Raise Your Voice: Warped Tour 2018 Review and Photo Gallery

Walking through the crowded grounds of Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana, on a hot July day, it’s nearly impossible not to reflect on Warped Tours past. It was here, nine years ago, where I baked in the sun watching bands like Saosin, Underoath, and Chiodos while screaming along to every word. A year prior in Cincinnati, I stood on the main stage watching Norma Jean bring down the house before singing along to The Academy Is, Anberlin, and Cobra Starship.

Over the years, the Vans Warped Tour is where I met some amazing friends, discovered some of my favorite bands, and truly felt part of a community for one of the first times in my life. As the longest-running touring music festival in North America comes to a close, I’ve felt it necessary to remember those experiences while acknowledging that the experiences have others have not always been so pleasant. For a myriad of reasons, it is time for Warped Tour to end.

There were things to feel good about and music to be excited about during this final trek, yet the staggering lack of gender and racial diversity across the lineup served as a reminder of why it must come to a close. With any luck, whatever takes its place will provide a more balanced and honest view of the underground music scene in years to come.

For now, we take a look at a few of the bands on the 2018 Vans Warped Tour that made some noise and made the tour’s final run worth the price of admission. Take a look below and feel free to share some of your favorites from the lineup in the replies!

Mayday Parade

For a band that made a name for itself by following Warped Tour around the country in 2006, selling CDs to those standing in line, it’s appropriate that Mayday Parade take part in the festival’s final journey. The band has come a long way since those early days, having just released their sixth studio album, Sunnyland, earlier this summer. Per usual, Derek Sanders bounded across the main stage singing fan favorites like “Jamie All Over” and “Jersey”, making for the perfect summer sing-a-long session.

Check out our podcast interview with Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade!

Mayday Parade

As It Is

The band’s second stint on Warped Tour has brought a new sound and a new look. Making light of the obvious changes in between songs, vocalist Patty Walters introduces the band as “My Chemical Romance.” Even if As It Is haven’t quite hit the heights of the aforementioned emo legends, the early signs from upcoming album The Great Depression seem to be promising. From “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)” to “The Wounded World”, these new tracks sound even better live than on tape.

As It Is

Doll Skin

While watching Phoenix, Arizona, rockers Doll Skin tear through their set, I was reminded of watching letlive. just a few years prior. The band harness the same amount of energy and passion in their performance, with vocalist Sydney Dolezal even climbing into the crowd mid-song to unleash her powerful scream. For as exciting as the band’s set was, it was disappointing to find it on a side stage. This is the kind of band deserving of the biggest platform available.

Doll Skin

Real Friends

Real Friends feels like our best current example of what it’s like to watch a band grow up on Warped Tour. Having just released their third full-length album, Composure, the band’s main stage set was one of the highlights of the day. Dan Lambton’s energy, even this late into the grueling tour, provided a spark for the crowd as he lit into “Get By” to kick off the band’s set. Having put together the best album of their career, it will be exciting to see where they go next.

Real Friends

Issues

Tyler Carter has the kind of voice that you have to hear to believe. Even when taking on an early set on a hot day late in the tour, Carter still manages to croon his way through eight songs at full tilt. The band, now a four piece, is in the process of putting together their third album, this time minus Michael Bohn. Nevertheless, Carter handled both sides of the vocals beautifully throughout the band’s set, with help from Adrian Rebollo.

Issues

Waterparks

It feels like the stock for Houston pop punk powerhouse Waterparks just keeps rising. With the release of Entertainment earlier this year, the band has cemented their stay as one of the genre’s hottest acts and have ascended to Warped Tour’s main stage. Awsten Knight carries the band’s vocal duties and helps wake up the morning crowd with performances of “Blonde”, “Take Her to the Moon”, and more.

Waterparks

This Wild Life

While standing at the front of the stage to shoot This Wild Life’s gentle set, I couldn’t help but feel good for the security guards, finally relieved of flying bodies and crowd surfers for 30 minutes. The Long Beach duo’s quiet set is the perfect intermission for a day of loud noises, especially as their catalogue of songs continues to grow. The band performs tracks from their new album, Petaluma, while still finding time to throw in some oldies like “History” and “Concrete”.

