Most Anticipated Music of 2020: Hayley Williams Introduces Petals for Armor

It’s no secret that the past album cycle for Paramore has been a rollercoaster. Between the highs of re-becoming friends with Zac Farro and the lows of her divorce from Chad Gilbert, Hayley Williams has really been put through the wringer. Like any artist, she’s taken these experiences outside of Paramore and transformed them to release her first official solo project, “Petals for Armor.”

We have only a project title, no single, no album confirmation, but that’s all right with me. We have a release date of ~something~ for January 22, 2020, along with some very cryptic posts on the Petals for Armor Instagram account she made for the occasion. The title for the project seems to refer to an interview Hayley did where she recalls being in a session and envisioning “flowers growing through her”.

As much as I’d love Paramore to continue on until the end of time, I’ve learned as I’ve grown up that it’s more important for artists to be healthy and that the art they create be honest and something they’re proud of. And more than ever, that’s something Hayley Williams deserves.

by Nadia Paiva

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

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: Kendrick Lamar Continues His Streak

In case you missed it, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar spent the 2010s crafting one of the greatest three-album stretches in recorded music history, capped in 2017 with the Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN. So essentially, it was a pretty great decade for Lamar – and hip hop music in general. But what comes next?

Rumor has it that he has put the finishing touches on album number five, which will likely drop this year. Lamar has explored a variety of sounds across his previous work, at times blending a variety of genres, such as jazz, funk, and soul. A tweet from one Billboard columnist suggests that rock could be added to the mix on this latest effort.

No matter what it sounds like, one can rest assured that Lamar has plenty left to say. In 2015, To Pimp a Butterfly became a piercing exposition of institutional racism, full of deep reflections on the black experience in America. DAMN. followed suit while taking an internal detour into Lamar’s own pysche. Whatever is to follow is sure to kick the decade off right and continue the artistic trajectory of one of the most powerful voices in music.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: My Chemical Romance Emerge from the Shadows

It was Luna Lovegood that said, “Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.” I’ve found this to be rather true when it comes to some of my favorite bands. There was a time in the not too distant past when it seemed like all of my most beloved bands were calling it quits: Underoath, Saosin, Anberlin, blink-182, Fall Out Boy. Yet all of these bands (and more) resurfaced in some fashion over the course of the past decade, many with a completely new look and sound.

Not to be outdone, My Chemical Romance re-emerged late in 2019 with a massive reunion show just before the close of the decade. It’s been over 10 years since the band released their last album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and if I’m being honest, I kind of expected the band to stay gone, seeing as several key members have found success in new ventures. But here we are on the cusp of what will likely be a large 2020 tour announcement and, if we’re lucky, new music.

I’ve written and talked extensively about the impact Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge had on my life when it dropped in 2004, and the effect the band had on my musical tastes. My Chemical Romance is a band that defined an era and created some of the most memorable sounds to come from the scene we love. Whether 2020 is simply an overdue victory lap for the band or a full re-entrance into the pop culture zeitgeist, I’m here for it. I can’t wait to see what Gerard Way and company have in store.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: Another Dose of Anchor & Braille

It’s been a very long time since we’ve heard anything new from Stephen Christian’s side project Anchor and Braille. The past three albums from the band are the other side of Stephen’s musical coin. In Anberlin we have the heavy-hitting rock, but with Anchor & Braille we have a softer, sultrier, synth-ier side. They’ve released three albums since 2009, and 2016’s Songs for the Late Night Drive Home has been a staple for me. I’ll admit I’m ready for something new.

We first got an inkling some things were moving around when Stephen posted on the Anchor & Braille Instagram for the first time since May of 2018. He then posted three consecutive photos with the distinctive Anchor & Braille use of the French language, as well as something that said “Frank Ocean” and a photo of the record deal. Stephen stated in his podcast, The Art Collective that he’d like to make another album with Aaron Marsh, which leads me to theorize a return to Tooth and Nail à la Copeland?

