The Best Songs of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

14. Pronoun – “Wrong”

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

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

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

12. Kacey Musgraves – “High Horse”

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

11. Saves the Day – “Suzuki”

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

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

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

9. Fall Out Boy – “Church”

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

8. Vince Staples – “Feels Like Summer”

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

7. Watsky – “Welcome to the Family”

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

6. Brian Fallon – “Little Nightmares”

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

5. Ariana Grande – “thank u, next”

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

4. Childish Gambino – “This is America”

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

3. Senses Fail – “Double Cross”

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

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

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

1. Drake – “Nice for What”

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

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

Honorable Mention:

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Advertisements

The Best Albums of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

14. Real Friends – Composure

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

13. AFI – The Missing Man

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

12. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

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

11. Underoath – Erase Me

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

10. Pusha T – Daytona

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

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

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

8. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

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

7. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

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

6. Justin Courtney Pierre – In the Drink

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

5. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

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

4. Architects – Holy Hell

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

3. Fall Out Boy – MANIA

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

2. Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love

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

1. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Copeland – You Are My Sunshine

I’m a firm believer in the connection between our personal journeys and how that plays into the music that we hold dear. When I became obsessed with Copeland’s You Are My Sunshine, I was in the midst of what remains to be the worst, and one of best, times in my life.

I’ve only briefly touched on this several times, but I suppose it’s time to lay out the whole story about my grandmother, Linda. Anyone who met her immediately loved her. She was the kindest, most thoughtful human I’ve ever met, and still no one compares to the way she always knew just what was needed to turn a bad day around. From cookies to a movie night, she was always the perfect diversion from what reality threw at me.

You can buy or stream You Are My Sunshine on Apple Music.

I was only 17 when she passed away from cancer, and even though everything feels like a big deal at 17, facing things without her these past few years have only made the bad seem worse. She always knew how to look on the bright side, which is something I’m really bad at doing. One of her favorite songs was “You Are My Sunshine”. She used to sing it to her kids (my mom and her brother) when they were young, and then to my siblings and I when we were younger.

Now that you’ve met Linda and, I’m sure, already wish you had known her, let’s talk about Copeland’s album of the same name as that 1939 Jimmie Davis hit. The album, for me, jumps back and forth, uncannily telling the story of my 2015: the year my grandmother died and the year I met the man I married three years later. It was the year I watched my family fall apart, but it was the year I saw them stand back up, stronger than ever.

The album begins with “Should You Return” and the lines that pertain here are, “But now there’s nothing left to do but waste my time / I never knew where to move on / I never knew what to rely upon”. Cancer takes such an emotional toll but it also takes a toll on time. The nights my mom would be at the hospital, it was up to me and the rest of my family members to keep the house running, to keep some semblance of order. Once my grandmother passed, my mom was back again, so I had more time on my hands. The extra time, though, wasn’t a blessing. It was used as a grief outlet.

“The Grey Man”, under normal circumstances, is just another song about a breakup. But for me, the song turned into both a ray of hope – “You’re gonna run right back to her arms” – and part of the realization that she was actually not going to come back.

The third track on this album, “Chin Up”, may be my favorite song Copeland has ever written (a close second is “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve” from Ixora). My mom leaned heavily on us during the time the cancer took to run its course. I feel like I bore a lot of the weight because I’m the oldest child, but maybe I’m just being narrowminded. Anyway, “You’d break your neck / To keep your chin up” felt so real then. My mom and I are ridiculously similar, and we deal with our feelings the same way – we don’t. We’re not fans of pity parties being thrown in our honor. I felt like I had to be strong enough so my mom felt comfortable leaning on me if she needed to. That feeling kind of stuck around though, even to this day, even when it’s not necessary.

“Good Morning Fire Eater” is kind of an aftermath song for me. ”The day is done and everyone’s gone now / You can taste every fire and hold every song”. I graduated high school shortly after my grandmother passed. So this song is kind of a sigh of relief, now that she wasn’t suffering anymore. And I held onto the idea that everyone has after high school: the world was my oyster.

We all know the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If I’m continuing this track of being honest, I’m still having trouble with the acceptance part. But I had no trouble with the depression. “To Be Happy Now” is the best expression of that depression I’ve found up until Paramore released “Rose-Colored Boy”.

