The Best Songs of 2020

You can view our list of The Best Albums of 2020 here.

For many of us, our music listening experience in 2020 was vastly different from any other year. I honestly have no memories of jamming to songs in my car, hearing music over the loud speaker at a bar, or enjoying live music with a crowd of people on a warm, summer night. In 2020, my memories are mostly indoors, and very often, alone.

So what songs do we turn to in those moments? What tracks kept us company through the ups and mostly downs of a year lived largely in quarantine? We did our best to build a list of songs that captured the emotional highs and lows we felt, along with tracks that spoke something meaningful or something new. Take a look – and a listen – and let us know your favorite tracks in the replies!

15. AJR – “Bang!”

Here’s a real wild card. I was supposed to see AJR play this spring but then quarantine started. They’re a recent addition to my Spotify, but my brother is a big fan and has been trying to get me to listen to them for about a year or so now (Hi Nick!). He was largely unsuccessful in his attempts, but their radio single “Bang!” was when I hopped on the train. I’m not generally a Top 40 gal, but this song is refreshing. It’s radio friendly but original. Lyrically, it’s about growing up and how difficult that is, but sonically we’re at a party. It’s a promising single for the band’s fourth album and I’m excited to see how it fits in with the rest of it (We can expect that project early next year.) – Nadia Alves

14. The Bombpops – “Double Arrows Down”

“Double Arrows Down” is a raging punk song that focuses on guitarist/vocalist Poli Van Dam’s struggle with diabetes. Focused around an incident of passing out at a gas station due to complications from the disease, the song is equal parts terrifying and filled with rage (“I’m sitting there, in another cold pharmacy chair / Standing by while they suck my veins and wallet dry / I can write all these defiant songs, but my life is still reliant on machines”). The Bombpops portray the terror of this disease against a blazing punk riff and an electrifying pop chorus. The full horror and frustration of the disease is played out against the sound of rebellion, and hope to ultimately battle diabetes to the end. – Kyle Schultz

13. Juice Wrld – “Righteous”

Juice Wrld’s posthumous 2020 album Legends Never Die is a breathtaking view of what was to come from the emo rapper before his tragic passing last December from a drug-induced seizure. “Righteous”, the album’s lead single, serves as a haunting reflection on his mental health struggles and self-medication in an attempt to ease the pain. His words float gently atop the melancholy beat as he ponders on death and the cyclical nature of his addiction. “Taking medicine to fix all of the damage / My anxiety the size of a planet”, he confesses as his voice begins to rise. It’s a track that encapsulates the heart of a gifted artist gone far too soon. – Kiel Hauck

12. Twenty One Pilots – “Level of Concern”

For only releasing one song in 2020, Twenty One Pilots have had quite the impact this year. They released “Level of Concern” in April, when quarantine was only a two week affair and we all were baking sourdough and blending our coffee. Ah, simpler times. Personally, the guys have had a lot going on as well — Josh got married at the end of December, and Tyler and Jenna had their baby. They still found time to give us the perfect song about the absolute stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic, and it’s easily the most on-the-nose song of the year, which is why it makes my top songs for 2020. Plus it’s a bop. – Nadia Alves

11. All Time Low – “Sleeping In”

“Sleeping In” is the best song All Time Low have written in a decade. Seamlessly blending the pop direction of recent albums and the Warped Tour mosh pits of albums past, the song is the personification of the band’s career. All at once oozing in swagger and sexiness, “Sleeping In” is the song that All Time Low were always meant to write. The song manages to find restraint in the verses with a pop-funk mesh (“We got shit to do, you got work / But we fall right back into bed, like it’s all just a game / And we can’t help that, no we can’t help that”) and an all-out punk rock chorus that rivals All Time Low’s best (“If I said ‘I want your body,’ would you hold it against me?”). – Kyle Schultz

10. The 1975 – “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America”

I’ve long held that The 1975 are at their best when their songs are stripped down to an elemental level, which is what makes “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” one of their best. A painful, folksy track about secret loves forbidden by religion reaches unexpected heights thanks to contributions from Phoebe Bridgers. Could anyone else on the planet make lines as simple as, “I’m in love with the girl next door / Her name is Claire” sound as emotional and meaningful through cracking, whispered vocals? When Bridgers and Matt Healy come together during the song’s final chorus, their song of love just beyond their reach becomes magic – and tragic: “Fortunately I believe / Lucky me”. – Kiel Hauck

9. Phoebe Bridgers – “Moon Song”

Though not released as one of the singles from Punisher, this track from the album is my favorite. I mentioned the raw emotion of it in my album review. Generally the freshness of a song will influence how much it sticks in my mind before I toss it aside for something shinier I get distracted by, but this one is a true jewel on the album, Phoebe’s discography, and the year in music. It’s rumored to be inspired by Conor Oberst, but lines like “You’re holding me like water in your hands” is all too relatable in a year where almost all of us have experienced intense loss and a redefining of priorities. I could have chosen any one of the songs from Punisher as one of my top songs this year — the album is truly that great — but “Moon Song” just has a little something extra that takes it all the way to the top for me. – Nadia Alves

8. KennyHoopla – “how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?//”

The title track from KennyHoopla’s debut EP is a renaissance song of genre, mashing new wave rock with garage punk and creating a modern dance track with the sensibilities of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The song is an energetic track that sounds ripped from the early 2000’s indie scene. However, the track is also a commentary on the uncomfortable nature of conforming to looking acceptable in society (“Culture is so claustrophobic / Claws to prove it hurts so good / And the party’s over / I’m still on your couch now, love”). The speed at which society moves and changes its opinion is a damaging thing (“How can I rest in peace if I’m buried by a highway? / Pain on the keys, is everybody still breathing? / Weight of my shadow, it gets more heavy, and it scares me, yeah”). The song turns the anxiety of the quickly changing world into a song that works equally on the dance floor as it does on a Midwestern emo playlist. – Kyle Schultz

7. Halsey – “you should be sad”

For the country ballad entry to the genre melting pot that is Manic, Halsey penned “you should be sad”, one of the rawest and most personal tracks of the year. It’s easy to mistake it as a break-up song (that was last year’s “Without Me”), but this is what you write when you’re on the other side, looking back at your ex with a smirk. Halsey tees things up mightily on the pre-chorus with the lines of, “No, you’re not half the man you think that you are / And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs, and cars”, before bringing down the hammer with, “I’m so glad I never, ever had a baby with you / ‘Cause you can’t love nothing unless there’s something in it for you”. Ouch. It just might be the most empowered sad country song you’ll ever hear. – Kiel Hauck

6. Hayley Williams – “Crystal Clear”

In Hayley Williams’ solo project, Petals for Armor, she gave us songs about mental health, loss, femininity and new beginnings. Having the album since May really gave me a chance to pick through every track and I can confidently say “Crystal Clear” deserves a place on my top track list for the year. It’s the best closer I heard this year, and the way it brings the album full circle was necessary for something that began in such a dark and spiteful place. Hayley really took the time to truly process the past few years of her life and the decisions she’d made. Finishing it all off with a powerful song about forgiveness and clarity is a great lesson for all of us. – Nadia Alves

5. Taylor Swift – “Mad Woman”

One of the few venomous songs on Swift’s folklore, “Mad Woman” makes use of every line to fight back against an oppressive industry. On a base level, the song acts as a spiritual successor to Lover’s “The Man”, but there is much more to the song than the theme of “a woman scorned.” The song is at least partially a commentary against Scooter Braun, the music producer who bought all of Swift’s master recordings (“What do you sing on your drive home? / Do you see my face in the neighbor’s lawn? / Does she smile? Or does she mouth, ‘Fuck you forever?’”). One of Swift’s few rage-imbued songs, “Mad Woman” describes the toll taken on women who see themselves being taken advantage of by anyone (“Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy / What about that? / And when you say I seem angry, I get more angry”). – Kyle Schultz

4. The Weeknd – “Faith”

The most exciting stretch of After Hours belongs to the three consecutive songs featuring production from Metro Boomin, culminating with “Faith”. Here, Abel Tesfaye’s vocals become an instrument in the mix as he circles the drain and loses his religion, confessing, “When I’m coming down is the most I feel alone”. It’s a startling lament to an addiction that creates a chasm between himself and others, but the song reaches its thematic and sonically thrilling climax in the final minutes as the entire tone of the song shifts. “I ended up in the back of a flashing car”, he sings as he gently describes the shimmering lights of the cityscape and ambulance siren. The song fades into “Blinding Lights” – the biggest pop hit of the year, which takes on a sinister new meaning in this context. Truly, no one has mastered this sleight of hand trick better than The Weeknd. – Kiel Hauck

3. Marina – “Man’s World”

This has been one heck of a year regarding social justice and reform. Historic protests against police brutality, and in the America election, the choice of our first female vice president —  just to name a couple. Marina has come swooping in from her break after 2019’s Love + Fear to bring us “Man’s World,” a scathing track about gender equality, one of many women to release commentary on the issue. As a woman, the time for artists to talk about important issues plaguing my demographic are always welcome, and Marina has dropped a truth bomb on us in this track. She also put her money where her mouth is by choosing an all-gal team for the track’s production. It’s absolutely my track of the year, with its drop in November completely upending any idea I had of my ranking. – Nadia Alves

2. MxPx – “Worries”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, MXPX were one of the first bands to release an original song about the new reality we all faced. “Worries” managed to melt away much of the anxiety that I felt living through the height of Chicago’s lockdowns and inspired me to leave the quarantine I had been in and venture home for the first time in two months.

“Worries” managed to bypass fears of the disease at the height of the lockdowns in big cities, and express the emotional resonance of a classic MXPX song while inspiring listeners to persevere with enigmatic skate punk verses and a raging punk guitar chorus/bridge (“I’m not worried, I’ll be fine / Just want you to know you’re on my mind / I’m not worried, just worried sick, a little dose of you might do the trick / You’re the cure for worried sick”).

It’s almost solely because of this song that I began to gather myself again and prepare for the rest of the year in Chicago’s early May. Even now, in December, I give this song credit for inspiring me to cast off the fear of the Spring lockdowns and prepare for the return of the every day. It’s also been a constant soundtrack throughout the year as infections seemed to surge again, reminding me that a return to “normal life” is only a matter of time away. – Kyle Schultz

1. Dua Lipa – “Break My Heart”

It’s difficult to choose just one song from Future Nostalgia that fully encapsulates Dua Lipa’s thrilling breakthrough this year, but if “Don’t Start Now” was fan service for the general audience, “Break My Heart” represents Dua’s alt-pop queen potential. Featuring an irresistible interpolation of INXS’ “Need You Tonight”, this dance/disco track feels less like an 80’s homage and more like a doorway into the future of pop music. In short, it’s the most fully realized track of the Future Nostalgia concept.

But as you’re dancing, take a listen to Dua’s growth as a songwriter. “Break My Heart” is about those moments in an exciting new relationship when you’re standing on the edge of the cliff. Is it safe to jump? Who could ever know? “I’m indecisive, but this time I know for sure”, she sings on the opening verse before crooning, “It’s you in my reflection, I’m afraid of all the things you could do to me”, on the pre-chorus. It’s a giddy uncertainty we’ve all experienced set to the most electric soundtrack you could imagine. And in a year as dark as this, it’s a refreshing dose of light and innocence. – Kiel Hauck

Honorable Mention:

Run the Jewels – “Yankee and the Brave (Ep. 4)”
Billie Eilish – “No Time to Die”
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Comeback”
Ariana Grande – “Positions”
Childish Gambino – “Algorhythm”

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Albums of 2020

Mercifully, 2020 is winding to an end. Not that a simple turn of the calendar will solve all of our problems, but as we reach the end of the year, there is a lot to process and reflect on – and maybe even learn from. One thing that has been a constant for the team at It’s All Dead this year is music. Music as a reprieve, music as a distraction, music as a friend. So we take a moment away from the dread to focus on some albums that brought us joy and helped us through the toughest moments of the past year.

A quick note before we dive into the list: Our goal each year is to give a clear representation of the music that mattered to us the most while also reflecting the music that simply mattered. The larger the area in the middle of that Venn diagram, the higher it ranks on the list. Noticeably absent on this year’s list is the album that arguably mattered the most: Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters.

During our team conversations as we began working on our end-of-the-year features, we realized that none of us had spent enough time with the album to warrant it making the list without it feeling extremely disingenuous. Right or wrong, we made the call to leave it off while acknowledging the impact of the album. If you haven’t heard it, take a listen.

So here we go. Take a look – and as always – let us know your favorite albums of the year in the replies!

15. Hot Mulligan – You’ll Be Fine

I feel like I often end up pulling some wild cards into our year-end lists, and this year my wild card is You’ll Be Fine. I meant to write about it when it released in March, but this year took a lot out of me which translated to a lot more listening than writing. For me, that meant returning to this Hot Mulligan album again and again, especially over the summer. It’s quintessential pop punk, which is both right up my alley and easy to get into. They explored more thoughtful songwriting on this album compared to their previous projects, moving closer to a Wonder Years level of consideration in their production. Even though I enjoyed their first album Pilot, this album makes me truly excited for the trajectory of this band: Up. – Nadia Alves

14. Knuckle Puck – 20/20

Though Knuckle Puck have been a growing force within the scene for years, the ominously named 20/20 is their most cohesive and well-structured album to date. Somehow finding the magic of normalcy, the album stands in contrast to the year it was released in and breathes fresh life into a genre that can quickly sound redundant—the midwest pop punk scene. 20/20 reminds the listener not to back away from the problems in their life, but instead reflect and learn on the experiences. Weaving traditional emo punk against some experimental tracks on the band’s signature sound, 20/20 finds Knuckle Puck forging ahead with a fire behind them that can only see the good even when it stares into the everyday horrors we all face.  – Kyle Schultz

13. Stand Atlantic – Pink Elephant

When pop punk is at its best, it allows us to lower our inhibitions, feel our feelings, and join a safe community chorus of fellow voices caught in the fray. Depending on who you ask, it’s been a while since that experience rang true, but Sydney, Australia, act Stand Atlantic are intent on reviving the spirit. Pink Elephant, the band’s sophomore effort, is everything a great pop punk release should be while constantly stretching its wings into new territory. Vocalist Bonnie Fraser unravels the tangles that hold her back, singing “My guts keep falling out / And I’m starting to disintegrate / I’ll carry on / Yeah, it’s just like that” on the album’s opener. Call it a lament if you want, but it works better as a thesis statement on forging ahead. – Kiel Hauck

12. Neck Deep – All Distortions Are Intentional

This is the first and only album on my list that is truly escapist. A concept album about fulfilling our emo dreams in a world where we truly care about others is a necessary course of action that could make true change if we implemented it in the real world. Easily one of the most positive and thought-provoking albums to come from the pop-punk genre this year, All Distortions Are Intentional is another addition to Neck Deep’s maturing discography, and a project by a band that has truly come into their own form of activism and wave-making. – Nadia Alves

11. New Found Glory – Forever + Ever x Infinity

New Found Glory albums are mostly easy to predict: loud, catchy and filled with easy sing-along choruses. Forever + Ever x Infinity excels in that it acts as an album filled with fairy tales. The band lean heavily on their roots of writing songs about relationships, but through a lens of maturity and humor. The result is an album that both reflects on the band’s roots in pop punk, as well as presses forward with an easycore crunch and shining pop choruses (“Greatest of all Time”). Sometimes cheesy, sometimes hopelessly romantic, New Found Glory’s 10th album acts as a perfect followup to the much celebrated Self-Titled album by reflecting on the themes of that record with a middle-aged point of view and the sobering reality that only time can grant. – Kyle Schultz

10. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Hip hop fans waited patiently for the fourth installment from rap duo Run the Jewels, but RTJ4 actually arrived early. With the release date suddenly pushed forward in the midst of protests against police brutality due to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbery, Run the Jewels owned the moment and captured the national outrage. Like all previous Run the Jewels albums, RTJ4 is rife with rattling bass-lines and rapid fire lyrics from Killer Mike and El-P, but this installment feels like pointed protest music right from the jump (“Yankee and the Brave”). Maybe revolution music is a more apt descriptor. – Kiel Hauck

9. All Time Low – Wake Up, Sunshine

Wake Up, Sunshine is All Time Low’s best album in a decade, perfectly balancing the pop sensibilities the band have been striving for with the punk rock buzz that earned them an adoring audience. The album is mature and reflective, but also looks confidently forward with a style that hopefully comes to define the band moving forward. A thematic sister album to fan favorite Nothing Personal, Wake Up, Sunshine highlights the growth of the band (“Some Kind of Disaster”), as well as emphasizes their storytelling ability (“Wake Up, Sunshine”) and features the best song the band has written in years (“Sleeping In”). – Kyle Schultz

8. Halsey – Manic

Manic shouldn’t work. The third full-length album from Halsey is a mess. But like paint crawling itself across the canvas, the idiosyncrasies begin to intertwine, giving unique views of mental illness and the weight of fame as you zoom in and out of the portrait. Halsey’s greatest strength as an artist has always been her vulnerability and willingness to display her deepest fears in a way that feels more than relatable. With Manic, she somehow delivers her most cohesive work despite there being no clear genre. Simply change tracks to switch between country, rock, R&B, and more. The navigation of it all feels as honest and messy as any great therapy session should. – Kiel Hauck

7. Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

Many of the albums that ended up sticking out to me this year dealt with the heavy things. That is in part because I’m a heck of a pessimist, and also because the year we’ve had has been made for us pessimists. With Color Theory, Sophia Allison showed us contrast. With the color triad of yellow, blue and grey, she artfully wove a true story about loss, illness and grief – something too many of us have experienced in some way or another this year. I’m a sucker for her lo-fi sound, and it definitely added some variety to my music this year. Hopefully, Sophia Allison should be in for a great next couple of years as she rises in the indie pop sphere. – Nadia Alves

6. The Weeknd – After Hours

We were merely one week into quarantine and fear when The Weeknd dropped After Hours, an album that eerily captured the feelings of isolation so many of us were (and still are) feeling. On surface level, the album reads like textbook Tesfaye, but closer examination reveals deep and fascinating artistic maturity. After Hours studies remorse and self-reflection on the other side of a hedonistic ride. Here, the blinding lights and shimmering boulevard are blurry and distant – something to long for, but not before a winding back road of questioning and self-loathing. – Kiel Hauck

5. KennyHoopla – how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?//

KennyHoopla is the type of artist all musicians dream of being. His newest EP,  how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?//, perfectly blends elements of R&B, emo, new wave and pop, among other genres, to create a bridge across the realm of music. Although just a few songs in length, KennyHoopla takes advantage of each moment by weaving an intensely honest record filled with admissions of inadequacy and fantasticism (“dust//”). Delivered with emotional depth and the intensity of a superstar, KennyHoopla sounds vibrantly original and deeply nostalgic. In just six songs, his EP accomplishes more with its time than some musicians do in their entire careers. – Kyle Schultz

4. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor

When I preordered my copy of Petals for Armor on vinyl, I did so with the expectation that it would be both a great album and my top album of the year. While it didn’t quite top my list, it felt like an album that truly mattered – an album she wrote for herself rather than for a mainstream audience. I love Petals, and I think it’s the most important project to come from Hayley Williams. She truly explored and processed a lot of things through the album, and she took us along for the ride and prompted us to be more introspective and openminded when it comes to taking care of our mental health. She brought up a lot of personal feelings regarding loss for me, and in turn, I ended up dealing with some of the things I had pushed away. I’m grateful for that. – Nadia Alves

3. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

English singer and songwriter Dua Lipa showed flashes of what was to come with her 2017 self-titled debut, but chose to shed away any preconceived notions of powerhouse pop with Future Nostalgia, an album bubbling with disco and dance spirit. Everything about it works, specifically because Dua Lipa takes full control of her art in every way without the slightest hint of restraint. 

The album never slows down, even as it veers between lanes, blurring the lines between its influences and Dua’s own original, melodic concoctions. “You want a timeless song / I want to change the game”, she tells us mere seconds into the album. A factory-made pop star she is not. What a fabulous invitation to lean into the experience and dance away the aches of the shittiest year in recent memory. – Kiel Hauck

2. Taylor Swift – folklore

Releasing one career-best album is a crowning achievement for any artist, but to deliver two within a year is something special. Swift’s surprise album folklore perfects her ability to tell a story by blending personal stories and fictional characters in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to tell which is which. Folklore excels as the perfect representation of who Swift is as an artist by stripping away everything that we thought made a Taylor Swift album—the glamorized production values, over-the-top choruses and the electrifying pop elements that have punctuated her recent albums. At its base level, folklore is an indie album of sweet songs (“mirrorball”), but the songs are intimate, intricate pieces of art with as much depth and scope as a fleshed-out pop hit.

Unafraid of the silence between notes, folklore puts the melody and story first and foremost. The album strips away all expectations fans had of who Swift is as an artist by showing them something better. Soft, sincere and honest even when fictional, Swift has reinvented her career by stripping her music to its essentials and finding just as much, if not more, meaning in each song (“mad woman”, “betty”). – Kyle Schultz

1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

This year’s top album was actually quite a difficult and personal debate for me, but after a lot of reflection and back and forth, the bell rang and I lifted Phoebe Bridgers’ hand as Punisher was declared the winner. Her gentle delivery and poignant writing was a welcome break for me this year, a year when I’ve been so up in arms about — well, just about everything. It gave listeners something to direct their sadness and confusion at for 40 minutes and 37 seconds.

Phoebe didn’t shy away from the harsh reality of her life and her past in Punisher, and the raw honesty is what has kept me coming back throughout the latter half of the year. It takes a lot for me to consider an album as the best, and not only is it the best album of the year, it’s the best in Phoebe’s discography. She’s showed her maturity and individuality here, and that counts for everything in my book. – Nadia Alves

Honorable Mention

PVRIS – Use Me
Haim – Women in Music Pt. III
Lady Gaga – Chromatica
Blaqk Audio – Beneath the Black Palms
The Bombpops – Death in Venice Beach

Posted by Kiel Hauck

In Defense of Anniversary Tribute Albums

In the last few years, there has been a flood of “reimagined” versions of classic albums and songs. Some might see this as a waste, since it’s not technically new material. But in recent years, the ante has been upped in many ways beyond a basic acoustic cover. Acoustic versions of songs are always a welcome addition to a band’s catalog, but complete re-recordings offer a chance to reevaluate the journey, and analyze not only why the album meant so much in the first place, but also how the listeners and the bands have matured in the years between.

The Wonder Years were the first band to really catch my attention with reimagined versions of their songs. Burst & Decay Vol. I slowed down tempos, revitalized the lyrics of songs like “Don’t Let Me Cave In” to be conversational and somber reflections. “Cardinals”, a song already heavy in terms of regrets over a failed friendship, becomes even more burdensome when every single lyric has time to resonate. Though the reimagined versions of songs never quite match the scale or eccentric hype of the original, the new attention serves as a reminder for why these songs resonated so well with fans.

All Time Low’s It’s Still Nothing Personal tribute album may be the best example of a re-recorded release. Nothing Personal helped cement All Time Low as a permanent fixture in the scene. In the decade since, their sound has morphed to the point that it’s hard to see them as the motley crew standing on the stage of the “Weightless” music video in a small club anymore. This updated version of Nothing Personal hardly surpasses the original, but it shows listeners just how starkly the band has grown since then. 

Singer Alex Gaskarth’s voice is much more rich and mature, compared to the autotuned vocals of the original release. The guitars are more relaxed, and the production tighter. The addition of harsh vocals during “Lost In Stereo” changes the dynamic of the song when compared to the poppier lyrics. It’s also a stark reminder of the chances the band are willing to take that never would have appeared on earlier albums. The addition is minimal, but it’s a curve that makes the song instantly different, especially when paired with the vocal twists of Gaskarth. Even the closing track “Therapy” benefits from the restraint of the full band.

We the Kings’ Self Titled Nostalgia does the same by removing the guitars entirely and rewriting every song as a piano-driven, semi-electronica experiment. Though the original songs were seminal pop songs of their era, these reworked versions sound less like emo-pop songs and more like the soothing anthems of romance that they were always meant to be. 

In contrast, Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s Sol-fa 2016 is strikingly similar to the Sol-fa album released in 2004. AKFG, one of Japan’s most famous rock bands, are well known in the States for “Rewrite,” one of the opening songs to the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime. The version on 2016’s release features singer Masafumi Gotoh’s with slightly more matured vocals, and the instrumentation tighter and closer to the sound the band plays during live shows. “Re:Re:” includes a new instrumental opening that vastly improves the song, as live show performances had proven for over a decade. 

These types of anniversary albums feel different from other reworked albums, such as Eisley’s I’m Only Dreaming and I’m Only Dreaming… Of Days Long Past. Part of this is due to both albums being released so close together. A decade between re-workings gives space to appreciate the alternate versions of songs, whereas these albums feel more akin to two halves of the same piece. 

This is the case as well for Dashboard Confessional’s Alter The Ending, which released a full band and acoustic album together. These types of albums are extremely welcome, and gives the artist the opportunity to stretch and not feel restrained when the sound they hear is so much wider than a single song. However, it still doesn’t hold the same affection to something like Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue Acoustic, which was in part a celebration of the band’s reformation.

It’s hard to say that any band has fully found the best way to honor a fan-favorite album, but re-recording them with 10 extra years of experience, insight and creativity is something that more bands should embrace. It’s a way to show appreciation to the fans that have stuck around for so long. It also allows bands the opportunity to show how much they’ve grown when tasked to rewrite the songs they created as kids.

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 doesn’t understand why the birds won’t come to his window to say hello. It’s just a new birdhouse! There’s still seed, so why won’t this HOARDE OF SPARROWS lay siege to the windows once more?! Cowardly birds!

Review: All Time Low – Wake Up, Sunshine

All Time Low are one of the few bands who have never seemed to lose steam. Though some of the more recent albums never quite lived up the magic of their original few, the release of new music from All Time Low has always felt like an event. Fortunately, Wake Up, Sunshine is an event. At the time of writing this, most of the world is in some form of lockdown from the COVID-19 virus, and it feels like the world itself is collapsing. Wake Up, Sunshine is not just a summer album, it is a spark of hope in the darkness that promises the best is yet to come by looking back on the past.

You can buy or stream Wake Up, Sunshine on Apple Music.

While many of the group’s recent albums experimented and leaned heavier into pop sensibilities, the results were often mixed. Where Wake Up, Sunshine succeeds is in marrying the punk buzz of Nothing Personal with the pop ambitions of Last Young Renegade. The guitars are heavier, the pop more polished and intelligently implemented, and anthemic choruses abound that rank among All Time Low’s best.

In many ways, this album feels like a sister album to Nothing Personal. Where that album was a battle anthem of youth looking towards the future, Wake Up, Sunshine looks back on that time of life through a mature lens. Instead of free-loving anthems like “Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)”, songs like “Trouble Is” reflect on the deep connection and curse of love. Instead of declaring that this will be the year that they make it (“Weightless”), the band asks their audience if this music is still what they want to hear (“Some Kind of Disaster”).

Where the two albums definitely overlap is in their sense of sexiness, romance, swagger, and the instantly memorable choruses and hooks. 

More than any of their past work, Wake Up, Sunshine reflects on being thankful for making it so far. “Some Kind of Disaster” sets the theme for the record, essentially prepping the audience to go on the journey of connecting over an album again with stadium-rock guitars and rippling bass (“And it’s all my fault that I’m still the one you want. / So what are you after? / Some kind of disaster”). 

Other songs allude to the band’s growth in small ways. “Clumsy”, with glam guitar sizzling over a dance rhythm, addresses the realization of the band being too full of themselves in the past, with vocalist Gaskarth singing, “I got too high on myself / Too young and stupid to tell / I was bound to make a mess of things / Mixing fireworks and gasoline / Now I’m out to make you fall with me”. Meanwhile, “Basement Noise” softly reflects on memories of starting out as kids practicing in drummer Rian’s basement (“Cut our teeth chasing the weekend  / Capsize and fall in the deep end”).

Other topics are tackled to certain degrees as well. Title track “Wake Up, Sunshine” weaves a narrative of loving yourself against taking a stand against the internet echo chambers that many people find themselves lost in. “Everybody wants to be somebody / I just want you to see how good you are / You don’t have to lean on the crutch of a daydream / To see that you shine like a star.” 

And as always, there are the songs of romance. “Sleeping In”, arguably All Time Low’s best single since “Weightless”, is a passionate love song (“If I said ‘I want your body’, would you hold it against me?”) that builds itself up with verses filled with dance beats and choruses made for mosh pits. “Favorite Place”, a call and return of romance with The Band CAMINO, features a beautiful sparkling instrumentation and haunted backing vocals (“It’s the distance we don’t need / Yeah, you’re everything I love about the things I hate in me”). 

Meanwhile, although “January Gloom (Seasons, Pt. 1)” and “Summer Daze (Seasons, Pt. 2)” would otherwise sound like low points on an album this rich,  they take on more meaning in this time when people around the world are locked in their homes. “January Gloom” resonates so much with seasonal depression disorder at this time, when it’s just starting to get warm but we can’t go outside. Meanwhile, “Summer Daze” plays with dreamy lyrics of summer romance and teasing of just how wonderful it will be to get outside again (“Serendipity and summer showers / We soak it up like flowers / Growing through the concrete”).

Wake Up, Sunshine is one of the strongest albums of All Time Low’s career. It carves its own path by reflecting on the pop punk scene that raised the band, and leaning into the pop scene that has expanded their career in remarkable ways. It may get bonus points just for being something positive in a time of national crisis, but in the end, All Time Low’s best music has always been about the promise of looking forward. Wake Up, Sunshine is the right album released at the right time to help those that listen march through this crisis and feel hopeful on the other side.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just fed his cat an unreasonable amount of chicken. A few bits would have been fine, but this was best described as “a chunk”. That little creep shouldn’t be able to fit that much in a stomach that physically small. The obvious answer then, is that cats are monsters and where internal organs should be, there is only…. the void. SCIENCE!

Reflecting On: Set Your Goals – This Will Be the Death of Us

I almost lost my middle finger in 2009. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but while working in a restaurant, I was playing with a keyring during some downtime. Somehow, I slipped my finger through the gap between both endpoints. I remember watching the tip of my finger fall backwards and seeing the bone. It exposed everything I am on the inside for the first time. I managed to keep it together long enough to get stitches. When I went home to my roommates, they had gathered in camaraderie and collectively flipped me off in unison, which helped a little bit.

I had been obsessed with All Time Low’s Nothing Personal for the summer, but I hated myself for being so reckless as to get injured midway through the season. While my friends were out swimming, exploring the local creek, or engaging in some type of sports I was dutifully guarding my finger from infection. I was angry, isolated and days away from my birthday.

You can buy or stream This Will Be the Death of Us on Apple Music.

At some point, All Time Low posted on their social media to support their friends Set Your Goals’ new album. I had never heard of the band, but decided to spend what little money I had to keep me occupied since I wasn’t spending my time being active. All Time Low remain one of my favorite bands, but Set Your Goals stole the year with This Will Be the Death of Us, one of the single best releases of the early 2000’s.

Set Your Goals was my introduction to ‘easycore.’ Hovering somewhere between pop punk and hardcore, This Will Be the Death of Us scratched every itch I had. It even inspired a song by Four Year Strong as a response to the glowing reviews the album received. Set Your Goals tempered the anger I felt towards myself, managed to be an ethical voice in the scene, and felt like one of the opening salvos in the new trend of positive punk. It exposed me to the deficiencies I didn’t realize I had inside.

The rage in This Will Be the Death of Us isn’t focused on the usual suspects in the scene. While the album maintains a positive outlook overall, it is relentless in its attacks on aging bitterly and of neglect towards love of the world and its history (“Our Ethos: A Legacy to Pass On”). It managed to successfully criticize societal issues without sounding like a bunch of privileged kids whining (“Look Closer”). During my last year of college, the global recession was going strong. Hearing a band call the system out for what it was meant the world to me. The album also featured the best cameos of all time (Vinnie Caruana, Hayley Williams, Chad Gilbert and Jon Gula). The guest vocalists played a significant part of their songs, even the music videos (“This Will Be the Death of Us”).

Despite the worldly rage, positivity oozed from this album. At the time, there weren’t a lot of new bands making a splash in the scene, and those that did fell back on the tried-and-true lyricism of failed relationships. Set Your Goals introduced me to songs like “Summer Jam”, which gushed with memories of the band on a year-by-year basis leading up to this release. “Summer Jam” was the first time I had heard of the band Fireworks, and the lyric, “We’re all in a holding cell, but somehow Baloni got away,” led me on a goose chase to learn more about their merch guy. A year later, The Wonder Years would go deeper into this area and change the game of ‘realistic pop punk’ on The Upsides.

Most importantly though, I felt like I gained a worldview from Set Your Goals. While All Time Low got me hooked on catchy lyrics that I still know to this day, Set Your Goals turned the chaos of hardcore punk on its head that sent a message to question the status quo of the world, even if you loved it. It’s the first time that my rebellious college phase realized that you could love the world and fight to break it at the same time.

This Will Be the Death of Us helped me through the summer of 2009 on a daily basis while I sat inside watching my friends play video games and get dirty. I remained low key until the autumn, hiding from anything that could make my finger worse. But I loved the world despite its follies along the way, for better or for worse, during the healing.

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 heavily relates to Jasper from The Simpsons.

Review: State Champs – Living Proof

The worst thing about Living Proof, the new album from State Champs, is that it was written in 2018 and not 2004. This is an album that is full-blown pop punk in every way, wearing the genre proudly on its sleeve. Every single song is a potential single, expertly crafted to play on repeat in your head, even when you’re not listening to them.

Had this been released last decade, this is an album that could compete for the fame of Sum 41 or early Fall Out Boy. However, in 2018, it struggles to find an identity of its own. Instead, the album feels like an amalgamation of the best parts of every pop punk band in the last two decades combined to create one super album primed to dominate your summer.

You can buy Living Proof on Apple Music.

I’m not terribly familiar with State Champs, but after my first playthrough of Living Proof, I immediately went back to listen to their earlier albums. I’m in love with the band, and won’t be making the mistake of sitting on them again. Living Proof is one those rare albums designed to be a hit. Every song is radio ready and hypnotically enchanting. The production is crystal clear and does its best to propel the energy of the music.

Guitarists Tyler Szalkowski and Tony Diaz are a perfect duo, wrapping melody and sharp power chords in smart ways. There is a massive amount of pop on this album, but the energy and mayhem behind it is gorgeous and rests somewhere between the punk aesthetic of New Found Glory (“Criminal”) and the pop of All Time Low (“Safe Haven”). Bassist Ryan Graham is thankfully turned up to be heard clearly in every song and adds a noticeable backbone that other bands could only hope for (“Cut Through the Static”). Drummer Evan Ambrosio may be the hidden MVP of the album, as his wall of percussion constantly stole my attention at odd times with thunderous beats (“Mine Is Gold”). Vocalist Derek DiSanio pushes himself to great lengths throughout the record. He finds a great balance between crisp notes and letting his voice struggle to hit the high notes, adding an urgency and envious power.

The best and worst feature of Living Proof is that it is so enamored in pop punk that it fails to carve it’s own path. In fact, comparing the album to All Time Low circa 2010 is almost impossible not to do. The record sounds like a b-side collection of singles ATL forgot to release. This problem could be remedied if the songs had more substance to them, but each line is forged from classic pop punk archetypes. Vague lines about relationships permeate throughout.

The nice thing is that the lyrics fit perfectly together and make you want to shout them as loud as you can. However, there is no weight behind them, such as “Safe Haven” as DiSanio sings, “Congratulations, I’m a wreck again / Messed around, feeling down, thought it was all pretend / I’m realizing I’ve got time to kill so / give me a remedy to lift me up / Until it all falls back just like you said”. There are vague ideas of hope, such as when he sings, “And I feel when you’re looking at me / that you’re far from happy / If only we could wait for the truth / When you know it’s not so dramatic / Let’s cut through the static and be the living, the living proof”.

Living Proof is an album that will absolutely enchant half of its listeners and possibly turn off others hoping for something more than pop punk basics. But that shouldn’t take anything away from what State Champs have accomplished­ – a masterful pop punk album that relishes in every aspect of the genre. This album will potentially dominate the summer season and could potentially revive mainstream interest in the genre if it received the attention it deserves. After this album, I simply can’t wait to see them live at the first possible opportunity.

3.5/5

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 accidentally splattered a girl with gym sweat as she fled from a spider hanging on its web today. Not his fault, but no one was happy about the encounter. Especially the spider. It was crushed by a train and mocked mercilessly by a crowd.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2017

There are two kinds of memorable music videos: Those that stand the test of time as artistic genius that defined an era (think Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and those that serve as stark reminders that times change quickly and mercilessly (think Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”).

However, even if your favorite band’s best music video feels a little goofy in hindsight, there’s still pleasure in chuckling with nostalgia. We’ve taken a look back at some of the most memorable music videos from 2007, each with their own quirks and flashes of brilliance. Enjoy!

Paramore – “Misery Business”

There’s an argument to be made for “Misery Business” as not only the defining music video of 2007, but maybe the scene as a whole. Who can forget the Riot!-covered set inspired by the album cover, Hayley Williams’ fire-orange hair whipping about, and the band’s over-the-top head-banging performance? The video served as the grand introduction for Paramore to the general public, and proved to the rest of us that this band had what it would take to take over the rock world.

The Academy Is – “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands”

“We’ve Got a Big Mess” is one of my favorite music videos of all time. A heart-breaking story of an artist’s internal battle, the video goes from amusing to agonizing in its final moments, as William Beckett goes to war against himself. And who can forget the Pete Wentz cameo that serves as a conceptual bridge to Fall Out Boy’s “Thnks fr th Mmrs” video? Admit it, you wanted to be a part of the Fueled By Ramen Friends Club in 2007.

Fall Out Boy – “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race”

Speaking of Fall Out Boy, it’s hard to pick just one video from Infinity on High to make this list, but “This Ain’t a Scene” has to be the clear winner. Full of call-backs to past Fall Out Boy videos and littered with humorous references to the members’ various exploits, this clip is a perfect example of Fall Out Boy’s unparalleled self-awareness and serves as the perfect video for one of the best singles of the year.

The Almost – “Say This Sooner”

By 2007, Underoath had become one of the biggest rock bands around, which probably made it the perfect time for drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie to branch out with this solo project, The Almost. His first video finds him traveling time and dimensions as he gets the chance to walk in various strangers’ shoes. We’re still not sure how he managed to get back to his own body, but the video is a fun ride nonetheless.

Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over”

The biggest problem facing Mayday Parade music videos in 2007 was the absence of Jason Lancaster, who left the band before the release of A Lesson in Romantics. In the band’s videos, various members take over mock-singing duties, with Jeremy Lenzo drawing the straw for “Jamie All Over”. It’s hard not to wonder if their Vegas gambling rollercoaster concept inspired Katy Perry’s almost identical “Waking Up in Vegas” video. Has anyone ever investigated this?

The Devil Wears Prada – “Hey John, What’s Your Name Again?”

Plagues became the coming out party for metalcore stars The Devil Wears Prada, and it all started with their video for “Hey John”. The clip explores a young boy’s regret and redemption, but also gives us our first glimpse of the band’s incredible energy, driven by vocalist Mike Hranica. By the end of the video, Hranica appears exhausted from the performance – either that or he’s really relieved that bird didn’t actually die.

All Time Low – “Dear Maria, Count Me In”

Remember when All Time Low were just a bunch of bratty pop punk kids with bad haircuts singing about strippers? If not, the video for “Dear Maria” should jog your memory. One thing’s for certain about 2007 All Time Low – they loved dressing up in costumes in their videos. Or maybe they just couldn’t afford more than one extra for each shoot. Whatever the case, this song still features one of the best choruses of all time.

We the Kings – “Check Yes, Juliet”

While we’re on the topic of chorus heavy pop punk, We the Kings made their way onto the stage in 200y with “Check Yes, Juliet” – a single that still happens to be the band’s most popular song (for good reason). The video re-hashes an oft-used Romeo and Juliet storyline and is hella cheesy but…wait, is this video actually good? Too late. It’s on the list.

MxPx – “Shut it Down”

2007 turned out to be a year of revival for pop punk legends MxPx as they returned home to Tooth and Nail Records. In hindsight, this song sounds a lot like your dad giving you a hard time for staring at your cell phone, but it’s pretty fun to watch these guys smash a variety of electronics with baseball bats. Oh, and that close up shot of Mike Herrera’s “PUNK RAWK” knuckle tattoos is kinda perfect.

Kanye West – “Stronger”

The plot of this video essentially consists of the members of Daft Punk engineering a new and improved Kanye, which is a little scary, but also exciting. The video for “Stronger” also introduces us to the visor shades that became his ironic calling card for a few years, so that’s pretty good. If you’re still asking why this video made the list, it’s because the song is incredible and the video is so tacky and absurd that it’s hard not to laugh while you dance. So there.

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.

Review: As It Is – Okay.

as-it-is-2016

As It Is is a band that caught me out of absolutely nowhere – I loved their debut album an obscene amount. Their sophomore effort, Okay. is sure to be at least partially divisive – on my first listen, my first thought was “what an appropriate title.” However, after a couple of listens and delving deeper into the lyrics, there is a true sadness and battle with oneself that permeates through the indulgently poppy guitars that is genuinely great.

You can buy okay. on iTunes.

You can buy okay. on iTunes.

Okay. highlights the struggles of battling with yourself and the world around you, attempting to take it in stride even though things may seem progressively worse and there may not be a solution in the foreseeable future. Perhaps the most poignant lyric on the album in regards to this is on the title track, when vocalist Patty Walters whispers, “So keep your ‘It’ll get better’s’ and I’ll keep my ‘I’ll be just fine’s'”.

For a sophomore effort, Okay. sounds great. The rhythm guitar is hard and melodic, while the lead finds incredibly catchy hooks that lead into the song and carry it through each chorus. Drummer Patrick Foley truly captured my attention multiple times, finding the perfect balance between anarchic punk and somber (“Austen”). The album is seeping with melody.

Behind the pop though, lie some heavy subjects, namely the feeling of depression and making attempts to come to terms with it even though there isn’t a way out. Opening track “Pretty Little Distance” hides the thesis behind the glam pop, but where the message shines the brightest is a trilogy of songs that reference it directly, “Okay”, “No Way Out” and “Until I Return”. The songs are true pop punk gems that cultivate the sentiment of admitting there’s a problem (“A perfect stranger, she puts pen to paper, consoling in her sleep / And how foreign it felt when I opened my mouth / And heard the truth come out”) and the futile issue to overcome.

“No Way Out” is a rager of a song, circling the idea of feeling trapped in the same problem in your own head. However, it features a moment of what seems like true vulnerability, featuring Walters in the bridge speaking plainly about the depths of his problems before screaming in defiance and frustration.

Although “Until I Return” allows the idea of healing as Walters vibrantly sings behind a ravage guitar riff, “I promise I’ll fight but I can’t promise that I’ll be fine / You treated the damage that I let reside in my fragile mind / With stitches and bandage / You took the fault of my scars and you made it ours”, it precedes the haunting finale. After battling these demons, the album’s final song is “Still Remembering”, a song about saying goodbye to a lover so soon after the song of redemption and strength.

Amidst these demons are others, that are equally heartbreaking in their own way. “Hey Rachel” is a song to a younger sister, apologizing years after the fact for being a shitty brother, while “Austen” is a slow-burn of watching someone lay in their deathbed (“I know you’re tired, but please don’t sleep/ Cause I can’t bear to let you leave”). Don’t forget the crush of watching parents divorce on “Curtains Close”.

It’s unfortunate that a record that delves so deeply into these heavy issues has flaws that took me out of the experience. In what is either a compliment or a slam (depending on how you view it), this is what All Time Low’s Dirty Work should have sounded like. It mostly pertains to the first half, but it suffers some of the same problems as Dirty Work. The album is arguably overproduced and polished, eliminating some of the grit and energy that made me love the band.

Instead, it delves headfirst into pop sonically that treads a dangerous line of sometimes sounding generic. No matter how I go about it, I often times feel like I’ve heard these songs elsewhere. However, the sound and atmosphere of the record begins to diverge near the halfway point, when the band truly steps out of their comfort zone musically (“Soap”, “Austen”).

Although Okay. is unapologetically poppy and uplifting in sound, the lyrical content is true bummer (lol). What I appreciate about the album is that it doesn’t have any half-ass answers, just honest frustration and the horrors of life that help lead someone to these pits of despair… and then leaves the listener there.

The biggest issue with Okay. is that it begins sounding like any other pop punk record, as it takes some time to find the real meat of the album. While there are good concepts and ideas permeating, something just feels off throughout, leaving a record that is as addicting as it is bland. It’s not nearly enough to dissuade my love for the group, nor can I precisely place my finger on the issue, but I’m glad for the chance to hear it.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just realized that their name, As It Is, kind of symbolizes what it’s like to live with this shit. It just is… thinking too much into it? Definitely. Awake at 1 am on a work night because I downed too much coffee during the afternoon? You betcha.

Blink-182 Announce New Album “California”

blink_182_matt_skiba_2015

Woah.

What started as a leaked song earlier this afternoon has erupted into a deluge of huge announcements from blink-182. Where to begin? First, the band has released a new single titled “Bored to Death”, which can be heard below. In addition, blink-182 will be releasing their new album California on July 1 and embarking on a massive summer tour featuring the likes of A Day to Remember, All Time Low and The All-American Rejects. Got all that? Let’s break it down…

Stream “Bored to Death”:

California track listing:

1. Cynical
2. Bored To Death
3. She’s Out Of Her Mind
4. Los Angeles
5. Sober
6. Built This Pool
7. No Future
8. Home Is Such A Lonely Place
9. Kings of the Weekend
10. Teenage Satellites
11. Left Alone
12. Rabbit Hole
13. San Diego
14. The Only Thing That Matters
15. California
16. Brohemian Rhapsody

Tour dates:

tour

Phew! Share your thoughts (and excitement) in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

A Decade of Summer Soundtracks

UPDATE: When I published this in 2015, I found it therapeutic to look back on the albums that pulled me through each summer. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with new albums each year that felt perfect for the season, and I couldn’t help but update the list. Check them all out or fast forward to 2015 and see what’s held my attention for the past four summer seasons!

Summer is here, which means it’s time to roll the windows down, turn up the stereo and blast your favorite songs. I get nostalgic every year thinking about the albums I played on repeat in years past as I rode around, hung out with my friends and enjoyed the sunshine. It never seems to fail – when I think back on each summer of my life, there is always one album that seems to be playing in the background.

Therefore, I’ve decided to compile a list of the albums that served as my summer soundtrack for each of the past ten years. While this list is far from an overview of the best albums of each year, it does reflect a collection of fun records that seem to be perfect for warm summer days. Take a look below and share your favorite summer records in the replies!

underoath-tocs2004: Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety

This is actually my all time favorite summertime album. I still remember the day I bought it and how I drove around for weeks without taking it out of my car’s CD player. There’s something about the combination of heavy and light here that gives you the best of both worlds as the guitars transition between poppy and blistering. Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie’s trade-off vocals are perfect for sing-alongs, and the stellar production value makes this an instant classic.

anberlin_blueprints2005: Anberlin – Never Take Friendship Personal

This breakout album from Anberlin is full of catchy hooks and fast-paced, emo-tinged rock. On Never Take Friendship Personal, Anberlin came into their own, displaying their songwriting prowess with killer tracks like “Paperthin Hymn” and “The Runaways”. If you can listen to Stephen Christian cry out, “I thought you said forever, over and over / This sleepless night becomes bitter oblivion” and not belt out the notes right along with him, you may need to get your pulse checked.

underoath_david_goldman2006: Underoath – Define the Great Line

Two years after their breakout, Underoath returned with the crushing, genre-shifting Define the Great Line. While this isn’t your typical summer album, it’s impossible to deny the sheer magnitude of the record. The masterful time-signature changes, the eerie electronic sounds, and Spencer Chamberlain’s electrifying roar changed the game. Though there’s far less melody here than was present on They’re Only Chasing Safety, it’s full of powerful, moving tracks, perfect for summer nights.

2007: Paramore – Riot!

Paramore went from emo darlings full of potential to a powerhouse rock outfit seemingly overnight when they released Riot! in the summer of 2007. A wonderful mixture of pop punk and emo rock make this a huge release, with soaring choruses courtesy of Hayley Williams. Whether you’re singing along to the slick chorus of “crushcrushcrush” or head banging along to the fiery “Misery Business”, Riot! is a record made for summer hangouts and road trips.

all_time_low_7152008: All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right

Although the album released in the fall of 2007, a deluxe reissue the following year helped propel So Wrong, It’s Right to new heights. To this day, it’s hard to find another pop punk release so full of energy and melody. After the opening guitars of “This is How We Do”, Alex Gaskarth pleads, “Show us off to all your friends” – and we did. By the end of 2008, it seemed like everyone in the world knew the lyrics to “Dear Maria, Count Me In”.

a-day-to-remember2009: A Day to Remember – Homesick

Another breakout album – noticing a trend here? A Day to Remember broke big with Homesick, an album that captured the band’s “easycore” sound better than any other. From crushing breakdowns capped off with cries to “disrespect your surroundings” to soaring, melodic choruses that even your mom would love, Homesick has a little something for everyone. Is it pop punk? Is it metalcore? Does it matter? Homesick is fun as hell.

The-Devil-Wears-Prada-zombie2010: The Devil Wears Prada – Zombie EP

Since I just wrote a full length feature reflecting on this release, I’ll stay brief. The Zombie EP caught everyone off guard at the time of its release and inadvertently became career defining. The furious guitar work on these five songs is unbelievable and the piercing howls and shrieks of Mike Hranica are the sounds of your nightmares. Even still, it’s hard not to turn the volume up during this horror-filled romp.

the_wonder_years2011: The Wonder Years – Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing

The Wonder Years seem to get better with every release, but Suburbia made us all take notice. So far, it’s the definitive pop punk release of this new decade. A walk through a year in the life of lead singer Dan Campbell finds the band lamenting, celebrating and looking for answers – it’s a coming of age story that almost anyone can relate to. To top it off, Suburbia is so full of life through its twists and turns, it’s the perfect soundtrack for self-reflection on lonely summer nights.

pierce-the-veil-credit-adam-elmakias-650-4302012: Pierce the Veil – Collide with the Sky

While Collide with the Sky wasn’t Pierce the Veil’s breakout record, it certainly propelled them to a whole new level. Vic Fuentes’ duet with Kellin Quinn on “King for a Day” became Warped Tour’s song of the summer, as the two sing and scream their way through this furious track. The band is more technical than ever on this release, creating fast-paced post-hardcore numbers like “Hell Above” and calmer, brokenhearted tracks like “I’m Low on Gas and You Need a Jacket”. From front to back, Collide with the Sky is a summer smash.

letlive2013: letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

Another unexpected album on the list, The Blackest Beautiful just narrowly edged out The Greatest Generation thanks to Jason Butler’s impassioned vocal performance. This isn’t a lighthearted release, but it does keep you on your toes. We generally don’t want our summer albums to make us think too hard, but The Blackest Beautiful commands your attention, even as its sonic background tickles your ears. The band’s wild stint on the 2013 Vans Warped Tour only added to the excitement surrounding the release.

issues2014: Issues – Issues

How can you not love Tyler Carter? The man can sing and write one heck of a hook. Issues is a melting pot of sounds, full of breakdowns, poppy choruses, wild electronics, record scratches and sincere moments. When Carter and Michael Bohn trade off during “Mad at Myself”, it’s mildly reminiscent of the Underoath’s breakthrough a decade prior. It’s easy to imagine the members blasting They’re Only Chasing Safety during the summer of ’04, only to write their own summer anthem 10 years later.

2015: Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

An album that caught me completely off guard, won me over, and became my favorite album of the decade (so far). Emotion sonically captures the nostalgic sounds that soundtracked the summers of my youth, but it’s also an album about feeling – something that just seems easier to do in the summertime. It’s clear that Jepsen has a knack for crafting the perfect pop song, and Emotion is front-to-back pop bliss. Tracks like “Run Away with Me” and “Boy Problems” are the perfect tunes to dance away those hot summer nights.

2016: Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Part of the reason The Life of Pablo owned my summer in 2016, aside from my obvious affinity for his music, was that there was just so much to digest. An album that just kept growing in size (eventually capping off at 20 tracks), Pablo held my interest for months, capping off with an enrapturing live performance at the end of the summer. Nevertheless, for all of the conversation that surrounded this album, beats like those found on “Famous” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” made this the kind of summer hip hop record that was inescapable.

2017: Halsey – hopeless fountain kingdom

While fans are still somewhat divided on Halsey’s sophomore effort, there’s no denying that it got played more than anything else during my summer of 2017. Halsey leans into some deep 80s influences on tracks that feel custom built for the season. “Eyes Closed” and “Strangers” are two underrated tracks that sound splendid with the windows down, even as “Bad at Love” become the kind of summer smash that ensured Halsey would be sticking around for a while.

2018: Pusha T – Daytona

I love this album. I love the way it reminds me of the hip hop albums that I would play throughout my summers in high school. I love how it feels fresh and new, even though it’s creator has been around for nearly two decades. I love how it captures the type of sample-based production that makes hip hop endlessly compelling. I love how Pusha T just owns his persona, his voice, his place in the genre. Daytona is the kind of perfect summer rap record that I didn’t even know was still possible to pull off.

2019: ???

Summer 2019 is rapidly heading toward the finish line. It’s probably still too early to claim a victor, but early front runners include Carly Rae Jepsen (Dedicated) and Lil Nas X (7). But I can’t out the new Chance the Rapper record or even a sneak attack from the likes of Halsey or Dua Lipa. Whatever the case, there’s been plenty to enjoy.

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.