Most Anticipated of 2019: #6 The 1975 Go for Two

The 1975 surprised everyone this past November with how well A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was received. It was album of the year for many a music fan and I’m curious to see how this next piece of the 1975 puzzle will fit in. According to the band, the album is titled Notes on a Conditional Form.

We’ve got two options: It could potentially fall into the same category as A Brief Inquiry and totally blow our minds, or it could be too soon for the band to release something else, no matter how important it might be to the first album’s storyline. I would like to say I’m confident, but there’s a good chance that it’s just too soon.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to watch it play out. We don’t have a set release date for it, much like last year, but rumor has it that the album will drop on May 31.

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.

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Most Anticipated of 2019: #7 Halsey Blazes Her Own Trail

By almost any measure, 2018 was a year of resounding success for Halsey. Sure, she went through two very public breakups with G-Eazy, but the year also found Halsey making her first SNL performance, appearing in two films (A Star is Born and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies), completing six more legs of her hopeless fountain kingdom world tour, and releasing another number-one single: “Without Me”.

It’s a small wonder that she’s had time to start writing new music, but according to Halsey, some winter writing sessions will give way to her third full-length album, which could potentially drop before year’s end. One of the most subversive pop artists of our time, Halsey has made a name for herself through storytelling, and in an interview with PopBuzz, she stated, “I don’t think I could ever not make a concept record.” Thus far, the format has suited her well.

Never one to play by the rules, Halsey has forged her own synthpop path over the past four years, and every indication is that 2019 will give us all another reason to sing along.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #8 Blink-182 Go Back to Move Forward

Blink-182 have been extraordinarily prolific since acquiring Matt Skiba on lead guitar. After an impressive first release in 2016 with the new lineup and a re-release double album in 2017, the band is due for a proper new record. Fortunately, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker have been teasing for the better part of a year that a new Blink-182 album is in the works.

On top of that, Hoppus has claimed that the new music sounds similar to their legendary album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Although I doubt anything could be as seminal as that album at the time of its release, a return to the band’s roots is always welcome given the talents of all involved.

After proving that they were able to reinvent with California, a chance to reflect might be what is needed to propel Blink-182 to the next level of their already storied career.

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 could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #9 Hozier Makes His Overdue Return

Hozier, everyone’s favorite woodland bard from Ireland, has returned. With the success of 2014’s Hozier, it seemed that we would be hearing a lot more from him, but he went musically MIA until the release of the Nina Cried Power EP this past year.

Four new tracks were released and they had a pretty different vibe from his first album, so I’m excited to see the way his style has evolved in these four years. He mentioned his next full length, Wasteland, Baby!, in a tweet, but failed to let us know when we’d be graced with it.

I’m psyched to hear anything from Hozier though, so whenever he decides to let it loose is fine with me.

by Nadia Paiva

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

Most Anticipated of 2019: #10 The Weeknd Keeps Us on Our Toes

Last year saw the music of The Weeknd take a stark turn. The dark, moody vibe of My Dear Melancholy shirked the celebratory pop vibes of Starboy in favor of the sounds that made Abel Tesfaye’s early mixtapes such an underground success. Personally, Melancholy was an unexpected treat, with my own tastes leaning more in the direction of the experimental alternative R&B that has made the Canadian singer such a unique outlier compared to his peers.

Nevertheless, The Weeknd is back in the studio working on a new full-length album, tentatively titled Chapter VI. Tesfaye has hinted that Melancholy was a necessary exorcising of hard feelings and that his new music would move back in a more positive direction. Whatever the case, The Weeknd has proved his ability to make music that fits the vibe of both dark, smoky clubs and explosive, ear-rattling arenas.

The Weeknd’s continuing ability to shape-shift, keeping listeners on their toes while using his signature croon to match any mood has made him one of the most essential pop artists of the decade.

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.

Most Anticipated Music of 2019

Sure, 2018 came with its lumps, but as we’ve already pointed out, it also brought us some pretty incredible music. As you know, our site exists because of the way music impacts those moments in-between when we need the right sound to speak to our hearts. Last year had no shortage of music that spoke to us, distracted us, and walked alongside us. Here’s to another great year in 2019.

For the next couple weeks, we’re counting down the music we’re anticipating in the new year. Not every item that makes our list will make its way to our headphones in 2019, but we feel we’ve seen enough evidence to get our hopes up. At a bare minimum, it’s a reason to get excited and dream about what the year might hold.

