some support or a bit of affirmation amid your chaotic days. My office is in the third floor of the Campus Center, suite 3407.

Feel free to drop in any time if you just want to talk.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Keep You - Tattoosday Memorial

This post originally appeared on the Art of Survival.

My dad died one year ago today.

Exactly one year ago yesterday, I was in Portland, Oregon, digging through records at Everyday Music and Music Millennium because that morning, my father, Wayne Bidiman, told me to go have some fun on my last day in Oregon.

See, I had just flown out to Oregon from Boston a week earlier because my mom told me that dad's health had taken a turn for the worst. I was unemployed, depressed, and struggling to find work. So I didn't have the money to drop on a cross country plane ticket to get home. Luckily, I have some amazing friends and family members who fronted the money for me.

The trip was weird. I hadn’t been home in 10 months, so to go home with the purpose of saying goodbye to my father felt odd. I showed up, he seemed fine, and we laughed a lot.

He still felt immortal to me.

For those who don’t know my father, he was a train of a man. Wayne the Train—that’s what me and some of my friends call him. He survived lung cancer two times before this, 4 heart attacks, a stroke (or two?), diastolic heart failure, deep vein thrombosis in his legs, sleep apnea, diabetes, and whatever else was thrown his way.

I actually have no real memories of my father being healthy.

But the dude never complained. Not that I ever heard.

I would ask him, “how you doing today, Wayne?”
He’d often respond, “I’m surviving.”

So that’s how I respond to people when they ask me how I’m doing.
It’s something that has stuck with me over the years.

He never complained but we could tell he was in pain.

As the days went by, I watched him slowly deteriorate. I would spend chunks of the day asking him about mortality, and what it felt like to be on the way out. And he was very honest with me. Then again, that was never anything new. He was a quiet man, but when he spoke, we listened.

He told me, "don't worry about death, sweetheart. Worry about living a good life." Dude lived a good life—he was on the cusp of his 74th birthday, and had no regrets.

We tried to keep him comfortable, but as a large man with weak legs, it was hard for him to get around those final days. He kept telling me I didn’t need to worry about him—which was ridiculous. But I always listened to my father, so I tried my best not to worry.

But those final days were definitely filled with doubt about how long he’d truly be around.

Music has always been present in my family—granted, it wasn’t necessarily the punk, hardcore, post-rock, etc. that I listen to today. BUT I was exposed to a lot of Beach Boys, Elvis, Conway Twitty, and my dad’s favorite, Marty Robbins.

Dad used to spin his old records when I was growing up, but that’d before I really cared about vinyl or really knew what they meant. Yet, for the last three years or so, I’ve become quite the vinyl collector. One of my dad’s favorite records is Gunfight Ballads, by Marty Robbins. It’s an old one—somewhat uncommon in the used shops, where most of the Marty Robbins pieces are those missing his crowning accomplishment, “El Paso.” But Gunfighter Ballads is full of songs that I remember because dad always played the album for me and used to tell me the stories behind all of the songs.

I grew up listening to Marty Robbins. He was a storyteller in his music. And I am also a storyteller in my music. Strange how that works!

So, back my last day in Oregon during that final week with my dad when he told me to go have some fun with my friends. So I went up to Portland and had brunch with a few friends and went record shopping at Music Millennium and Everyday Music. In a stroke of brilliant serendipity, I came across a used copy of Gunfighter Ballads for $1. I was stoked! I knew this would put a smile on dad’s face on my last day with him.

I also came across the album, Destrier, by Agent Fresco—which was one of my favorite albums of last year, and it is actually album about losing someone—so stumbling upon it was pretty cool, and it’s still the ONLY TIME I have ever seen it in the wild. So I bought it as well.

And as I left Music Millennium, where I apparently had no cell phone reception, I was flooded with text messages and missed calls from my siblings.

I knew what they were going to say without even checking them.
So I immediately drove back to Salem to be with the family.

When I got back home, I walked in with the records in my hand and showed the Marty Robbins piece to my dad—he was pretty lethargic at this point, but when he saw the cover, he immediately knew what it was. I saw a smile form on his mouth and he told me it was “a good one.” Always one to downplay how he really felt.

After that, he didn’t say much for the rest of the night. Just a few nods. Some creaky smiles. And eventually, he quietly, and without complaint, passed away.

Now, to the tattoo—I got this specific picture of my dad tattooed (in neo-traditional style) on my calf because it is an image of my father that was always on our wall when I was growing up.

The image is of my father’s 1959 Army enlistment photo. It’s old. Dude was old.

It’s one of those images that has been cemented in my brain since childhood. So I wanted to immortalize this on my skin. I got the tattoo while in Massachusetts almost a year before he died, so he was able to see it the couple times I flew home before he died.

He said it was his favorite tattoo of mine. I have many of them. And clearly he was biased!

The banner reads, “KEEP YOU,” which is an homage to the Pianos Become the Teeth album of the same name. The album is the third in a trilogy of the band’s lead singer processing the loss of his own father. Keep You is the absolution from the loss. A light at the end of the grief experience.

This album features a track titled, “Repine” (video above). And in the song, there is a line that repeats, “Your wick won’t burn away, your wick won’t burn away.” This line has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. And at this point, my partner has even gotten sick of me singing it.

But the line is so important to me. It’s the idea that the memory of my father’s life will never fade away. No matter how much I grow up now that he’s gone, he will always live on with me and I will continue to burn on in his memory.

Check out the original version of the song, "Farewell, My Father,"
by clicking this image of my first album, Into the Fire.

Music has always given me a release. I'm a pretty outgoing and fun-loving guy, but my music is where things get a little more serious, real, and sad. But I need that release.

Six years ago, I wrote a song for my dad. It is called, “Farewell, My Father.” It’s an instrumental song. For someone that loves words and uses LOTS of them, I had no words for this song. I wrote it shortly after dad’s lung cancer appeared the second time and I had no idea what to write. So I kept it void of words. Ever since writing the song, it became one of my favorites to start off my live sets.

The song structure mirrors the progression of my emotions regarding the news of my dad’s condition. Give it a listen above!

I titled it, “Farewell, My Father” all those years ago because it felt like my farewell to him—even though he was still there with me. But over all the years he struggled with his health, I felt like I was slowly losing him and this song was there with me to keep me somewhat comforted in those fleeting times.

It wasn’t until that final week with my dad that I finally had to say farewell to my father.

The album art for my new EP, Farewell.
Photo: Katy Weaver. Art direction: Nevan Doyle

So, I’ve written an EP for my father.
It is called, Farewell.

Farewell was successfully crowdfunded by over 150 people and we raised over $6,000 to make sure that we could press this album on vinyl, which has sort of been a dream of mine.

The overwhelming support has made me feel pretty great about releasing this new project as an homage to his memory. This will be another form of creating a permanent fixture of my memory of my father. The music will live on even after I’ve died. Weird to think about, but valid and somewhat enlivening.

Farewell will feature five tracks.

It will include the first song I was able to write about my father that actually contained words. This song is called, "Active Ghosts," (you can see a live video of me performing it above), and it focuses on my regrets with my relationship with my father. It also centers on his strength as a man who never gave up, and what I learned from being around that strength.

There is also a pretty personal spoken word piece that focuses on a number of aspects of my relationship with my father. I wrote it rather quickly, but made some edits along the way, and it serves to connect all of the other songs together.

Another song encompasses my struggles with depression and suicidality, explicitly through the lens of dealing with the loss of my father. This song serves as an interlude for the EP, in which I ask the listener to be proud of your survival in life. A lyric in this song is represented on the shirt you can snag!

The final track on the album will be a remake of “Farewell, My Father,” which I’m simply retitling, “Farewell,” for this release. I always had the vision that this song would be bigger and more expansive. But I never had the abilities or wherewithal until now. Adding multiple elements to the song has made it completely come alive to me. And I am so glad that we decided to end the EP with it.

The Farewell EP actually features a spoken word cover of “Enamor Me,” by Pianos Become the Teeth. I am covering this track because it is the track on the Keep You album that most reminds me of my relationship with my father. It's full of minor details that fill up memories, many that I try to reflect in my own writing. It also carries a weight of reflection that feels both jovial and tragic.

The repetition of the line, “I don’t feel any closer to you here,” stands out to me so much because it’s a tragic line—it’s a line that reminds me that even though I continue to live with the memories of my father, I will never be any closer to him. I may be able to feel his existence in my life, but I will never see him again.

Losing someone is never easy and it feels even harder when it's someone that has given you a home and a family and brought you into the world. Granted, I am adopted, but my father never treated me like anything less than his own son and for that, I am eternally grateful.

All in all, music has been an integral part of how I process grief, and tattoos are how I mark that grief into permanence. Tattoos are essential to my identity. They tell my story, and I love sharing these stories with people because why else would I put them into my skin? If you aren’t willing to share your ink stories, then why do you have them?

At least, that’s my perspective. I know some people are much more reserved than me when it comes to sharing personal information, but I figure if I’m willing to share, perhaps more people will be willing to do so in the future.

I’m in a much different place than I was a year ago when my dad was deteriorating. I am no longer unemployed. My depression still comes and goes, but it’s incredibly manageable—especially because of the artistic ventures I’ve been busy with lately. The music helps, the painting helps. Work helps. It’s helped me pass the time.

While I haven’t been back home since dad died, there are moments when I deeply miss him. And I’m genuinely unsure what it will be like when I go home for the first time. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Chances are, I will struggle with the true reality of him being gone. But through this tattoo, and through my music, I can keep him as close to me as possible.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Someone You Love is Gone

a Review of Touché Amoré’s new album, “Stage Four”

Over the last decade, the realm of punk and post-hardcore has been carried on the shoulders of the scene’s champions of spastic riffs and drilling blast beats.

The band is fresh off a multi-year hiatus after touring the release of their previous 2013 triumph, the atmospheric and vibrant, …Is Survived By.

In chatting with one of the band’s guitarists, Clayton Stevens, he explained how the time off was exactly what the band needed.

“Personally, it was a really good thing to do,” Stevens said, “We grew up on the road together so it was nice to settle down a little bit and grow a little bit.”

There was a time where the band was seemingly touring nonstop, so it was clear that group made a point to take some time off before hitting the studio again.

“It was nice to establish a home life and grow as people,” Stevens said, “so making music again was incredibly refreshing and fun—the time flew by and we were just excited to be together doing it again.”

Stevens explained how early on in the band’s career, being on the road was their inspiration, but life got very real during the band’s brief hiatus.

Lead singer and scene-god, Jeremy Bolm, lost his mother to cancer on the night of Halloween in 2014. Bolm has a penchant for being confessional in his lyrics—so the only expectation for the new album, Stage Four, was that the vulnerability would turn up to 11.

The opening track, “Flowers and You,” starts the album with a wash of clean guitars reminiscent of “Ripple Water Shine” on Pianos Become the Teeth’s Keep You album, which is also about the loss of a parent. But quickly thereafter, the distortion and comforting chaos of guitarists, Stevens and Nick Steinhardt, welcome us to another vibrant Touché Amoré record.

This is an important first track because it sets the stage for how Bolm presents the processing of his grief—lines like, “I am heartsick and well-rehearsed—highly decorated with a badge that reads, ‘it could be worse,’” “I am homesick and living in the past,” and “I took inventory of what I took for granted and I ended up with more than I imagined.”

Bolm doesn’t relent in terms of his unbridled honesty, which is a common thread throughout Stage Four—not only lyrically, but also musically, as the band presents an evolved sound ripe with experimentation and maturation.

Those familiar with Touché were accustomed to a band that released 20-minute albums, and rarely approached the 3-minute mark for a song. Until …Is Survived By, the band had only hit the 3-minute mark once. Stage Four is over 35-minutes in length and features six of eleven songs that are well-over 3 minutes—so this is truly a remarkable exploration for the band.

This is a new Touché Amoré—a well-rested Touché Amoré. And beyond all expectations, it is a more restrained Touché Amoré.

“I really do feel [this album] is a natural evolution,” Stevens said, “not a lot of it was a conscious thing—our main goal was just to make a dynamic record.” Stevens went on to explain how the members of the band listen to very different kinds of music. He said this makes their creative process more interesting because a lot of their writing is created in the moment—so experimenting with a riff or structure is fun for them.

“New Halloween” starts with the powerful line, “somehow it’s already been a year,” a line that resonates with me specifically because exactly a year ago, I lost my father to cancer—so this album was certainly released at a serendipitous time. But that’s the reality of losing a loved one—life does have to continue, and often time passes faster than you realize.

One vibrant moment on the album is something that often goes hand in hand with any music lover who experiences trauma—the act of skipping songs because they’re too hard to hear.

On “New Halloween,” Bolm references “What Sarah Said,” by Death Cab for Cutie, and “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love,” by Sun Kil Moon—two tracks about losing a loved one that are understandably hard for anyone having lived that sort of loss. But most understandably so for Bolm. This is the sort of detail that makes this album so necessary for those in grief.

Losing a loved one makes you think of the littlest things—flashbacks to the moments you took for granted, immortalizing the things you could’ve said, or simply appreciating the idiosyncrasies of the person you love.

These details make an album live forever. Stage Four is full of these details.

You can order the deluxe vinyl package of "Stage Four,"
complete with a 36-page booklet and 4 kiss-cut sticker sheets
to create your own album art. The deluxe also comes with a
blue 7" of the "Palm Dreams" single with the b-side,
"Gather." It's an incredible deal.

You can order the deluxe vinyl package of "Stage Four," complete with a 36-page booklet and 4 kiss-cut sticker sheets to create your own album art. The deluxe also comes with a blue 7" of the "Palm Dreams" single with the b-side, "Gather." It's an incredible deal.

The band erupts into “Rapture,” which carries perhaps the bands catchiest chorus to date—one that carries the remorse of feeling selfish for the comfort we can feel when things are going well in our lives amid the struggles of our loved ones.

Yet, the beckoning of the lines, “Like a wave, like the rapture—something you love is gone, someone you love is gone and leaves you fractured.” This was the first moment in the album where I welled up a few tears. It’s this sort of brutal honesty that makes Bolm such an important voice in music today. The reality of loss is universal and yet, we live so much in our heads that we don’t think to share the struggle of such a loss.

But Bolm brandishes vulnerability as his weapon of choice in a battle that may never end.

“Displacement” presents another aspect of the album that finds Bolm’s lyrical approach to the album was to take a deep look at his relationship with his mother’s Christian faith—something he often undercuts with lines like, “You died at 69 with a body full of cancer. I asked your god, ‘how could you?’ But never got an answer.”

Bolm then soon follows up with contemplation on how his mother looking out for him is perhaps her plea for him to keep his faith in something higher—if it even truly exists, something he later quips.

But on “Benediction,” we hear Bolm reckoning with the faith that was clearly very important to his mother. The chorus of the song is an actual benediction, “May the Lord mighty God bless and keep you forever—grant you peace, perfect peace, courage in every endeavor.”

“Benediction" also marks the first moment we hear a Bolm sing in his lower register—a post punk vibe with a hint of Matt Berninger of the National.

Stevens explains that Bolm made the decision to sing on a number of tracks on the album because he simply didn’t feel like yelling over certain parts. Again, this is the sort of detail that shows the band has made many creative strides over the years.

“We’re gonna keep trying to experiment with these sounds,” Stevens said, “doing the same old thing can get boring.”

The most “traditional” Touché track on the album is “Eight Seconds,” which logs in at merely 92 seconds long, and feels as if it would fit comfortably on Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me. The song tells the story of Bolm getting the phone call that his mother had died—it happened while he was performing on stage. This track is perhaps the most heart-breaking for long-time listeners of the band, who know that Bolm lives for the stage, but to realize that he was amid losing his mother at such a powerful moment in his life makes this yet another detail that makes this album so essential.

Touché Amoré is (L to R): Jeremy Bolm (vocals), Clayton Stevens (guitar),
Elliot Babin (drums), Tyler Kirby (bass), Nick Steinhardt (guitar).
Photo: Christian Cordon.
“The band exists as a family together, so we are very involved with each other’s lives,” Stevens said in response to the loss of Bolm’s mother, “so we knew that this was going to be a central topic for this album, and we all wanted to put our best foot forward for how he wants to grieve.”

Since the album centered on the loss of Bolm’s mother, there was a clear concerted effort to support him throughout the process.

“We were doing it all together,” Stevens said, “and [Bolm] was being honest with what he wanted to get out of it.” It is obvious that the process of writing and creating Stage Four was incredibly cathartic for everyone in the band.

“We just approached the album being completely honest with ourselves in the moment.”

This honesty is blatant throughout “Palm Dreams,” which was the lead single from Stage Four, which focuses on Bolm digging through the things in his mother’s home—which, for those of us who follow Bolm on Instagram, he was very open throughout the process of cleaning through his mother’s home—sharing pictures, trinkets, and stories with his followers. It was powerful and eye opening to watch the grieving process in what felt like real time.

The next two tracks, “Softer Spoken” and “Posing Holy” are reminiscent of that traditional relentless hardcore sound of which the band gained its acclaim. “Softer Spoken” finds Bolm searching for some form of peace or absolution from a feeling of being broken. While “Posing Holy” rips through Bolm’s frustrations of faith once again—and trying to reason with the inevitability of loss and despair.

Both of these tracks are pivotal to dictating the emotions that truly connect with loyal listeners of the band. It’s refreshing to hear someone the people we admire validate our struggles and experiences with multiple forms of depression, anxiety and insecurity. It humanizes them and us. It makes us all feel a little less alone in our discomfort. And in that common ground, we are able to find comfort.

We find Bolm’s post-punk croon once again in “Water Damage,” which is a dark horse for my personal favorite track—one that replays a frightful memory of a night when Bolm’s mother took the wrong dose of medication. Having been around a dying parent who has done something similar, it is terrifying to see someone you love in such a disoriented state. The track is gloomy, tragic, and absolutely beautiful and perfect for this album.

The finale of the album is “Skyscraper,” a track that features the fast-rising acclaimed singer songwriter, Julien Baker. “Skyscraper” in its minimalist lyrical approach recounts Bolm’s mother’s dream of visiting New York City one day—something he was able to make happen for her. He wheeled her around the city (something the band re-enacted for the above video). The lines, “you live there—under the lights” echo throughout the track, creating this silo effect of noise and elegance, a phenomenon made possible with the airy teeming of Baker’s vocals with Bolm’s guttural exploit.

Stevens, a fan of Baker’s music, said that the band was virtually determined to find a place for her on the album.

“We were hoping there was a spot for her to be on the album and there was,” Stevens said of the collaboration.

The album is a true triumph of post-hardcore, furthering the genre beyond the landscape that once existed. Stage Four is the banner album for loss, discomfort, anger, frustration, and absolution. The band blends atmospheric and chaotic noise for a well-balanced listen that trumps any of the band’s previous works—an unexpected, but very welcome feat.

Note: Having lost my father exactly a year ago, this album came into my life at what could be considered the perfect time. Much of the commentary of surviving loss and grief is connected to my struggles with losing my own father. He fought lung cancer for 12 years and there were moments—much like those Jeremy references on this album—where we thought we were in the clear in terms of his health. But he never truly recovered. Watching a parent deteriorate is one of the hardest things a person can experience. With this, I hope Jeremy knows he isn't alone in his grieving process. And I thank him for this incredibly important and emotional album.

Touché Amoré is about to hit the road with their old friends in Culture Abuse—a band that released a great new album this year called, Peach, on 6131 records. Peach is an album about resistance and living a chill life in the face of a society that is anything but chill. Culture Abuse embodies the counter culture in their brand of lively punk tunes. Their inclusion on the tour is incredibly apt and will certainly recruit a number of new fans.

The spastic and lively math-rock trio, Tiny Moving Parts, which released its outstanding new album, Celebrate, in May on Triple Crown Records, will also support the tour. Celebrate is certainly an album of the year contender from these Minnesotan party-boys, as it combines mathy grooves with pop punk energy. Tiny Moving Parts puts on one helluva show and sandwiched between Culture Abuse and Touché, this will be a tour full of nonstop action and amazing tunes.

“I am really looking forward to this tour,” Stevens said, “I’m excited to play some new songs out there. Making an album takes so long that by the time an album is completed we are ready to get out there and play some shows.”

Get your tickets fast because you will not want to miss this tour.