Whether it’s an EP, an album or a film, I’m excited to see Stephen Christian come back into the music world. Seeing Anberlin play live again was a dream come true and renewed my faith that we would hear new music from the guys again. Even though it might not be Anberlin-proper, and that may be something we never get, I’m so looking forward to new music from my all-time favorite side project.

by Nadia Paiva

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

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: The Killers Aren’t Done Yet

Only a few who are reading this were subjected to my 2018 challenge to rank all of The Killers’ albums. This was in response to seeing the band on what was to be their final tour/album cycle for 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful. Surprise, surprise, just like Coldplay, The Killers changed their minds and are back with a new album they are calling Imploding the Mirage.

I ended my Twitter thread prematurely and never officially ranked them, but as they moved closer to the pop phase of their career I found myself falling out of love with the band. In listening to Wonderful Wonderful now though, I’ve gained a new appreciation for The Killers in what I will put affectionately as their “dad phase.”

Based on the single released in January of last year, “Land of the Free”, the band seems to be heading in the vein of politically charged pop-rock – not to be confused with punk. I doubt it will be another Hot Fuss, or even another Sam’s Town, but I trust that this latest offering will be full of the same spirit they’ve put into their past albums.

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 2019

You can view our list of The Best Albums of 2019 here.

As the decade comes to a close, one thing is for certain: The way I consume music and media has changed drastically over the past 10 years. We’ll (probably) always lead our end-of-the-year lists with albums, because there is still power to be found in that full body of work. But I certainly find myself most often jumping from track to track these days.

Thus, our Best Songs of 2019 list is full of tracks that can be fully enjoyed within the context of the album that contains them (if one exists) or completely on their own. This year found each of our writers diving into new sounds and exploring new artists, leading to an eclectic list of songs we hope you’ll enjoy as much as we have this year. Without further ado, take a look – and a listen.

15. Say Anything – “Sediment”

“Sediment” makes the list because of the spoken word at the end. The entirety of Oliver Appropriate focuses on Oliver and his conflictions regarding his sexuality. A confliction that ends up with a murder/suicide. This track is regarding the suicide half, but it’s a peek into Oliver’s mind, and how lonely his self hatred has made him. It’s a show-stopping final track, and an epilogue to Say Anything’s career. – Nadia Paiva

14. Blaqk Audio – “Summer’s Out of Sight”

“Summer’s Out of Sight” is a wickedly hypnotic song. Vocalist Davy Havok croons through a tale of passion and fleeting love. Jade Puget’s bright synth melodies and rich bass express the playfulness of being in love (“I had to crawl the halls to ask when we might meet before you left / You said, ‘Maybe tomorrow or never again’ / But you said, ‘Right now I’m yours”). Although Havok’s chorus is a devastating description of a broken heart (“Hearing you leave out my name makes me want you / You personalize pain”), “Summer’s Out of Sight” is a message about the impact of a relationship and the draw it leaves on someone to find it again. (“I’m searching for the one that tore me to pieces”). – Kyle Schultz

13. Bring Me the Horizon – “medicine”

“Some people are a lot like clouds, you know? / ‘Cause life’s so much brighter when they go”. With that opening line, Oli Sykes at once references his own messy past while serving as a kind nod to a band that has fully transformed into a new entity. In many ways, “Medicine” is a zero sum game that fans of the band’s deathcore past were always bound to hate while opening the door to a new audience and new beginnings. Whether you love or hate this new incarnation of Bring Me the Horizon, there is no denying their ability to craft great songs, genre be damned. And the dirty little secret that has gone largely unmentioned is that pop sensibility was always at the root of the 2010s metalcore explosion. Most bands just aren’t brave enough to bring it to the surface. – Kiel Hauck

12. Wallows – “Remember When”

This is a track that Wallows wrote for another project and scrapped – and yet it ends up being, lyrically, the most poignant track on Nothing Happens. We hear about a past love, and how the good times outweighed the bad. Wallows wishes they could go back and fix every mistake they made, but because they can’t they focus on the better memories. It’s the second to last song on the album, but really ties everything together. “Remember When” is what the end of youth is about – sitting with your friends talking about all the trouble you used to cause. – NP

