Podcast: The Best Music of 2018

Part 1

As 2018 comes to a close, the team at It’s All Dead have crunched the numbers and compiled their lists of the best albums and best songs of the year. On this podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by Nadia Paiva to break down some of the year’s best music, including releases from Pianos Become the Teeth, The 1975, The Wonder Years, mewithoutYou, and much more. They also discuss what made music great in 2018 – both in terms of commentary and in terms of escape. Listen in!

Part 2

But wait, there’s more! On part 2 of our Best of 2018 podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by It’s All Dead senior editor Kyle Schultz to talk further about the year in music. The two discuss the merits of Fall Out Boy’s return with MANIA and how Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco ascended to new heights with Pray for the Wicked. They also break down releases from Architects, Justin Courney Pierre, Pusha T, and As It Is. Listen in!

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What were your favorite albums and songs of 2018? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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The Best Songs of 2018

You can view our list of The Best Albums of 2018 here.

In 2018, the idea of what one song can accomplish and the story it can tell outside the context of an album continued to evolve. Certainly, songs on this list work best within the overarching narrative of the album they exist on, but many others told us a story worth unpacking in a variety of intriguing ways.

Some offered commentary that put previous works by the artist in a new light. Some were driven to new heights by an accompanying music video that expounded on the story within. Others were just fantastic songs to help chase away a year of bad news. They all had a part to play and all proved worthy to make our list of Best Songs of 2018. Take a look – and a listen.

15. mewithoutYou – “Julia (or, ‘Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses)”

This was the perfect single for mewithoutYou to release as a taste of [Untitled]. It fits the tone of the album perfectly and is a wonderful showcase of both Aaron’s vocals and the band’s musicianship. It breaks new ground for the band, but sounds like it could be a B-side on [A→B] Life. I love the intensity of the crescendo. I love the honest call for social unity in the lyrics. The video is super fun. This song has everything we expect from the band and more. – Nadia Paiva

14. Pronoun – “Wrong”

Pronoun were one of the biggest surprises for me this year. Opening for Justin Pierre, Pronoun hypnotized a full theater into believing that they are one random Tuesday afternoon away from being the biggest band in the country. “Wrong” is an emotional song about the conflict of being angry at someone and the turmoil of coming to terms with conflicting feelings. Simple guitar melodies and drums balance soft vocals and a bouncing synth before exploding towards an unleashed pop guitar. “Wrong” is a perfect introduction to a band that is still finding their footing in the world. – Kyle Schultz

13. The Wonder Years – “The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me”

This was undoubtably my favorite track on Sister Cities. I wrote a lot about it in my review of the album but I feel it’s worth mentioning again just how important this track is to the album. It ties together the entire theme: being away from home when you should really be there. Dan Campbell has to rely on the fact that the only thing he and his loved ones have in common at the moment is the ocean that’s between them to make himself feel better about being away at such a pivotal point in time. It’s heart-wrenching in a way that only The Wonder Years can pull off.– NP

12. Kacey Musgraves – “High Horse”

Did Kacey Musgraves write a song about me? Listening to the lyrics of “High Horse”, it’s hard not to feel the culprit, because haven’t we all been a jerk sometimes? “’Cause everyone knows someone who kills the buzz / Every time they open up their mouth”, she sings during the track’s irresistible, radio-ready pre-chorus. “High Horse” is the gateway drug (haha, get it?) to Golden Hour by infusing dance and disco into this uniquely country track and serves as the showcase of how Musgraves is driving the genre into a new era. So maybe “High Horse” is actually directed at all those staunch and rigid country music gatekeepers? Or maybe it’s just about me after all. – Kiel Hauck

11. Saves the Day – “Suzuki”

While 9 is an album full of off-beat, meta songs, “Suzuki” is arguably the most honest. At barely over a minute long, “Suzuki” is not only aware that it is a song, it knows what album it’s on (“I played on Can’t Slow Down so many years ago / Writing album number nine right now”). If Saves The Day is known for anything, it’s a legacy of rock music with vivid imagery painting honest emotions. Not only does singer Chris Conley give the address of where he is, he reflects on the couch, the room and his friends who inspired his career. Equal parts raging and restrained, “Suzuki” is a reflection and acknowledgement of 20 years worth of music, and appreciative of his career. With cool refrain, Conley finishes with, “So in love with life, sometimes it’s all too much / Thank you all forever and always”. – KS

10. Pianos Become the Teeth – “Love on Repeat”

This song makes the list because of how it’s made me feel since it was released and because of the fact that I’ve probably heard it at least once a day since February 15th, which means I’ve listened to it at least 293 times. The whole album always hits the spot for me, but something about this track stood out to me immediately from the first listen. The music drives with such fervor and feeling that you almost can’t help feeling something when it starts, and then all the way through till the end. – NP