This Wild Life

Frank Turner

Yes, THAT Frank Turner took the stage for a few Warped Tour dates this year. Each year on the tour, there are always a few surprises on the lineup that should be labeled required viewing. The English folk singer took to the main stage for an eight-song set that felt all too short, while still providing plenty of moments for sing-a-longs and even a few laughs. His closing performance of “Get Better” proved to be one of the highlights of the day.

Frank Turner

Senses Fail

One final run of Warped Tour just wouldn’t feel right without one of the screamo scene’s old guard in tow, and Senses Fail make for the perfect choice. Over 15 years in, vocalist Buddy Nielsen is still a sight to behold on stage, whether he’s playing old standards like “Bite to Break Skin” and “Calling All Cars” or even a few cover songs. The band’s latest release, If There is Light, It Will Find You, is one of the most underrated albums so far in 2018, and the band’s Warped set proves to be a reminder that Senses Fail still have plenty of life left.

Senses Fail

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.

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Summer Soundtracks: Lydia – Illuminate

A lot of things can define a summer soundtrack. These are the albums that have been there through thick and thin, remind you of the best days of your life, and always get the party going. Think block parties, beach trips, and the smell of sunscreen. Per the usual, I don’t use these criteria to define my summer. The only one that applies here is that this is an older album. Lydia’s album Illuminate has been there for me for a long time. It turned 10 years old in March, but it’s not a dated album by any stretch.

You can buy or stream Illuminate on Apple Music.

The album isn’t what you think of when you think of a typical summer album, but it’s light, airy, and consistent. At 11 tracks, it’s almost an hour long and follows a storyline. Lydia is known for their theatrical musings, but that’s something the band has moved away from in their past couple of albums.

The reason I love this album and keep coming back to it is it’s lack of intensity. It’s easygoing and sad, but the music is so beautiful that you can’t stay away from it. I just remember where I was when I first heard “I Woke Up Near the Sea” (a Spotify curated playlist from forever ago) and it was in the summer. Nothing was wrong and everything was easy. I had finally been getting into my own music and building my repertoire and Lydia has been a constant member of my group of staple artists.

Evident in a lot of the points I bring up in my writing is the ocean. I love watery, oceanic metaphors and this album is full of them. Even the album art is a girl standing by the sea in the wind. There are a lot of references to drowning and being in over your head and I think these are the carotid arteries of both adolescence and young adulthood.

I didn’t realize it when I was 17 listening to this album for the first time, but adulthood is not easy. It isn’t just growing up and grocery shopping and driving. It’s so much more complicated than that. It’s going to the same job year after year and missing hours of sunlight. It’s watching bills pile up. It’s going to funerals for people who have died too soon. But it’s also going to weddings and first birthday parties. This album, despite its melancholy themes, still manages to find the balance. It’s gentle with your feelings.

I think that’s why I love it. The best albums run the emotional gamut. This album does lean more toward the sadder side of things, but sometimes that’s okay. There are lines like “We never stay lonely” (“Fate”), and “San Francisco sounds quite lovely / So I’ll just wait for your call” (“Stay Awake”). There are twinges of the positive to be found. The band clings to these moments.

The last song on this album is my favorite. Musically it’s intricate and there’s always something new to find. The best artists pay attention to the smallest details. The instruments aren’t just accompaniment in this album; there’s always a new set of sounds to explore. But this song hits the hardest because it ties everything together: “Now the One You Once Loved Is Leaving”. It ends with a Wurlitzer piano, and Mindy White brings the album to a lull as it fades out. There’s no loop, it just restarts the experience over again after the sound of a door slam. It ends cathartically. It’s not how you wanted it to end, it’s not how you planned, but there it is in front of you. Just like real life.

So I know this isn’t the typical summer choice. It’s not high energy or played on every radio station a million times; it’s not very fun. It’s quiet and insightful. It has its highs and lows. The reason I love it for the summer is because it makes me nostalgic for simpler times, and that’s what summer is all about.

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.

Summer Soundtracks: Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

For me, summer will always be about adventure, long drives, and great stories. That’s why the first album I could ever count on this list is Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American. Blistering pop songs swirling around themes of adventure and romance make it hard not to associate the album with the spirit of summer nights. Also, I absolutely ruined a road trip with this album in high school.

You can buy or stream Bleed American on Apple Music.

