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Music / half•alive

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

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.

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.


Studio albums

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


  • 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
  • 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".
  • Animal Metaphor: In "ok ok?" the concept of destiny is personified as an animal that can threaten and tear a person apart.
  • 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: "Conditions Of A Punk", wherein Josh bitterly acknowledges that love wasn't what he thought it was.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Hey you, what you been up to?" in "Never Been Better". The innocuous question intended for catching up hits a bit harder than it should, prompting Josh to confess to the listener that he's not doing so hot.
  • 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.
    • The music video for "Subliminal" begins and ends with the same black-and-white shot of the couple embracing.
  • Breakup Bonfire: In the music video for "night swims (poem)", Josh burns a banner that reads "Give Me Your Shoulders", showing that the planned second half of the album would never come to fruition. Given the references to an ex and the fact that GMYS was an album about love, it's implied that its cancellation was spurred by a breakup.
  • 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.
    • A couple embraces for the final time and feels a lifetime's worth of memories in an instant, including the unconscious factors that both bring them together and pull them apart.
  • 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:
    • The music videos for "Move Me" and "Beige" continue the narrative of the couple in "Summerland". In the former, Josh reminisces over a polaroid of them while the latter shows "Summerland" footage projected onto the band while he ruminates over the relationship.
    • Beginning with "Did I Make You Up?", the music videos for Conditions Of A Punk all include Josh's station wagon.
  • Cover Version: They have a few in their repertoire that they play at live shows.
  • 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.
  • Death by Music Video: In "RUNAWAY", all three bandmembers are revealed to be drafted for WWII, with the implication that they get Killed Offscreen—especially Josh as J Francis Avet.
  • The Determinator: the narrator of "still feel." Especially in the final chorus:
    I still feel alive
    It is hopeless (It ain't hopeless)
    I start to notice (I start to notice)
    That I still feel alive
    • Before the first chorus:
    I am not a slave, can't be contained
    So pick me from the dark and pull me from the grave 'cause
    I still feel alive
  • 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 music videos, the studio recording is overlaid on top of the video so the original instruments are heard, but the band uses household objects whose movements mimic what they normally play.
    • For "arrow", 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).
    • A brief shot in the video for "Make Of It" shows Brett drumming on his lap with his hands.
  • 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 ended 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.
  • Freudian Couch: The music video for "Make Of It" centers on a series of counseling sessions, all of which take place on a couch.
  • 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.
    • Conditions Of A Punk is filled with tracks in the band's signature bright electronic style, but there are also several that verge outside their normal boundaries.
      • "Call Back" is an acoustic coffeehouse-jazz tune sandwiched between "What's Wrong" and "I'll Stop", which are diametrically opposed in sound.
      • The thumping feel of "Bad Thoughts" is reminiscent of club tracks and is immediately followed by the instrumentally minimal "Lost".
  • 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.
  • Irony: They wrote the Fade Out to "still feel" to be as long as possible so it'd be unplayable on the radio. Guess what happened.
  • 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
  • Idiosyncratic Album Theming: Releases tend to have a combination of symbols attached to them.
    • ~|• for 3
    • ]\[ for Now, Not Yet
    • "•" for Give Me Your Shoulders
    • † for Conditions of a Punk
  • 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.
  • It's Okay to Cry: The message of "BREAKFAST".
  • Live Album: LIVE FROM CHICAGO features four songs from the Conditions of a Punk tour.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Maybe", "What's Wrong", "High Up", "Bad Thoughts", and "Subliminal".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A favorite of the band, as it further demonstrates the tension at the center of much of their music:
    • "arrow" is a bright and upbeat song about the difficulties of living in the present when the future seems so pressing.
    • Likewise with "Nobody", which discusses the tension between wanting to stand out amongst the crowd and fading into obscurity.
  • 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 World War II 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.
  • Newhart Phone Call: Josh Tyler was planning on scripting and recording a fictional Newhart Phone Call as a brief non-musical interlude on the Now, Not Yet, album. This was because "Maybe" ended with a synthesizer trill that resembled a telephone ring. Then their choreographer Jordan Johnson played a voicemail where model Liz Ord expressed her surprise at the band being young Christians touring in an increasingly nonreligious UK, requesting that it be sampled in a song at some point. Tyler realized the voicemail was better than anything he could have written, and it became "The Notion."
  • Non-Appearing Title: "BREAKFAST" and "Brighton".
  • Ode to Youth: "TIME 2" is about resetting life by embracing a "simple child state of mind".
  • 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.
  • People Puppets: The music video for "Subliminal" features Josh and his girlfriend's movements being controlled by backup dancers, with the latter requiring them to perform the choreography for her at one point.
  • The Quiet One: Brett. When asked about his demeanor in interviews during a Reddit AMA, he explained that it's 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.
  • Retraux:
    • "still feel." draws heavily upon 70s funk with its bassline, brass features, and fade out; the music video also vaguely evokes the decade through the band's wardrobe and prop choices.
    • The music video for "RUNAWAY" takes place in the 60s and the 40s, with the fashion and furniture to match.
  • 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.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Liz Ord comes back with a vengeance for the very end of "creature," and by extension Now, Not Yet:
    I mean, that amount of glory goes seem reasonably glorious.
  • 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.
    • The first lyric of "Brighton" is "no one ever puts baby in a corner".
  • Silly Love Songs: Subverted with "Everything Machine". It 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.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Their attempt to make "still feel." as unplayable by radio stations as possible by extending the Fade Out backfired spectacularly.
  • 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.
  • Wham Shot: In the music video for "RUNAWAY", the cause of tension between J Francis Avet and his young daughter is finally revealed when two soldiers open the front door as he puts on his military uniform to fight in WWII.


Video Example(s):


"still feel" dual mirrors

Among the many, ''many'' intricate routines in half alive's "still feel." music video is a simple mirror routine, done from the back and then the side.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / MirrorRoutine

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