11. Grayscale – “In Violet”

“In Violet” is an ambitious, beautiful song about life and love. It is a song that describes a funeral as a colorful celebration. Vocalist Collin Walsh finds himself at his lowest point (“I’m out of hope, guess that’s the way it goes / When you burn dark and slow”), but still asks listeners not to grieve a life lost, but be thankful for a life lived (“I’m sick of funeral black / So when I don’t come back / I want you to celebrate / Sing and laugh”). Ultimately, the song is an uplifting message dancing amidst a cloak of intense instrumentals. Heavy drums, shimmering guitars and joyful trumpets set the tone by setting up a dreary atmosphere early on before exploding into waves of expansive, envious sound. – KS

10. Travis Scott – “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”

Travis Scott could have easily ridden the success of last year’s Astroworld throughout the entirety of 2019, but instead found new ways to own the moment. “Highest in the Room” captures what makes Scott such a unique voice amidst the Soundcloud rap era, with every turn of phrase adding a new angle and keeping listeners on their toes. Delivered as a dark sort of love story, Scott keeps his partner at a safe distance, singing, “You say you love me, don’t you lie / Won’t cross my heart, don’t wanna die”. It’s rather poetic then that Scott and Kylie Jenner, the subject of the song, parted ways just two days prior to its release. – KH

9. Queen of Jeans – “Not a Minute Too Soon”

“Not a Minute Too Soon” is an unassuming track, which is why it makes the list. The album itself is a great study in vintage 60s rock, but this track stands out for its crescendo. It sits as a surprise ballad about three quarters through If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid, an album about love and loss. Queen of Jeans’ Miriam Devora’s vocals really shine here, specifically, her falsetto driving home the emotion and the guitar gently guiding us through ending a relationship. – NP

8. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – “Just Sign the Papers”

“Just Sign the Papers” is the type of song that country artist storytellers dream of. It’s slow, uncomfortable, rich with visual poetry and is a vortex of emotion. Every small detail shows the stress of main character Aaron West as he finalizes a divorce from his wife. While the music is playful as he reflects on the marriage’s good times (“You were the tail lights, like a lifeline, when the storm arrived”), it slows to a crawl as he pleads to his wife, “C-come on, just sign the papers”. The swell of music embraces the gut-churning pressure of the event, as Campbell portrays West screaming at himself, “Come on, just sign the papers” just to end the event. As depressing as it may be, “Just Sign the Papers” offers the briefest glimpse of hope, as the couple decides to put an end to their gloom. – KS

7. Maggie Rogers – “Light On”

Maggie Rogers’ debut album Heard it in a Past Life arrived early in 2019, nearly three years after her viral introduction to the public at large. It must have felt like both an eternity and a matter of moments for the music student swooped up into a major label whirlwind. Yet for all of the hype, Past Life is nothing if not authentic, peaking with the track “Light On”, which finds Rogers dealing with that rapid rise to fame and the loss of control that comes with such an event. Was there a more emotionally affecting moment in music this year than when Rogers’ channels here inner Alanis as her voice breaks near the end of the second verse? “With everyone around me saying, ‘You must be so happy now’”. – KH

6. Lana Del Rey – “Mariners Apartment Complex”

This was the first taste we got of the new Lana Del Rey album prior to its release, and maybe that’s why it stuck with me all the way to my best songs list. Another reason could be the way she chose the first single so specifically to target the difficulties she’s had with her fame. The song revolves around an interview gone awry, and it’s a jab at the industry as a whole, but it also ends up being a song about putting yourself first. And that’s more important when you’re faced with fame than any kind of criticism you can give the biz. – NP

5. Radar State – “Victims of Fashion”

“Victims of Fashion” is a generational battlecry by Radar State, a super group of members from Kansas emo groups The Get Up Kids and The Anniversary. Both bands gained notoriety in the late 90’s and forged the fledgling emo movement of the early 2000’s. “Victims of Fashion” takes a defiant stance against the emphasis on youth in music and feeling forgotten (“If we don’t go out tonight, we might as well stay out of sight / Kids in line will gladly take our place”). Radar State takes a chance by calling out stagnancy in musicians that don’t evolve (“And if you think that we’re so strange, keep telling us to change / I’m not taking orders from someone half my age / … / This whole scene is getting old / We moved on, but they’re on hold”). Radar State embody the philosophy of punk rock by challenging the status quo with an elegantly melodic, yet brutal piece of garage rock.– KS

4. BTS featuring Halsey – “Boy With Luv”

I joined the K-pop party a bit late, but all it took was one SNL performance to finally capture my attention. I won’t pretend to have a deep connection with the lyrics of “Boy with Luv”, but it’s impossible to not feel enraptured by the sound. BTS have a way of commanding your focus by transitioning between style and delivery throughout their songs without it ever feeling jarring. “Boy with Luv” embodies everything I love about the way I feel when I listen to a great pop song, which means that even with a language barrier in place, I’m inclined to hit the repeat button with abandon.– KH

3. Copeland – “As Above, So Alone”

Even though any and all tracks from Blushing could justifiably be included on this list, “As Above, So Alone” was instantly my favorite track on one of the best albums of the year. Copeland vocalist Aaron Marsh talks straightforwardly about how tough his relationship is, but it’s easy for the sadness of the track to get lost in the bassline that cuts through the middle. It’s imaginative, devastating, and surprisingly easy to keep on repeat. – NP

2. Taylor Swift – “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”

“Miss American & The Heartbreak Prince” is one of Taylor Swift’s most ambitious songs. It is a story about the upsetting state of American politics told through a story of young love. The gloomy beat and tinkling piano offer a somber and fearful atmosphere amid lyrics that continuously get darker (“American stories burning before me / I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed / Boys will be boys, then where are the wise men?”). However, the song is an anthem of defiance. Even as the picture it paints is a dreary one, peppy shouts of  “Go! Fight! Win!” punch through the song brightly. “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” is ultimately a song of overcoming the worst of situations by strength of will in almost any circumstance. – KS

1. Halsey – “Without Me”

We didn’t get a new album from Halsey in 2019, but we got plenty of new songs, none of which were more riveting than “Without Me”. Break-up songs are nothing new, but Halsey took this particular opportunity to craft something deeply personal, leaving nothing to the imagination. “Name in the sky, does it ever get lonely?” isn’t necessarily a line we can all feel on an existential level, but throughout the track, Halsey drills in on the quieter kinds of emotional abuse that too often go unspoken.

When she sings, “Just running from the demons in your mind / Then I took yours and made ‘em mine / I didn’t notice ‘cause my love was blind” it’s a powerful kind of moment that deserves our attention and self-reflection. – KH

Honorable Mention:

Turnover – “Much After Feeling”
Neck Deep – “She’s a God”
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Want You in My Room”
Drake featuring Rick Ross – “Money in the Grave”
Issues – “Tapping Out”

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Albums of 2019

With our Best of the Decade lists in the books, it almost feels anticlimactic to look back on just 2019. But that would be unfair to a year that provided us with a breadth of music that broke molds, reinvented artists, and introduced us to some of the voices that will surely define the next decade.

We previously talked about 2019 as a year that saw the end of genre as we know it. And sure, that’s probably an overstatement, but it’s clear that this year saw a very real blurring of the lines. The best hip hop album of the year could hardly be categorized as just that. Much of this year’s pop music felt fresh and starkly different than what we’re accustomed to. So let’s look back at a year full of surprising and fascinating albums. And as always, share your favorites in the replies!

15. blink-182 – NINE

I am of the camp that believes that 2016’s California was the moment of blink-182’s true re-birth. An album that captured at least some of the spark of the band’s early days without feeling like it was set in the past. But I wasn’t expecting NINE – an album that sounds like a band (finally) growing up and expanding their sound in all of the ways that make sense. And look, I’m aware of the need for eye rolls upon seeing an album like this on a list like this, but when I listen to NINE, I hear an album that feels fresh and relatable. And that’s not normal for a band that saw its heyday flash before its eyes two decades prior. – Kiel Hauck

14. New Found Glory – From the Screen to Your Stereo III

Anyone can make an album of covers, but it takes talent to make them sound unique and worth covering. From the Screen to Your Stereo III is not only the best of New Found Glory’s series of songs from movies, these songs sound as though they were made for the band from the start. Fast, playful and emotional, From the Screen to Your Stereo III is a joy to listen to and a masterclass on turning what should be a gimmick into art. – Kyle Schultz

13. Tiny Moving Parts – Breathe

This album may come as a surprise because of the albums I’ve waxed poetic about in our podcasts and other reviews this year. Breathe is the perfect math rock album the scene needed to cement the subgenre as a staple part of the pop punk family. All of Tiny Moving Parts’ albums are great, but Breathe is incredible. There’s not a track out of place, and it flows seamlessly. Tiny Moving Parts are the perfect band to start a math rock journey with, but you may just stop there, because they are truly the best in today’s scene. – Nadia Paiva

12. Bring Me the Horizon – amo

Unlike much of the old metalcore guard that has begrudgingly adapted their sound to something much more mundane and unimaginative, Bring Me the Horizon have spent the better part of the decade crafting their future as artists. Amo is an album unlike any other in rock this year, and maybe ever. A genre-bending affair the finds the band dipping their toe into electronica, pop and alternative, the album twists and turns, sonically and thematically, throughout, keeping the listener off-kilter, but fully engaged. Amo isn’t an album for the fans, but it’s an endeavor that sets them apart from their peers and opens new doors of possibility for a band that is dead set on sticking around. – KH

11. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance

Considering it is a sequel album, Routine Maintenance manages the seemingly impossible task of meeting the cavernous emotional depths of its predecessor. Creator Dan Campbell shows real growth of Aaron West’s character, who has led quite the life in the five years between albums (“Bury Me Anywhere Else”). Having put Aaron through absolute hell, Campbell successfully shows the resolve and determination of a person building a new life for themselves in a fully realized and vibrant world. Routine Maintenance is an album about rebirth (“Runnin’ Toward the Light”) and the strength of family (“Routine Maintenance”). – KS

10. From Indian Lakes – Dimly Lit

Another album from the DIY, lo-fi world is the latest offering by From Indian Lakes. He released this, his fifth album, independently, and created magic. I love when artists get to truly express themselves and Dimly Lit is one of the best examples. It takes twists and turns, but Joey Vannuchi holds all the strings in his hands, never letting them get tangled. Borrowing plenty of support from the outside, the album is filled with gentle lyrics and a swelling soundscape that will make you fall in love. – NP

9. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

It isn’t easy to follow-up one of the most heralded pop albums of the decade, but Carly Rae Jepsen has never been one to dwell on past success. Frankly, it’s unfair to compare Dedicated to E-MO-TION, but if you have to split hairs, the former is a more grown-up style of pop music. Jepsen leans into her seductive side without losing the more relatable elements of her lyrics and personality that draw her fans in. From the quirky synthesizers that open the album on “Julien” to the funky beat of “Want You in My Room”, Jepsen finds new tools to add to her arsenal without losing sight of the elements that make for a great pop record. Put plainly, Dedicated is a delight. – KH

8. The Early November – Lilac

Lilac is easily the most diverse album in The Early November’s career. Effortlessly juggling new stylistic choices with the group’s renowned emotional sensibilities, Lilac is ambitious, unpredictable and sweeping. Vocalist and songwriter Ace Enders pushes himself to a career-defining high across an album that is ultimately about finding the strength to save yourself from a number of addictions and vices. The instrumentation from each band member is intricate, lavish and astoundingly gorgeous. After a career of refining their sound, Lilac is the album that The Early November were always trying to write. – KS

7. Wallows – Nothing Happens

While I didn’t formally write about this album this year, it quickly became a favorite. I’ve long been a fan of lo-fi pop rock and Nothing Happens is the best of the best. It’s packaged in soft, melodic ribbons and bows but there’s plenty of punch – glitter in the card, if you will. The members of Wallows wrote a great album about dealing with the end of adolescence and being forced into the big adult world. – NP