Shortly after this album’s release, my friend Max took a few friends on a road trip to an amusement and water park in southern Indiana. With his mom driving, we shuffled through a pile of CD’s, pulling out Bleed American somewhere near the start of the journey. I don’t remember if this was my first time hearing the album or not, but I know this is where I fell in love with it. Three of us sang along with every song for two back-to-back listens while Max’s mom drove on with a quiet smile.

At one point, Max changed discs to listen to something else, but the instant it ended, our friend Jim and I demanded Bleed American again from the backseat. Then again. And again.

Over the course of multiple replays, Jim and I obnoxiously sang along in the backseat with sugar-infused confidence and loudly protested every time someone tried to change albums. After several hours, his mom white-knuckled the steering wheel in rage. Max glared at us from the reflection of the rear view mirror. He passive aggressively sighed, “Jesus Christ,” between songs. The pile of other CD’s had been sneakily hidden from view or reach from the front seats, leaving only Bleed American to light the way like an angsty Rudolph.

Jim asked for someone to replay “A Praise Chorus” again for the third time in a row, which is the moment Max’s mom snapped.

“No! Anything else. Just for a while, please play anything else,” she protested.

“Please,” begged Max.

“Okay,” said Jim, “Can we listen to ‘The Middle’ then?”

Max took the CD out of the stereo and threw it in the glove compartment, a move he should have made hours earlier and looked out the window in seething anger until the pile of other albums was returned. This process repeated itself on the journey home, testing the boundaries of friendship and human decency for all involved.

Jimmy Eat World represents a core summer album for me. Bleed American finds a rich balance between crunching rock anthems and emotional ballads that mimics the hot days and cool nights. It was released in an age when I was just discovering my taste in music, and may be the first band I fell in love with that wasn’t exclusively Drive-Thru Records style pop punk madness.

Many of the band’s biggest hits came from this album and aren’t especially summer themed, but there is an added sense of magic associated with them in the right atmosphere. Jimmy Eat World’s music has mellowed over the years, but Bleed American will always burn with the energy of an era when we were just beginning to explore the world at large.

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 just realized he is absolutely out of food because it rained yesterday and the grocery is far away. He is a good adult.

Summer Soundtracks: Cobra Starship – ¡Viva la Cobra!

I’ve often said that autumn is my favorite season for music, with so many albums in my collection deeply associated with zip-up hoodies, campfire crackles, crunching leaves, and cigarette smoke inside gritty venues. Even so, every single summer, I find myself drawn to the albums that have defined the warmest of seasons in my life. Thus, I decided it was worth my time to start a series that highlights my favorite soundtracks to summer.

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Like most people, I first heard Cobra Starship while inside a movie theater. Also like most, I assumed that the “Snakes on a Plane” post-credits music video for “Bring It” was a one-off joke track featuring a stacked lineup of scene stars. By the time While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets dropped later in 2006, I remember a flicker of curiosity, but my prevailing reaction was one of indifference.

You can buy ¡Viva la Cobra! on Apple Music.

With that in mind, it’s hard for me to remember how I came to fall in love with ¡Viva la Cobra!, the first full band release from Cobra Starship. To my memory, there wasn’t a standout track that pulled me in. Nevertheless, the album ruled the summer of 2008, rarely leaving my car’s CD player. The highlight of that summer came while standing near the front of the main stage at the Vans Warped Tour as Gabe Saporta strutted back and forth and Elisa Schwartz rocked out on keytar.

I vividly remember smiling wide and singing along with those around me before losing my mind when William Beckett came on stage to perform “Bring It” with the group that day in Cincinnati. I remember buying a purple, hot pink, and neon green Cobra Starship shirt at Hot Topic and wearing it at least once a week throughout the summer. I remember driving around Louisville at dusk, playing tracks like “Angie” and “Kiss My Sass” on repeat.

Oftentimes, these nostalgic memories are shared en masse as songs of summer impact millions of music listeners, creating a collective moment. However, ¡Viva la Cobra! was far from a smash, as Saporta would experience a greater fame with hit singles on later albums. To be honest, none of my friends listened to Cobra Starship in 2008, making this random sophomore effort all the more personal.

The album itself is sultry and danceable, but is a tongue-in-cheek end-of-the-world “party” built atop somewhat satirical electro pop songs pumped full of scene cred. It’s the kind of album only a select group of listeners could truly “get,” making it even more niche and peculiar. Saporta wouldn’t lean fully into cranked up club pop until Hot Mess and Night Shades, realizing the opportunity that this groundwork had provided him. At least for 2008, Saporta was still winking at the camera with the same smirk he flashed before the screen went black during “Snakes on a Plane”.

During a time when a younger version of myself was enraptured with metalcore, regularly blasting the likes of Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada, ¡Viva la Cobra! was a reprieve from the breakdowns and raging guitars. How can you not roll down the windows and belt the chorus to “Smile for the Paparazzi” or bounce to the beat of “My Moves are White (White Hot, That Is)”? ¡Viva la Cobra! is a crash landing of pop bliss and emo influence that still stands as an oddly satisfying experience.

My interest in Cobra Starship was fleeting – I never owned another album before the group disbanded, and I return only to ¡Viva la Cobra! when the temperatures rise and I’m in the mood to move. It reminds me of a time when I was willing to privately expand my musical palate and begin to explore my love of pop music, even if I was still holding some resistance. Most of all, it reminds me carefree summer nights – the ones I still chase even as they become rarer and rarer.

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.

10 Real Friends Songs to Blast While Awaiting Their New Album

Like many punk fans, I’m eagerly awaiting the latest release from Real Friends. In preparation, I’ve been revisiting a lot of old favorites.

A lot of these songs were really important to me in my late teens. I’d been dealing with a lot emotionally and somehow Dan Lambton always had just the thing I needed to hear. The emotional connection has stuck with me since, and even though I don’t listen to their latest album, The Home Inside My Head, very often, I still get the same feelings of nostalgia when I do.

Real Friends’ music is almost cathartic for me, because remembering what I was dealing with and being removed from it now puts things into a lot of perspective. Songs like “Sixteen” don’t make me as deeply upset as they used to. I’ve felt the feelings and I’ve been learning to put them aside once I’ve dealt with them.

The feelings of emotional weakness that Lambton sings about really resonated with me then and they still do. I may not be in as bad of a place as I was when I was introduced to Real Friends, but sometimes stuff still bubbles up. The difference between then and now is that I recognize it and I’m able to deal with it more swiftly before it turns into a bigger problem.

I think Real Friends have really helped me figure out that process for myself. Their latest track, “From the Outside”, hasn’t really grown on me yet, but I’m getting there. I identify with a lot of the lyrics in the track, which gives me high hopes for their new album. A big trend in pop punk lately seems to be taking a lighter approach to the darker themes that are usually dealt with. Strangely enough, I’ve found myself in a place where I’m also taking a lighter approach to my struggles.

I’m excited to join Real Friends in their latest journey. I’m hoping to catch their set at Warped Tour this year and I have a feeling it will be a very emotional show for me, much in the way Neck Deep and The Wonder Years have been. There’s something strange about growing up with bands, and one of the best examples of that in my life is Real Friends.

Without further ado, here are my favorite songs by the band. I think it’s a great group of songs to dive into if you’ve never really gotten into them.

1. Skin Deep” from the Put Yourself Back Together EP

2. “Colder Quicker” from The Home Inside My Head

3. “Late Nights In My Car” from the Put Yourself Back Together EP

4. “Home” for Fall from the Everyone that Dragged You Here EP

5. “Sixteen” from Maybe this Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing

6. “From the Outside” from their new album due later this year

7. “I Don’t Love You Anymore” from Maybe this Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing

8. “I’ve Given Up On You” from the Put Yourself Back Together EP

9. “Floorboards” from the Everyone that Dragged You Here EP

10. “Summer” from Maybe this Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing

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.

Reflecting On: Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III

Tha Carter III is truly a hip hop time capsule, memorializing extreme highs and lows of the genre. The sixth studio album from Lil Wayne would prove to be his best, showcasing the lyrical acrobatics that made him one of the most revered rappers of a generation. Unfortunately, it also displays an unmistakable misogyny and homophobia that plagued the genre for decades.

One of the greatest albums of our lifetime also serves as a stark reminder of how far we’ve come in just 10 short years, and how much further we have left to go.

You can buy Tha Carter III on Apple Music.

Tha Carter III is littered with hits and distinctive moments that make it impossible to forget, but perhaps the reason the music still stands so vivid is because of Lil Wayne himself. Coming from the projects of New Orleans, Wayne began his path to stardom at a young age as a part of Cash Money Records’ rise to power in the late 90s. In the matter of a decade, Wayne had blossomed into a star full of personality and humor, reaching the peak of the cultural zeitgeist by the time of the album’s release. By the summer of 2008, Lil Wayne was larger than life.

It’s hard to imagine most artists cashing in on that moment as firmly as Wayne did with Tha Carter III. With a running time of over 76 minutes, the album is a behemoth full of moving parts and voices, but at its core, it’s a celebration. The production is slick, the stylized autotuned vocals drip with bravado, and Wayne’s legendary wordplay is on full display, even if the constant double entendres begin to wear you thin.

No song on the album captures this motif better than “A Milli”, a track about nothing in particular that astounded upon first listen and still seems impossible to comprehend. Rumored to have been recorded in one take as a freestyle, the song quickly took on a life of its own – too winding and crass for radio but a track that you had to share with everyone you knew the moment you heard it. Wayne’s punchline of, “I can turn a crack rock into a mountain” near the song’s end still causes my hands to raise involuntarily just as the ghastly Dennis Rodman line causes me to cringe.

Even with its bloated length, Tha Carter III contains enough entertainment to make the time pass quickly. From the fantastic opening of “Mr. Carter” with Jay-Z to the unforgettable beat of “Mrs. Officer”, the album’s standouts are peppered in between hidden gems. The production on “Lollipop” and “Got Money” is appropriately over the top and drenched in autotune, serving as a glimpse into the world of pop rap in the late aughts. When Wayne manages to slur out on the latter, “I’m a Great Dane, I wear eight chains / I’m in so much ice, they yell, ‘Skate, Wayne!’” it’s an outlandish reminder of the hilariously hypnotic grip he held on listeners with such ease.

In hindsight, Tha Carter III and Lil Wayne’s own brand of over-the-top revelry arrived just in the nick of time. Later that year, 808s & Heartbreak would turn the genre on a dime, ushering in a new era of emotive, existential hip hop, driven by minimalism and dark tones that lasted until Kanye himself teamed up with Jay-Z to Watch the Throne. Perhaps it makes sense that Wayne could never follow that thread, forever cursed with a million dollar smile and a penchant for a life lived at 100.

Instead, he continues as a cultural icon and a living example of a rapper existent on both sides of hip hop’s social journey. While Wayne could never fully deliver an acclaimed follow-up, maybe it wasn’t necessary. Even amidst its growing pains, Tha Carter III helped usher in a new awareness and interest in hip hop on a mass scale, evolving Lil Wayne into a multi-faceted, bonafide star in the process.

How we’ll reflect on the more difficult moments of albums like Tha Carter III, or even albums with a more recent release date, in another 10 years’ time remains to be seen. For now, we learn while we listen and continue to ask questions of the art we love.

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.

Reflecting On: The Fratellis – Here We Stand

The feeling that Here We Stand would hit the sophomore slump may have been inevitable. Following The Fratellis’ debut album, Costello Music, was a daunting task at best. While Costello Music had made the band famous internationally, the legacy of Here We Stand would be that of the album leading to the band’s break up.

Costello Music is a beloved record. It is a collection of pub punk songs, featuring characters, wit and tales best told over a pint glass. The unstoppable swagger of “Chelsea Dagger” remains the band’s most famous song, if for no other reason than as the victory anthem of the Chicago Blackhawks. Here We Stand is the album that turned off everyone I knew from the band. They stopped following The Fratellis’ career almost immediately, opting instead to replay Costello Music for the next 10 years.

The Fratellis had established a solid sound for themselves in Costello Music, including a series of incredible B-Sides for their singles. Here We Stand bears the burden of trying something different. Instead of reveling in eccentric punk, the music slowed down, added a piano and much cleaner production. In retrospect, the change isn’t that drastic, but at the time, it sounded like a complete genre shift. The characters and stories were gone, and a dash of blues influence seeped into the songs.

Here We Stand is a good album, but not a great one. Despite its best efforts, the album feels disjointed. The songs are slower than anything on Costello Music and seem caught somewhere between writing sessions. Some extra time may have found a stronger product. Songs meant to be jams, such as “A Heady Tale”, find the guitar hidden beneath a melody of piano that awkwardly gives way to the bridge after each chorus. “Lupe Brown” mixes simple guitar parts with a doo-wop styled chorus, and “Acid Jazz Singer” finds harder guitar licks dampened by a pop chorus.

For two years, Costello Music was a staple for my friend group. Less than a week after the release of Here We Stand, I was the only one still listening. A year later, the band went on a three year hiatus that, for all purposes, left the album dead. When The Fratellis finally returned with We Need Medicine, the time given to let this new sound simmer created a much tighter album that managed to achieve the sound that Here We Stand had attempted.

Though The Fratellis continue to move away from the sound of their debut to this day, Here We Stand is the album that started that journey. It’s not perfect by any means, but without the experimentation on this album, the band would most likely be trapped trying to rewrite their debut over and over instead of making the music they want to.

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 spilled a full cup of water on the floor like an amateur. Like, IMMEDIATELY after filling it.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2018

Even with the days of MTV music video rotation squarely in the rearview mirror, the impact of the music video can still be felt. In 2008, YouTube had become the new gathering place for music fans to experience their favorite bands and artists in a visual way, with music videos garnering tens of millions of views in the blink of an eye.

Taking a look back at some of the videos turning 10 this year, it’s easy to remember a time when we were willing to wait out the annoying buffering to get a glimpse of our favorite bands doing their thing on screen. Take a look at some of our favorites from 2008 and be sure to share some of your favorite music videos from 2008 in the replies!

Panic at the Disco – “Nine in the Afternoon”

Remember how weird it was to hear Pretty. Odd. for the first time? Lead single “Nine in the Afternoon” captured all of that stark strangeness from every angle. Clearly stylized after Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Nine in the Afternoon” combines vivid colors, marching bands, archery, and odd uses of vacuum cleaners to create a surreal experience.

Fall Out Boy – “I Don’t Care”

Before the “hiatus,” Fall Out Boy gifted the world with Folie à Deux, an album unappreciated in its time. In the video for “I Don’t Care”, the band’s members embrace their inner bad boy, only to be later revealed as various celebrities and other musicians. In typical Fall Out Boy fashion, there’s more than meets the eye – it’s a satirical look at the caricature of celebrity – and it’s fun as hell.

Kanye West – “Welcome to Heartbreak”

Long before Kanye stole the mic from Taylor Swift or donned a MAGA hat on Twitter, he made a sad album of sad songs called 808s & Heartbreak. One of those songs introduced us to Kid Cudi, whose chorus on “Welcome to Heartbreak” is still just as stellar as it was 10 years ago. The dark, dingy music video matches the vibe and showcases a softer side of a complicated artist.

Anberlin – “Feel Good Drag”

It’s still hard to believe that track 8 from Anberlin’s sophomore album would go on to be the smash single from their fourth album, New Surrender. The year’s biggest rock song is displayed on video in deep sepia tones and captures the sin buried within the song. It’s the perfect video for a breakout from a band that had long ago earned its time in the spotlight.

Hey Monday – “Homecoming”

Long before Cassadee Pope was winner of The Voice and a star country singer, she fronted the pop punk band Hey Monday. The band’s lead single “Homecoming” is captured here in a bowling alley where Pope’s jerk ex-boyfriend is pulling the same tricks with a new girl. Fortunately for her, the band’s power chords save her from heart break. Or something?

Taylor Swift – “Love Story”

In 2008, Taylor Swift was coming into her own and blossoming into aa full-blown star. The video for “Love Story” finds her traveling back in time, petting a horse, and running through a field. Wait a minute, is this video actually good? No, but it’s definitely a time capsule of what 2008 sounded like.

Beyoncé – “Single Ladies”

“Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Need we say more?

Anthony Green – “Dear Child (I’ve Been Trying to Reach You)”

This is such a weird little video, but it fit the quirkiness of Anthony Green, who in 2008 was blossoming into aa full-blown rock star. With Saosin and Circa Survive success under his belt, Green led his solo debut Avalon with this video featuring a variety of animated creatures, along with a scorned ex with…octopus arms? Eh, whatever. It works.

Lil Wayne – “Got Money”

Was there anything more thrilling in 2008 than Lil Wayne and T-Pain robbing a bank in a music video? The answer is no, there was not. Still one of the best autotune pop rap songs of its time, “Got Money” is just about as fun as music videos get, especially Wayne and T-Pain’s adorable shirts displaying “He Sings”, “He Raps”.

Metro Station – “Shake It”

This song is kinda gross and the video is mostly boring. But can you honestly think of 2008 without remembering this track playing in the background of every memory? Damn you, Trace Cyrus and Mason Musso with your whisper verses and over-the-top hooks!

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.

Reflecting On: Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.

Pretty. Odd. may be the biggest upset in music that I was alive to see. In 2007, to say that Panic! At the Disco were on top of the world is an understatement. Their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, was a massive hit. The band had more or less overtaken Fall Out Boy as the poster child for record label Fueled By Ramen, and their live shows had become the things of legend. The anticipation for their sophomore release was ravenous, especially after hearing reports that the band had scrapped an entire record themed around fairy tales. Pretty. Odd. caught absolutely everyone off guard except the band that created it.

You can buy Pretty. Odd. on Apple Music.

Pretty. Odd. was a true gamble. Leveraging the fame of Panic!, the band decided to completely and utterly change who they were. Gone were the live stage shows, emo-infused lyrical wordplay, electronic beats and cabaret inspired rock. Even the exclamation point in their name was removed. What took its place was a mock version of The Beatles. It pissed off everyone I knew, and it almost destroyed the band completely.

In retrospect, Pretty. Odd. is a glorious masterpiece. It is a solid rock record, inspired by classic British rock and folk music. It is utterly unique. Nothing like it has been created since, and the current version of Panic! has more or less swept it under the rug. However, while almost everyone (that I know of) prefer any other album from the band, Pretty. Odd. has held up considerably well and has never gotten the full respect it deserved.

The shift in the album’s sound is a stark one, so much so that the opening song, “We’re So Starving”, actually has to tell the audience, “You don’t have to worry, cuz we’re still the same band”. Looking beyond the shift in sound though, is an album that, in almost any other circumstance, would have been regarded as an uncontested indie cornerstone. The pop anthems are expertly crafted, backed by an absolutely massive orchestral piece. Harmonica, violins, mandolin, saxophone and flutes bring a life to the music that is rarely found outside of movie scores.

What they enhance, though, is a series of secretive fairy tales and stories hidden beneath the shock of classic rock. The surreal imagery within the songs is second to none, such as in “Behind the Sea” (“Like bobbing bait for bathing cod / Floating flocks of candled swans / Slowly drift across wax ponds”). Or in the tuba encrusted “From a Mountain in the Middle of the Cabins”, as Brendon Urie sings, “Lying there, with a halo in her hair she cried / There are feathers everywhere, but it’s fine / You do this all the time”.

The legacy of Pretty. Odd. is one of gambles that paid off in ways that no one foresaw. Guitarist and songwriter Ryan Ross allegedly had a large hand in controlling the band’s direction for this release. Removing everything that made Panic! famous in the first place moved the attention aimed on them to the opposite spectrum. The shock was that they weren’t shocking.

Ross threw his full weight behind this direction for the band. It was an utter rebirth of the sound of pop rock from the 60’s, both paying homage to and inspired by the bands of the era. In many ways, Panic! surpassed the bands that inspired this record. When Ross and bassist Jon Walker eventually left to form The Young Veins, they carried this sound with them. Unfortunately, their biggest sin was nothing but timing.

Following A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out with this new sound was a dire mistake. The fan base craved the dark electro-pop that the band had created and the showmanship that oozed from it. As a result, a large portion of fans rebelled. Especially after the near dissolution of Panic! At the Disco, the blowback followed The Young Veins and never gave them the chance that they deserved.

On the other side of the split left by this record, Brendon Urie suddenly had an allowance to literally do anything he wanted. With Pretty. Odd. already in the band’s catalogue, he was free to explore nearly any sound he wanted to going forward with Panic! at the Disco. Without the restraints of fan expectation, Urie wrote some of the group’s biggest hits afterwards.

The sad irony is that had Pretty. Odd. been released as the band’s third album or later, after establishing their sound, they would have had a fan base loyal enough to take the journey with them. There wouldn’t have been the worry that the band had severed ties with what made people love them in the first place. Similar to how My Chemical Romance took on a new persona with each new album, Panic! at the Disco would have had an easier time rallying fans to Pretty. Odd. if they had a firmer grasp of who the band actually was. The shock wouldn’t have kicked in nearly as hard.

Pretty. Odd. is an amazing album that will truly never receive its due credit. The diversity of sound and surreal, dreamlike paintings throughout the record are mesmerizing in ways that no other band has been able to replicate. It is a shame that instead of having an anniversary celebrating this unique entry in their history, Panic! At the Disco has more or less hidden Pretty. Odd. beneath a mountain of top 40 pop songs and dance beats.

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 first listened to Pretty. Odd. in a car full of groaning college kids. They have all since been eaten by alligators and small cats. The album survives.

Reflecting On: The Ataris – So Long, Astoria

The summer of 2003 is the last year that I consider ‘normal’ from my youth. It’s the first time I was aware of the ticking clock over the heads of my high school friends when we hung out, as they would head to the four corners for college in a couple years. It’s also the last year before the fractures in my parents’ marriage began showing true depth, which would eventually lead to their divorce.

You can buy So Long, Astoria on iTunes.

Ten years later, I packed up my car and drove north for the last time as I moved to Chicago in early 2013. I was leaving my family and everyone I had grown up with. As I hit the interstate, I turned on an album to make sense of the hope I had for my future. The first track defines that moment to me as I drove towards unknown potential – “So Long, Astoria”.

So Long, Astoria by The Ataris lived and died by the era it was written in. Early 2003 saw an epidemic of generic pop punk bands, the likes of which would prove to be the ruin of the genre from mainstream radio. However, it is because of this deluge that allowed a record like this to truly stand out as something special, even if it also got lost in the shuffle without the credit it deserved.

So Long, Astoria is an album about specific moments in life. Each song is a short story littered with tiny details from real points in vocalist/guitarist Kris Roe’s life. That, or he’s a better fiction writer than anyone has given him credit for. Personal memories, such as playing a guitar alone in a bedroom and dreaming of the future (“So Long, Astoria”), or having someone tell you that their best friend likes you (“Summer ‘79”) is what makes life so special and memorable. It’s arguable that The Ataris are responsible for the first album I had ever heard that wrote about the best of memories instead of broken relationships.

Each song focuses on a defining moment while growing up. Whether it be about reflection on life, childhood memories or just taking in the beauty of Americana, the details are astoundingly poignant. Standing on the edge of the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa, it’s hard not to think of Roe singing, “The sunrise over smoke stacks in the Midwest / The beauty of this abandoned factory / Christmas lights blinking on and off, all out of time / In what used to be / Your pink house dreams of a middle class America” (“All You Can Ever Learn Is What You Already Know”).

The theme of specific moments has always stuck with me. Whether I was aware of it or not, I have always played songs from this album in the background on days or during moments I thought might be important. High school graduation (“Summer ’79″), my first flight in a decade (“Takeoffs And Landings”), and after every romantic breakup, when I didn’t know what else to do but just sit and stare into the middle distance (“A Beautiful Mistake”).

Even so, I can’t claim to be the biggest fan of The Ataris. I’ve never heard another record they have released, and I don’t listen to So Long, Astoria that often. I can’t even claim to know the lyrics of most of the songs, or why I listened to those specific ones until I re-read the lyrics while writing this article and remembered why they meant so much to me.

What is important is the message of the album. Don’t take life for granted. Enjoy the happy times and look back fondly on them and how they made you into who you are today. Nostalgia is great, but what is the point if those cherished memories don’t make you smile each time you think of them?

I don’t see my high school friends very often, and it is hard to imagine my parents together anymore after both have moved on to different and better lives. But I remember the moment I made peace with their divorce and saw how happy they were afterwards (“The Hero Dies In This One”). But I still laugh at the thought of some of the things we got into as my generation became adults. Unintentionally, So Long, Astoria is a diary to a specific moment in my life before things started to fall apart, often for the better. It is a record of youth and the acceptance that something better is always just around the corner. In the end, that is the best legacy it could have left on anyone willing to listen.

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 took two multi-hour walks listening to this album before writing about it. He did not realize how often it came up in his life until that point, because he is a dunce. If you see him, ‘BOO’ him to his face until he cries. He will know why.