9. Fall Out Boy – “Church”

On an album full of epic pop songs, “Church” is a stand-out. The soulful song rages with deep drums and bass tracks and a choir backing one of Patrick Stump’s best vocal performances to date. “Church” manages to be dark, moody and romantic all at once. The conflicting experiences of isolation (“I love the world, but I just don’t love the way it makes me feel”) and romance (“My sanctuary, you’re holy to me”) describe the experiences of religion that many feel. Pete Wentz’s ominous bass lines tread against Stump’s uplifting voice to create an experience equally judgmental and hopeful. – KS

8. Vince Staples – “Feels Like Summer”

At first blush, Vince Staples third studio album, FM!, plays like a radio broadcast serving as soundtrack to a summertime Long Beach barbecue. Listen closer and you’ll find Staples telling stories of the mundanity of violence in his neighborhood. It’s another blunt and beautiful release from one of the most subversive artists of our time, and album opener “Feels Like Summer” sets the stage perfectly. Atop a bass-heavy summery beat, Vince begins with the lines, “Summertime in the LB wild / We gon’ party ‘til the sun or the guns come out”. The cues are easy to miss on a track this smooth, highlighted by a chorus for the ages from Ty Dolla $ign. After a second verse reflecting on friends and family lost, Staples coolly states, “Moved on, life fast like that”. It’s an appropriate aside for a song this affecting and complex that clocks in at a mere 2:29. – KH

7. Watsky – “Welcome to the Family”

I’m not usually one to turn on hip-hop…I leave that to Kiel, but this song is too good to ignore. I’ve been listening to Watsky for years and I feel that this is his best release to date. “Welcome to the Family” came out just before my wedding and it’s become a special track for my husband and I. It’s all about facing things together and making it work even though life is hard. It makes me cry pretty much every time I hear it because it’s so relatable. We all deserve love and this Watsky song is a great reminder of that. – NP

6. Brian Fallon – “Little Nightmares”

“Little Nightmares” scared me so much upon first listen that I simply turned off the music and left my apartment to seek friends for a reassuring drink. Decorated in bouncing guitars and an energetic keyboard, Fallon’s warbling voice tells a story about a couple unraveling with the same inner demons while they tell each other that it will all be okay. The song is told from the shy narrator’s perspective (“All my life, I was the quiet kind / I just kept to myself and my dreaming”) as they attempt to find the courage to reassure their partner during a breakdown (“My words get lost and haunt the back of my throat / And little nightmares keep telling me you’ll go”). The energy of the song hides the darkness, much in the same way that the narrator tries to shield their partner. But there is hope that pours through as they find their courage, and a sense of security finally permeates as Fallon sings, “Don’t you know there’s an ocean of hope / Underneath the grey sky where you’re dreaming”. Fallon is at his emotional and storytelling best during “Little Nightmares” as he manages to break our hearts and then let us know that it will all be okay in the end. – KS

5. Ariana Grande – “thank u, next”

During a year in which Ariana Grande stood at front and center of the pop culture zeitgeist, it wasn’t her high profile relationships or even the success of her fourth album Sweetener that stood as her signature moment. Instead, it was a standalone single in the aftermath, a song so full of hope, given the circumstances, that it was impossible not to enjoy. And oh yeah, it’s one hell of a pop song. “One taught me love / One taught me patience / And one taught me pain / Now I’m amazing”, Grande tells us, knowing full well of our encyclopedic knowledge of her private life. Here, she invites us to look past it all on a song of self-love and empowerment. With her eyes set forward, “next” could mean anything for Grande – the pop world is hers and she is intent on letting nothing hold her back.– KH

4. Childish Gambino – “This is America”

In many ways, “This is America” is the quintessential 2018 song – existing not just as a song itself, but as a multi-media experience of cultural commentary meant to provoke a wide range of emotions before leaning into the continued conversation around race and violence in our country. Donald Glover is a genius in that way, far too coy to meet our general expectations but driven to create something that makes us question them. The brilliance of “This is America” lives largely in the music video – a kind of short art film that teases out and expands upon the song’s minimal and ambiguous lyrics, giving us a grander picture of statement. It’s a stark and affecting display of the black experience in America, fading into a haunting ending – a prolonged shot of a terrified Glover running for his life. Don’t let the weight of it all stop you from unpacking – the progress is meant to begin when the music stops.– KH

3. Senses Fail – “Double Cross”

“Double Cross” is one of pop punk’s most heartbreaking songs, even though Senses Fail are known primarily for hardcore music. It is a memorial to the punk scene Senses Fail started in, and possibly to past members of the band itself. Singer/ songwriter Buddy Nielsen reflects on being one of the last of his generation still active after watching his friends fall off this career path. Almost mocking the pop punk scene of the early 2000’s, “Double Cross” is the poppiest song of the band’s career, even as Nielsen rages, “I’ve been spilling my guts out on the stage / I’ve spent the best years of my life / Drinking myself to sleep at night / And now the glory days have all but faded”. Nielsen comes across equally angry, sad and apologetic as he sings, “Where is the passion that you used to have when music was the only thing that you had”. Making it as a musician is the dream of countless people, and “Double Cross” expresses the regret of ‘making it’ but discovering you stand upon the sacrifice and broken dreams of countless friends, as well. – KS

2. The 1975 – “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)”

This is without a doubt the best song The 1975 have released. I said it about “Robbers” from 2013’s self titled, and about “Somebody Else” from 2016’s I like it when you sleep, but those have been pushed aside for this epic of a track. It’s pretty unassuming at the start, but by the end of it, you’ve been swept into a whirlwind of some of Matty’s best vocals and some of the band’s most well-composed guitar work of their career. The strings at the end totally make it even more perfect. I could listen to it all day. – NP

1. Drake – “Nice for What”

As Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation turns 20, Drake’s “Nice for What” samples “Ex-Factor” while creating a female empowerment anthem. It’s the song that 2018 needed and hip hop itself needed even more. Not only is the track infectious (note the timeless brilliance of Lauryn Hill), but it flips the typical hip hop club anthem on its head, dropping degrading references to women in favor of an impressed observer, noting everything as worthy of praise.

In the lines, “With your phone out, gotta hit them angles / With your phone out, snappin’ like you Fabo / And you showing off, but it’s alright”, Drake makes note of even the most mundane of activities. Here, selfies and social media posts are earned – rewards for hard work and a deserved night out with friends. Leave it to Drake to turn toxic notions of a digital culture inside out. Leave it to Drake to usurp navel-gazing tendencies for an honest and deep look at women, who have remained one-dimensional in this context for far too long. – KH

Honorable Mention:

As It Is – “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)”
Pusha T – “If You Know, You Know”
Underoath – “On My Teeth”
Bring Me the Horizon – “Mantra”
Cardi B – “I Like It”

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Albums of 2018

You can view our list of The Best Songs of 2018 here.

Let’s face it: 2018 was not a great year. Fortunately, amidst the constant deluge of infuriating news, the year provided us with a flood of incredible new music. It was a year in which old friends returned, sounding better than ever. A year in which new artists made their mark with exciting debuts. A year in which some of our favorite artists delivered some of the best music of their careers.

Most importantly, the best music of 2018 offered us a much needed reprieve from the noise, and in many cases, provided helpful commentary and a voice for the marginalized. Whittling the list down to 15 wasn’t easy, but we think these albums best captured our ears and our hearts. Take a look below to read more about the albums that the It’s All Dead writing staff found to be the best and most important releases of 2018.

15. Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming…Of Days Long Past

I’m Only Dreaming… Of Days Long Past is a reinvention of an album barely a year old and one of the best albums of 2017. This new take on the record adds a moodier, dreamier landscape to an already ethereal album. Relying heavily on the majestic voice of Sherri Dupree-Bemis and the simplest melodies, this take on one of Eisley’s best albums somehow feels more honest, heavier and emotional in all of the best ways. Songs of beguiled confidence and love like “Defeatist” and “Louder Than a Lion” carry more weight and atmosphere than most songs have any right to. Eisley don’t need to reinvent themselves to be their very best – they just need to keep dreaming. – Kyle Schultz

14. Real Friends – Composure

My choices for end-of-year-lists are very personal. They’re chosen because I like them musically, thematically, lyrically – you name it. Composure is here because of how important of a story it tells. We see a firsthand account of someone dealing with mental illness. It’s a perfect picture of the way people process mental illness in their lives and has become a staple of how I get out of my own slumps and bad days. It’s a great album through and through, but I think, for me, its relevance is what brings it to the top for me this year. – Nadia Paiva

13. AFI – The Missing Man

AFI are meticulous with their releases. The Missing Man EP is looser than any of their full albums are allowed to be and dips far into their punk rock roots. The Missing Man treads a fine line between the dark conceptual stories of AFI’s best recent albums and the quick skate punk that helped raise the group to prominence 20 years ago. It’s a taste of everything that makes AFI. The Missing Man shows that not only are AFI constantly striving for something new with their music, they’re constantly updating their history. – KS

12. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

I think [Untitled] is mewithoutYou’s best release to date. It’s lyrically exciting and delves into a lot of new territory for the band, without ever losing what makes the band so unique and special. It’s musically exciting and they’ve proven that they’ve still got what it takes to create something new. This album is a constant in my rotation and I doubt that will change any time soon. I love an album that takes some effort to work through and this was the perfect project and challenge for me this year. – NP

11. Underoath – Erase Me

A band that spent its heyday pushing genre boundaries and shifting the notion of what modern heavy music could sound like returns eight years after its last release to continue its evolution. Fans can argue until the sun explodes about which Underoath album is the best – and there are several great ones to choose from – but consider this: With Erase Me, Underoath chose not to live in the past, creating an unexpectedly accessible and divergent release that carries on the spirit of a band that would never settle for stagnation. It’s just about the most “Underoath” thing the band could have done, and the fact that it resulted in their second-ever Grammy nomination makes things just that much sweeter. – Kiel Hauck

10. Pusha T – Daytona

In 2002, Pusha T helped soundtrack my freshman year of college atop percussive beats from The Neptunes on Clipse’s smash release, Lord Willin’. Sixteen years later, at the age of 41, King Push may have unpredictably created his masterpiece. Daytona is a perfect exercise in minimalism, finding Push flexing his crisp and surgical delivery atop sample-heavy beats that allow his voice to drive the songs forward. At seven tracks long, there is no filler – just 21 minutes of canvas for one of the most underrated rappers of our time to finally stake his claim as one of the greats. If Yeezus showed us what modern hip hop looks like when stripped down for parts, Daytona displays the beauty of rap as a timeless art form – no-holds-barred, no tricks. Just one of the best lyricists of our generation writing his long-overdue coke rap thesis. – KH

9. Panic! at the Disco – Pray for the Wicked

When Brendan Urie transitioned Panic! at the Disco towards pop superstardom, I was hesitant. Death of a Bachelor felt somewhat forced to me, though I eventually came around. Pray For The Wicked is a masterpiece that cultivates the best aspects of every one of Panic!’s past releases and merges them into a mini concept album about the glamour and steep price of stardom (“Hey Look Ma, I Made It”). Each song has a unique flair, style and message that dances toward a larger story about fame. Pray For The Wicked is arguably Urie’s potential opus. It solidifies him as one of the biggest pop stars in the world as much as it honors everything that has ever made Panic! at the Disco beloved. – KS

8. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

Sister Cities is a special album for The Wonder Years. It seems like it could be the last major release we get from the band for a while, with Dan Campbell’s pending fatherhood and the band’s other ventures, including their new subscription service. The album is quintessential Wonder Years material, yet showcases that the band is still heavily focused on musical growth, and at their stage in the game, it’s important that their love for what they do is still present. Sister Cities proved that The Wonder Years are far from running out of creativity, and I look forward to how they’ll channel that in the next season of their existence. – NP

7. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Even before the release of her debut studio album, Cardi B was ascending to rap legend status – an uncategorizable and unpredictable figure, harkening back to days when rappers like Biggie and 2Pac seemed larger than life. That Invasion of Privacy actually lived up to the ungodly hype built on viral sensations like “Bodak Yellow” is a testament to her drive and talent. The album is deeply personal, truly funny, and wildly entertaining. But more than that, it’s the story of self-empowerment and standing firmly confident as a rapper in a genre that has for so long marginalized women. Cardi refuses to be quieted or sanitized to fit a mold or play a part – with Invasion of Privacy, she’s snatching the game without asking for permission, with no intent of backing down. As she states on album closer, “I Do”, “My little 15 minutes lasted long as hell, huh?” – KH

6. Justin Courtney Pierre – In the Drink

In The Drink is an album equally familiar and adventurous beyond its comfort zone. Justin Pierre proves himself to be one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, something few already doubted. With the opportunity to create a sound truly his own, the fact that In The Drink sounds like an extension of Motion City Soundtrack adds credence to how honest his writing has always been. Whether toying with orchestration in “Undone” or diving face first into punk songs like “Ready Player One”, In The Drink is an unapologetic rock album filled with self-depreciative humor, inner turmoil and anthems of confidence. In The Drink delves as far into Pierre’s past as it does his future and is all the better for it. – KS

5. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

There’s no doubt that this has been an exhausting year in terms of our current social climate. The 1975 wrote a whole album about it and released it right at the end of the year. I generally never choose an album that’s been too recently released because I don’t feel like I get enough time to really pick it apart and find all of its pros and cons, but I felt at home with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships almost immediately. It’s beautifully composed and full of good conversation starters. Maybe we can take some of the advice offered to us within it and make 2019 a better year. – NP

