Kendrick Lamar Shines Once Again on “Black Panther: The Album”

Like millions of others this past weekend, I made my way to the movie theater to take in “Black Panther”, a truly beautiful film. There’s no questioning the cultural significance of Black Panther’s arrival on the big screen, and although the long wait for such a film was absurd, it’s exciting and satisfying to see director Ryan Coogler and the cast handle the story with such care and power.

You can buy Black Panther: The Album on iTunes.

The track record of everyone involved in the film is one of excellence, so in many ways, it was delightfully fitting when Kendrick Lamar was announced to be handling the soundtrack earlier this year. The single that proceeded the release, “All the Stars” featuring SZA, was an immediate jam and set the stage for what was to come.

While I can’t say I’ve ever written about a soundtrack, I felt compelled to comment on Black Panther: The Album because it is easily my favorite release of 2018 so far, it’s another brilliant chapter in Kendrick Lamar’s ongoing dominance, and it speaks to the strength and beauty of the hip hop community to surround this film with a release of such magnitude.

After a few spins, I texted resident hip hop aficionado and podcast regular Brock Benefiel to question whether Kendrick might unexpectedly be vying for another hip hop title belt. While there’s no comparing Black Panther: The Album to recent solo releases like DAMN. or To Pimp a Butterfly, there’s certainly something to be said regarding Lamar’s gravity to draw in such a stellar supporting cast and his vision for a truly important project.

From The Weeknd to Vince Staples to Future to Jay Rock to Khalid to SZA, the album is unrelenting in star power and everyone’s voice shines. While the collection is meant to accompany the movie itself, and the placement of key songs within the film is excellent, it’s a compilation that stands alone just as well. It’s a soundtrack that could have been released under the guise of an unattached one-off project and its impact would still have felt relevant.

In early 2016, while we were all still digesting the scale and impact of To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick dropped Untitled Unmastered, a collection of unreleased songs that was met with immediate praise. Black Panther: The Album feels similar in a way – an unexpected but fully wonderful release that keeps Kendrick well in the zeitgeist and continues to solidify his status as an all-time great.

But perhaps even more important is that the soundtrack speaks to the great strengths of the hip hop community and why its music and voice are so vital.

Ryan Coogler knew full well the importance of this soundtrack and likely had little hesitation in handing the project to Kendrick Lamar. It’s a soundtrack of powerful black voices making a statement that couples well with the film while speaking to the heart of the genre. Whatever hip hop has in store for 2018, Black Panther: The Album was a truly unforgettable start.

by Kiel Hauck

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

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The Wonder Years Release New Song, “Sister Cities”

It’s finally here! After coyly announcing their new album, Sister Cities, last week, The Wonder Years have now released the album’s first single, which also happens to be the title track. You can watch the music video for “Sister Cities” below, which was directed by Josh Coll.

The new track certainly treads new sonic ground for The Wonder Years and will be fascinating to hear fleshed out over the course of a full album. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long to hear more. Sister Cities is set to be released April 6 via Hopeless Records. You can currently choose from multiple pre-order options on the band’s website.

What are your thoughts on the new song? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Finding Solace in the Music of The Wonder Years

While the chill of winter may still be far from over, we can trust that the sweet dawn of spring will come with new music from The Wonder Years. Last week, the Lansdale, Pennsylvania, pop punk act announced the release of their upcoming album, Sister Cities, on April 6. I have yet to watch the new trailer the band released to promote the album, nor do I have intent to do so.

That’s not to say I have no interest in new music from The Wonder Years, it’s just that their music carries an intense kind of baggage for me, something I only fully realized while spinning my vinyl copy of The Greatest Generation this weekend. I’ve long believed that The Wonder Years’ albums should be listened to in full, from front to back in one sitting, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

“I don’t have roses in the closet / But I’ve got pictures in a drawer / And it’s everything left in me not to stare at them anymore”

I was aware of The Wonder Years amidst their 2010 breakout with The Upsides, but didn’t dig in deep with the band until the following year, with the release of Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing. That album came fresh on the heels of my divorce and brought a mean kind of comfort. I’d venture to say that I’ve only felt such a deep, personal connection with an album a handful of times in my life.

So vivid are my early memories with this album that I can remember every moment of the night-time car ride I took with Suburbia on the evening I purchased it. I can still remember the click of my turn signal while sitting at a stoplight on Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky, dead inside, as the first verse of “My Life as a Pigeon” tore through my soul.