So let’s bring the mood up a little toward positivity. I was talking to a guy and he had really helped me through some of the tougher stuff I was having to deal with. My grandmother passed in June. By that point, Jeremiah was asking when I’d be his girlfriend and I told him we’d talk about it when I turned 18. I turned 18 in August and by September 2nd, we were together. The next two tracks on the album, “The Day I Lost My Voice (The Suitcase Song)” and “On the Safest Ledge”, respectively, provide two outlooks on this new relationship I was fostering: one of severe skepticism as I was no stranger to how quickly things can be taken, and the second, which was jumping headfirst.

“Not Allowed” is a jump back into grief and a different perspective of how I dealt with it. I felt that I needed so badly to be strong for the rest of my family that I pushed all of my feelings aside and just kind of forgot how to be upset about the loss we had all just experienced. It wasn’t some righteous quest to be the best griever. I just chose numbness as my coping mechanism. Disclaimer: Don’t do that. “Strange and Unprepared” follows that same theme: “And you never feel good or bad / Just strange and unprepared”.

In 2015, I had a whole array of feelings to choose from, and most of them were new. I’d been sad before, but not in this way, not in the way of “maybe I’ll never smile for real again.” I’d liked people before, but not in the way I had fallen head over heels for Jeremiah. So “What Do I Know” was kind of a pep talk. I was really in uncharted emotional territory, and I was trying my hardest to stay grounded.

The album closes with “Not So Tough Found Out”. That’s the song that brings me to today, to right now. I’m not as tough as I’ve always seen myself, and I’m learning to be okay with that. How can one year bring about so much change? I ask myself that a lot. I guess one way to describe it is when you get the star power-up in Mario Kart. Everything speeds up around you and suddenly you’re one lap away from the finish line instead of two. You’re not concerned with what happens in the meantime, but, watching the playback, you see that you knocked Yoshi off the track and he ended up in eighth place.

Looking back on 2015 still hurts and still thrills, kind of like Copeland’s You Are My Sunshine. It gets so low, but then Aaron Marsh sings lines like “Could you be happy / To fall like a stone / If you’d land right here safe in my arms”, and I’m reminded of the guy who was able to bring me out of my grief, and the fact that when I get home tonight, he’ll be asleep on the couch because he tried to wait up for me to make sure I got home safely.

Maybe I’ve learned more about looking on the bright side because I don’t have my grandmother there to do it for me anymore. All I have is her example and the need to make her proud. I know I’m not going to do it perfectly, but I’m trying, and I think that’s what counts.

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: Saves The Day – Saves The Day

In 2013, I was brand new to Chicago. It was a scary move, but I thought I had made it for the right reasons. My first job here was a painfully boring temp job that left me feeling remote and empty, even compared to my new friends who worked menial jobs. Feeling rejected from an avalanche of unanswered job applications, I would drive alone as the summer sun baked the feeling of regret into my head under the glare of expressway signs, and I wondered how it would ever get better.

You can buy or stream Saves the Day on Apple Music.

When Saves The Day’s self-titled album released that fall, I was ready. I had backed its PledgeMusic campaign earlier that year, listening to the first single, “Ain’t No Kind of Love”, an energetic song about a breakup, with a pure hunger. The chorus was exactly what I was going through, as Chris Conley sang, “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again”.

I truly anticipated an album from one of my first musical loves that would let me bask in my oncoming depression without guilt. Instead, Saves The Day unexpectedly lifted my spirits.

For almost 20 years, Chris Conley was a flag bearer of the emo movement. He never shied away from diving headfirst into the fragility of the human spirit. The three albums before Saves the Day were a trilogy that tackled depression and the depths it can actually go. His songwriting is morbid, but captivatingly catchy.

With the release of Saves The Day, an album bearing the name of the band itself, it felt like a shock to the system to discover that it was a positive album. Despite being released at the start of fall, it was a pure summer album, complete with cover art of a bright orange grapefruit. Similar to how In Reverie stunned fans with a change in style, Saves The Day was a full thematic shift. Instead of glorifying loneliness, Saves The Day is an extremely loose ‘concept’ album about two people falling in love through a chance encounter outside of a bar and reflecting on the good and bad of their lives after years of happy marriage.

Saves The Day was the first album by the band that wasn’t burdened with expectation. There just wasn’t a need to compete with the emo wave of the early 2000’s or attempt to recover ground after the backlash of a stylistic change. Instead, it used the harsh guitars of the Daybreak trilogy of albums to forge a new identity.

