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L to R: J Tyler Johnson, Josh Taylor, Brett Kramer

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half•alive is an American indie-pop band from Long Beach, California that currently consists of three musicians (all multi-instrumentalists in their own right): Josh Taylor (lead vocals, guitar), Brett Kramer (drums), and J Tyler Johnson (bass).

Formed in 2016 originally as a duo consisting of Taylor and Kramer, many of the band's early tracks were the results of a 50 Song Challenge undertaken by the former in order to improve his songwriting. They released their debut EP, 3, in 2017; soon after Johnson joined the duo as bassist. The band first rose to prominence in 2018 after the music video for their single "still feel." went viral on Youtube due to its unique cinematography and choreography performed by Taylor and JA Collective. The track garnered positive reviews from publications and its success led to a record contract with RCA. Their debut album titled Now, Not Yet was released in August of 2019.

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In early 2022 they released the first part of what was intended to be their sophomore album, Give Me Your Shoulders, Pt. 1, with the intention of Pt. 2 releasing later on. However, in September the band announced that Pt. 2 would be cancelled in favor of something bigger. A new single titled "Did I Make You Up?" was released in October and its accompanying music video ended with the formal announcement of their sophomore album, Conditions Of A Punk, which was released in December.

Their lyrics have recurring themes of tension, anxiety, and faith, while also being heavily influenced by psychological concepts, specifically citing those of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Though the band writes songs with intent of religious themes among others, lyrics are written with more subtlety and ambiguity, leaving interpretation up to the listener.

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Discography

Studio albums

  • Now, Not Yet (2019)
  • Conditions Of A Punk (2022)

EPs

  • 3 (2017)
  • *7 (2019)
  • In Florescence (2020)
  • Give Me Your Shoulders, Pt. 1 (2022)

When it is tropeless I start to notice:

  • Aborted Arc: Give Me Your Shoulders Pt. 1 was released in early 2022 with the intent of finishing the two-part record later in the year. However, in September the band announced that Pt. 2 would be cancelled in favor of "something beyond it".
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: In "Nobody":
    So exhausted with ego
    And feelings that freeload
    That leave me so empty
    All the parties of people
    Moving the needle
  • Album Title Drop: In "TrusT" for Now, Not Yet.
    I see the walls that are torn and bent
    The tug of war in the now, not yet
    Holding back what they can't contain
    Can you tell me why I feel this way?
  • All Caps: "BREAKFAST" and "RUNAWAY" from Now, Not Yet and "TIME 2".
  • all lowercase letters: The band stylizes their name this way. Now, Not Yet also has several tracks in this style, such as "still feel." and "creature".
  • Animate Body Parts: The music video for "BREAKFAST" depicts Jordan of JA Collective in a black void wrestling with a wall of disembodied hands.
  • Animated Music Video: A majority of the video for "Nobody" was animated using mixed-media artwork.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Everything Machine" sounds like a love song on the surface, but picking apart the lyrics reveals commentary on how society has formed a toxic relationship with smartphones due to their superficial appeal of holding the world in one's hand while actively causing the downfall of humanity.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • "ok ok?", which opens Now, Not Yet, begins with heavy guitars, but quickly shifts into something much more mellow. They are never heard again for the remainder of the album.
    • The opposite occurs in "Conditions Of A Punk", which begins with soft vocals and guitar but transitions hard into its loud and callous refrain.
  • Be Yourself: The main message of "RUNAWAY".
    But I find that everything I am is everything I should be
    Yeah, I don't need to run away
  • Bookends:
    • The music video for "What's Wrong" begins and ends with Josh performing the same choreography, forwards and reversed respectively.
    • The music video for "The Fall" begins and ends with Josh sitting on the bed in his room.
    • "Conditions Of A Punk" begins and ends with Studio Chatter.
  • Concept Video: Almost certainly a staple of the band at this point.
    • "The Fall": Josh goes through The Hero's Journey in a deconstructed form.
    • "arrow": Josh struggles to live in the present, his eyes always drawn to "the rest of [his] life", which is symbolically represented by things we often find ourselves mindlessly staring at (namely a fridge and a TV set).
    • "RUNAWAY": In 1940, J Francis Avet (played by Josh) is drafted for World War II. Knowing he might not return, he writes letters for his 6-year-old daughter Jessica for her to open on each birthday. Due to his unexplained disappearance, she grows up believing she was unloved and chooses not to open a single one until 1960.
    • "ok ok?": Two groups (the band and JA Collective) explore the woods and come into contact, but are separated by an invisible barrier.
    • "What's Wrong": The crappy apartment the band is in is heavily flawed. Josh's denial turns it into a fluorescent dreamscape, but as things further fall apart, he realizes that change must begin inward in order to direct it outward.
    • "Summerland": A couple cherishes their limited summer romance and the meshing of their separate friend groups.
    • "Make Of It": J Tyler and Brett among others engage in counseling with a therapist, played by Josh. All are both figuratively and literally drowning in their struggles and as he sees more clients, Josh slowly gets more and more soaked.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: In the music video for "Make Of It", J Tyler is never seen without a bunny puppet and actively uses it in his therapy session with Josh. Behind the scenes footage shows that he was even directed to have the bunny "say something brave" and react to it.
    Bunny: Birds are people too.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In the music video for "Move Me", Josh pulls out a polaroid of himself and his girlfriend from the "Summerland" video. The other side reads "I'll always love you", referencing how she had to end the relationship due to only being in town for the summer.
    • Beginning with "Did I Make You Up?", the music videos for Conditions Of A Punk all include Josh's station wagon.
  • Credits Gag: The credits for the music video for "What's Wrong" has several messages in Wingdings and Webdings. Some are just the credits translated (e.g., director, producer), while the rest foreshadow future tracks, such as the following:
    Super excited about our new song It's called summerland
    there's another one called move me we wrote that one today
    the chorus is "i want you to move me" over and over again
  • Darker and Edgier: Though both Now, Not Yet and Conditions Of A Punk have songs that encapsulate the highs and lows of life, there is a much more bittersweet and melancholy tinge to the latter (through songs like "Back Around" and "Lost") that discuss feelings like the desire to succumb to death and the pain often required to truly heal. Compared to the perseverance and optimism of the songs in the former such as "still feel." and "ice cold.", it's a stark contrast.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: A subtle example in the music video for "ok ok?". To indicate their differences, the band wears clothing that have a large orange dot (e.g., on J Tyler's right shoulder), while JA Collective wears striped clothing (e.g., on Jordan's left sleeve).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The band's first EP, 3, has a distinctly different sound compared to their subsequent releases. Plus, Josh utilized his lower register more before prominently featuring his falsetto in their music now and sang with a slightly different vocal timbre. They've explained that those first three tracks were an attempt to write vastly different songs to get a feel for what they enjoyed playing.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Played with on more than one occasion.
    • In the music video for "arrow", the studio recording is overlaid on top of the video so the original instruments are heard, but Brett and J Tyler use household objects whose movements mimic what they normally play. Brett's drums are done via spoons at the kitchen table, pencils on a TV set, and toothbrushes on the bathroom sink. J Tyler plays synth with a stovetop range and bathroom tiles.
    • Done so in a more visually abstract way for "TIME 2". During the final chorus, Brett is shown painting a palette with a brush (evocative of a drumstick) and J Tyler is using a typewriter (reminiscent of a keyboard).
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: One occurred in the eight months between the release of Give Me Your Shoulders, Pt. 1 and the first single off of Conditions Of A Punk. Josh sports the same short hair that he had for most of the former era, but now bleached blond.
  • Fade Out: How "still feel." ends; the band explicitly wrote the track in a way that was unplayable for radio by choosing to end with one, but this ends up backfiring spectacularly due to its popularity.
  • Flashback Echo: Invoked in the music video for "RUNAWAY" where adult Jessica's actions parallel what happens in the past. She finds her father's ring as he first places it in an envelope and her choreography in the last chorus mimics putting on clothes as her father puts on his uniform before leaving for good.
  • Genre Roulette: The band is pretty fluid in terms of genre; it's hard to pin them down since they draw from such a wide range of influences ranging from jazz to trap.
    • It's especially exemplified in the version of "RUNAWAY" recorded for In Florescence, which dramatically shifts from indie-pop to jazz in the chorus.
    • They further reinforced this in a Q&A after the release of "Did I Make You Up?", where they stated that if it was hard to nail them to a genre before, it'll be even harder with the release of Conditions Of A Punk in late 2022.
  • God Is Love Song: Most of Conditions Of A Punk can apply, as the band describes it as being "in the same breath, about a person and God", but "Move Me" especially exemplifies it.
  • Horrible Housing: The setting of the music video for "What's Wrong"; the various problems in the dingy apartment pile up and come to a head in the bridge as the electricity goes haywire.
  • How We Got Here: The music video for "Summerland" begins with a shot of Josh looking beyond camera lost in thought. It then cuts to a flashback comprised of home video-style clips from the summer depicting the meshing of two friend groups and a couple falling in love, despite knowing the romance is limited to the season. The video ends with Josh dropping his now ex-girlfriend off at the airport, ending with the exact same shot.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: At the core of "I'll Stop", wherein Josh comes to terms with his failures in a relationship and allows his significant other to find happiness elsewhere.
    You deserve to be yourself
    And maybe that's with someone else
  • Important Haircut: In anticipation for the release of "Summerland" and its accompanying "era", the band released a teaser of Josh receiving a haircut from his significant other in the music video where she shaves his head. Considering the fact that he was somewhat known for his long locks at the time, it's quite the change.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Maybe", "What's Wrong", "High Up", and "Bad Thoughts".
  • Mirror Routine: One of the bits of choreography for "still feel." involves one of these, first from the front and then from the side.
  • Mood Dissonance:
    • "RUNAWAY" is an upbeat song about accepting who you've become even if it's different from what you planned; however its music video is much more melancholy, depicting a father drafted for WWII and forced to leave his young daughter, who grows up believing she was unloved. The obvious implication that he dies in battle makes it worse.
    • "High Up" sings of the euphoric feeling that love brings—evoking the image of blue skies—but its music video shows the exact opposite, clouds and pouring rain. Josh sings the lyrics "Blue skies are all I see when/Your eyes are locked on me", but looks to be on the verge of tears.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "BREAKFAST" and "Brighton".
  • On a Soundstage All Along: A double whammy in the music video for "The Fall": when Josh first exits his bedroom and when he "wakes up" during surgery.
  • The Oner: The video for "still feel." is ostensibly this, but upon further inspection, some hidden cuts can be seen, which account for the occasional Offscreen Teleportation.
  • The Quiet One: Brett. In a Reddit AMA, he explained that his demeanor during interviews is because he can get quite nervous at times.
  • Rearrange the Song: The bridge of "BREAKFAST" reuses the hook from "Pure Gold".
  • Re-release the Song: Following the cancellation of Give Me Your Shoulders Pt. 2 and the announcement of Conditions Of A Punk, it was revealed that all songs from Pt. 1 would be included in the latter, implying that it is a reimagining of what the full GMYS album would have been.
  • Rockumentary: A short documentary was made that depicts the recording of In Florescence, an EP of selected songs from Now, Not Yet that were rearranged for an orchestra. It features the recorded performances, behind-the-scenes footage, and short interviews with various individuals involved.
    Aidan Carberry: I learned what a flautist is today. You would think it's some kind of whale.
  • Scatting: In the chorus of "TrusT", the refrain of "Conditions Of A Punk'', and the outro of "Call Back".
  • Seasonal Motif: Prominent in Conditions Of A Punk, which the band describes as going "from summer to winter and back again". It's seen in the album's Title Track, "Summerland", "Back Around", and more, with the tracklist also designed with the intent of following the seasonal cycle.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: In many studio versions of songs, Josh provides his own backing vocals. However for live acoustic performances, J Tyler and Brett provide them.
    • Averted with In Florescence, where he has three backup singers for all four songs recorded.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the video for "arrow", Brett briefly dresses up as Max Fischer.
    • Josh cites Wes Anderson as an inspiration for the set design and cinematography of the music video for "arrow", seen through the saturated colors of each scene and the flat camera angles.
  • Stop Motion Lighting: Used in the music video for "What's Wrong", where Josh washes his face in a panic while the electricity goes haywire. As he looks at his reflection in the mirror while the lights flicker, facial markings (symbolic of personal flaws/issues) on his and the band's faces appear and disappear, to his shock.
  • Surreal Music Video: "TIME 2" ticks all the boxes.
  • Swapped Roles: The band's usual lineup is Josh on guitar, Brett on drums/percussion, and J Tyler on bass. However, all three are skilled in each others' instruments plus piano, so they're quite flexible in terms of set up from song to song.
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion: Water is featured prominently in the music video for "Make Of It", symbolic of the pain that we can often drown in. All of Josh's therapy clients find themselves floating in a pool; as he sees more patients, he slowly becomes drenched as well.
  • Tenor Boy: Josh is a prime example with his strong falsetto.
  • Textless Album Cover: Now, Not Yet; In Florescence, and Give Me Your Shoulders Pt. 1, which also counts for Face on the Cover.
  • Title Track: "Conditions Of A Punk", though the exact lyric is actually "Conditions of j-j-just a punk".
  • Uncommon Time:
    • Most of "Rest" is in 4/4, but there are some truly funky time signatures in the verses, with 7/4, 6/4, and 5/4 all being used at some point.
    • "Move Me" is in 7/4, with the chorus and bridge switching to 4/4.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Invoked in the music video for "RUNAWAY" as a grown Jessica Avet decides to read the letters her father had written her before being drafted for WWII twenty years prior.

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