Take a look below and see how your own personal list matches up with ours. Check back each day as we continue to add to our list, and as always, comment and let us know what your most anticipated music is for the coming year!

#10 The Weeknd Keeps Us on Our Toes

#9 Hozier Makes His Overdue Return

#8. Blink-182 Go Back to Move Forward

#7. Halsey Blazes Her Own Trail

#6. The 1975 Go for Two

#5. Taylor Swift Leaves Her Reputation Behind

#4. Dua Lipa Dances Into 2019

#3. Copeland Put an Emphasis on the Experience

#2. Aaron West Roars into 2019

#1 Childish Gambino Makes His Final(?) Appearance

Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – Folie à Deux

Like the other albums I’ve reflected on this past year, I was eleven (and completely oblivious) when Fall Out Boy’s album Folie à Deux was released. Now I’m 21 and, while there are some who still feel like this wasn’t their best work, I’m of the other camp that considers this to be one of Fall Out Boy’s – and the scene’s – best releases.

You can buy or stream Folie à Deux on Apple Music.

One reason people didn’t like it when it came out was because it wasn’t the hard-hitting, pop-punk follow-up to 2007’s Infinity On High. This is where I feel that listening to it later gave me an advantage. I never liked Fall Out Boy until my best friend basically forced me to listen to them. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that “Sugar, We’re Going Down” was their song. I know, it’s looking bad for me.

Anyway, with that major confession out of the way, I’m a big Fall Out Boy fan now. I even almost gathered up the courage to use “(Coffee’s for Closers)” in a high school music theory class presentation on Baroque music because of how the strings are layered at the end of the track. I played it safe and used a piece by Handel, but I legitimately regret not using the FOB song.

I wasn’t a huge fan of MANIA, but I guess that puts me in the same position that everyone who didn’t like Folie was in when it released. Now that everyone’s gotten over thinking Folie is weird or whatever, it took its rightful place (where all underrated albums should go) at the top of the fanbase. Maybe MANIA will make it there at some point, but at that point I’ll be 31 and won’t care (Ed. note: Yes, you will).

When I finally saw Fall Out Boy live this past August, they opened with “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes”, which was surprising to me. Folie is an album that has a lot of emotional baggage attached to it. I would understand if the band didn’t want to play any tracks from it again, because I’m sure it’s potentially salt in the beginning-of-their-hiatus wound. From a fan standpoint, though, I was disappointed that the only other track they played from Folie was “I Don’t Care”. It’s definitely selfish of me to want them to play songs written in the darker portion of their history, but I feel such a fondness for and an attachment to the album that I wanted it to have better representation.

I believe the experimentation that happened in the production of the album really brought the band to where they are today. If in 2008 they have released another Cork Tree or Infinity On High, I doubt they woud’ve come back in 2013, or in 2015, or just this past January. Maybe the fact that Folie wasn’t as popular as their past work was a blessing in disguise. I think they needed that lull in the action. It allowed them to take some time off and could be (should be?) seen as a sigh of relief rather than just a bad album.

Maybe it’s a bit of a cliché that I ended up being such a fan of Fall Out Boy’s best album. I think it’s their best because of where they were personally. Tensions were running high between the members, totally burnt out from their last, also very good, album. I feel like they realized they were over before they ever officially announced it and thus gave Folie à Deux their all. The vocals are some of Patrick’s finest, the musicianship is innovative, the guest vocals could fill a red carpet. It really does bring together all of Fall Out Boy’s best qualities and amplifies them.

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.

The Best Songs of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

14. Pronoun – “Wrong”

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

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

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

12. Kacey Musgraves – “High Horse”

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

11. Saves the Day – “Suzuki”

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

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

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

9. Fall Out Boy – “Church”

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

8. Vince Staples – “Feels Like Summer”

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

7. Watsky – “Welcome to the Family”

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

6. Brian Fallon – “Little Nightmares”

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

5. Ariana Grande – “thank u, next”

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

4. Childish Gambino – “This is America”

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

3. Senses Fail – “Double Cross”

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

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

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

1. Drake – “Nice for What”

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

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

Honorable Mention:

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Albums of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

14. Real Friends – Composure

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

13. AFI – The Missing Man

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

12. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

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

11. Underoath – Erase Me

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

10. Pusha T – Daytona

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

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

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

8. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

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

7. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

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

6. Justin Courtney Pierre – In the Drink

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

5. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

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

4. Architects – Holy Hell

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

3. Fall Out Boy – MANIA

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

2. Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love

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

1. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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.