4. Architects – Holy Hell

On the surface, one might find metal to be the perfect genre for processing the stages of grief. But what about ponderances on the mere idea of grief and loss and what it means to move forward with a quiet understanding of our fate? With Holy Hell, Architects created one of the most powerful and purposeful metalcore releases of our time. Part lament of fallen comrade and key songwriter Tom Searle, part meditation on existence and death, Holy Hell pulls no punches when tugging at some of the hardest questions we rarely speak aloud. From the technical, brutal brilliance of tracks like “Death is Not Defeat” to the more gentle introspection of “Royal Beggars”, Holy Hell is both a sonic and thematic masterpiece that finds ways to let hope glimmer through the wreckage, just as Sam Carter delivers during the album’s closing track: “Love comes at a cost, but all is not lost”. – KH

3. Fall Out Boy – MANIA

MANIA is one of the best albums Fall Out Boy have ever released in a discography already stacked full of career-defining records. MANIA is an album that forces listeners to earn its respect. It hones the sound of modern pop music to a razor’s edge, blurring the lines between genre and takes risks that would ruin lesser artists. Fall Out Boy are at the height of their ability by pushing back against anyone hoping for just another pop punk record. Stadium anthems like “Last of the Real Ones” and rock songs like “Champion” are new staples to live shows as much as they are battle cries of rock music in an era when the genre seems largely ignored. MANIA is the result of two albums’ worth of experimentation and adventure, and it’s now hard to argue that Fall Out Boy’s best days are behind them. – KS

2. Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love

On Wait for Love, there isn’t a spot where I say to myself, “Eh, that could’ve flowed a little smoother,” or, “There’s too much of a lull in the action.” This fourth full-length album is perfect from front to back, and probably from back to front. Lyrically, it’s meaningful and relatable in a way that a lot of rock music isn’t. It’s a beautiful display of how a band can mold and shift to fit in with their changing personal lives. I think I’ve listened to the album at least once a day since its release, and I haven’t done that with an album since 2013, so you know the love is real. – NP

1. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

It’s easy to be distracted by the many narratives swirling around Golden Hour, the fourth studio album from Kacey Musgraves. Stories of acid trips during writing sessions and outspoken support of the LGBTQ community from one of country music’s rising stars. Yet underneath it all is a warm and affecting collection of songs that take time to look for beauty wherever it can be found, even within the most imperfect of us. In a year like 2018, it’s a 45-minute exercise in relief.

Call it genre-bending if you like – Musgraves boldly grafts in disco and indie rock elements to balance out the twang – but at its core, Golden Hour is a perfect pop album. Songs like “High Horse” and “Lonely Weekend” effortlessly find the perfect balance of sound that so many mainstream country artists have been aiming at for years. Musgraves makes it seem almost too simple – just be yourself and write songs from your heart. That the resulting album feels so counter to our expectations could very well amplify the point she’s trying to make. As Musgraves so eloquently puts it during opener “Slow Burn”, “I’m alright with a slow burn / Taking my time, let the world turn / I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright”. – KH

Honorable Mention

Vince Staples – FM!
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
Lydia – Liquor
Black Panther: The Soundtrack
As It Is – The Great Depression

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

It took a long time for me to get into The 1975. I thought they were another record-company-manufactured English boy band because, if you recall, we were still in the age of One Direction when their first album, The 1975, released in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 when their second album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it came out that the band caught my interest. Now, both albums are in heavy rotation for me, and I found myself excited for their third.

You can buy or stream a Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships on Apple Music.

According to every signal we got from the band throughout 2018, the album was slated for a release in the summer. We got a single instead, the first of several, and the album got pushed until now. They changed the title from Music for Cars to A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The album is perfectly titled.

At the crux of this album is a picture of today’s society. We’re a generation rampant with social anxiety, and science shows that this is due largely to the presence of the Internet in our lives. We’re constantly within arm’s length of what’s happening in any part of the world, whether it’s positive or negative. Matty Healy and the other members of The 1975 have taken two-and-a-half years forming an album that’s really a plea for change in these habits. Heck, Healy even sings that we should be “going outside” in the lead single, “Give Yourself a Try”. He has seen firsthand the negative effects that fame and constantly being in the spotlight has brought him and is begging us to use responsibility in our social media habits and other personal spheres of influence.

Like the other two albums by The 1975, A Brief Inquiry talks a lot about heroin and other drug use. Healy has excitedly been clean and sober for some time now, but does talk about his experiences in some of the tracks – largely, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “Surrounded By Heads and Bodies”, as well as some smaller references sprinkled in others. Like any medical problem, addiction is so hard to recover from, and Healy tells us that it’s even harder when he is “…connecting with 10,000 people and then going to a hotel room by myself.”

The band prides itself in its creativity. They’re never one to do the same thing twice. Each iteration of the first track on each album, “The 1975”, is composed as an entrance into the world the album intends to transport us to. In their first album, we had songs about partying and doing drugs and other frivolous behavior. In I like it when you sleep, Healy went on a personal journey of introspection. There were songs about drugs and parties, sure, but there was also a song about losing his grandmother, and a song about fighting to find some faith somewhere. Healy had started the growing-up process.

This third album, though, is taking an outrospective look at what’s around him. He sees where he’s failed in relationships because of the intense need to be connected to the rest of the world. He looks at the political climate of the United States and is appalled at what he sees. He wrote a song about gun control.

Sometimes, an album can have such a great lyrical depth that the musical side is left lacking. Not so with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The band has equally composed a soundtrack that very well may have gotten the point across even without lyrics. Where there are many electronic and computer-y effects toward the beginning, there’s a change in the middle, followed by songs like “Mine”, which is straight-up jazz.

One might say at first glance that the constant stylistic changes don’t work, but it’s The 1975. If they don’t care about what works, why should we? It took me a little while to get used to how the album flows – or rather, doesn’t flow. Each track sits well on its own, but the way it’s all tied together lyrically is enough to counteract how strangely it jumps from both genre to genre and era to era. There are some 80’s inspired synths, and then there’s “Be My Mistake”, a song I could see being performed at a Woodstock Festival.

I would be making a huge mistake if I didn’t draw special attention to the final track. “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” starts like it could be the end-credits track to a sappy emotional movie, but it’s a great picture of how depression can cloud everything. A person who’s deep in that mindset can feel like it’s always been that way, that there’s never been a time they’ve been truly happy. But the truth is, it’s only sometimes. Healy is reminding us to remember the “sometimes.” I think it’s the most beautiful thing The 1975 has offered us, and it’s a perfect ending to an album that is imploring us to live life to the fullest.

Conceptually, the album is wonderful. It puts forth a strong message about how the world desperately needs to change. There are hard-hitting lines about politics, climate change, and even a spoken word about a man who falls in love with the Internet (a.k.a. all of us, in some way or another).

It’s a hard lesson to learn on our own, never mind when we’re being reprimanded for all of these bad habits by a band who we’ve generally just enjoyed the music of. Now they’re asking us to put effort into being present in our daily lives? Yeah, they are. Which is what makes The 1975 so great. They’re obsessed with pushing their own creative boundaries so much, that we’re forced to grow with them. So maybe we should close our browsers, but I think we should keep our headphones plugged in.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Mumford and Sons – Delta

I thought Marcus Mumford was done. With the release of Wilder Mind in 2015, the band went in a direction that wasn’t overly popular with either their fans or, seemingly, the band itself. They barely toured the album, only playing festivals and small shows. I personally ended up loving the album, but I will admit I was leery at first. I had heard that they had put down their banjos and I wasn’t really ready for the end of the original Mumford incarnation. With their new release Delta, though, the band has shown that electric guitars and banjos can live together in harmony.

You can buy or stream Delta on Apple Music.

This fourth album is everything we loved about Mumford’s first two albums and the things we admired from their third. It’s still a totally different direction for the band, but in the way that you still have to go through some of the same routes to get back home after a cross-country road trip. Some of it is familiar, and some of it takes advantage of the new scenery and stops at the roadside attractions.

Delta is a geographical term for where a river and a larger, slower-moving body of water meet. This is a very fitting title for the album because thematically it deals with all of the major changes life can hold. There’s a song about death (“Beloved”), a song about divorce (“If I Say”), and a couple of songs about being happily in love (“Woman” is one of them).

Musically, the album is a perfect mix of their past works with some surprises thrown in. Marcus seems to sing at a higher register than he has previously; it adds a new dimension to the way this album feels as compared to their others. “Woman” features some synth-y backgrounds, akin to Judah and the Lion and Ed Sheeran, and it’s also my favorite track. There’s a heavy use of strings throughout the album, which provides a larger than life vibe. Mumford and Sons placed a high priority on uniqueness with this album, and it shows. “Beloved” featured what I’m pretty sure is a sitar, which is super fun and not widely used in American/European music. It also kind of ties in the concept of a delta: two different things meeting and becoming intertwined.

The first track, “42” is four minutes long, but I think of it more of an intro piece than really a track on its own because it ties so many of the album’s themes together. The next track, “Guiding Light”, was the first of two singles, the other being “If I Say”.

From a lyrical standpoint, this is easily the most personal release we’ve received from Mumford and Sons. Marcus sings about things that have happened in his life, in the other band members’ lives, and even about stories they’ve heard from people they’ve met. It’s accessible in a way that Mumford hasn’t really been known for, especially as a folk band. “Beloved,” in particular, speaks about death and ends with these lines: “And as you leave / See my children playing at your feet”. It’s a testament to both the innocence of childhood and also the legacy a family matriarch or patriarch leaves behind.

Their past albums use a lot of literary references, specifically Sigh No More, which alluded to (among others) “The Odyssey”, Shakespeare’s plays, and even “The Wizard of Oz”. In Delta, though, these are missing, except for the track “Darkness Visible” which is a passage from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. I did miss those small touches, because I enjoy doing deep dives into lyrics so much, but I suppose the layers of personal details the band has substituted are equally as interesting, and also it’s not my album so I really have no say here.

This album is full of heart and soul. Mumford and Sons brings you into their experiences more than they ever have before. It’s great to see a band become so comfortable in both where they are in their lives and in their sound. Delta is a great example of how we can walk away from the things we’ve known, but then turn back around. We learn things when we step outside of our comfort zone, but in the end, there’s no place like home…or a banjo.

4/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Interview with Trenton Woodley of Hands Like Houses

On October 12, Canberra, Australia, rock band Hands Like Houses released their fourth full length album, Anon. on Hopeless Records. As the band hits the road for their headlining U.S. tour, Kiel Hauck caught up with lead singer Trenton Woodley to discuss the new album and the band’s sonic journey on our latest podcast. Woodley also shares details about the band’s songwriting progression over the years, how to evolve as an artist while bringing your fanbase along for the ride, and how Hands Like Houses keep up with an ever-evolving music industry. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Emery – Eve

I’m obsessed with Emery. The harmonies, musicianship and lyricism have both spoken to me and impacted the rest of my musical taste in a way (almost) no other band has. I get excited whenever they even think about releasing something new. This stems from the time I saw the music video for “Butcher’s Mouth”. Something about that song (the video was just a means to an end, I guess) opened up a possibility to me about the span of music that was outside my adolescent bubble, and I’ve followed the band ever since, from albums to podcasts. I’ve never seen them live, which is really to say, hey, Emery, please come to Boston.

You can buy or stream Eve on Apple Music.

With 2015’s You Were Never Alone, my personal favorite album, the band embarked on a Kickstarter journey to self-fund the music they create. They broke up with Tooth & Nail Records and, with no offense to Brandon Ebel, started creating the best music of their career. This led to the release of last year’s Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined, and their latest, Eve.

Eve looks like a heck of a long album with 15 tracks, but it’s only 41 minutes long. Throughout the album, the band gets personal in a way they haven’t really done before. Generally, an Emery album consists of a bunch of songs about breakups, but (and I’m not sure whether this is a correlation) with the split from Tooth & Nail, the band’s last two albums constantly touch on new themes for Emery. There’s an entire set of Break It Down (Matt Carter’s podcast) episodes about You Were Never Alone. I won’t give you the details of them because it’s much more fulfilling to listen to them. The time and thought Emery puts into their art is really showcased in the episodes and really made me appreciate them more than I already had.

“Fear Yourself” might be the heaviest track here. Talking about sin and the hypocrisy in the church, Toby sings in the chorus: “Fear yourself is all I heard / Horror-struck from the Holy Word” and, “…outside those walls they mauled the witness / And we got back to business”. Very on-brand for the members to sing about; they deal with it in virtually every episode of their “Bad Christian” podcast. I mean, they wouldn’t have to deal with it so much if it weren’t so true and physically visible, but c’est la vie. These guys have become a voice of dissension in millennial church circles, but I happen to think it’s necessary.

“Safe” is a song that Devin and Matt wrote after both of their mothers passed away during the recording of Eve. It’s a lovely tribute, and the harmonies Emery is so known for really shine here.

A highlight of the album is the ridiculously titled, “People Always Ask Me If We’re Going to Cuss in an Emery Song”. Emery did not. I’m pretty sure this is a song to everyone who listens to their podcast (in which profanity is abundant) and, other than the question in the title, ask: “How can you guys talk like that and still be religious?” Emery’s reply is that they’re just words and they don’t matter.

Needless to say, I’m psyched with the new Emery album. I’ve got to take a little more time to dive into the lyrics and figure out where it fits into my Emery album ranking, but, so far, it’s pretty high up there. Kickstarter was made to release albums like this. The band has proven three times now that they’re capable of producing exquisite art, and Eve is another great example of that.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Talking Lauryn Hill, Frank Ocean with Cole Cuchna of Dissect

As The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill turns 20, Cole Cuchna has launched a new mini-series on the classic album for his massively successful Dissect podcast. Cuchna joins Kiel Hauck to reflect on the album and its influence before delving into the work of Frank Ocean, as covered in season 3 of Dissect. Cuchna also shares details about his process when examining music and discusses how empathy continues to play a key role in his work. The two also converse on the future of podcasting and how the medium as continued to evolve in recent years, attracting even more invested listeners. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Queue It Up: November 12, 2018

This week’s Queue It Up is somewhat predictable because our first track is “thank u, next” by Queen of Pop, Ariana Grande.

I know, I know. You saw it coming. Well guess what? “thank u, next” is a straight up jam. Not only was it totally savage of Ariana to release the track right before an SNL episode featuring ex-fiancé Pete Davidson, it was even more savage of her to spin it around and turn it into what is arguably the biggest self esteem boost in music. Not gonna lie, when she started referring to herself as the biggest part of her own character development, I teared up a little. It’s an important message for everyone.

Next we have As Cities Burn. They’re back with a new track called “2020 AD”. They also recently signed to Equal Vision, which means we should get more than one track, assuming all goes well. I’d like to chalk their return up to the episode of the Labeled podcast where Toby Morrell of Emery basically forced them to metaphorically kiss and make up, but I could be wrong. Either way, it’s a great track.

Finally, we have Regina’s Spektor’s “Birdsong”. It was featured in an episode of that new show, “The Romanoffs”, which I know nothing about and most likely will not watch. The song is lovely, but honestly, what else should we expect from Regina Spektor? It’s a quick track, literally one minute and 40 seconds long, so you have no excuse to skip it.

Have a great week!

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Architects – Holy Hell

“Into the night we burn and rage / In depth we repay for time on this stage / The lights are bright, but don’t lose your way / ‘Cause once it ignites, the flame must decay”

It’s nearly impossible to approach Holy Hell objectively. The eight full-length studio album from British metalcore giants Architects lives entirely in the aftermath of guitarist and lead songwriter Tom Searle’s passing in 2016 after a three-year battle with skin cancer. As such, it’s a deeply emotional and personal document. Even so, its excellence in craft cannot be denied.

You can buy or stream Holy Hell on Apple Music.

From a broad perspective, Holy Hell is an unsurprising crash course in the complexity and devastation of grief. At times, it reads like a letter from Searle’s brother, and Architects’ drummer, Dan. At others, it dwells in the depths of sorrow, desperately searching for a path forward. On a molecular level, it almost inexplicably manages to build and evolve on a sound the band had presumably perfected in recent years.

All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us solidified Architects as titans of metalcore, as if more proof was needed. Unbeknownst to listeners upon its release, that album allowed the late Searle to explore his fate in painful detail. “Death is Not Defeat”, the opening track of Holy Hell finds Dan responding to his brother’s final lyrics, acknowledging the pain of a finite existence, while gripping tightly to hope: “Now you’re finally complete / I will see you where oceans meet”.

We could spend the remainder of this review exploring the beauty of Dan Searle’s lyrics and uncanny ability to capture the journey of grief  – and there are no shortage of moments to share. But it’s all brought to life through a band stretching itself and allowing their collective pain to forge a path forward.

New guitarist Josh Middleton makes his presence felt throughout, whether it be found in surprisingly melodic riffs during the opening moments of the album’s title track or in the band’s signature mathematic breakdowns on singles “Hereafter” and “Modern Misery”. Throughout Holy Hell, the band sprinkle in elements, such as dark synthesizers and stringed instruments that blend gently into the mix, adding emotion without sounding out of place. These additions take tracks like album closer “A Wasted Hymn” to a deeper place than the band has ever been able to explore.

Atop it all, Sam Carter, long considered one of the genre’s best vocalists, delivers his finest performance. Here, Carter finds new ways to splinter, be it delicately, as on “Royal Beggars” or in outright fury as on “The Seventh Circle”. On the former, Carter fights through sorrow while singing, “Royal beggars / Do you wanna / Live forever / Alone?” On “Seventh Circle”, Carter shreds his vocal chords non-stop for 1:30 as he helplessly bellows, “I feel the blood drip from my face / Maybe it’s better to never have been”. One can only imagine the scene in the studio while putting such a performance to tape.

Carter’s ability to evolve as a vocalist, transcending the traditional role of metalcore frontman, is made even more extraordinary when considering the circumstances. On back-to-back albums, he has been tasked with delivering a surreptitious farewell and then the mournful response of the bereaved. It must be the kind of responsibility that allows one to tap into parts of themselves they never knew existed. It has resulted in the kind of work that defines a career.

In the face of such loss, it would have been understandable had the remaining members of Architects chosen to walk away. That they chose to carry on is laudable. That they were able to take their collective grief and infuse it into something so life affirming, beautiful and real is inspiring. The band’s excellence is no longer debatable. Architects stand among the elite in modern metalcore.

5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.