The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 1-10

Check out part one and part two of our Best Albums of the Decade feature.

10. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

If the prevailing sentiment of the last half of this decade has been one of dread, Kacey Musgraves certainly delivered a dose of warmth and comfort at just the right time. Golden Hour captures the confessional, revealing songwriting that only the best country albums seem to harness. Musgraves looks for, and actually finds, beauty in common places, reminding us that the world around us is still full of magic and wonder. She also makes a clear point to bend the rules set by country music gatekeepers, effectively opening the door to those that have traditionally been uninvited. In doing so, she created an album with a heartbeat designed to comfort all who come close. – Kiel Hauck

9. Lorde – Melodrama

Lorde has been one of the defining artists of the past decade. She brought a refresher to pop music with 2013’s Pure Heroine, but her showstopper is 2017’s Melodrama. Written alongside her friend Jack Antonoff, the album is the about the woes of the end of adolescence. It’s wrapped up into a beautiful, cohesive experience and was absolutely robbed of Album of the Year at the Grammys. And that’s the tea. – Nadia Paiva

8. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other

Aaron West is a truly unique artist. The autobiographical album, We Don’t Have Each Other traces the course of a man breaking in every conceivable way until the only recourse is to pick himself up. Throughout the album, Dan Campbell’s attention to detail is astounding. Steeped in Springsteen-esque Americana, the album plays like a living novel to the point where Aaron feels almost too real. We Don’t Have Each Other is an insanely depressing album, but ends with hope for redemption. Accepting his own faults and ready to finally fight back, We Don’t Have Each Other explores the extremes of humanity, and the will to make things right. – Kyle Schultz

7. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

No album this decade captured the state of America so poignantly, purposefully and powerfully as To Pimp a Butterfly. During a three-album stretch that simply feels peerless, it’s hard to call the album Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece, but you wouldn’t be wrong to do so. To Pimp weaves jazz, soul and hip hop together, winding us through the black experience and shining a piercing light on our country’s deepest flaws and scars. It’s a deep, spellbinding work that can’t be unpacked in one sitting, but has moments of obvious illumination like “Alright” – the album’s centerpiece and a protest anthem for the most important movement of the decade. – KH

6. Beyoncé – Lemonade

The 2010s were a decade of basically pitting artists against each other with who could release an album in the most viral way. Beyoncé pioneered this with not one, but two surprise album releases, including Lemonade in 2016. The album revolves around the concept of Jay-Z’s infidelity and I think that was what made it stick with us. While the dramatic delivery of the album certainly contributes to its inclusion here, it’s the expression of feminine beauty, grace and empowerment that has made Lemonade stay in our minds. – NP

5. Against Me – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a groundbreaking album in many ways. It pulls no punches in terms of sound or language, and dives face-first into the material to have the most impact. While Transgender Dysphoria Blues harnesses a sound reminiscent of the band’s earlier records, it sets itselt apart in just how brutal of a concept the album is to people who don’t understand the struggle of someone preparing for or going through body dysphoria. The album is astonishing in many ways and it leaves a legacy as one of the first true trans-positive records in punk rock. That is does so without blinking, hiding a single hateful emotion, or sidestepping painful language is to be admired. – KS

4. Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION

The greatest and most dazzling pop album of the 2010s came from someone who had embodied the fleeting nature of pop stardom early in the decade. Instead of chasing the rush of “Call Me Maybe”, Carly Rae Jepsen seized a place as an unexpected indie darling with Emotion and ushered in a new wave of 80s-inspiration that infected nearly every pop release that came after it. Aside from its delightful sonic execution, Jepsen succeeds throughout Emotion by being relatable, without a hint of irony. From the blissful shoulder-brushing of “Boy Problems” to the sultry desire of “Run Away with Me”, Jepsen runs the gamut of relationship experiences, transforming herself into the best friend with whom everyone can share their secrets. – KH

3. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 have seamlessly combined electro pop with moody alternative rock through their past few albums, but with their latest, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, they’ve taken a different lyrical path. Gone are their days of singing about partying and recreational drug use, and here to stay are heavier songs about the decline of humanity, climate change and the toll the aforementioned drug use has on life. The 1975 are obsessed with bettering their audience’s critical thinking skills, and that’s something that is desperately needed in today’s world. – NP

2. The Wonder Years – Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing

During the first part of the decade, The Wonder Years somehow tapped into the exact emotions that seemingly an entire generation were feeling in unison. Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing perfectly captured the sensations of fear, hope and wonder of finding yourself at the crossroads of adulthood and forging your own destiny. 

Suburbia taps into the loneliness of leaving the comfort of college, the taxing labor of minimum wage jobs, and the nostalgia of pure joy found with old friends. Although The Wonder Years initially gained attention for music that looked at the world in a positive light (The Upsides), Suburbia didn’t try to hide itself behind this monicker. Instead, the album took a real look at struggling to find your place in a world that seemed brand new to a young adult. The warcry lyrics of, “It’s not about forcing happiness / It’s about not letting sadness win” made the band eternal. 

Suburbia somehow pays homage to pop punk throughout the last decade while forging its own identity. It showed us, for the first time, who The Wonder Years were and set the bar higher for their peers. – KS

1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

The best album of the 2010s not only laid the foundation for everything that was to follow this decade, it completely re-contextualized its creator and led us to question our own presumptions and beliefs. At its core, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is rumination on fame and celebrity, scratching and gnawing at the grim truths often covered by limelight. Track after track, Kanye West tunnels deeper into his own psyche, leaving no stone unturned and no train of thought unexplored, no matter how repulsive or gaudy it may be. Does he want us to lean closer or run away in distress? West seems to leave the choice to us.

From a strictly musical standpoint, Fantasy is a kitchen sink album in which every detail has been painstakingly placed and scrutinized over. The album is as grandiose as any hip hop or pop release in memory, and is specifically built to tower to a height of instability. This fact seems negligently bold when one remembers what was at stake. After a year of exile, West’s public standing was at an all time low and it seemed wholly possible that his career as a respected artist was hanging in the balance.

But that’s what makes Kanye West the defining celebrity of our time, for better or for worse. His nagging insistence on chipping away at his own essence and persona, leaning into his worst tendencies as a heel, have led to both demise and nirvana. It’s that ugly predisposition that led to the creation of this masterpiece and defined a decade of artistic explorations into dark recesses and uncomfortable introspection. – KH

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 11-20

You can view part one of our Best Albums of the Decade feature here.

20. Panic! at the Disco – Vices and Virtues

Vices & Virtues is arguably the greatest comeback story in the history of music. After the departure of half the band (including the main songwriter), Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith resurrected Panic! at The Disco to heights that no one could have ever imagined. Urie mastered the art of playing multiple instruments and writing lyrics, while Smith layered each song with hypnotizing percussion. Vices & Virtues reunited the band with the glamorized pop sound that initially made them famous while forging a sound unique to the two albums that came before it. Without Vices & Virtues, it’s hard to see how Panic! At The Disco would have ever found the footing to absolutely dominate the radio in a time when the medium seems almost defunct. – Kyle Schultz

19. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

One can argue the true genesis of the decade’s indie synthpop revival, but there is no denying that The Bones of What You Believe served as the movement’s North Star. While the previous decade was overrun with egrieged boys spewing venom over distorted guitars, vocalist Lauren Mayberry flipped the script for the 2010s, with a buzzsaw of dark, emotive (and catchy) hooks over shimmering synthesizers. The 12 tracks of CHVRCHES’ debut worm their way into your brain from the first listen and set a startlingly high bar for a sound that defined the decade. – Kiel Hauck

18. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface

After two years of silence following their Fueled By Ramen debut, Vessel, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun released 2015’s Blurryface. The album is arguably their most popular, and put them on the front of every major music publication. Their catchy refrains and energetic live shows continue to fill up stadiums worldwide, and their outspokenness about mental health awareness has kept the band on the tip of everyone’s tongue throughout the back half of the 2010s. – Nadia Paiva

17. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

The greatest sin committed by Danger Days is that it faced the monumental task of meeting unprecedented expectations. Taking a massive swing, My Chemical Romance wrote an epic rock fantasy that firmly planted its own distinct sound in the band’s catalog. It doesn’t always stick the landing, such as truly explaining the story concepts that make such a prominent role in the songs and their titles. However, what does work is ambitious, driving, and as catchy as anything the band has ever written. For a band celebrated for music about depression and vampires, Danger Days took us on the adventure the band had always wanted to explore in the first place. – KS

16. letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

Punk music needed a voice like Jason Aalon Butler’s in the 2010s, and it may have gotten more than it bargained for. The Blackest Beautiful was one of the most ferocious albums of the decade and solidified letlive.’s place among the post-hardcore elite. Across the album’s 11 tracks, we see the promise of a raw, unbridled band coalesce before our very eyes, harnessing an urgency that had been missing in a genre that demands it. That The Blackest Beautiful pushes all if its chips toward its passionate social and political message only solidifies its place as one of the decade’s only punk classics. In hindsight, letlive. may have flown too close to the sun, but this moment of fire was worth it. – KH

15. Paramore – Paramore

The self-titled album was a big comeback for Paramore. Having gone through a rocky cycle with 2009’s Brand New Eyes, the band regrouped and rebranded themselves as a bonafide pop band in 2013.  “Ain’t It Fun” won Best Rock Song at the 57th Grammys, making it the band’s first Grammy award. The album has all of the great things we loved in Paramore’s previous work, but it also paved the way for their 80s-influenced After Laughter. – NP

14. Hellogoodbye – Would it Kill You?

Would It Kill You? subverted all expectations placed on it at release, seamlessly blending modern pop, pop rock and classic pop into a sound unlike anything else in music. Hellogoodbye singer Forrest Kline sounds completely energized, having turned the focus of the music from electronic rock to folk-pop. The songs pulse with energy and sweet emotion, letting the band take chances and push their own boundaries to great effect. The deftly crafted layers of pop music and the blending of genres make this album sound like a true work of art, breathing new life into a band some had already blown off as a one hit wonder. – KS

13. Frank Ocean – Blonde

Four years after the release of his jaw-dropping debut album, Channel Orange, Frank Ocean fans had begun to resign themselves to the idea that there may never be a follow-up. But Blonde came suddenly, and excitement quickly transitioned to awe. Blonde is complicated, mesmerizing and intense – the work of an introverted artist meandering through the halls of his past, dangling answers before quickly replacing them with more questions. Psychedelic and smooth, Ocean explores sexuality, social constructs, and inner truth in equal measure, crafting one of the most immersive and ambiguously beautiful records of the decade. – KH

12. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

This is definitely more of a personal choice for me, because other than the single “Video Games”, this album was underrated when it was released in 2012. I feel like it has become a gateway for a lot of people (and artists who would later claim the term) to a more self aware, grittier side of music that they might not have been drawn to if it wasn’t for tracks like “Off to the Races” or “Summertime Sadness”. This album is also a prime example of perseverance, because even though it’s not Lana Del Rey’s most critically acclaimed album, it didn’t stop her from releasing incredible music later in the decade. – NP

11. Taylor Swift – Red

Taylor Swift was a phenom before the release of Red, but this album opened her up to an entirely new audience. Combining modern pop songs with country proved to be a bridge between genres that fans could easily grasp onto. While Red prepped Swift for her foray into pop music, it also pulled new fans into the genre of country music even if they would have never been interested before. The album captures the feeling of past loves, with all of the happiness and anger that comes with them, and attempts to find meaning between the two. Hiding between genres, Red harnesses the strengths of country, pop, and rock to unite anyone willing with the same emotions. – KS

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 21-30

As the 2010s began, pop music was on the brink of a renaissance as a critically-acclaimed art form, hip hop was beginning to stretch its wings into new sonic territory, and the pop punk scene was beginning to fade from public consciousness (or was it?) The past decade has been defined by numerous genres receiving a shot of adrenaline from new artists who are playing by a different set of rules than their predecessors. If you hadn’t yet ditched your CDs for a streaming app in 2010, you certainly have by now.

So what does it looks like as genres begin to blend together and the idea of an album itself begins to morph as artists seek to create for audiences who have no interest in purchasing music? Well, that’s what we set out to capture in this feature on the 30 Best Albums of the Decade.

It’s All Dead came into existence just over seven years ago, and we’ve been fortunate to experience so much thoughtful, introspective, groundbreaking music since that time. The decade was marked by a darker tone, for a number of reasons, but so many great artists have risen to the occasion with something powerful to say. Over the coming days, we’ll be exploring some of our favorite sounds of the past 10 years that have moved us and made us move. We hope you’ll join along and share some of your favorites with us, as well!

30. NF – The Search

If you read my review on this album, it will be clear to you why it belongs in a decade-defining list, despite only being released this past July. Nate Feuerstein’s focus on mental health is still very much needed in a culture that has, in the past, sought cover from such a delicate issue.  What better way to end the decade than with an album that refuses to hide the struggles of mental health away any more? – Nadia Paiva

29. The Interrupters – Fight the Good Fight

Fight The Good Fight pays homage to the sound of punk in the mid-90’s and doesn’t stray far from the path forged by Rancid. However, by retaining such a “classic” punk sound, The Interrupters have become one of the leading punk voices of the decade. They have managed to do what few bands seem to be able to do: revive interest in a scene long thought dead. In the vein of true punk music, every song on the album is irresistibly catchy and fights back against the cultural norm. Fight The Good Fight proves that a particular sound isn’t contained to a certain point in time. If expressed correctly, a genre of music that was cast aside 20 years ago is even more powerful when resurrected. – Kyle Schultz

28. Haim – Days Are Gone

By the fall of 2013, indie pop was due for a shot of adrenaline, and it got one in the form of a slew of debut albums that helped shape the sound of the decade. The trio of sisters that comprise Haim have a keen ear for melody and a penchant for quirky tracks that incorporate everything from bubbling synthesizers to grungy guitars to slick, sing-along choruses. Days Are Gone is a hit factory that oscillates between playful pop numbers and dark, introspective tracks that set the tone for a decade’s worth of underground pop. But the best part about Days Are Gone? It captures the distinct and sincere personality of its creators, ensuring that it can never be fully replicated. – Kiel Hauck

27. Hozier – Hozier

With the explosive, Grammy winning single “Take Me to Church”, Ireland’s Hozier took over the folk scene in 2014. His self-titled album is certainly one of the best folk offerings of the decade, surpassing Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons. It’s accessible and soulful. Andrew Hozier’s charismatic stage presence made the world fall for him and his mournful songwriting. – NP

26. AFI – AFI (The Blood Album)

AFI (The Blood Album) is the first album in AFI’s astounding career to fully capture almost every element of the band’s sound and amplify it. Jade Puget is at his most impressive, making enough sound for two guitarists (“Hidden Knives”; “Feed The Floor”) while singer Davey Havok shows off the insane range of his talents while crooning poetic until the very end (“So Beneath You”, “The Wind That Carries Me Away”). The Blood Album is a rock album that truly makes the disconnection of emotional pain, the fight against faith, and the damaged ideal of love tangible. AFI make good on the promise of this album, as it rages and philosophizes in a way that only they can. – KS

25. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet

In 2013, it was hard to imagine Donald Glover as someone commanding the pop culture conversation, but before all of the Grammys, Emmys, and blockbuster film roles, Glover dropped an album that would kick-start his transition from quirky comedian and backpack rapper to a full-fledged artistic force. Because the Internet is sprawling in nature, rarely pausing on one sound or thought long enough to digest. But that’s the point. The album paints a messy mural of our digital age, complete with early Gambino’s signature smirk. “Everything you don’t say, you Tweet it,” he seethes on one track. His point might be even more poignant six years later. – KH

24. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Lady Gaga ushered in a new era to pop music when she released 2008’s The Fame, but really took it over the edge (haha, get it?) with 2011’s Born This Way. With this album, she became truly confident in the image she chose to portray and used this album to bring to the forefront some social issues of the day, largely her support for the LGBTQ+ community. It genre-bends in the best way, and the album, as well as the stunning music videos she created, sent the decade into a new form of expression. – NP

23. I Can Make a Mess – The World We Know

Ace Enders has proven himself adept at writing almost any type of music, however his acoustic songs always seem to be the ones that grab people the most. The World We Know is a world weary album broken down to embrace and appreciate simplicity. Enders’ signature hooks, catchy choruses, and emotion seep through the guitar strings across the record. The World We Know perfectly captures a moment in time we all find ourselves in: the quiet realm of trapped-in-thought and looking to climb out of a personal hole. The album is hopeful, honest and arguably Enders’ magnum opus in a career filled with musical highs. – KS

22. Architects – Holy Hell

By the early part of this decade, modern metalcore had already become a caricature of itself, with many bands leaving the sound altogether for new pastures. Yet throughout the 2010s, Architects held fast, gradually becoming a beacon for the genre. After the tragic passing of guitarist Tom Searle, the band unexpectedly rose from the ashes in 2018 to release their grandest album to date. Equal parts punishingly cathartic, atmospherically expansive, and sonically overpowering, Holy Hell not only solidified Architects as the defining metalcore act of the decade, but set a benchmark that no other band aside from themselves may be capable of reaching. – KH

21. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

I’m not usually a fan of Top 40 radio, but Teenage Dream made my list because it’s quintessential 2010s pop. It came out in my last year of middle school, and I wasn’t allowed to listen to it. This, of course, made me all the more curious, but even without direct access to the album, I couldn’t help but hear “California Girls” everywhere I went. It was the first album released by a female to have five singles on the Billboard charts, and it cemented Katy Perry’s spot as Queen of Pop. – NP

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Blessthefall – Witness

“We’re not dead / We’re not like you said / We’re not dead / We’re not like you!”

In music, there are those special moments that send a chill up your spine no matter how many times you’ve heard them. The opening refrain of Witness, the sophomore album from blessthefall, still cause my hair to stand on end. It’s the rallying cry of a band that many had written off after the departure of lead singer Craig Mabbit, and it’s an explosive introduction to a new era of metalcore that would set the tone for the next decade of heavy music.

You can buy or stream Witness on Apple Music.

Even though blessthefall have released better albums over the course of their 15-year career (Hollow Bodies, Hard Feelings), I go back to Witness constantly – multiple times a year. With an October release date, the record brings back memories of autumn, but truly, this is an album that could spin year round. It’s heavy, but not punishingly so. It’s full of melody, but you’d never confuse it with the pop-screamo scene that proceeded it.

By late 2009, a new wave of metalcore acts were beginning to become household names in the scene. The Devil Wears Prada had achieved a rapid rise through Plagues and With Roots Above and Branches Below and Bring Me the Horizon had bled into the States with the success of Suicide Season. But those bands required a certain proclivity for and background in heavy music to fully appreciate. Witness offered an entry into metal while never feeling like it was compromising. It’s a heavy album that allows you space to breathe.

New lead singer Beau Bokan was just that – a singer. The band’s heaviness came from bassist Jared Warth’s brutal screams, guitarist Eric Lambert’s drop-D riffing, and drummer Matt Traynor’s machine-gun drumming. That opening cry of “We’re not dead” still resonates because of its urgency and authenticity. With Mabbit leaving for the seemingly greener grasses of Escape the Fate, blessthefall had a lot to prove in 2009, having just signed to Fearless Records with a new lead singer and a new sound. What the band delivered was nothing short of astonishing.

What Bokan brought to the band that Mabbit hadn’t with the band’s decent, but relatively pedestrian debut album, His Last Walk, was personality. Getting called up to the big leagues from indie band Take the Crown, Bokan immediately resonated with fans through his live performance and soaring vocals. That opening track leads into “What’s Left of Me”, which finds Bokan singing, “Blood is dropping from my hands / Tell me, is this what you wanted?” The entire album feels rife with bad blood – towards Mabbit and anyone who dared doubt the band could carry on. On the title track, Warth bellows the lines, “Don’t try so hard / We see right through you / You’re a liar, you don’t need to breathe / You said, you said, you said we’re done”.

Even the album’s iconic artwork hammers the point home. A lone monarch butterfly amidst a post-apocalyptic wasteland with the word “WITNESS” in all caps lets us know we’re about to watch something rise from the ashes. It’s at once beautiful and menacing, but mostly, it’s a statement of purpose.

Yet for all of the vigor, anger, and drive found throughout Witness, the band still manages to find small moments of space for reflection, such as album closer “Stay Still”, in which Bokan carries the vocals entirely. On fan favorite “Hey Baby, Here’s that Song You Wanted”, the band leans into scene dramatics, kick-starting the track with a voicemail from a spurned former lover of Bokan’s that I’m still not sure is real or staged. The energy never dies, but the pace does shift enough to allow you to rest your neck.

One of my personal favorite moments on the album comes on “We’ll Sleep When We’re Dead”. Bokan, a vocal fan of Fall Out Boy, drops some of his most Pete Wentz-esque lyrics, singing, “Hide your makeshift hearts / We’re taking aim / And we won’t be leaving”. On “Five Ninety”, a track that bookends melody with crushing breakdowns, finds Bokan digging at the nerves the band likely felt when crafting this debut-redo, “This road is getting darker / You’ve been dying to find your inspiration”.

Though I have no definitive proof, I feel strongly that Witness was the gateway drug that led to the full metalcore explosion that came in the following years. Blessthefall (along with bands like A Day to Remember) allowed both musicians and fans alike to realize that there was room to write for multiple audiences and that the traditional pop punk Warped Tour crowd was open to listening to something a bit heavier if crafted in the right way. Witness doesn’t suffer from a weak moment or a lack of identity. It sets the stage for not only the next 10 years of a band that has become a mainstay and trendsetter, but a decade’s worth of bands hoping to catch that same fire.

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: Paramore – Brand New Eyes

Oftentimes when I write these 10-year reflections, I’m coming at them as a person who fell in love with them years after their release. We’re finally coming up to some of the anniversaries of albums that have impacted me from the point of their release, and what better album to speak about first than Paramore’s brand new eyes.

You can buy or stream brand new eyes on Apple Music.

This is a deeply personal album for me, but then again, I feel like it’s a personal album for every Paramore fan. Whether the album hit you hard because of your own life or you were devastated at the fate of the band during the period of 2009 to 2011, there’s no question that this is the discography’s most important album. Sure, Riot! brought them international acclaim and made Paramore a household name. But, for me at least, it was brand new eyes that made me a true fan. 

From the beginning of the album, Paramore proved that things were changing in their sphere. In interviews and live performances the band conducted during the album cycle, the band was visibly distant and on their guard. Tracks like “Careful” and “Feeling Sorry” made it clear that there was trouble in paradise. As hard as that was for the band, both personally and professionally, they needed to release brand new eyes. It brought to light the things Paramore had been holding back throughout their career. We wouldn’t have the self-titled album or After Laughter if Hayley hadn’t made everyone in the band face the problems they were clearly having.

In preparation for writing this, I listened to brand new eyes a bunch. It’s totally nostalgic, but there’s still things I’m gleaning from it even now. I realize now that the way I see faith, love, friendship, and quite honestly, conflict resolution has totally been molded by this album. “Playing God” and “Turn It Off” were some of the first songs that kind of burst my perfect religion bubble. With this album, I finally found it okay to raise some questions about myself that I was afraid of acknowledging. I feel like it was kind of the same for Hayley. After releasing brand new eyes, she had let go of the idea that she needed to please everyone. Paramore was always kind of that quasi-Christian rock band, and I feel like they were finally able to drop that label and come into their own. 

Now that the sob story is over, the album also jams incredibly hard. It’s got some of Paramore’s best vocals, lyricism, and music. The band really put their all into it, almost like they kind of sensed it was the end of their first act. It took four years for them to release anything new, and quite honestly, it was so up in the air as to whether they would. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and we know the happy ending to the brand new eyes story is the fact that everyone was able to reconcile their differences for the most part. I think that’s why I still find it so easy to listen to. I know how it ends. Everyone comes home.

With Zac’s (very good) side project Halfnoise, and Hayley’s (very good) hair dye company, there’s no telling whether we’ll get another Paramore album anytime soon. In the meantime, there’s still things to learn and gain from listening to their past albums. “God knows that the world doesn’t need another band / But what a waste it would’ve been / Can’t believe that we almost hung it up / We’re just getting started”. On this 10-year anniversary of brand new eyes, I’m thankful that they didn’t hang it up.

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: Saosin – In Search of Solid Ground

By the time Saosin’s second full-length album, In Search of Solid Ground, arrived in September 2009, I felt like I’d been waiting forever. In hindsight, three years doesn’t seem all that long. It would be another seven years before the band would reconvene for 2016’s Along the Shadow. New Saosin music never comes on time, but it’s usually worth the wait.

You can buy or stream In Search of Solid Ground on Apple Music.

By the time the band finally released their full-length self-titled debut in 2006, I was all-in on the band and practically obsessed with everything they did. I owned multiple t-shirts and hoodies, was in attendance at every Saosin show that came near me, constantly talked about the band with my friends, and was a frequent visitor to the band’s online message board. I followed every detail and clue I could find as the band worked on their follow-up to Saosin and waited anxiously outside a Best Buy on release day to be first in line to purchase the album.

In truth, there was no way In Search of Solid Ground could ever live up to my expectations, which had reached a crescendo by the time I picked up The Grey EP the previous fall during the band’s fall tour with Underoath. Saosin was more than an album to me – it was a life experience. It was the kind of record that shapes your musical tastes for the better part of a decade. It was the kind of record you measure every other record against.

But even if a voice inside my head told me that In Search of Solid Ground wasn’t all I had hoped for, I brushed those notions aside and repeatedly dove into the album day after day. First, it was the revamped demos of “I Keep My Secrets Safe”, “The Worst of Me” and “Why Can’t You See?” that grabbed my attention. Then it was upbeat tracks like “Deep Down”, “Changing”, and “Is This Real?” that took center stage. Finally, it was the odd, experimental tracks like “Say Goodbye” and “Fireflies (Light Messengers)” that stole my heart.

Over the past 10 years, In Search of Solid Ground has become a unique kind of record in my collection. One that I revisit once or twice a year and think back to a time when a band could make me feel the way Saosin did, and really no other band has since. Of all of the band’s releases, it’s the one I reach for the least, but it was undoubtedly the one I was most in-the-moment with at the time it released.

To look back, it’s easy to see why the album didn’t land for many fans. Its logjam of producers certainly led to a lack of direction. There’s a little something for everyone on the album, but not necessarily for longtime fans of the band’s chaotic early sound. In Search of Solid Ground contains actual pop songs (“It’s All Over Now”, “What Were We Made For?”) while still containing heavier moments that don’t quite fit in with the rest of the band’s catalogue. If you had to label the album, you’d probably call it alternative rock, but even that ambiguous term fails to capture the full breadth of sounds displayed here. Over time, I’ve found it best to digest the album in various chunks that fit together.

It’s true that I wish the album had contained more of the wild guitar work from Beau Burchell and Justin Shekoski, blistering drums from Alex Rodriguez, and soaring vocals from Cove Reber that had defined their earlier work. But the thing is, the earlier work is kind of perfect – what was left to prove? If In Search of Solid Ground was either an experimental journey for the band or a last gasp before a 2010 fallout left the band nearly defunct, it’s undoubtedly a moment in time that feels different from anything else coming out of the scene at the time.

Ten years later, I’m mostly happy that the album wasn’t the band’s last. It always felt like Saosin was on the verge of either world domination or complete self-destruction, and walking that fine line resulted in some of the best and most unique sounds of the 2000s. After all this time, the band still insists on doing things their own way, which is what makes them so compelling.

And come to think of it, it’s been three years since Along the Shadow. While my youthful superfandom may be long gone, I still await anxiously what, if anything, comes next.

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.

A Half-Assed Theory on Discovering New Music

Over the last several years, I have been been improving myself mentally. I heard new music but wasn’t listening. Now in a better place, I am revisiting some albums with fresh eyes to see what it means to me now. Cheers.

Finding new music is easy, but loving new music is a chore. When I think of the bands I love the most, it’s because I discovered them during a transition in my life. Going to high school (New Found Glory), first girlfriend (Saves the Day), college and first apartment (Panic! at the Disco, Lucky Boys Confusion), and discovering the real world (The Wonder Years), led to me listening to this music nonstop for decades, as well as other bands that cropped up in the same eras.

However, stagnation and depression hamper the joy in personal growth. In retrospect, it seems obvious that such memorable moments imprint themselves in the music we listen to. But seeing it in action in real time is a special moment everyone should experience. Thus, I have developed a theory!

I recently started a new day job, which is the biggest change to my life in years. It required spending two weeks in Wisconsin by myself for training. I tried to prep music for the trip, but felt bored looking over my usual soundtracks. Instead, I prepped a bunch of music I’ve reviewed for It’s All Dead in years past or bought for my collection and then (for no reason at all) never listened to again: Neck Deep, State Champs, We Are the In Crowd, Superet, Honeyblood, and many more.

There are many ways to connect to music, whether that be a connection with the lyrics or the music filling your veins with energy. Oftentimes, music means so much to us because of the nostalgia and memories we associate with it. My theory on falling in love with music is obvious, but is proposed as such: the most direct appreciation to new music is during a new life experience.

The first nerve-wracking day of my job, I played Neck Deep’s Life’s Not Out to Get You twice throughout the day, as it seemed appropriate for someone who waits for the worst to happen and then adjusts accordingly. Checking into my hotel, “Threat Level Midnight” played as I walked through the halls. As vocalist Ben Barlow sang, “I’ll see your face down here real soon / A welcome home to a swift farewell”, I opened my door and found another family staying in my room. Dirty clothes, pool toys, suitcases and children’s toys were spread across the room, so I panicked and quickly shut the door.

The hotel told me that there was a family refusing to leave and squatting in the room; they had torn the phone from the wall and refused to respond to maintenance knocking on the door as “Can’t Kick Up the Roots” rang through one ear bud (“Yeah this place is a shipwreck / But this shipwreck, it is mine”). Although a misunderstanding all around, it took an hour to get me a room and Neck Deep kept me company at the counter during frenzied calls and panicked looks from the staff in my direction after being told, “Everything is under control.” Ironically, Neck Deep was also playing when the keys to my room didn’t work the second week and the entire staff recognized me as I told them I was locked out (“All eyes on me, but that’s not reality /… claustrophobic in my own skin / From holding it all in” – “The Grand Delusion”; The Peace and the Panic).

There is a massive public pathway that traces the lake in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. My first night there, I found myself alone in the dark, walking a treacherous path with only the moon lighting the lake to my side as I hurried back to the hotel with Superet jamming away in my head (“And when the lights go out / Will you be having fun alone? / I need revolution / It’s you, only you” – “Bone Bag”; How To Work a Room).

I discovered smoking in bars is still acceptable in Wisconsin, as I stepped into a pub and saw 20 locals starring at me with suspicion with We Are The In Crowd blasting away through my phone (“I guess it was wishful to think / I was different from the rest / Now I’m red in the face / I don’t think I’m impressed” – “Better Luck Next Time”; Best Intentions). I fell asleep to State Champs playing quietly, vividly aware that I didn’t have to worry as much about money for a while (“Wash away all the thoughts that come at you like monsters at night / I don’t wanna live this way / Strong enough to break these chains / Broken pieces can mend…This is our time, our time to go” – “Our Time To Go”; Living Proof).

This massive life event has spawned moment after moment that I will never forget, each accompanied by bands I should have been in love with years ago. I can blame depression for hampering my ability to connect to the music before now, but the truth is I should have been listening regardless. The fact that I felt a connection to so many bands the last couple of weeks means I should have enjoyed them before now. Using a life event to listen to them finally feels like a crutch, and I wish I had spent more time loving them on my own. However, I will never forget these bands or the memories I made listening to them during these two weeks that changed my life.

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 watched a framed picture fall off the wall of his hotel room for no particular reason while writing this. He blames earthquakes for it so that he doesn’t have to think about ghosts before bed. What a fool!

Summer Soundtracks: FM Static – What Are You Waiting For?

One of the best things about great summer albums is that you don’t really have to be able to explain why you love them. There’s just something about a perfect summer record that feels right. It’s kind of freeing, in a way.

You can buy or stream What Are You Waiting For? on Apple Music.

The first time I heard FM Static was at a party at the end of the spring semester of my sophomore year in college. Whoever was manning the stereo played their track “Definitely Maybe” and my ears were immediately alert. It makes sense – FM Static featured vocalist Trevor McNevan and drummer Steve Augustine of Thousand Foot Krutch, one of my favorite bands at the time. While certainly a departure from TFK’s signature nu metal sound, McNevan’s voice was unmistakable.

I picked up the band’s debut, What Are You Waiting For? shortly thereafter and memorized every word during the summer of 2004. It wasn’t hard – the album clocks in at around a half-hour with no track going over the three-minute mark. It’s the kind of syrupy pop punk bliss that seemed to dominate nearly every summer during that time of my life.

So what makes What Are You Waiting For? a summer soundtrack I keep returning to? I’m honestly not sure I have a great answer. Nostalgia certainly plays a role, as I have so many fond memories singing along to this record with friends. Musically? It’s fine. Lyrically, it’s full of lines like, “I saw what really happened all those time he went for water / When we were at the movie theatre watching Harry Potter” and “Feels like it’s teenage hunting season”. As cheesy as these lines are, I still sing them at the top of my lungs every time I spin the album.

What Are You Waiting For? came along at a time where I still allowed myself to have fun with the music I listened to. It wouldn’t be long before I entered a more pretentious phase of music fandom – one that scoffed at things that didn’t make you think hard enough or didn’t “push genre boundaries.”

If all of this is making FM Static’s debut seem underwhelming, well…that’s not entirely fair. It’s a perfectly crafted, half-hour pop punk album, which is exactly what McNevan and Augustine were attempting to accomplish. In hindsight, it’s clear that the side project served as a release for them before their return to the more serious nature of Thousand Foot Krutch. FM Static is silly, joyous and almost profound.

While the bulk of the material focuses on the innocence of romantic longing or those exciting first days of a new relationship, the heartbeat of the album is all about connections. Be it the desire to be intentional with our empathy on “Crazy Mary” or the distance that time creates in our friendships on “October”, FM Static has a surprising amount to say for such a light, nonchalant-feeling debut.

The duo would release three more FM Static albums over the course of the next decade, each one holding my attention a little less. All these years later, What Are You Waiting For? is the only one I regularly return to, always during the summertime. The moment that first drum hits on opener “Three Days Later”, I’m sucked back in time to a place filled with smiles, friends and the kinds of songs that you can sing along to with abandon.

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: Set Your Goals – This Will Be the Death of Us

I almost lost my middle finger in 2009. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but while working in a restaurant, I was playing with a keyring during some downtime. Somehow, I slipped my finger through the gap between both endpoints. I remember watching the tip of my finger fall backwards and seeing the bone. It exposed everything I am on the inside for the first time. I managed to keep it together long enough to get stitches. When I went home to my roommates, they had gathered in camaraderie and collectively flipped me off in unison, which helped a little bit.

I had been obsessed with All Time Low’s Nothing Personal for the summer, but I hated myself for being so reckless as to get injured midway through the season. While my friends were out swimming, exploring the local creek, or engaging in some type of sports I was dutifully guarding my finger from infection. I was angry, isolated and days away from my birthday.

You can buy or stream This Will Be the Death of Us on Apple Music.

At some point, All Time Low posted on their social media to support their friends Set Your Goals’ new album. I had never heard of the band, but decided to spend what little money I had to keep me occupied since I wasn’t spending my time being active. All Time Low remain one of my favorite bands, but Set Your Goals stole the year with This Will Be the Death of Us, one of the single best releases of the early 2000’s.

Set Your Goals was my introduction to ‘easycore.’ Hovering somewhere between pop punk and hardcore, This Will Be the Death of Us scratched every itch I had. It even inspired a song by Four Year Strong as a response to the glowing reviews the album received. Set Your Goals tempered the anger I felt towards myself, managed to be an ethical voice in the scene, and felt like one of the opening salvos in the new trend of positive punk. It exposed me to the deficiencies I didn’t realize I had inside.

The rage in This Will Be the Death of Us isn’t focused on the usual suspects in the scene. While the album maintains a positive outlook overall, it is relentless in its attacks on aging bitterly and of neglect towards love of the world and its history (“Our Ethos: A Legacy to Pass On”). It managed to successfully criticize societal issues without sounding like a bunch of privileged kids whining (“Look Closer”). During my last year of college, the global recession was going strong. Hearing a band call the system out for what it was meant the world to me. The album also featured the best cameos of all time (Vinnie Caruana, Hayley Williams, Chad Gilbert and Jon Gula). The guest vocalists played a significant part of their songs, even the music videos (“This Will Be the Death of Us”).

Despite the worldly rage, positivity oozed from this album. At the time, there weren’t a lot of new bands making a splash in the scene, and those that did fell back on the tried-and-true lyricism of failed relationships. Set Your Goals introduced me to songs like “Summer Jam”, which gushed with memories of the band on a year-by-year basis leading up to this release. “Summer Jam” was the first time I had heard of the band Fireworks, and the lyric, “We’re all in a holding cell, but somehow Baloni got away,” led me on a goose chase to learn more about their merch guy. A year later, The Wonder Years would go deeper into this area and change the game of ‘realistic pop punk’ on The Upsides.

Most importantly though, I felt like I gained a worldview from Set Your Goals. While All Time Low got me hooked on catchy lyrics that I still know to this day, Set Your Goals turned the chaos of hardcore punk on its head that sent a message to question the status quo of the world, even if you loved it. It’s the first time that my rebellious college phase realized that you could love the world and fight to break it at the same time.

This Will Be the Death of Us helped me through the summer of 2009 on a daily basis while I sat inside watching my friends play video games and get dirty. I remained low key until the autumn, hiding from anything that could make my finger worse. But I loved the world despite its follies along the way, for better or for worse, during the healing.

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 heavily relates to Jasper from The Simpsons.

Reflecting On: Florence and the Machine – Lungs

I was recently talking to Kiel about some of my favorite albums, the ones that truly impacted me as a music fan and as a person, and how a lot of those albums are hitting their release anniversaries this year. One of those albums is Lungs by Florence and the Machine. It’s an album that’s no doubt left a lasting impact on the musical culture of 2009. It’s been one of my top albums for as long as I’ve been listening, and I still think it’s Florence and the Machine’s best.

“Dog Days are Over” is probably the best known track that Florence has released, and it starts Lungs off strong. The entire album’s exploration of emotion hadn’t been done before in such a drastic, theatrical way. From beginning to end, Florence impresses us vocally, musically and thematically. 

My favorite tracks from Lungs are “Cosmic Love”, which brings me to tears almost every time I listen to it, “Between Two Lungs” for its lullaby-esque lilt and harmonies, and “My Boy Builds Coffins” for the way it describes an effortless and simple yet all-consuming love.

The way Florence uses literary references, nature imagery and a pre-Raphaelite muse is one of the main reasons I think she’s stuck around. Her creativity is boundless, and she’s willing to push the envelope to get her point across. Her label asked her to write an “upbeat” song for the record and the result, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”, is about ritual sacrifice and King Midas. It seems like she tries to wriggle past authority; she holds her right to create tightly.

As a woman who enjoys music, and watches women in the industry get stepped on or stepped over, I appreciate the fact that Florence walks her own path. She has paved the way for other female artists to feel the freedom to do the same, and I think that if Lungs hadn’t succeeded the way it did in 2009, the music world would be vastly different. If Florence Welch hadn’t come along and garnered the success she did, I doubt that Marina Diamandis and Lana del Rey would’ve felt the confidence they do now in their unconventional music endeavors.

From the first track of Lungs, Florence Welch brings us into her world — a place where we can identify with each theme she creates but also escape to at the same time. Between her instrumentation and her ethereal stage presence, Florence’s music constantly raises the bar for art pop, from 2009 until now. Happy 10th birthday, Lungs.

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.