Surviving Summer 2020 with Stand Atlantic

As we’ve noted repeatedly these past few months, Summer 2020 has shaped up to be…not good. Not good at all. No summer concerts. No summer road trips. Just a cycle of sickness that could be broken if we could all show just an ounce of responsibility (please wear a mask, for the love of god).

But as we’ve also noted, one beacon of light these past few months has been the onslaught of incredibly good music that has lifted our spirits and kept us company. Summer has always been a season I associate with some of my favorite music memories. It’s hard not to get an itch for Warped Tour around this time each year, or reflect on those summer drives with friends when we blared our favorite pop punk bands from the speakers.

And even though the vast majority of this summer will be spent indoors and separated from friends and family, I’ve found more than a hint of seasonal solace in the form of Stand Atlantic.

The Australian pop punk act has been on my radar for a few years, but I haven’t given them the attention they deserve. The band, fronted by vocalist Bonnie Fraser, released their debut full-length album, Skinny Dipping, in 2018 on Hopeless Records. Next month, they’ll release a follow-up in the form of Pink Elephant.

If the first five songs the band have released are any indication, Pink Elephant is unlikely to leave my rotation for the duration of 2020. The recently-released “Jurassic Park” features the kind of sugary-sweet chorus that hasn’t invaded my ears since the summer of 2007 when All Time Low dropped “Dear Maria, Count Me In”. If Warped Tour was taking place in 2020, at least half of us would be sweat and sunscreen-stained t-shirts featuring the words “Dancing with ghosts in your garden”.

The crazy thing is, “Jurassic Park” may not even be the best song from Pink Elephant so far. That title goes to “Hate Me (Sometimes)” which successfully hits every winning note in the pop punk playbook while still sounding fresh as hell. But then again, it’s hard to argue against “Wavelength”, with its synth-driven verses and rattling bass line from Miki Rich. And what about “Drink to Drown” – a track that sounds like the best Mayday Parade ballad put to tape?

I guess what I’m saying is that I cannot wait to play this album all summer long, even if this summer blows. And I’ll never get tired of the feeling of finding a new band that captures my attention in a way that engulfs me. Those kinds of moments are the reason I started this site, and I’m hopeful that we can all experience a few in this interim period before we congregate once again to sing along to our favorite new songs in unison.

You can pre-order Pink Elephant here.

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Run the Jewels Arrive Right on Time with “RTJ4”

It was November 11, 2016. Just days after one of the most disastrous and damaging presidential elections in American history, iconic hip hop crew A Tribe Called Quest released their final album, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. It was an album 18 years in the making, set into motion in the years prior thanks to the mended relationship of key members Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, and largely recorded before Phife’s passing in March of that year.

That album was a moment. Less a celebratory victory lap for one of the genre’s most revered acts and more a statement of resistance in the aftermath of the election. Even now, tracks like “The Space Program” and “We the People…” feel as though they were penned on that dreadful Tuesday night. How was it possible for Tribe to have such foresight?

You can buy or stream RTJ4 on Apple Music.

Because foresight wasn’t required. Donald Trump’s election was just another sad, terrible moment in a country whose history is filled with the marginalization, oppression, and blatant hatred of people of color. The members of Tribe didn’t need a new reason to speak that truth.

I couldn’t help but think of that album this week upon the release of RTJ4, the fourth studio release from hip hop duo Run the Jewels. The album arrives with the country in disarray and protests taking place in every major city over the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor, and quite literally countless black lives at the hands of a system that devalues them. RTJ4 sounds hand-crafted for this moment in time.

It was last Saturday that Killer Mike spoke during a press conference with Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in an unscripted and powerful moment that captured the attention of the country. It’s the kind of speech you would expect a leader to give – the sort of thing that is in short supply these days. By Wednesday, in the words of Run the Jewels themselves, “Fuck it. Why Wait?” RTJ4 was here.

I didn’t make it through the first track before I had to pause and compose myself. “Yankee and the brave (ep. 4)” begins with the sort of fictional, fantastical banter that sometimes backdrops Run the Jewels’ music, adding moments of levity between the weight. The track itself is punishing, highlighted by its rapid-fire drum beat and rattling bass line. Mid-way into the track, Mike drops the kind of verse that makes time stand still:

“I got one round left, a hunnid cops outside
I could shoot at them or put one between my eyes
Chose the latter, it don’t matter, it ain’t suicide”
And if the news say it was that’s a goddamn lie
I can’t let the pigs kill me, I got too much pride
And I meant it when I said it, never take me alive”

Before you can digest those lines, El-P enters the scene with humor, jerking us back into this getaway episode, spitting, “I got the Grand Nat runnin’ in the alley outside / Now, Michael, run like you hungry and get your ass in the ride”. It’s a textbook Run the Jewels moment, but this week, it hits harder than ever before.

The same applies to “walking in the snow” featuring another heartbeat-skipping moment as Mike alludes to the last words of Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 by New York City police. His verse now lands hauntingly in the wake of George Floyd:

“And every day on evening news they feed you fear for free
And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me
And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe’”

Jesus. And he’s not done:

“And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy
But truly the travesty, you’ve been robbed of your empathy”

I could go on, diving in on tracks like “JU$T” featuring Pharrell and Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha, which features the repeated cry of, “Look at all these slave masters”, but you get the point. While this past week has served as a wake-up call (hopefully) for so many white and privileged people across the country, the stories of George Floyd and Breona Taylor are nothing new for the black community. Albums like Thank You 4 Your Service and RTJ4 feel so in the moment when they arrive because they exist in a moment that never ends.

At a certain point in time as the genre evolved and expanded, hip hop as protest music became a sort of subgenre. But truthfully, protest has always been in rap’s DNA. It has to be. Because black voices are marginalized and maligned today just as they were in the 70s when the genre began to form, and just as they were for hundreds of years prior to that. And while we’d all be wise to listen, maybe it’s time to act, too. Fuck it. Why wait?

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: MxPx – The Ever Passing Moment

The first MxPx release to catch my ear wasn’t a studio album. In the summer of 1999, the band released At the Show, a 21-track live album coming on the heels of an unprecedented run of solid gold pop punk – literally. Life in General firmly legitimized the band in 1996 before 1998’s Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo was certified gold, followed by Let it Happen, one of the greatest collections of B-sides the genre has seen. The skate punk kids from Bremerton had arrived.

You can buy or stream The Ever Passing Moment on Apple Music.

At the Show introduced me to the band and served as a primer on their greatest hits. Even now, when the studio version “Chick Magnet” comes on, I sing along with the vocals of Mike Herrera’s much looser and more playful live rendition. It’s probably no surprise then that 2000’s The Ever Passing Moment is my favorite MxPx album. It was the first one to release after I’d fallen head-over-heels in love with the band.

It is now 20 years old, which almost seems impossible.

You can have a lot of fun debates about which MxPx album is the best because there really aren’t any bad ones. And while I’ve always conceded that Life in General stands at the front of the pack, it’s never held the same place in my heart. The Ever Passing Moment finds the band at the top of their game with nothing to prove. Free from their divorce from Tooth & Nail Records, MxPx seemed to spread their wings on A&M – three years later, they would release their most commercial album to date with Before Everything & After.

Almost every one of the album’s 15 tracks clocks in at under 3 minutes, and each flexes the band’s most impressive muscle – fast-paced, left coast punk rawk. The Ever Passing Moment breezes by effortlessly, which is probably why I’ve played it so relentlessly over the years that I know every beat and turn like the back of my hand. Not to mention the litany of memorable moments that reside in MxPx lore, from the stomping chorus of “Responsibility” to Dave Grohl’s scream of “One, two, three, go!” at the start of “The Next Big Thing”.

Because the album is so solid from front to back, it takes the pressure off the singles to carry two decades’ worth of weight. I’ve always found unsung tracks like “Two Whole Years”, “Foolish”, “Answer in the Question”, and “Unsaid” to be just as fun, energetic, and memorable as anything in the band’s catalogue. And truly, that’s how you end up talking about an album 20 years later – it has to be an album worth talking about.

As the pop punk genre took off into the mainstream at the start of the new century, MxPx began their transition to a band of legacy. To date, the band has released five more full-length albums since The Ever Passing Moment, each worthy of celebration, even if they didn’t hold quite the same level of influence. No matter. A large majority of the onslaught of pop punk’s new wave could trace their lineage back to MxPx. 

If Life in General was the album that made a new generation of punks want to pick up a guitar, The Ever Passing Moment was the album that served as the definitive playbook for pop punk excellence.

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Celebrating 15 Years of “From Under the Cork Tree”

During the spring semester of my junior year of college, I spent countless afternoons manning the booth for our student radio station. For what felt like a month straight, “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” was the most requested song. I vividly remember taking another request by phone, only to look up and see the television in the studio playing the video on MTV. Fall Out Boy were everywhere. And frankly, I was already sick of them.

You can buy or stream From Under the Cork Tree on Apple Music.

It took me a while to come around on From Under the Cork Tree, the album that launched Fall Out Boy, and the scene at large, into the stratosphere. Call it juvenile elitism. These were our bands, and now suddenly everyone was into it?

That bad attitude kept me from experiencing the joys of FUCT for a number of years. Now, 15 years after its release, it’s an album I know like the back of my hand.

On the album’s 10th anniversary, Senior Editor Kyle Schultz wrote about how From Under the Cork Tree is rightfully credited with taking a new generation of emo to the masses, but he also notes how that ascent was the end of the scene as we had known it. Many of our favorite bands were no longer confined to the Warped Tour circuit. Following Fall Out Boy’s rise in 2005, new bands could emerge from the woodwork and land headlining tours and MTV airplay without so much as traveling across country multiple times in 15-passenger vans. The scene was in style and driving popular tastes.

It’s still weird to think back on that time. Pre-2005 it was still faux pas to shop exclusively at Hot Topic or cover your backpack in stitched-on patches of bands no one had ever heard of. Don’t hear me as complaining here – it’s simply an acknowledgement of how quickly things changed and how upside down it all felt for those of us who were on the bandwagon back when there was plenty of room.

It didn’t take long for me (and assuredly many others) to adjust to this new experience. We became the ones at shows telling stories of “back when.” Before long, it felt almost normal for every Fueled By Ramen band to go platinum. It got comfortable. Until it wasn’t.

We now reflect fondly on those times of scene stardom, LiveJournal updates, Rolling Stone covers and the like. Because it all came crashing back to earth just as quickly as it began. But here’s the thing: the tax never came due for Fall Out Boy.

There’s a version of this story where we talk about “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” as the highlight in the short career of a band that could’ve left us wanting more. Instead, Fall Out Boy used From Under the Cork Tree to infiltrate the pop culture zeitgeist and evolve into something new and fresh. Infinity on High made clear that Fall Out Boy had graduated from the scene. The events that followed turned them into something that comes as close as you can get to rock legends in this day and age.

As much as I’ve grown to love From Under the Cork Tree and all of it’s introspective, self-deprecating charm over the years, I wouldn’t place it on the band’s Mount Rushmore. That may make me an outlier, but Fall Out Boy only got better – much better – in the aftermath of that breakthrough moment.

I’m thankful for that. And so, I would assume, are so many of the bands we cover on this site who owe a debt of gratitude to the blueprint that Fall Out Boy created. But as much as those bands may have tried to recreate that magic over the years, no one has been able to pull it off with the flair for the dramatic that Fall Out Boy demonstrated on From Under the Cork Tree.

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2020

Every year, I use my love of music videos as an excuse to spend way too much time watching music videos from a decade prior and then making a dumb list of some of my favorites. This is that list! It’s crazy to think that breakthrough years for artists like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are now a decade behind us. Or that 10 years ago, My Chemical Romance was still going strong with one of the most anticipated rock albums of the year.

Then again, time makes almost no sense these days. Seeing as many of us have plenty of times on our hands, I hope you’ll enjoy this list of some of my favorite music videos from 2010. If you feel so inclined, share some of your favorites in the replies!

Circa Survive – “Imaginary Enemy”

The lead single from Circa Survive’s 2010 masterpiece Blue Sky Noise was “Get Out”, but the most underrated track from the album is “Imaginary Enemy”. The video finds the band members running through dark forests and fields on the wrong side of a witch hunt. That imagery is kind of perfect for where the band found themselves around this time, at least until the end of the video when they’re beamed up into a spaceship. Then again, do we have proof this never happened?

Lady Gaga – “Alejandro”

By 2010, new Lady Gaga videos were appointment viewing, much like Madonna’s artistic dominance on MTV in the 80s. You can pick your poison in terms of the best video from The Fame Monster – I went with “Alejandro” for its sheer weirdness and beauty. Inspired by her admiration and love for her gay friends, the video is full of religious imagery and sexual energy. Was there anything more Gaga in 2010 than an AR-15 assault rifle bra?

Bring Me the Horizon – “It Never Ends”

Oh no! Oli Sykes is in the back of an ambulance barreling down the road, driven by a guy whose eyes are covered! And he’s also kinda floating around down the road like a ghost! And there are vampires? This video is weird, but this song is so good. 2010 saw Bring Me the Horizon make a huge artistic leap forward, spearheaded by “It Never Ends” and its manic video which is constantly trying to capture the energy of one of the year’s most aggressive metalcore tracks.

Pierce the Veil – “Caraphernelia”

The video for Pierce the Veil’s “Caraphernelia” serves as an early entry in the “we’re so consumed by our phones!” narrative. Nevertheless, nothing was quite as scene in 2010 as Vic Fuentes and company playing in front of the giant letters “PTV” set aflame. Cool crossover moment: A Day to Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon contributes his vocals in this video via a pay phone, the same manner in which Vic appears in A Day to Remember’s video for “All I Want”.

Kanye West featuring Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj – “Monster”

Remember back when Kanye was enjoyable and we really liked his music? Ah, those were the days. The video for “Monster” was never officially released, because it’s horror movie images were deemed a bit too far beyond the pale. But the video exists online and it’s…good, albeit very creepy. It’s also fun as hell to watch Nicki Minaj own her portion of the video, capping off the best rap verse of 2010.

A Day to Remember – “All I Want”

What Separates Me from You felt like A Day to Remember’s big moment when it dropped, highlighted by lead single “All I Want” – a signature ADTR track complete with a great breakdown and a killer chorus. The video serves as a scene who’s who, with nearly every band imaginable making an appearance. Ten years later, though, it’s pretty dang weird that it’s all dudes. You couldn’t find a single lady to include, guys? Come on.

Kesha – “Take it Off”

Kesha’s run of singles in 2010 rivals that of a few others on this list who had massive years (Lady Gaga and Katy Perry). While there may have been better Kesha singles, I’ve always been partial to “Take it Off” – a song with two different music videos. In this one, clearly the wildest of the two, Kesha and friends find themselves hitting up a rave in a motel pool, but oh wait, it’s actually on another planet, and oh wait, are they all dissolving into dust? Yes. yes, they are.

Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars – “Billionaire”

Y’all. In 2010, Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes broke out as a solo artist with one of the biggest hits of the year…featuring Bruno Mars. That was a thing that happened. The video finds the two rolling down the highway in a convertible and hitting up a beach and skate park before landing at a party with some cool kids. Travie may have never become a billionaire (I assume), but he definitely left his mark on 2010.

My Chemical Romance – “Na Na Na”

Was it really 10 years ago that My Chemical Romance began what we thought was their final chapter with Danger Days? This first video really set the tone for the band’s new aesthetic, set in a dystopian future with neon laser guns and bright hair colors. The band’s new look went right along with their new sound, telling the story of the Killjoys, a group of rogue do-gooders who take out some bad guys while saving a kid. For what it’s worth, red-hair Gerard Way looked really cool.

Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”

Katy Perry dominated the airwaves in 2010 like few other have. Five singles from Teenage Dream hit number one on the charts, making her the first female artist to achieve that feat, and the first artist since Michael Jackson. In the video for the album’s title track, a summer joyride with her beau turns into passion. And then, as is customary, the couple follow it up with a dance party in a weird alley with a group of strangers. When in Rome.

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Secret & Whisper – Teenage Fantasy

Secret & Whisper has long been one of my favorite underrated bands. You’ll probably remember in 2018 that I wrote a reflection on their first album, Great White Whale. My obsession with Secret & Whisper actually began when I was listening to the (original) Tooth and Nail podcast. 

You can buy or stream Teenage Fantasy on Apple Music.

Before there was the “Labeled” podcast, and really, before podcasts became a major media force, Tooth and Nail had a podcast that showcased new music they were releasing. They also had a series of video-casts called “Tooth and Nail TV,” which played new music videos from their artists. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the Secret & Whisper episode online, but like MySpace and Limewire, some things of music’s past are meant to be remembered fondly. 

The episode of the podcast talked about the album “Teenage Fantasy.” They went through the whole album after the release and interviewed a couple of the members. It’s also the only time I had heard Tooth and Nail push the band’s music. I often wonder what would have happened if the label had given the band the attention their music deserved.

The band eventually went on hiatus the year after “Teenage Fantasy” was released, citing difficulties balancing band and family, and, with no disrespect to what was obviously seems to be a right and noble choice by the band, there are times when I wonder if another reason they didn’t keep it up was just the label’s indifference to advertising. 

Teenage Fantasy (and of course, Great White Whale) is one of Tooth and Nail’s crown jewels, in my opinion. It is easily one of the label’s most imaginative and thought-provoking projects. I feel like Tooth and Nail used Secret & Whisper as their token soaring-lead-vocal-hardcore outfit to compete with the Saosin‘s of the day.

What made Secret & Whisper different was the obvious musical and vocal genius of the band, highlighted by subject matter ranging from Native American life (“Warrior”) to Judaism in the age of Nazis (“Bedroom Galaxy”) to aliens (“Star Blankets”). While other bands were still focusing on relationships and general pop punk fare, Secret & Whisper really made an effort to keep their art out of the box in what could have been a groundbreaking album for the label and the genre as a whole.

It’s hard to say whether Great White Whale or Teenage Fantasy is the better offering from the band. I feel like they found their groove with the latter album. Great White Whale has an obvious deficit in production value to Teenage Fantasy, and the writing, while perfect for the theme of that album, is overshadowed by the deeply personal lyricism of Teenage Fantasy. And it all comes back around to the idea of untapped potential. Who’s to say what would’ve come of a third project from the band?

What’s kept me listening to the album is that whenever I play it, I’m transported back to that time in 2010 when I first heard it. It’s consistently fresh for me, even 10 years later.

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.

In Defense of Anniversary Tribute Albums

In the last few years, there has been a flood of “reimagined” versions of classic albums and songs. Some might see this as a waste, since it’s not technically new material. But in recent years, the ante has been upped in many ways beyond a basic acoustic cover. Acoustic versions of songs are always a welcome addition to a band’s catalog, but complete re-recordings offer a chance to reevaluate the journey, and analyze not only why the album meant so much in the first place, but also how the listeners and the bands have matured in the years between.

The Wonder Years were the first band to really catch my attention with reimagined versions of their songs. Burst & Decay Vol. I slowed down tempos, revitalized the lyrics of songs like “Don’t Let Me Cave In” to be conversational and somber reflections. “Cardinals”, a song already heavy in terms of regrets over a failed friendship, becomes even more burdensome when every single lyric has time to resonate. Though the reimagined versions of songs never quite match the scale or eccentric hype of the original, the new attention serves as a reminder for why these songs resonated so well with fans.

All Time Low’s It’s Still Nothing Personal tribute album may be the best example of a re-recorded release. Nothing Personal helped cement All Time Low as a permanent fixture in the scene. In the decade since, their sound has morphed to the point that it’s hard to see them as the motley crew standing on the stage of the “Weightless” music video in a small club anymore. This updated version of Nothing Personal hardly surpasses the original, but it shows listeners just how starkly the band has grown since then. 

Singer Alex Gaskarth’s voice is much more rich and mature, compared to the autotuned vocals of the original release. The guitars are more relaxed, and the production tighter. The addition of harsh vocals during “Lost In Stereo” changes the dynamic of the song when compared to the poppier lyrics. It’s also a stark reminder of the chances the band are willing to take that never would have appeared on earlier albums. The addition is minimal, but it’s a curve that makes the song instantly different, especially when paired with the vocal twists of Gaskarth. Even the closing track “Therapy” benefits from the restraint of the full band.

We the Kings’ Self Titled Nostalgia does the same by removing the guitars entirely and rewriting every song as a piano-driven, semi-electronica experiment. Though the original songs were seminal pop songs of their era, these reworked versions sound less like emo-pop songs and more like the soothing anthems of romance that they were always meant to be. 

In contrast, Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s Sol-fa 2016 is strikingly similar to the Sol-fa album released in 2004. AKFG, one of Japan’s most famous rock bands, are well known in the States for “Rewrite,” one of the opening songs to the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime. The version on 2016’s release features singer Masafumi Gotoh’s with slightly more matured vocals, and the instrumentation tighter and closer to the sound the band plays during live shows. “Re:Re:” includes a new instrumental opening that vastly improves the song, as live show performances had proven for over a decade. 

These types of anniversary albums feel different from other reworked albums, such as Eisley’s I’m Only Dreaming and I’m Only Dreaming… Of Days Long Past. Part of this is due to both albums being released so close together. A decade between re-workings gives space to appreciate the alternate versions of songs, whereas these albums feel more akin to two halves of the same piece. 

This is the case as well for Dashboard Confessional’s Alter The Ending, which released a full band and acoustic album together. These types of albums are extremely welcome, and gives the artist the opportunity to stretch and not feel restrained when the sound they hear is so much wider than a single song. However, it still doesn’t hold the same affection to something like Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue Acoustic, which was in part a celebration of the band’s reformation.

It’s hard to say that any band has fully found the best way to honor a fan-favorite album, but re-recording them with 10 extra years of experience, insight and creativity is something that more bands should embrace. It’s a way to show appreciation to the fans that have stuck around for so long. It also allows bands the opportunity to show how much they’ve grown when tasked to rewrite the songs they created as kids.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and doesn’t understand why the birds won’t come to his window to say hello. It’s just a new birdhouse! There’s still seed, so why won’t this HOARDE OF SPARROWS lay siege to the windows once more?! Cowardly birds!

10 Sappy Songs to Share with Your Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day and, take it or leave it, love is in the air. I have searched far and wide for the scene’s sappiest offerings to bring you this – a playlist perfect for a candlelit dinner.

1. Anchor & Braille – “Summer Tongues”

This track was on my shortlist of choices for the first dance at our wedding. It showcases Stephen Christian’s sentimental writing style at its best, and is a highlight on Anchor & Braille’s first album, Felt. The idea for this article actually came to me as I was listening to the album recently and realized what a lovely song this is. Its gentle tones will make you dream of sunnier days.

2. Panic! at the Disco – “Always”

“Always” from 2011’s Vices and Virtues is an ode to the great literary classic The Great Gatsby. For those who either skipped the reading or forgot the plot, the book centers around Jay Gatsby and his endless pining after the married lady across the water and the destruction that brings to his life. But I digress. Brendon Urie drew a lot of early Panic!’s writing inspiration from literature, and this track is a wonderful tribute to a great love story of the past.

3. Copeland – “Have I Always Loved You”

This is one of Copeland’s many offerings in the relationship department. Between “Coffee”, from Beneath Medicine Tree, to basically the entirety of 2019’s Blushing, Copeland doesn’t let a chance for a thoughtful love song pass them by. This track opens Ixora (2015) and is a reflection on (presumably) Aaron Marsh’s marriage. It begins with him reminiscing on their wedding day and moves to just doing life together, always remembering the way it began: with a white dress.

4. House of Heroes – “If”

The End Is Not the End might not seem like your top Valentine’s choice for background music but this concept album about war and relationships was one of the first albums my husband and I bonded over. He was just as surprised as I was to learn that we both knew and loved House of Heroes. This is his favorite song from the album, and ties into the theme of pop culture references with the “Bride of Frankenstein” line.

5. A Day to Remember – “You Had Me At Hello”

Here’s another song I wouldn’t have known about without Jeremiah. I pride myself in being the audiophile out of the two of us, but he has made some important contributions to my roster, including adding “You Had Me At Hello”, from A Day to Remember’s 2005 album And Their Name was Treason, to a playlist during our dating years. They’ve never been my favorite band, and the bridge to this song is pretty awkwardly written, but you can’t deny it’s cute.

6. The Wonder Years – “You in January”

Of all the songs on No Closer to Heaven, this is the one I find myself returning to again and again four years later. It’s got the trademark attention to detail writing from Dan Campbell, and as a bonus they remixed it for the first Burst and Decay EP. I like the original better, but I might be biased because of how much I liked it when the album came out. I love the personal aspects of the song, like in the bridge where he sings about how they’ve traveled together, and I love the fact that he called back to “Passing Through a Screen Door” by ending the song with “I’m glad that you stayed”. It’s The Wonder Years at their best.

7.  Say Anything – “I Want to Know Your Plans”

Another track from our wedding playlist is this surprise from Say Anything’s magnum opus …Is a Real Boy. I say “surprise” because of how unorthodox the rest of the album is compared to this almost-Shakespearean ballad. It’s always been one of my favorites from the album, simply because it is such a stark difference from the way he deals with other subjects on the album (“Every Man Has a Molly” comes to mind). It has become almost a theme to my marriage as I work every day towards keeping our relationship harmonious.

8. Mike Mains and the Branches – “Stop the Car”

Mike Mains and the Branches are a band that was largely anonymous until they signed to Tooth and Nail in 2018 to release their third album, When We Were In Love. I didn’t choose one of their new songs, but rather one from their first album called Home from 2011. This is a playful song about young love that packs a punch in the bridge. Mike sings about love, “It’s when you give and give of yourself / Until your tank runs on empty / Just to be with the one you love”. It’s an album worth your time for this song and more.

9. Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over”

No list about emo love songs would be complete without Mayday Parade. They were undoubtedly the kings of the moody love song and the best example is “Jamie All Over” from A Lesson In Romantics. Even if you’re not a Mayday Parade fan, chances are you still jam and maybe cry to this song. If only all dreams were this great, and the fact that Derek and his girl are (probably) on a break outside of the dream world is non-existent for eight hours. If they weren’t on a break who would he have written “Miserable At Best” about, amiright? It’s a total cliché to say that this is my favorite Mayday song, but who cares, it’s a classic.

10. Fall Out Boy – “I’m Like a Lawyer With the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)”

Last but not least, my favorite Fall Out Boy song to close us out on this Valentine’s Day. This was probably Fall Out Boy’s best candidate for a love song up until they released “Alone Together” in 2013. This is also in the running for longest Fall Out Boy song title as well. The optimism in this track is unparalleled in early FOB and is always a breath of fresh air when it comes through the shuffle, and Patrick’s vocals are easy to get lost in. It’s not a perfect relationship, but they’re trying. Thanks, Pete.

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.

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: The Interrupters Become the Title Holder

The Interrupters have slowly become the most famous band no one has heard of. Early in 2019, I discovered their album Fight The Good Fight (2018), after it had been out for almost a full year. Not only did this album set off a four-month spree of listening to nearly nonstop ska music, I also found out that I was the last person to discover them. Friends who don’t even listen to music were fans, teaching their children to sing along to songs like “Title Holder” and “She’s Kerosene”.

In the two years since the release of their third album, The Interrupters have made a brazen name for themselves. Their brand of music is reminiscent of the golden age of ska punk from the early 90’s, especially with the backing and blessing of Rancid’s Tim Armstrong.

In 2020, The Interrupters are opening for Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer on The Hella Mega Tour. As the flag bearers of a modern take on classic punk music, The Interrupters are in a prime spot to capture the attention of the last few people who have yet to fall in love with them. If their next album captures even half of the magic of Fight The Good Fight, The Interrupters will have released two of the best rock albums in recent memory.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and somehow got chocolate….. just… EVERYWHERE. Who gets chocolate on a TV screen?! He wasn’t even near it! Did it teleport there or did he blackout during an onset of of “brownie madness” and try to pet Tina Belcher’s cheek?! The world is weird.

Reflecting On: Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life

“I stall before I start.”

Motion City Soundtrack is a band that is loved by different people for different lyrics, different sounds, and remarkably distinct albums. There is an argument to be made that any one of their albums is the highlight of the group’s career, but none offers more evidence than My Dinosaur Life (2010). While earlier albums danced around the pop punk scene by testing the boundaries of pop and rock music, My Dinosaur Life unabashedly amplified every aspect that made them great. The result is a loud neurotic mess of sound that defined who Motion City Soundtrack are and cemented their legacy in an overcrowded Warped Tour field.

You can buy or stream My Dinosaur Life on Apple Music.

As this album turns 10, I find myself in a position where I can relate to its themes more than ever. Feeling left behind by a world you’re still a part of, trying to improve yourself for the benefit of all, and realizing it took you way too long to do it. If My Dinosaur Life has one message to offer, it’s that it is never too late to be your best.

My Dinosaur Life is the album that made me feel okay for having a mind that jumps from topic to topic, seemingly beyond my control. Even in my most uncomfortable and heartbroken moments, I make jokes to ease the oncoming sense of doom. From song to song, singer Justin Pierre jumps from one thought to the next with grace, humor, and the humility to ask his audience to forgive him for being all over the place.

My Dinosaur Life was a statement on the idea of feeling left behind. After gaining some moderate success with the release of Commit This To Memory (2005), the band seemed to take noticeable backlash for just how poppy Even If It Kills Me (2007) was, even though the album is highly regarded now. For a brief moment, Motion City Soundtrack seemed like they had outlived their longevity in the music scene. My Dinosaur Life revitalized the band both in career and spirit.

“The things that used to mean so much to me /

Have gone the way of dinosaurs /

Hopes and dreams and everything”

My Dinosaur Life plays off of the theme of improvement. Every song feels like a short story about admitting one’s own faults and, maybe for the first time, asking for help to become better. “A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)” states this most directly (“I think I can figure it out / But I’m gonna need a little help to get me through it”).

“Her Words Destroyed My Planet” is one of the best songs written in the last decade. It’s a raw confession of someone admitting that their significant other’s frustrations with them being an underachiever have finally been realized. The song is an admission that despite trying to improve themselves in a variety of ways, it was still too little, too late, even if they like who they are now better than before.

These pleas for help and proclamations of improvement are interwoven with the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness that often coexist when we seek to be better. “Skin and Bones” asks the void an absurd amount of questions, as though trying to relieve themselves of a panic attack (“What if consciousness can expand / And we fool ourselves with absurd demands? / What if there is no point at all? / We just grow up to fade away…”).

Although My Dinosaur Life seems to dance back and forth with the idea of admitting one’s own faults and promising to be better (“Stand Too Close”), it balances itself taking pride in hard work and emotional health (“Worker Bee”).

It’s important to work to be better. But it’s just as important to do it for the right reasons. In “The Weakends”, Pierre reflects on a life spent wasted on not being his best, of dreaming about the future when he could be living it. “As the years go crashing by / I think of all I’ve pondered / So many minutes wandered / So many things undone / I’ve tried to figure out / How many lives I’ve wasted /  Waiting for the perfect time to start”.

My Dinosaur Life is as close to a perfect album that I can think of. It passes a message that everyone learns at some stage of their life with a mix of humor, self immolation, and hope. But most of all, it asks you realize when you’re not the best you can be. That’s all it takes to deserve a gold star.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and hates olives and everything that looks like an olive. He bit into a chicken salad sandwich expecting the sweet taste of cranberry and instead was betrayed with a mouthful of these poison grapes. If you know anyone who eats olives out of a jar, he asks you to pray for them, as that is the only way they can be saved now.