After 15 years, to hear a real love song from Conley felt extraordinarily out of place. This was someone who wrote songs like “The End” from Sound The Alarm (“I’m a danger to myself / Always blaming someone else”). But here he was, singing “Beyond All of Time”. It’s the first slower song on the record, with an enchanting chorus of, “Together forever tonight / I’ll always be right by your side, tonight / I love you beyond all of time”.

The true peak of the album is the dual lineup of “Verona” and “Ring Pop”. “Verona” tackles the struggles of a relationship. The verses hint at the fights and sacrifices a couple have to go through against harsh guitars and a depressing drum beat, only to launch into a gloriously hopeful chorus of, “After the end when he tells her he loves her / She promises not to let go / They hold on to hope”.

Immediately following this is “Ring Pop”, arguably the happiest pop punk song of all time. The song radiates with a sappy and childlike wonder of love, and caps off the theme of the record in an incredibly uplifting arc unlike anything else Saves The Day has ever written. “Born on opposite coasts for the two of us both / Knowing in 20 years we would not be alone / Might have made us a pair of zen-like two-year-olds / With a couple of ring pops, no need to propose”.

Saves The Day drastically helped curve my depression for some time as I struggled to adjust to living in Chicago. If Chris Conley, a poster child of dark songs, could find happiness, so could I. That is also when I finally noticed the last line of the chorus from “Ain’t No Kind of Love” that I had somehow missed on each listen since the song was released. Suddenly, the album made sense, as did my outlook on where I was going. “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again / Until then keep on breathing / The love you long to know is within”.

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 killed a spider with a broom while writing this. He is brave and a hero.

What Makes for a Great Autumn Album?

My favorite season has officially arrived. On a crisp Sunday morning, I’ve found myself cooking pumpkin pancakes in the kitchen, sipping my coffee as cool air comes in through the open window. Yes, I’m “that” guy. But perhaps my favorite part of the morning is listening to the sounds of one of my favorite fall albums: Copeland’s In Motion spins on the turntable as I cook.

But what does In Motion have to do with autumn? This is the question I’ve been seeking to answer ever since someone put me on the spot a few weeks ago, asking me what I mean when I talk about my favorite fall albums. I realized that I didn’t have a good, succinct answer. Maybe there wasn’t one.

Listen to our podcast: The Best Music of Autumn

I’m convinced that this idea is extremely subjective and differs from person to person, but nevertheless, in order to at least answer for myself, I’ve been able to define four variables that impact my tendency to listen to an album when the leaves turn and the temperature drops. Take a look below and feel free to share your thoughts in the replies!

When it Was Released

This one is obvious. I’m drawn to dates and anniversaries, so if an album came out a certain time of year, I’m inclined to revisit it during that timeframe. A great example is Mayday Parade’s self-titled release, which dropped in October of 2011. The album really doesn’t meet any of the other criteria outlined below, but every fall, it’s one of the first albums I reach for.

When I listen to Mayday Parade, it takes me back to the early dating days with my wife and how often I played the album on the hour-long car ride to her home in Bloomington, Indiana, during our first fall together.

Other times, release dates align perfectly with the sound of an album. My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade arrived a week before Halloween in 2006 and is almost custom-made for the season with its themes of death and imagery of hellish characters. It’s now my go-to album to spin during our annual pumpkin carving.

How it Sounds

We now move to a much more arbitrary point, but I would argue that some songs and albums just “sound” like the season. Here, I think of cool, sometimes dark, music that reminds me of shorter days and how I feel when I see my breath in the air early in the morning.

A few albums that come to mind here are Armor For Sleep’s Dream to Make Believe and Chiodos’ Bone Palace Ballet. Armor For Sleep is a summer band for many, and their second album, What to Do When You Are Dead, is a warm-weather staple of mine, but Dream to Make Believe has a raw, harsh quality that sets it apart. A track like “Frost and Front Steps” is nearly impossible not to associate with the season.

Likewise, Bone Palace Ballet, with its crunching guitars and theatrics reminds me of the looming darkness of the season, checking the boxes of both sound and lyrics, with its eerie and spooky themes.

What it Has to Say

Speaking of lyrics, perhaps the most obvious delineator of an autumn album is what it has to say. Here, I think of albums or songs that call attention to the most visual and visceral aspects of the season. While many equate Cartel’s Chroma to summer, it’s a distinctly transition-to-fall album for me, especially with a track like “Luckie St.” serving as an autumn anthem.

With Halloween being my favorite holiday, many albums qualify simply for their creepy subject matter. Think My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge or The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP, along with several tracks from Showbread’s first two albums (“Dead By Dawn” from their debut is a Halloween staple of mine).

Not to be outdone, He is Legend has their own history of horror-filled tales. Suck out the Poison is a go-to for me this time of year, due both to its release date nostalgia (released October, 2006), and because of its subject matter, with songs like “Attack of the Dungeon Witch” leading the way.

How it Looks

Anyone who knows me knows of my insistence that the visual presentation of an album matters. My vinyl collection started years ago as a way to still admire the artwork of my favorite albums, even as our transition to streaming made full art and liner notes less accessible and robust. Thus, albums that incorporate autumn colors and visuals can’t be forgotten when determining their seasonal placement.

All of this brings us back to Copeland, whose album In Motion features yellow/brown leaves on its cover and captures the colors of fall throughout the album artwork. Likewise, Anberlin’s debut Blueprints for the Black Market, with its reddish brown tones, harkens of late autumn, capped off with cool-sounding guitars and references to cold.

So there you have it. It’s not a science, but there are certainly real factors that determine my own interest in an album by season, particularly when autumn rolls around. Here’s to another season of late nights by the campfire, horror movie sofa sessions, and pumpkin pancake cooking with the sounds of fall.

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: Anberlin – New Surrender

“When I was 13 / I had my first love / There was nobody that compares to my baby / And nobody came between us / No one could ever come above”.

What does Ludacris’ verse on Justin Bieber’s critically acclaimed single “Baby” have to do with Anberlin? If you’re like me: Everything.

You can buy or stream New Surrender on Apple Music.

When I was 13, I thought I knew everything there was to know about music. I thought Tooth and Nail was the best record label. I was trying to come into my own personality. In reality, I was just pretentious and nobody wanted to listen to the cool music I found because of my attitude. The biggest band for me during that time period was Anberlin. They opened the door to the rest of the alt rock world and still continue to blow me away today.

When I found them, I was listening to my favorite internet station, RadioU. The band’s cover of New Order’s “True Faith” was playing and I was obsessed with the guitar riff. I know, weird to get into a band via a song that’s not even theirs. If you actually listen to the track, though, (you’ll have to do so on YouTube, as it’s no longer on Spotify), it sounds authentically Anberlin. It took me a while to find out who it was (it being the radio and all), but once I did, there was no turning back. I became a fan of Anberlin—a Fanberlin, if you will.

All of this brings me to their 2008 release, New Surrender. The album is criminally underrated. It came a mere year after what many claim is their greatest achievement, Cities. It can be tempting to write off the album that comes after a band’s best, and oftentimes, you’d be correct to do that. But with New Surrender, I think you’d be wrong to.

I’ll admit that the album isn’t Anberlin’s strongest. It came in a tumultuous period in the band’s history. They’d just signed to a major label and released the best album of their career. It’s hard to put your best foot forward as that kind of pressure mounts. So the band gave it a shot. New Surrender isn’t hard-hitting like Cities was, and it’s not quite as melodically pleasing like Never Take Friendship Personal. The album, though, has some of the most meaningful lyrics Anberlin has to offer. From the emotional and mildly petty “Breaking” to the thematically heavy “Soft Skeletons”, the band really gave something for everyone.

Here is an overview of some of my favorite tracks:

“Breaking”, simply because it’s a classic. There’s no Anberlin without “Breaking”. If you disagree, you can come fight me. You know I’m right.

“Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights)” because of the story. The song was written because of an episode of plane turbulence and basically reckoning with the fact that it could all be over in a second, making the most of what we have and the time we have to enjoy it.

“Younglife” has a special meaning for me lately in a way it hasn’t previously. I used to think fondly of high school and hanging out with my friends and messing around, like in the first verse. But as I think about my upcoming marriage, I think about the second verse: “Hey lover / Do you remember when / We used to dance in our apartment ‘till neighbors would knock on our door / And I remember / Do you remember when / We had no money to speak of / Nowhere else to eat but your floor / I wanna do it again”.

“Haight St.” has that same kind of connotation for me. It’s a fun track and one of the band’s more upbeat offerings, so there’s that for a stylistic approach. The whole album just holds this intense nostalgia as I’m looking back at my younger days. Old enough to know, too young to care.

So I don’t know if this has been so much of a reflection as it has been a, “Hey this album is still very relevant!” That’s what makes New Surrender timeless. It brought me through high school and the weird turbulence that is adolescence and now it’s here to remind me of the little things like building my first dining room table. It’s a picture of how to hone in on the finer points of life.

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: Saves The Day – In Reverie

In the early 2000’s, Saves The Day were the poster child of the emo scene. Stay What You Are had set the scene on fire early into the new millennium. With expectations high, In Reverie defied them in every possible way. And fans hated it. Singer Chris Conley’s new, high pitch vocals caught everyone off guard. The dreamy lyrics were a far stretch from the desperate lyricism of the band’s past records. Fifteen years later, In Reverie is held in much higher regard within Saves The Day’s body of work, and, unfortunately, largely forgotten.

You can stream In Reverie on Spotify.

Both Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are seemed like required listening for anyone developing a sense of music. Aggressive pop punk and restrained rock, respectively, they showed alternating sides of the same band and a maturity in songwriting that few bands successfully manage. Especially after Stay What You Are, arguably one of the most popular albums of the time, the wait for Saves The Day’s next record was excruciating.

In Reverie felt different right away. It was the first album cover to feature a painting instead of a high school inspired photograph. The CD itself was a bright, tangerine orange. Before even pressing ‘Play’, it warned you to be prepared for something new.

“Anywhere With You”, one of the few singles from the album that remains a live staple, broke out with harsh, fuzzed guitars as the back drop for Chris Conley’s new vocal style. In retrospect, it’s not that big of a jump. However, at the time of release, it almost sounded like a brand new singer had taken over. Not nearly as nasally, Conley was crisper and more relaxed as his pitch edged upwards.

In Reverie also marked the beginning of the modern Saves The Day ‘sound.’ It established the tight melodic pop song formula that would become the staple format of the band moving forward. While it would take the next album, Sound The Alarm, to firmly mark the occasion with aggressive guitars, In Reverie experimented with more relaxed songwriting.

Songs like “Monkey” played with loud and soft melodies, refusing to lean too far one way or the other. “Wednesday The Third” rediscovered the dark guitars, but let Conley’s vocals explore the musical scale and harmonize off of himself.

While other albums would return to the pained existential lyricism of the band’s first few albums, In Reverie played around a bit more. While there are certainly songs pertaining to the pains of relationships, (“Anywhere With You”) or emotional turmoil, (“In My Waking Life”), there were many more songs with fanciful lyrics that don’t seem to hold much meaning other than being fun to sing.

“Morning In The Moonlight”, one of the few absolute jams on the album, delves deep into this aspect. There’s little to take away from the song other than the lyrics are just a blast to sing out loud. “Madness ensues, swimming in ocean blues / The dream-dripping sky covers my insides / The moonlight in the morning sun sends shivers over my skin / The memories are slowly slipping and I’m sailing against the wind”.

It took a few years for In Reverie to actually be discussed positively. My friend group largely ignored the album until after the release of Sound The Alarm. Conley himself stated it was his favorite record in various interviews, but acknowledged that critical reaction to it had caused a course correction. Sound The Alarm and Under the Boards were largely written as a response to In Reverie. The guitars immediately became more aggressive and the lyrics grew darker. It was a stylistic approach that appealed to the imagery of past songs, like “As Your Ghost Takes Flight”.

Looking back on it, In Reverie isn’t as drastically different from Saves The Day’s discography as it sounded upon release. It seems to fit into their body of work musically better than Stay What You Are in many ways, even if it still stands out lyrically. Many of the same people who initially hated the record now regard it as their favorite album. However, it still remains the black sheep of Saves The Day’s history. Songs from it rarely seem to be played live, and it seems rarely discussed. It’s a shame, because the album is such a cornerstone of the last 15 years of the band’s history.

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 dropped two eggs on the floor, accidentally creating the worst breakfast this side of the Mississip’.

Reflecting On: Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation

Underoath’s sixth studio album, Lost in the Sound of Separation, released on Tuesday, September 2, 2008. I purchased a copy of the album on my birthday, three days prior, thanks to a very cool FYE employee who retrieved a deluxe version of the record from the store’s back room, quietly informing me not to tell anyone as he handed me the CD. I proceeded to listen to the album non-stop for well over a week, soaking in every detail I could.

You can buy or stream Lost in the Sound of Separation on Apple Music.

I share this story because it was one of the last times I would be so excited about an album – so eager and impatient that I would boldly ask a retail employee to let me buy the album before it went on sale. So enthralled with a band that I would schedule my days to ensure time was carved out for quiet, uninterrupted listening sessions.

By the release of Lost in the Sound of Separation, Underoath was still on top of the heavy music world, with 2006’s Define the Great Line landing at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and launching the band to a new level of stardom. Not only did that album set the stage for the next decade of post-hardcore, it showcased a band that was unafraid to take risks.

Sharing the same production team (Adam Dutkiewicz and Matt Goldman) as Define, Lost in the Sound of Separation feels like a brilliant second chapter – one in which the story’s authors had fully honed the very craft that made their art so acclaimed in the first place. It is at once violently chaotic and oddly serene.

If They’re Only Chasing Safety holds the title of Underoath’s most accessible work and Define the Great Line as their most critically acclaimed, Lost in the Sound of Separation may very well be the best work ever released by one of the genre’s most revered bands. Call it their In Utero – a thematically and sonically dense, under-appreciated album that now flies mostly under the radar for lack commercial appeal.

Also, much like that Nirvana classic, Separation was created to be raw and real. The band utilized space and setting when recording the album in hopes of making something that could be translated to a live setting without tricks. Passages that required vocal layering employed all members of the band. Long hallways and nooks and crannies were used to add natural effect and echo. Guitar tracks were laid down without cutting out natural flaws in performance.

At a time when heavy music had begun fully embracing the kind of clean, pure production that made albums like They’re Only Chasing Safety such a smash, Underoath bucked in the opposite direction. Despite its aforementioned similarities to Define the Great Line, deep listens reveal the idiosyncrasies that set it apart.

Spencer Chamberlain’s opening cries of, “I’m the desperate and you’re the savior” remain one of the most distinct moments in the band’s catalogue. The brutal opening to the record is intensified by the lack of vocals from Aaron Gillespie, who doesn’t join the fray until a few minutes into the second track. Nevertheless, his presence is felt throughout thanks to the most stick-splintering drumming of his career.

The electronic influence of Chris Dudley is at its most sinister on Separation – listen back to the haunting keyboards that bring “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” to a close and ask yourself if the concept was ever used as effectively on another hardcore record. Guitarists Tim McTague and James Smith combine with bassist Grant Brandell for dark, sludgy passages on “Emergency Broadcast: The End is Near” that mark a startling departure from anything the band had put to tape at the time.

Later, on the criminally underrated “Coming Down is Calming Down”, McTague shreds so hard that you can hear every squeal and squawk of his guitar. By the album’s end, the chaos subsides on “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” and “Desolate Earth: The End is Here”, giving way to a darkly delicate close featuring a cello and a muffled Chamberlain crying out for God to “save us all.” It’s a chilling end, to be sure, and interpretations of the outcome are certain to vary.

Impressively, for all of its bite and brutality, Lost in the Sound of Separation debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, leading to more headlining tours and top billings at festivals. Nevertheless, the album’s cycle would become linked with a transition for the band, as Aaron Gillespie stepped away before the band would record Ø (Disambiguation) and disband. Like each of Underoath’s releases, Separation is a time capsule inescapably linked with storylines and intrigue.

When the band reunited for 2016’s Rebirth Tour, I found it interesting that the band chose to play Safety and Define in their entirety. While certainly their most commercially successful and “popular” releases, the absent Separation seems to hold a deep connection for many longtime fans. Even now, the band seems hesitant to explore the record, including only “Breathing in a New Mentality” on setlists. It’s hard not to wonder why the album that was created with live performances in mind is so rarely chosen for that setting.

While I await the day that tracks from Lost in the Sound of Separation find their way back into Underoath setlists, I have carried on a decade-long tradition of celebrating the album on my birthday with focused, intentional listens that remind of how I felt in 2008 when the album was everything I had been waiting for. It’s still just as satisfying as it was back then, and to me, that is truly the sign of a great album.

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.

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.

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.