Reflecting On: A Day to Remember – Homesick

The largest crowd I ever saw for a performance at Warped Tour was for A Day to Remember at Indianapolis in 2009. That afternoon, I watched from the top of a small hillside, looking down into a grassy valley where the Hurley Stage sat as a massive crowd moshed like a single organism. It was out of a fear of missing out that I downloaded Homesick a day later to see what all the fuss was about. I burned the album to a CD, which remained in my car stereo for the rest of the summer.

You can buy or stream Homesick on Apple Music.

I was obviously aware of A Day to Remember prior to that sweltering afternoon in 2009. A few different friends had played me various tracks from the band’s debut, For Those Who Have Heart, but none of them stuck. In those early days, I viewed A Day to Remember as a diet knock-off of the bands I loved, like Underoath, Chiodos, or Story of the Year. I’m still not totally sure I was wrong, but there was something about the way things came together for the band on their sophomore breakthrough that just made sense.

You don’t need a 10-year retrospective to tell you that Homesick found the perfect balance of metalcore and pop punk, full of silly breakdowns and one-liners topped off by sugary choruses. It’s an album that quite literally set the tone for the next 10 years of the scene, and it did so simply by having fun.

Truth be told, A Day to Remember would further perfect the very sound they helped turn into trend with later albums like What Separates Me from You and Common Courtesy, but even so, there’s still not a single album of theirs that puts a smile on my face quite like Homesick. From front to back, I know the words to every song and can perfectly synchronize my head banging to every cheesy breakdown. If you haven’t shouted along to Jeremy McKinnon’s cry of, “Disrespect Your Surroundings!” with a friend in the car on a summer drive, have you really lived?

Some of my personal favorite tracks include sing-along choruses, like those found on “My Life for Hire”, “NJ Legion Iced Tea”, or “Holdin’ it Down for the Underground”. Whether the band is flexing their drop D tuned guitars on “You Already Know What You Are” or taking a poppier approach on “Homesick” or “Have Faith in Me”, the album truly serves as an intersection for fans of almost any corner of the scene. Even those that sneered at the band or posted grouchy retorts on online message boards were probably secretly into this record, right?

Unlike many of our retrospective features, I’m not here to tell you what a deep emotional impact Homesick made on me or how it changed the way I listened to music. Instead, Homesick served its purpose in helping me put my guard down and drop my tendencies toward music snobbery. Sometimes music is at its best when it’s helping us have a good time, enjoy good company, and sing aloud with abandon.

That’s what I remember most about that Warped Tour performance. As Mike Hranica from The Devil Wears Prada joined the band onstage for the bridge of “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” and the crowd went absolutely bonkers, I remember being struck by how something so seemingly mundane could be so communal and joyful. A Day to Remember had a knack for breaking down walls between music fans of various genres and bringing them together. I’m glad I decided to join in on the fun.

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.

Advertisements

10 Songs to Beat the Winter Blues

Each new year, as winter slowly but surely overstays its welcome, it can feel like spring will never arrive. While we wait for the world to thaw, here are some older tracks that have rung in spring in years past. Also, here’s proof that I should’ve been born in the seventies.

Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”

You didn’t think I’d make a list of my favorite oldies and not feature Fleetwood Mac, did you? Because you’d be wrong. The gentleness of this track combined with the naturalistic lyricism make it an excellent choice for watching the flowers bloom.

John Denver – “Annie’s Song”

To me, John Denver’s music is quintessential spring. Gentle guitars, a soothing voice, the occasional yodel. This track will have you imagining a quiet day laying in a field of wildflowers with those you love most.

Carly Simon – “Spring is Here”

Moving into the early eighties, this is the most melancholy track I’ll mention. Where John Denver waxed poetic about how much love he has to give, this track talks about the same, but from the other side. Carly has so much to say but no one to say it to. She knows she should be excited about the warmer temperatures, but she just can’t find it in her.

Cat Stevens – “Morning Has Broken”

Cat Stevens recorded this cover of the 1931 hymn for his album Teaser and the Firecat. It’s a beautiful, simple song about waking up and listening to birds singing outside your window. It’s a great reminder to be grateful that you’ve woken up.

Bob Dylan – “The Times, They Are a-Changin’”

You can’t have a playlist about spring without referencing change, so I present this very classic Bob Dylan song. It’s still relevant today, and while it’s not exactly about watching the rosebuds open, it is about opening your mind to the ways culture changes, which I think is just as excellent.

The Beatles – “Here Comes the Sun”

I tried to make it through without a song by The Beatles, because of how cliché they are in a list of great songs, but try to deny how perfect this song is for anticipating spring. Today was abnormally warm where I live, and it was nice to feel the sun for a change, instead of being blasted by frigid wind.

Aretha Franklin – “The April Fools”

This track, like many of the others, is about a budding relationship. Neither member knows which direction it will take. She sings, “Are we just April fools / Who can’t see danger all around us / Are we just April fools / I don’t care true love has found us now”. Originally composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it’s a wonderful song that is well suited for the Queen of Soul.

The Eagles – “Peaceful, Easy Feeling”

This song is about letting go and trusting that you’ll fall where you’re meant to land. It’s got that really lovely harmony that The Eagles are known for, as well their oft-used desert imagery. The writer, Jack Tempchin, said that the song is, “about how love never seems to show up until you stop looking for it.”

Peter, Paul, and Mary – “Lemon Tree”

This is a really quirky sixties track about a man who tells his son that love is like a lemon: pretty, but the end result isn’t sweet, it’s sour. The young man doesn’t heed the warning and, of course, falls in love. She eventually leaves him and he remembers his father’s advice. It’s short and to the point, but it’s cute.

Simon and Garfunkel – “April Come, She Will”

This song clocks in just under two minutes. It’s based on an English nursery rhyme and, I think, is the perfect end to this list. Simon and Garfunkel were masters at using natural imagery and soothing instrumentalisation to create a beautiful picture of the idea they wanted to convey.

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.

Podcast: Who Won the 2018 Hip Hop Title Belt?

With another year in the books, Brock Benefiel drops by the It’s All Dead podcast studio to chat with Kiel Hauck about which rapper took the Hip Hop Title Belt in 2018. The two discuss some of hip hop’s hottest storylines of the year, break down 2018’s best hip hop tracks, and look ahead to what might come in 2019. So who won the belt? The conversation includes candidates such as Cardi B, Drake, Travis Scott, Vince Staples, Pusha T, and many more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What were your favorite hip hop tracks in 2018? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2019: #1 Childish Gambino Makes His Final(?) Appearance

A year-and-a-half has passed since Donald Glover announced at the Governors Ball Music Festival his intention on releasing one final Childish Gambino album before riding off into the sunset. Since that time, Glover has released one of most powerful songs of the decade (“This is America”), unexpectedly dropped a new Summer Pack EP, created another wildly successful season of his TV series Atlanta, and starred as Lando in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Glover has never been one to rest on his laurels, and the past several years have been a whirlwind of creative success. If the next Childish Gambino album truly is his last, we can rest assured that whenever it comes, and whatever it is, it will surely be great. His artistic progression from Camp to Because the Internet to Awaken, My Love! has been fascinating to watch, and there’s no telling where he might take his sound next.

Whether that rumored final album drops in 2019, or whether we receive something else completely (which seems just as likely), we patiently await whatever comes next from one of the most important and mysterious artistic voices on the planet.

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.

Podcast: The Best Debut Albums of the Past 50 Years with Evan Sawdey

Music critic Evan Sawdey makes his return to the It’s All Dead podcast to discuss a recent feature for Yardbarker in which he named the best debut albums of the past 50 years, by year. During the conversation, Kiel and Evan debate the merits of Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time, Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory and many more classic debuts. Evan also discusses the power of a debut album and how it can set the stage for what’s to come in an artistic career. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are some of your all time favorite debut albums? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2019: #4 Dua Lipa Dances into 2019

For Dua Lipa, the period between her debut and forthcoming sophomore album has been anything but quiet. In June of 2017, her self-titled release dropped to relatively modest fanfare, but 2018 saw the English pop star’s profile reach a fever pitch. Following the success of early singles like “New Rules” and “IDGAF”, Lipa struck gold last summer, featuring on Calvin Harris’ number-one single “One Kiss” before later partnering with Silk City for “Electricity” – one of the best dance tracks of the year.

In gearing up for what comes next, Lipa let slip that her anticipated follow-up would be heavily influenced by Prince and Outkast, an intriguing concept, to be sure. Both acts made names for themselves by pushing the limits of their respective genres and exploring new territory with each release. It stands to reason that 2019 may present us with a sonic side of Dua Lipa that we have yet to hear.

At the age of 23, she has already proven herself to be a hit factory with one of the most fun and inviting personalities in pop music. It shouldn’t be long before Dua Lipa’s name rings out among the elite popular artists of our time.

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: #5 Taylor Swift Leaves Her Reputation Behind

Though Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in the world, Reputation left many wanting. Swift claims that each new album is used to document a new chapter of her life. Although Reputation is barely a year old, this chapter seems to be closed after an extremely popular worldwide tour and Netflix Special.

There are already hints that Swift is already hard at work on her next album and there’s no reason to think it will be anything less than a stellar deep dive into the pop ether. Since most of her albums come after about two years, it’s par for the course to expect her seventh album to drop before the end of 2019.

After defending her reputation against feuds with Kanye West, Katy Perry, and public perception, this next chapter is looking to pick of the pieces of what’s left and run free.

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 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

Podcast: The Best Music of 2018

Part 1

As 2018 comes to a close, the team at It’s All Dead have crunched the numbers and compiled their lists of the best albums and best songs of the year. On this podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by Nadia Paiva to break down some of the year’s best music, including releases from Pianos Become the Teeth, The 1975, The Wonder Years, mewithoutYou, and much more. They also discuss what made music great in 2018 – both in terms of commentary and in terms of escape. Listen in!

Part 2

But wait, there’s more! On part 2 of our Best of 2018 podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by It’s All Dead senior editor Kyle Schultz to talk further about the year in music. The two discuss the merits of Fall Out Boy’s return with MANIA and how Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco ascended to new heights with Pray for the Wicked. They also break down releases from Architects, Justin Courney Pierre, Pusha T, and As It Is. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What were your favorite albums and songs of 2018? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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