Everyone who knows me knows about my hyperbolic habits, and yes, I believe Suburbia to be one of the best pop punk albums ever written, but it’s more than that to me. It’s the story of a year I spent as a ghost, not sure where home was anymore. It’s the soundtrack to an upheaval of my life, and how I slowly, painfully, wonderfully found the ground again.

“I’ve been acting like I’m strong / But the truth is, I’ve been losing ground”

It wouldn’t take long for Dan Campbell and crew to cross paths with me again. Their next album, The Greatest Generation drove headlong into my continued fight with depression, made even more bitter by my mother’s unexpected battle with cancer. Like it was yesterday, I can remember the tears streaming down my face as I sat quietly at my desk at work with “Dismantling Summer” playing through my headphones.

Alone, in a room full of people, hundreds of miles away from my mom in a hospital bed, Soupy’s cries of, “What kind of man does that make me?” still haunt me to the core. My mom would go on to make a full recovery from her cancer. I’m still working on my depression, but The Greatest Generation is a blunt reminder of another period of my life in which The Wonder Years sang the songs and questions of my heart.

I’m writing this partly for therapeutic reasons and partly as a continuing examination of the role of music in my life. I’m eternally grateful for the music of The Wonder Years, even if I can only revisit it infrequently. What makes the music we love truly great? The songs we play relentlessly, finding repeated joy in the moment, or the songs we return to carefully and cautiously, knowing the ache attached within? In my experience, it’s a little bit of both.

I’m excited about what new sounds Sister Cities will bring, but content with the idea that the band’s music has done enough for me already. I have no deep expectations, other than the hope that this new album will provide a similar salve for someone else.

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.

UPDATED: Chvrches Tease New Single “Get Out”

UPDATE: Chvrches have officially released “Get Out” as the first single from their upcoming album, Love is Dead. Listen now!

It would appear that a new album from Scottish electropop act Chvrches is just around the corner. Today, the band teased a new song (presumed lead single “Get Out”) on Twitter with a short audio clip and video, along with a Facebook messenger link. Check out the band’s tweet below:

Earlier this month, we listed a new album from Chvrches as our fourth most anticipated album of 2018. Recently, vocalist Lauren Mayberry revealed in an interview that the album will be titled Love is Dead. Expect a full single to drop soon.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Blessthefall to Release “Hard Feelings” on March 21

Only a few short days after announcing their signing with Rise Records, Scottsdale, Arizona, metalcore act blessthefall have given us a release date for their sixth full-length album and dropped a new single. Hard Feelings is set for release on March 21 and the music video for “Melodramatic” can be viewed below.

For their latest effort, blessthefall hit the studio with Tyler Smyth, with additional production from Matt Good and Howard Benson. “Melodramatic” leans heavily on the band’s melodic side, with singer Beau Bokan leading the charge. Still, as the track gives way to its bridge, we’re offered a signature blessthefall breakdown.

We’re excited for more music to come. In the meantime, you can check out pre-order options for Hard Feelings at the Rise Records webstore.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Who Won the 2017 Hip Hop Title Belt?

With another year in the books, Brock Benefiel joins Kiel Hauck to discuss who won the hip hop title belt in 2017 (surprise, it’s Kendrick). The duo also reflect on newcomers and movers and shakers in the genre that shaped the year, while looking ahead to predict what might come to pass in 2018, including possible albums from Kanye West, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper and more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What hip hop albums are you looking forward to in 2018? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Ryan Key to Record New Music in 2018

Last year’s disbanding of legendary pop punk act Yellowcard wasn’t easy on anyone, but fortunately, it won’t be long before we hear the voice of Ryan Key again. The former Yellowcard vocalist will be hitting the road this spring with New Found Glory, Bayside and The Movielife.

According to a recent tweet from Key, he’ll be heading into the studio soon to record new songs that will be played on the tour, in addition to some classic Yellowcard tracks. Take a look at the tweet below:

You can currently purchase tickets on New Found Glory’s website. What do you expect from Ryan Key’s new music? Let us know your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Unraveling Fall Out Boy’s “MANIA”

MANIA, the seventh full-length album from Fall Out Boy, has arrived. And it is divisive. Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz hold an emergency podcast to break down the album’s release, discussing the tracklist fiasco, how the album holds up against Fall Out Boy’s growing catalogue, and where the band goes from here. After you listen to the episode, check out Kyle’s stellar review of MANIA here.