6. Tyler, The Creator – Igor

Tyler, The Creator began the decade as one of the most divisive artists in the country, seemingly driven by shock value and an outdated, misogynistic approach in a genre that was trying to shed that label. Things began to shift around the time of Tyler’s surprisingly vulnerable Flower Boy, and Igor seems to capture his full metamorphosis. A venture more inspired by funk and neo-soul than rap, Igor finds Tyler sensitive and gentle as a singer, but more than anything, it solidifies him as an artist willing to take risks. And in doing so, he has become one of the most fascinating producers and songwriters in hip hop. – KH

5. The Regrettes – How Do You Love?

How Do You Love? Is an album that immediately makes a name for itself by being loud, fun and sincere. A collection of songs about falling in love, The Regrettes manage to take the most generic topic in music and make it completely their own. The album is a playful mixture of  sincere sweetness (“Coloring Book”), emotional conflict (“Dead Wrong”) and sarcastic confusion (“How Do You Love?”). The guitars expertly weave indie pop and garage surf rock into an explosive sound. This album also includes one of the year’s best singles and music videos, “I Dare You”. – KS

4. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Lana del Rey released Norman Fucking Rockwell to a fanbase ready for a new direction from the alt pop princess. She tells tales of the harder parts of fame here, highlighting personal insecurities, making the album one of her more relatable projects, but wraps it all in a fresh take on Americana that made the wait worth it. A jazzy cover of a Sublime song and a poignant closer make this album one of the best of the year. – NP

3. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Billie Eilish has been on a collision course with this moment for a while now. A moment in which genre lines have become almost completely blurred and artists are no longer confined by industry gatekeepers and the major label machine. No matter how you feel about it, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? has to be considered one of the year’s defining albums, simply because of its impact. At age 17, Eilish may have broken pop music, being much more interested in making something that interests her than making something that comforts our expectations. Funny thing is, Eilish is an undoubtedly great artist, and this thing she has created will be now be mimicked by many, creating a new pool of music that is quite unlikely to hold a candle to its inspiration. – KH

2. Taylor Swift – Lover

A highlight in a career of high points, Lover is a powerful album drenched in romanticism. Every story told throughout the album reflects a hopeful future, even in the darkest moments. Gloss pop mixed with deep R&B beats and hints of Swift’s country roots peek through the cracks to create a sound that is as intimately familiar as it is diverse (“Cruel Summer”). However, Lover still finds time to highlight an anti-patriarchy anthem (“The Man”) and a commentary on the current state of politics (“Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince”). Lover celebrates Swift’s past by somehow poising her future to shine ever brighter. – KS

1. Copeland – Blushing

Blushing is at the top of my list because of how it has stayed in my mind since Valentine’s Day. Along with the unconventional Thursday release date to fit with the album’s themes, the album was one of my most anticipated at the end of 2018, and my first five-star review of 2019. It continued Copeland’s musical journey in the same vein as 2014’s Ixora, and brought back a lot of the whimsy we’ve seen in their earlier releases. Blushing is set to stand the test of time as a beautiful piece of art, and a gem in the crown that is Copeland. – NP

Honorable Mention

Hozier – Wasteland, Baby!
Say Anything – Oliver Appropriate
Queen of Jeans – If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid
Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Maggie Rogers – Heard it in a Past Life

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 1-10

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

10. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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

9. Lorde – Melodrama

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

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

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

7. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

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

6. Beyoncé – Lemonade

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

5. Against Me – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

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

4. Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION

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

3. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

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

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

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 11-20

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

20. Panic! at the Disco – Vices and Virtues

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

19. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

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

18. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface

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

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

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

16. letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

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

15. Paramore – Paramore

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

14. Hellogoodbye – Would it Kill You?

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

13. Frank Ocean – Blonde

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

12. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

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

11. Taylor Swift – Red

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 21-30

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

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

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

30. NF – The Search

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

29. The Interrupters – Fight the Good Fight

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

28. Haim – Days Are Gone

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

27. Hozier – Hozier

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

26. AFI – AFI (The Blood Album)

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

25. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet

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

24. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

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

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

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

22. Architects – Holy Hell

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

21. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck