Kevin Schlereth - Don't Die! Please Stop Dying.


Disclaimer: this is a serious review, but after visiting many review websites and noting how silly some things are, such as numeric rating systems, ambiguous paragraphs of description, I decided to organize my review into different sections to make things a bit easier to read, whilst parodying the typical music review and making fun of my creative process. Everything with an asterisk I did before I wrote the body of the review and kept for the sake of a casual review for me and you.

Top 3 Favorite Songs
"Tornadoes" (an album start that literally made my jaw drop. ideologically thought-provoking to boot.),
"Knox" (complete with rapping and melodious gang vocal outro. the first heart-wrenching hooks on the album.)
"Rent" (an atmosphere changer. pierces the heart and leaves not a second to recover until the silence of the end.)

Self Proclaimed Narcissist on guitar, Kevin clapping on the right

*insert analogy/life/experience paragraph you could probably skip if you just wanted to read about the album, but i was compelled to write it*

My knowledge of Kevin Schlereth (pronounced Sh-LAIR-eth) as a musician came around May of this year; I had booked and played a show with Self Proclaimed Narcissist in April and he had planned to come back around June if I could procure a payout and a place to stay for both he and Kevin, since they were traveling together. While trying to promote it I took a listen to Mr. Schlereth's album, expecting an emotionally intense folk-punk act in a similar manner of SPN but instead found a solemn man and his guitar singing out what's on his heart. My first impression of his recorded music was succeeded by watching him play live after he and Erik drove over 1,000 MILES (not exaggerating)  from, I think somewhere in Colorado, to Spokane, Washington. The live performance sounded more sincere and seemed more interesting to watch than how I felt with Pioneer Hymns (something I think most live bands lack, they should always sound better live or there's little point in seeing them). After the show, Erik (Self Proclaimed Narcissist), Kevin, a few of my friends, and myself went out to Shari's, where we ate and then talked and joked and sang and bonded in 5-seater Saturn Station Wagon, crammed six people and music equipment full, until 4 AM the next day. Since that night I've kept in contact with Kevin on the internet, booked my 2nd house show with him in September, and now have the privilege of blabbing about how awesome his music is.
This time period in my life I was truly understanding the DIY principles of low-key musicianship, and it was all thanks to these touring acts who I adored as I listened to them at home, thinking they'd never talk to some kid from Idaho, then having them become better friends to me than people I've known for 1/4th my life. The staple principle that I found in these people, in Kevin, in Erik, in Nate and Tessa from Destroy Nate Allen (by whom I got in contact with Erik and started these musical escapades), is that they are nothing more than people expressing themselves sincerely and living their lives without any air about besides that they are exactly who they claim to be: people. Like all people, they have amazing ways about expressing their feelings, their worldviews, and the change they want to see in the world, but the difference between them and everyone else is that they see through their aspirations and use them as a medium of expression as opposed to a talent worth parading around the country to people with nothing better to do.

All that information I just explained has been in my processing and understanding up until the moment I typed it all out, and at this point of my perception I want to make it clear that the epitome of Don't Die! Please Stop Dying is the sincerity portrayed. I see every ounce of the Kevin I have come to know, and even more of a man I've not gotten to know. One with a passion to see the world in a state of love-reigning over all, our selfish human hearts in surrender to that love, all seeking it, all striving towards it, refusing to settle for bread in hand, no longer buried by the burdensome things we carry, but to continue knocking until our hearts are no longer immune to what love has done and is doing in our lives. You can see it in the title, you can hear it in the music, and you can feel it in that ambiguous otherness that compels you to perceive what it all means.

Album art by Tyler Hentschel of Insomniac Folklore

*insert album review*
Don't Die! Please Friends Stop Dying is Kevin's second full-length album, the first of which he has made the effort to compose a musical feat that you can compliment even if his music were not your style. He's put up demos and played some of the songs live by himself, but the album demonstrates a carefully crafted set of artistic beauty and expression. The instrument set ranges from guitar to banjo, mandolin, drums, oh yeah, and a miniature orchestra (provided by Low Tree Grow Tall)! "Tornadoes" is a killer opener in demonstrating how tight this album is musically, with each instrument set introducing itself individually, from the rhythm/accompaniment, then vocals, a pre-chorus build up, repeat everything, then the low end strings rise into the mix and give the album a terrific start. "Sunshine" proceeds to court your heart with it's poppy rhythm of the hand drums and the beautiful harmonies between Kevin and one of the phenomenal female vocalists that lend their talents toward this album. The entire album is riddled with creative progressions, a well balanced variety of instruments that comprehensively fill the tonal spectrum with a fullness of sound, and catchiness so infectious he could be speaking nonsense or controversy and you'd still want to sing along. "Give Us to Jesus" is one of the slower songs (invoking in my own mind random scenes from the movie The Prince of Egypt), invoking the atmospheric might that deep drums bring about over the crooning bowed strings and strumming guitar. The composition of this album was not only well executed, but very well thought out. "Rent" is honestly what sold the album for me, because it's songs like these I appreciate music for. It's simplistic in terms of composition, but there's so much heart poured into every note plucked, every word whispered, and every pulsing beat. It takes the business of the rest of the album out of your mind and creates a sensation of enclosed intimacy and introspection.

Lyrically, the album has its points I revel in, while others will not find as exciting, such as all the Biblically sound references in conjunction with sincerity in their portrayal; he wants you to understand that belief in God can be just as approachable as a relationship with another person, but God may be someone you'd like to talk to and work things out with. It's completely understandable that many people will find these lyrical points irrelevant or even a turn-off to Kevin's music, the subject is sensitive but he approaches it with blatant honesty in songs like "Tornado" with lines like "We made him cuddly, so that he might cuddle me" and "God is our bellies". I love that he portrays the human interference that comes naturally when interacting with the unchangeable nature of God, because while God may not be a force to poison, our perceptions and ideas of God are easily tainted with selfish desire or propaganda spread by people who get paid to spread "popular religion".
Outside of supernatural themes, themes of social struggles and *insert death jokes* are prevalent, as in the title track "Don't Die (but its whatever)", portraying how much death hurts us on the surface, but under deeper layers, Kevin is asking the listener not to live a life "focused on dying", pleading how much it hurts him to see such self-destruction while he is trying so hard to live. Coming back to "Rent", the contrast between winning and losing for a living, all whilst trying to pay our "rent"; it strikes a chord in my heart that could bring me to my knees at just the right time with the right amount of commiseration. The words are not always on the poetic side throughout the album (he does say 'die' a lot in the title track), but they are more well-written than not, and the simplicity of such things keeps the content honest and relate-able.

*insert objective, numeric score defining the album's worth*
Overall, 3 out of 3 Venoms on an MVC2 team.

LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM IF YOU LIKE: indie/folk music, Low Tree Grow Tall, ElisaRay, Self Proclaimed Narcissist, Insomniac Folklore, Destroy Nate Allen


*insert good*
Wide range of masterfully played instruments
Unique progressions, some delectably complex, some sincerely simple
Meaningful lyrics
Multiple heartmelting moments

*insert bad*
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction (theoretically, in the realm of physics), and if that were to apply to music, you could say that the album is so catchy that it may get old for some people who have a hard time replaying catchy music continuously. This album will get stuck in your head, and you will most likely go through cycles of loving and wishing it would turn off so you could sleep, or at least waiting for it to play in your dreams.

*insert irrelevant* My first impression of him as a human being was a typical handshake and exchanging of names, followed by him falling asleep while I got the crap kicked out of me by Erik (Self Proclaimed Narcissist) as we played Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Kevin didn't play to my memory, but I think he laughed as I told Erik to make sure Venom never died and he purposefully made sure Venom was a sitting duck to Choske (my band, A Quiet Place's drummer).

*Comparison to Pioneer Hymns* From the first note of "Tornadoes" you can are forced to admire the immense growth of Kevin's sound when compared to Pioneer Hymns. There's the obvious power of the bass bringing the depth P.H. lacked and the hand drums bringing the magnetic power of groovy rhythm. Then there's the more obvious melodic mastery of a string quartet. Then there are slighter inflections, such as Kevin's use of math-y, complex riffs, improved vocal strength, and greater use of harmonies between himself and the lady voices. Pioneer Hymns was written well, most the songs were played well, but Don't Die! is flourishing with life that is magical and almost otherworldly in comparison. The contrast shows humble beginnings that have undergone a journey of magnificent growth and transformation.

K-Dawg, thanks for the friendship, the opportunities to play music with you, to listen to your music, to review your album, to get it early, and for wealth of the Spirit that has been imposed upon me thanks to your work as His intercessor. Means the world, buddy.

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