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What do you think of MANIA? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Preparing Ourselves for Fall Out Boy’s “MANIA”

On Friday, Fall Out Boy will return with their seventh full-length album, MANIA. As with everything the band is involved with, debate has been heated in the months leading up the release, sparked early on by a strange single (“Young and Menace”) and the odd delayed release of the album itself.

At this point, we know what to expect from post-hiatus Fall Out Boy: soaring anthems, spectacular vocal gymnastics from Patrick Stump, radio-ready choruses, and some clever lines from Pete Wentz that harken back to the band’s early days. Will MANIA meet fan expectations? Maybe not. But there’s no questioning that we’ll be talking about it well into the summer.

In preparation for Friday, the It’s All Dead writing staff shared their thoughts on the album and how their Fall Out Boy experience has evolved over the years.

***

As big of a fan of Fall Out Boy as I am, I’m not looking forward to their seventh studio album. I just don’t know if they still have it in them. Every single I’ve heard thus far – and they’ve released five out of the 10 tracks on the album – hasn’t excited me or brought me the same feelings that American Beauty / American Psycho did, and definitely none of the feelings Folie a Deux (my favorite FOB album) did. I took AB / AP with a grain of salt upon its release, and I like it on its own, rather than as a cohesive addition to their catalog, so maybe MANIA will do the same.

Fall Out Boy have come a long way since they started out in 2001. They became kings of pop punk with Take This to Your Grave and kept climbing until their hiatus in 2009. When they returned to the scene with 2014’s Save Rock and Roll (which did the opposite of the title, if you ask me), I hoped they could rally back and regain the same traction they had originally. Their focus, musically, turned pop and I think they’ve largely suffered for it.

I originally was excited for MANIA, but from what I’ve heard so far, that excitement keeps dying a little bit every day. Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.

– Nadia Paiva

***

MANIA is the first Fall Out Boy album that I haven’t been excited about. When “Young and Menace” dropped last year, I found it nearly unlistenable. In that instant, I made my decision: I was going to hate the direction of this album. However, that has changed after the delayed release and the onslaught of new singles throughout the fall.

Many of the newer singles are a solid mix of inspiration from the pop of Folie À Deux and the dance vibe of American Beauty / American Psycho. “Last of the Real Ones” and “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” are quickly becoming Fall Out Boy staples. While “Young and Menace” still hangs like a specter of an album opener, I hope that the six-month release delay did the band good. The singles are more cohesive as a unit than those of their last albums.

I hope that MANIA will be a return to form that flourishes as a cohesive unit. While I have enjoyed each album since the band’s reformation, they have sounded more disjointed than their classic releases. Where Save Rock and Roll and American Beauty / American Psycho sound like a collection of singles, I want MANIA to be a flourishing unit. Even if it starts with a dud.

– Kyle Schultz

***

I’m all in. Yes, I had a hard time swallowing “Young and Menace” upon its release and will likely skip the track every time it comes on in the future, but there’s no more denying Fall Out Boy’s ability to write hits. In recent years, I’ve fully embraced a suppressed love of pop music that a younger version of myself refused to acknowledge existed, which has seemed to time itself perfectly with Fall Out Boy’s transformation.

While it’s true that 2018 Pete Wentz lines like “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color” don’t tickle my emo soul the same way his 2005 lyrics did, I love that the band keep winking at their past, even as their sound branches further and further away. And honestly, wouldn’t we all be complaining if the band tried writing From Under the Cork Tree while in their mid-30s? We may not like every decision they make at this point in their career, but it’s hard to argue that they’re doing it their own way.

Who knows, maybe MANIA will fall flat, but based on the mere fact that three of the five tracks released thus far have been delightful, I’m expecting at least a handful of jams to blast all summer long. Maybe my Fall Out Boy expectations have lowered over the years, but that’s enough for me.

– Kiel Hauck

Watch Halsey Perform “Bad at Love” on SNL

This weekend, Halsey made her first appearance on Saturday Night Live, taking the stage at 30 Rock to perform her hit single “Bad at Love” along with “Him & I” with G-Eazy. Since bursting onto the scene in 2014, Halsey’s profile has continued to rise, capped by the release of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom last summer, which peaked at number one on the Billboard 200. Check out the performance of “Bad at Love” below.

Halsey’s unique brand of synthpop offers thoughtful reflection on relationships and life, while often uprooting traditional ideas of sexuality and gender dynamics. As we noted in our Best Songs of 2017, Halsey’s feel for the pulse of modern pop sets her apart from her peers. If you like what you hear from her SNL performances, you can buy Hopeless Fountain Kingdom on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck