The Best Songs of 2019

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

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

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

15. Say Anything – “Sediment”

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

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

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

13. Bring Me the Horizon – “medicine”

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

12. Wallows – “Remember When”

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

11. Grayscale – “In Violet”

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

10. Travis Scott – “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”

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

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

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

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

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

7. Maggie Rogers – “Light On”

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

6. Lana Del Rey – “Mariners Apartment Complex”

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

5. Radar State – “Victims of Fashion”

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

4. BTS featuring Halsey – “Boy With Luv”

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

3. Copeland – “As Above, So Alone”

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

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

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

1. Halsey – “Without Me”

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

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

Honorable Mention:

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Albums of 2019

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

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

15. blink-182 – NINE

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

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

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

13. Tiny Moving Parts – Breathe

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

12. Bring Me the Horizon – amo

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

11. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance

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

10. From Indian Lakes – Dimly Lit

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

9. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

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

8. The Early November – Lilac

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

7. Wallows – Nothing Happens

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

6. Tyler, The Creator – Igor

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

5. The Regrettes – How Do You Love?

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

4. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

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

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

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

2. Taylor Swift – Lover

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

1. Copeland – Blushing

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

Honorable Mention

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Bring Me the Horizon – Amo

I recently decided to play Bring Me the Horizon’s latest single, “Medicine”, back-to-back with “Pray for Plagues”, their 2006 deathcore breakthrough. The shock value of hearing those two tracks in succession highlights the unfathomable songwriting growth the band has experienced over the past 12 years while serving as a reminder of frontman Oli Sykes complicated past – something he still seems to be trying to outrun.

You can buy or stream Amo on Apple Music.

By now, you’re surely aware that Bring Me the Horizon’s new album Amo is unlike anything you’ve ever heard from the band, something that feels wholly unsurprising in light of 2015’s alt-rock excursion, That’s the Spirit. That the band have completed a full metalcore metamorphosis into something nearly uncategorizable is phenomenally impressive. That they’ve done so from within a cocoon of their own making – no producers, no co-writers – is jaw-dropping.

The breadcrumbs leading to Amo can be traced back to the addition of keyboardist and engineer Jordan Fish on 2013’s Sempiternal. While the band showed their first signs of life on There is a Hell in 2010, it’s now unmistakable that the songwriting vision of Fish made an unequivocal impact on the band’s trajectory – he and Sykes now serve as one of the most fascinating duos in alternative music. Just call them the new Stump and Wentz.

It feels like years have passed since “Mantra” was released last August as Amo’s first single – a red herring if there ever was one. We can now realize that grungy track as just one ingredient in a concoction that finds Bring Me the Horizon exploring electronica and pop rock in equal measure. That “Mantra” is immediately followed on the album tracklist by “Nihilist Blues” featuring Grimes (without a doubt the most ambitious and peculiar song the band has ever written) feels perfectly appropriate.

For most listeners, new and unexpected sonic explorations like “Nihilist Blues”, “In the Dark” or “Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down?” will take multiple spins to fully digest. Oddly enough, the schizophrenic nature of Amo and its constant genre leaps serve as the perfect entry for a fully streaming generation, yet still functions best as a sum of parts, especially when including the blippy, 1975-ish interludes.

Album opener “I Apologize if You Feel Something” sets the stage for the story Amo wishes to tell, often dealing with the confusing and sometimes messy nature of relationships. It’s here that Sykes first delivers lines that seem in response to the dissolving of his marriage with Hannah Snowdon, the hazy-yet-troubling details of which still hover over Sykes and the rest of the band. It’s clear that he’s still searching for the culprit, often finding his own reflection, as on “Wonderful Life”: “’Lone, getting high on a Saturday night / I’m on the edge of a knife / Nobody cares if I’m dead or alive / Oh, what a wonderful life”.

We’ll all find our own ways to process what we know of Sykes and whether his self-deprecation is worth of empathy. Is it a complicated kind of progress when he finds a sensitive side on tracks like “Mother Tongue”, which implores his wife Alissa Salls to speak in her native Portuguese when expressing her love? At a bare minimum, it feels like the right kind of growth. Whether in words or sound, Amo is rife with the kind of palpable inner wrestling that is unavoidably compelling.

When Amo loses its footing, it can be tied solely to the band’s decision to self-produce. Tracks like “Sugar Honey Ice & Tea” highlight moments when a producer could have taken a chorus or melody to another level. Instead, Sykes sometimes finds himself stumbling over awkward phrasings or nearly nonsensical lyrics. Even in those moments, the band’s sudden pop sensibilities are hard to deny – by my third listen, I was singing along to nearly every song.

All of this brings me back to “Medicine”, a track that caused an uproar amongst old guard fans and once again solidified Bring Me the Horizon as one of Britain’s most essential rock bands. As the sonic inverse of first single “Mantra”, “Medicine” finds the band very coyly trolling us all. As the ying and yang of an album that now has to be considered when discussing the band’s best releases, Bring Me the Horizon have proven that great songs can come in a variety of packages and great bands can still find new ways to get even better.

The fact that Bring Me the Horizon’s metalcore days are far behind them will continue to be a bitter pill for some people to swallow. For the rest of us, a dose of levity and melody are a small step toward salving old wounds.

4/5

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.

Top 10 Songs of 2015

best-songs-2015

Choosing the top 10 songs of any given year is difficult. Each track serves as a building block within its given album, proving to be a chapter in a larger story. While context certainly provides meaning, there’s a reason why certain songs and moments resonate with us more than others.

The tracks below are an eclectic list of songs that made us dance, think and even cry during the course of 2015. They represent excellence in artistry and story telling, and they also resonate with us in a way that will carry their relevancy well beyond this passing year. Take a look (and a listen) below and share your own favorite songs from 2015 in the replies!

10. Bring Me the Horizon – “Happy Song”

In this new post-grunge incarnation, Bring Me the Horizon truly channel their inner Nirvana on “Happy Song”. Complete with loud, thrashing guitars, Oli Sykes’ gravelly delivery and even a backing choir of cheerleaders, the track toes the line between a desperate cry for help and an anthemic call to rise above the undertow. Creepily uttering the lines, “I’ve had enough / There’s a voice in my head / Says I’m better off dead”, Sykes turns a violent corner just in time for the chorus, shouting, “If I sing along / A little fucking louder / To a happy song / I’ll be alright”. With the band forgoing crunchy breakdowns in favor of tasteful programming elements and rousing guitar riffs, this is a lonely, sad song meant to be sung en masse. – Kiel Hauck

9. As It Is – “Speak Soft”

“Speak Soft” seems like a fairly basic pop punk song, but it’s special to me. It’s the first song I heard from a band that truly impressed me this year. This is a song that captures the magic that originally lured me to the genre almost two decades ago. Patty Walters and Andy Westhead dual throughout the chorus, providing a fine balance between the clean vocals and deep, guttural defiance. The guitars are sharp, playing during the verses and bridges, but brutal during the chorus. “Speak Soft” sounds like it should have been there since the early days of New Found Glory. The instant memorability and hook of it capture what I love about this band. Other songs on their debut, Never Happy, Ever After are better written with deeper lyrics, but “Speak Soft” will always embody the spirit of pop punk and the energy needed to stand out in a sea of bands that more or less tend to sound similar. – Kyle Schultz

8. Fall Out Boy – “Fourth of July”

As impossible as it was to believe that Fall Out Boy still hadn’t written their biggest hits heading into 2015, American Beauty/American Psycho not only put the nail in the coffin of the band’s pop punk roots, it vaulted them to the Top 40 radio stratosphere. As impressive as “Centuries” and “Uma Thurman” are, the unsung hero of Fall Out Boy’s new arsenal is the explosive “Fourth of July”, an epic track that finds Patrick Stump reaching new vocal heights. Aided as always by the biting lyrics of Pete Wentz, Stump carries the bitter track, singing, “Wish I’d known how much you loved me / Wish I cared enough to know / I’m sorry every song’s about you”. By the time the track hits its volatile chorus, you’re wondering why this wasn’t in the background of every fireworks display across the country this summer. At the core, this is the caustic, lovelorn Fall Out Boy we’ve always loved, but on the outside, this new gleaming pop rock armor fits the band all too well. – KH

7. Empty Houses – “Far Away”

There’s no shortage of bands looking for a vintage sound, but only a few really try to replicate the spirit as well. Empty Houses’ “Far Away” manages to capture a distinct era of sound and rekindle it to meet today’s pop needs. The result is utterly beautiful. The melodies are simple, the production helps it sound as though it has been a part of our lives for decades. Singer Ali Shea belts out some of the most impressive vocal work this side of Adele, rich and soulful. The chorus of, “I had this comfort build up inside, it was a good place for me to hide / I’m hoping for a little longer ride / And I cried all night, thinking about it / I’m trying to convince myself / And I’m alright living without it” is nothing short of astonishingly wonderful. Dave Mackinder’s backing vocals and musicianship are a powerful subtlety that allows the vocals to truly shine while maintaining an instantly recognizable and memorable melody. – KS

6. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me”

The opening track to Emotion serves as the perfect re-introduction to Carly Rae Jepsen, a true star no longer mired in one-hit-wonder language. “Run Away with Me” is the cherry atop a splendid ice cream sundae of a pop album, rich in throwback pop tones and complimented with a sultry saxophone, although it’s Jepsen herself that serves as the primary instrument. It’s an expertly crafted pop song that showcases Carly Rae the person and the artist in perfect duality. Not only does the track connect with the let’s get out of here desires of every young love, (“We never sleep, we never try, when you are with me”), its eager delivery feels earnest thanks to Jepsen’s on-tape flare. So. Many. Emotions. – KH

5. The Early November – “Better This Way”

The Early November have always walked a fine line between indie emo and ballistic prog rock. “Better This Way” personifies this struggle to great effect, with gentle verses and a raging, shouting chorus. The song takes its time before blooming with the harsh grit of guitarwork and crunching drums. Ace Enders’ vocals show significant maturity as he speaks softly throughout the verses before some intense shouting during the chorus. The song is moody, bristling with emotion and carries a crazy amount of energy for such a plodding tempo. The midsection scales itself back even further, as Enders whispers over the tease of guitar snaps like the tinkling of a spider’s web before launching back into the incredible chorus. “Better This Way” embodies the best of The Early November, especially the intellect and experimentation that has come to define this stage of their careers. – KS

4. The Weeknd – “The Hills”

In truth, we really shouldn’t enjoy “The Hills” as much as we do. A track laced with deceit, addiction and horror, “The Hills” worms its way into your skull with a dark, brash bassline, blood curdling screams, and a disturbingly infectious chorus from Abel Tesfaye. In the post-modern pop world of 2015, this is what passes as a love song, as The Weeknd laments “driving through the gated residential” in route to his sinfully secret mistress, having just “fucked two bitches” beforehand. Tesfaye is nothing if not frank. It’s no surprise that The Weeknd doesn’t pull punches here, using contagiously catchy pop melodies to lure us into his world, before reminding us that we’ve actually been there all along. “The hills have eyes / Who are you to judge?” – KH

3. Motion City Soundtrack – “I Can Feel You”

“I Can Feel You” is one of the highlights of Panic Stations. Pristine, lazy guitars layered over an up-tempo beat and Justin Pierre’s slacky vocals make this song feel like the inner-workings of his mind. Self-doubt slowly builds while the beat never ends its relentless push forward. As Pierre sings, “I’m starting to see / The problem with me / is everything”, you can feel the tension and panic build before the chorus offers a euphoric release. However, the most rewarding part of “I Can Feel You” is the second half. Following a dreamlike bridge, the song ramps into an explosion of sound and Pierre’s frantic, desperate vocals, pleading with someone else while fighting for his own sanity. It’s an amazing moment, and sounds like an indirect sequel to fan favorite song, “Time Turned Fragile”. – KS

2. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

To Pimp a Butterfly is such a sprawling, oddly cohesive epic that it’s difficult to cherry pick. Without proper context, each individual track loses a touch of its bite. But if you had to choose one moment that encompasses the spirit of the record and serves as the necessary outcry against a painful backdrop of racism and police brutality, it would be Kendrick’s resounding refrain of, “We gon’ be alright!” “Alright” delves deep into Lamar’s psyche as he argues against voices that seek to pigeonhole and shame him, armed with a pen and his convictions: “I write ‘til I’m right with God”. A sporadic and powerful drum beat carries the track from start to breathtaking finish. Much more than just a chapter of the story, “Alright” is a rallying cry for a community in search of hope. – KH

1. The Wonder Years – “Cigarettes & Saints”

The Wonder Years have been known for their storytelling abilities for years, but “Cigarettes & Saints” is a beast different from anything else they’ve ever put out. In four minutes, the band manages to hit every high of their abilities and push their extremes while creating one of the stand out songs of the year. Starting as a slow strum of the guitar and lovetap of a snare drum, the song expands into a full-blown rock ballad that ends as genuine, defiant punk rock. It’s the slowest, quietest music the band has ever written, with a simple, mundane, perfect guitar line sliding throughout that builds it into a raging beast. Soupy’s storytelling dances about, hitting several areas and ideas that only build off of each other, starting as a eulogy that slowly takes a stab at religion and ends as an all-out attack on the pharmaceutical industry. Not making a full-on pop punk song as the highlight of their album was a risky move for a band known for being loud, but it only added to The Wonder Years’ insane writing abilities. – KS

Honorable Mention:

CHVRCHES – “Leave a Trace”

Drake – “10 Bands”

Mayday Parade – “Hollow”

Grimes – “REALiTi”

Nate Ruess ft. Beck – “What This Wold is Coming To”

Posted 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.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

Best-albums-2015

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the holidays – it’s time to subjectively rank beautiful works of art so that we can collectively decide what the “best” album of 2015 was!

As obnoxious as the endeavor sounds, it never ceases to please. Indeed, a healthy debate about some of the year’s best music helps us reflect on what we loved about the past twelve months. These albums were not only culturally relevant and intricately constructed works of art, they were the soundtrack to our lives. What you’ll find below is an eclectic mix of artists and genres, each providing a unique voice and perspective.

While the list below reflects our opinions on a year filled with great music, you may find yourself in disagreement. Never fear! We’d love to hear your thoughts – share your favorite albums of 2015 with us in the replies!

10-heavy-loveMan Overboard – Heavy Love

Man Overboard have always been a band you want to love. Heavy Love perfects their sound, creating an album that I think will be their classic. Each of their albums have been enjoyable, but this one flawlessly delivers until the final breakdown fades away in “The First Degree”. “Splinter”, “Cliffhanger” and “A Love That I Can’t Have” are genuine staples that don’t try to reinvent pop punk, but showcase the greatest aspects of the genre with sharp guitar work and frantic drumming. For a band that seemed to have been slipping a bit a few years ago, Man Overboard are at their absolute best and appear ready to conquer the genre. – Kyle Schultz

9-thats-the-spiritBring Me the Horizon – That’s the Spirit

Bring Me the Horizon can’t seem to stop reinventing themselves and smashing our preconceived notions. The English rock outfit has completely shed their metalcore-by-the-numbers past and transformed into something far more interesting. While 2013’s Sempiternal appeared to be the final step in their post-hardcore progression, That’s the Spirit is an unexpected left turn of a record, deeply influenced by post-grunge and alt-rock sounds. Oli Sykes embraces his new smoother role as frontman with a surprisingly delightful delivery, whether he’s getting gritty on “Throne” or using his falsetto to great effect on “Doomed”. Bring Me the Horizon are no longer held captive by the confines of their previous scene – in this new world, the sky is the limit. – Kiel Hauck

8-beauty-behind-madnessThe Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness

Abel Tesfaye has no problem whatsoever presenting himself as a complicated, damaged individual, even as he croons deep into your soul on what may be his most accessible work to date. Beauty Behind the Madness is a debauchery and drug-filled pop extravaganza to the tilt, solidifying The Weeknd as one of the most captivating artists in music today. Whether it’s the horror-laced smash “The Hills” or the dark dance of “I Can’t Feel My Face”, no song is what it seems on the surface. From moment to moment on Beauty, it’s difficult to know whether to celebrate or collapse in tears. Maybe that’s the point. – KH

7-noel-gallagherNoel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Chasing Yesterday is a return to form for Noel Gallagher. While his first solo album was a refreshing acoustic based pop album, Chasing Yesterday returns Gallagher to where he reins supreme – the rock world. Each song is a highlight of the album as a whole, which features some of his best guitar solos outside of Oasis. Gallagher sounds like he had fun writing it, and it pays off. What stands out the most about this album is how timeless it feels. These songs sit somewhere between modern rock and classic Brit pop, but a song like “You Know We Can’t Go Back”, with its thundering beat and mountainous bass, feels like you’ve known it forever. – KS

6-american-beautyFall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho

Ever since their comeback a couple of years ago, Fall Out Boy have utterly dominated the industry. American Beauty/American Psycho is a perfect pop record, utilizing hooks and choruses that only FOB could write and pushing Patrick Stump’s incredible vocals to insane new heights at every turn. While Save Rock and Roll brought the band back with a stunning new sound, American Beauty/American Psycho perfected it. “Novocaine” alone features a dark, deep tempo that slowly morphs into a near-disco beat that only builds on Stump’s impossibly high vocals. “American Beauty/American Psycho” is the most chaotic song the band has ever written, drawing the listener in with a rich beat and obnoxious bass flaring over light guitars and Stump’s simple, sharp lyrics. Fans may complain that they miss FOB’s pop punk golden years, but there’s no denying that the territory they’re treading now is what they were made for. – KS

5-every-open-eyeCHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

When Lauren Mayberry sings, “Here’s to taking what you came for / And here’s to running off the pain” in the opening moments of Every Open Eye, it’s a declaration of CHVRCHES’ strongest trait. The sophomore album from the Scottish synthpop trio is an exercise in movement, providing glistening beats to compliment Mayberry’s sweet delivery, which is often rife with acidity, despite her tone. If the Bones of What You Believe was one of the most promising debuts in recent memory, Every Open Eye confirms CHVRCHES as the best band to rise from the electro-pop scene. – KH

4-comptonDr. Dre – Compton: A Soundtrack

It was a long, 16-year wait for Dr. Dre’s follow-up to 2001, but Compton comes just in the nick of time. Serving as a soundtrack of sorts to Dre’s journey since the inauguration of N.W.A., Compton packs a much-needed wallop. Sure, the album serves as who’s who of current and past hip hop royalty, but the voices within speak on behalf of an entire community, reaching even beyond the Compton city limits. Dre’s production once again affirms his legendary status, as each beat tells its own story. From the liquidy grip of “Deep Water” to the dirty grind of “One Shot, One Kill”, Compton is one of the most ambitious and deeply moving hip hop albums of the decade. – KH

3-imbueThe Early November – Imbue

The Early November has never been a band to shy away from bigger things, which made Imbue a welcome surprise. As a long-time fan of the group, hearing them ditch the poppier elements of their style in favour of darker, alternative sounds gave them a glow that hasn’t seemed to be there since 2003’s The Room Is Too Cold. Though emo elements are still prominent lyrically, the band sounds more relevant than they ever have. Ace Enders, a man known for his stellar song writing and incredible vocal range, pushes himself farther than we’ve ever heard him in his fifteen year career in songs like “Better This Way”. The haunting re-recording of “Digital Age” sends the band out on a high note as a rallying cry for music everywhere. – KS

2-no-closer-to-heavenThe Wonder Years – No Closer to Heaven

Once again, The Wonder Years have gone above and beyond what anyone expected of them. At this point in their career, it’s hard to imagine ways for the band to push the boundaries of their style of pop punk, but they have delivered yet another genre defining performance. Writing about worldly issues for the first time, The Wonder Years took savage shots at the pharmaceutical industry, abusive parents, and police violence while maintaining the personalized storytelling that sets the band so far above their peers. From the buzzing shred of guitars on “I Wanted So Badly to Be Brave” to the soft strums and rampaging fury of “Cigarettes & Saints”, No Closer to Heaven finds the extremities of sound and the band’s innate ability to perfectly capture emotion, fear and the optimism needed to fight through. – KS

1-pimp-a-butterflyKendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

How do you follow up good kid, m.A.A.d city, one of the most heralded hip hop albums in recent memory? With an unapologetic funk and jazz infused record that seems to defy classification, of course. It’s hard to tell at times whether To Pimp a Butterfly is a letter penned to Kendrick himself, or the collective outcry of the black community in America. No matter, as the album demands your attention from start to finish, leaving little room for rebuttal. Kendrick spits venom on tracks like “The Blacker the Berry” and “For Free?”, but songs like “King Kunta” and “Alright” border on celebratory. To Pimp a Butterfly refuses to go down easy and requires repeated listens due to density. It’s also the most important album of the year, while still managing to be the best, which is no small feat. – KH

Honorable Mention:

Mayday Parade – Black Lines

Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

As It Is – Never Happy, Ever After

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Posted 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: Bring Me the Horizon – That’s the Spirit

bring-me-the-horizon-2015

Reinvention is no simple task. It requires patience, talent and a firm belief in who you are and who you want to be. There has been no shortage of metalcore bands over the past few years to distance themselves from an overcrowded scene in an attempt to join the radio rock masses, some more convincing than others. Finally, a successful blueprint for the crossover has been laid.

Maybe it was learning from the mistakes of their predecessors, or maybe it’s the fact that they’re just that much more talented than their peers, but Bring Me the Horizon have completed their metamorphosis in splendid fashion. Their new album, That’s the Spirit, will make you question everything you thought you knew about the band – right before you realize how much sense this makes.

You can buy That's the Spirit on iTunes.

You can buy That’s the Spirit on iTunes.

Bring Me the Horizon’s transformation has been anything but sudden. In fact, the band has been shedding their former selves with each subsequent release, slowly building a rock goliath from unimpressive beginnings. Laughter ceased with the release of 2011’s shockingly progressive There Is a Hell, before the band landed the final blow with 2013’s post-hardcore masterpiece, Sempiternal.

Even as that release forever shifted the dialogue about the band, Bring Me the Horizon were far from finished – or satisfied. Born from the turmoil surrounding vocalist Oli Sykes’ recovery from a drug addiction and hammered home by the band’s self-proclaimed desire to be one of the biggest rock bands in the world, That’s the Spirit indulges itself in mainstream rock propensities and nu metal curiosity. It’s ear candy to the extreme, but it’s also surprisingly smart.

Bring Me the Horizon could have easily chosen someone like David Bendeth to man the boards for such an excursion, but instead decided to keep things in house. Keyboardist Jordan Fish, who played a key role in creating the impressive electronic soundscape found on Sempiternal, worked side by side with Sykes in the creation of their new record. Gone are the brutal breakdowns and guttural screams that were once the band’s calling cards – in are unique electronic samples, showering synthesizers and multi-layered vocals, rich in melody.

Listening to album opener “Doomed” is like hearing the band for the first time. The deep emotional pull found in Sykes’ delivery is still present, but here it comes in forms of restraint, capped by a beautifully dark falsetto as he sings, “I think we’re doomed” during the song’s chorus. This isn’t a generic rip-off – the song sounds like nothing you’ve heard this year, with it’s odd, eerie electronic background. The sinister sonic musings of the band drip from every note, but this time around the packaging is much different.

Lead single “Throne” is a microcosm of the album’s tendencies, relying on a heavy synthesizers and bass and utilizing Sykes’ voice as an exciting new instrument inside the mix. While Minutes to Midnight-era Linkin Park comparisons are almost too easy to make, they’re impossible to ignore. Sykes’ massive chorus of “So you can throw me to the wolves / Tomorrow I will come back, leader of the whole pack / Beat me black and blue / Every wound will shape me, every scar will build my throne” sounds like a moment straight out of Chester Bennington’s playbook.

However, to boil That’s the Spirit down to one influence would be to overlook a vast array of new tricks in the band’s playbook. “Happy Song” immerses itself in post-grunge and alternative rock sounds as Sykes channels his inner Kurt Cobain for the gritty lines of, “If I sing along a little fucking louder / To a happy song, I’ll be alright”. Guitarist Lee Malia digs deep at grimy notes that add to the track’s dark presentation.

The band hits a groove on “What You Need”, flashing pop tendencies with smooth backing vocals and polished guitar riffs. “Follow You” is a beautifully constructed track, complete with programmed drums and exciting samples that create a hazy vibe underneath Sykes’ surprisingly peaceful delivery as he sings, “You could drag me through hell if it meant I could hold your hand”. Meanwhile, “Blasphemy” features a sweet noodling guitar passage before kicking into its final fiery chorus.

It’s hard to poke holes in That’s the Spirit, but if you had to complain, there are moments when a producer likely could have reigned the band in. “Run” feels convoluted with too many moving parts while “Oh No” closes the album with a boring dance beat and cheesy lyrics that don’t fit with the rest of the record.

However, oversight from a Bendeth-like producer is a double-edged sword and likely would have castrated the band’s experimentation and resulted in much more generic output. Seeing as how this is the band’s first DIY journey, it’s easy to overlook a few hiccups when, on the whole, That’s the Spirit is better than almost anything else out there.

What the aforementioned bands failed to realize during their own reinventions is that just because you change your sound doesn’t mean you have to change your identity. This new rendering of Bring Me the Horizon is very much true to the band, regardless of what you hear through the speakers. The same dark undertones course through the record’s veins, but this time, flashes of light break through the cracks. Change is here. And, in this case, it sounds superb.

4/5

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.

Generational Punk: Riot Fest 2014 – Day 3

RiotFest

The third day of Riot Fest is always a tiring one. By the time the diehards enter the grounds, they’re still somewhat recovering from at least a dozen hours jumping and wandering from the previous two days. The offerings for a festival’s finale were tempting: a swarm of legendary bands on almost every stage culminating in a three headed beast of a finale: The Cure, Bring Me the Horizon and Weezer playing at the same time throughout the grounds.

The entire day was marked by gripping choices between generations of music; on one stage is Naked Raygun with Motion City Soundtrack at the other end of the park at the same time. Social Distortion played at the same time as New Found Glory. There was more to see than one could make time for, with generations of punk bands dueling for fans. The bands that I grew up loving played next to the bands older siblings listened to in the 90’s, next to the bands my parents loved.

Motion City Soundtrack pulled out a stellar performance studded with the well known singles, “Everything is Alright” and “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”, as well as a new single from their upcoming album titled “Anything At All”. If it is any indication, their sixth studio album looks like it may be a rocker more in line with My Dinosaur Life.

Social Distortion tore through the soulful punk that only they can produce for songs like “Machine Gun Blues” and “Through These Eyes”. Mike Ness’s deep croon lulled the audience in sing-a-long while the guitars blasted away.

The smaller stages saw I Am The Avalanche draw in the faithful fans that Vinnie Caruana is known for during his hard set, but the real surprise was a few hours later when Modern Baseball took the same stage. As a rising star in the pop punk community, they drew in the biggest crowd the small Revolt Stage (tucked between the larger Rock and Riot Stages and next to the food carts) had seen the entire weekend and would be considered an almost sold out audience for a club. Fans filled the lawn to sing along.

My personal high point was seeing New Found Glory for the first time since the departure of guitarist Steve Klein. Bassist Ian Grushka officially takes MVP for not only fulfilling his duties as bassist, but also covering Klein’s guitar riffs, officially making the band’s sound weightier and deeper than ever before. Guitarist Chad Gilbert essentially has free reign of the guitar section and makes sure that the band’s signature pop aesthetic is louder than ever. For as much as they have gone through in the last year (Gilbert described it on stage as “the rock bottom”) they’re a band completely reborn with a new energy and inspired vigor.

The festival ended with three generations of bands helming the headline duties on different stages. The Cure took up one of the biggest stages with a massive audience of mostly the older attendees. The few songs I heard sounded epic and tormented, the way any good Cure song should. At the other end was Bring Me The Horizon, blasting an explosive hardcore set for the younger audience to cap off the festival’s newer bands.

Weezer though, was another animal altogether. Anyone claiming that Weezer has lost their popularity can go screw; this was by far the biggest and most excited crowd of the festival. The area surrounding the stage packed full of people to the point of crushing. The thin lines of people moving through the crowd were regularly pushed to a dead halt against audience members refusing to budge for fear of losing their spot. Stepping into the outside rim of the crowd, it took me a solid ten minutes just to get out. People climbed into trees and lay down atop the chain link grating of batting cages to see the stage.

Weezer appeared to a shattering thunder of cheers. With the promise of playing The Blue Album front to back, they knew how to properly tease an audience by working their way back in time. Their first song was “Back To The Shack”, the lead single to their upcoming album followed by the famous songs to nearly every album (“Pork and Beans” for Red, “Perfect Situation” for Make Believe, “El Scorcho” for Pinkerton) before a brief hiatus when they took the stage for Blue.

“My Names Is Jonas” started a frenzy that never subdued until the finale of “Only In Dreams”. Thousands of voices shouted every lyric to each song in perfect time to Rivers himself. Weezer’s newer albums may not land them the hypnotic cultish fan base of Blue, but by the amount of people singing “Back To The Shack”, they haven’t lost anything.

Riot Fest has proven itself more and more as the ultimate destination for the punk rock faithful of any age. There were literally just as many mohawks on the kids as there were on the graying men who saw the genre on the rise. While seeing the best of the modern era of punk on stage is as exciting as it should be, the thrill of seeing a band that has been in the game for decades command an audience is intoxicating.

Though Riot Fest tours in a limited fashion across North America, it is quickly becoming the best festival in Chicago. For those unwilling to let rock fade away, Riot Fest keeps the spirit alive more than any other festival can, and the wait until next year’s all the more worth while.

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 spent nearly twenty-two collective hours at Riot Fest 2014. Please make paper mache effigies of him and feed them ham.

A Day to Remember announce fall tour with Bring Me the Horizon and Chiodos

a-day-to-remember

A Day to Remember are going to be hitting the road this fall with Bring Me the Horizon and Chiodos. Yep, you read that correctly. The tour will kick off on September 4th in Philadelphia. VIP tour packages are currently on sale here and general tickets go on sale this Friday.

Check out the tour dates and a short video below:

adtr_tour

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The top 10 albums of 2013

pizap.com13862958853281

It’s that wonderful time of year, where every blog on the internet tries to out hipster the others by sharing their uber-subjective end-of-the-year lists that are much more reactionary and attention seeking than they are honest. Well, we’re throwing our hat in the ring by slamming together the ideas of Kiel and Kyle to hash out what the best sounds of 2013 were.

There was fighting, clawing, hair pulling and mean words said aloud. They then had a good laugh and decided it wasn’t all that big of a deal and threw together their own extremely subjective list. Make no mistake – these albums are all fantastic and worthy of praise, but their ranking is up for debate.

We hope you enjoy our list and then chime in with your own lists and albums that impacted you in 2013. Enjoy!

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.35.05 PMAFI – Burials

Burials is a brooding beast of an album that just didn’t get the recognition it deserved. AFI are known to reinvent their sound with each consecutive album, but Burials is the result of combining the lessons of the last decade into one distinct sound. The guitar licks (“The Conductor”, “Greater Than 84”) are the things that most bands hope to one day write and manages to blend the goth-punk of Sing The Sorrow into the expert pop of Crash Love in a sinister romance that only AFI are capable of crafting. Burials is a testament to not only how relevant AFI are to the scene as it stands, but why bands should strive to push themselves with each release. – Kyle Schultz 

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.34.41 PMBring Me the Horizon – Sempiternal 

Who would have thought just a few years ago that Bring Me the Horizon would transform from a generic scene band and an example of what was wrong with the metalcore genre into a band breaking new post-hardcore ground? That’s indeed what has happened with the release of Sempiternal. Like them or not, Bring Me the Horizon is worthy of your attention and has stepped up their game in every way imaginable. Sempiternal picks up where Underoath left off with Disambiguation and forges ahead with ferocity. These sounds are anything but cookie cutter – lead vocalist Oli Sykes sounds like a man on the brink as his voice croons, cries, cracks and shouts. Nearly gone are the boring breakdowns and in their place lie much more thoughtful parts, creating a heavy soundscape without as much of the “chugga-chugga” tuning to deter your attention. Let’s hope that this is just the beginning of a new era for the band. – Kiel Hauck

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.34.21 PMChildish Gambino – Because the Internet

While Camp was surely a fine debut effort, it lacked in cohesiveness and purpose. How seriously are we supposed to take Donald Glover? The answer is clear with Because the Internet – very seriously. This new album is an absolute force, shifting gears relentlessly as Glover taps into a multitude of styles and deliveries, each custom fitted to the topic at hand. Where Camp excelled in its immaturity, Because the Internet grows in all of the right places and shows an incredible amount of growth for Glover as a songwriter. Childish Gambino has surprised us all and dropped one of the most unexpectedly great hip hop albums of the year. – KH

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.34.02 PMSaves the Day – Saves the Day

Saves The Day’s self-titled album is an instant classic to any fan of STD. After the incredibly dark and dreary Sound The Alarm trilogy, Saves The Day is not only refreshingly warm and poppy, but throws several nods to the style of music from Stay What You Are. Although Saves The Day have always been known for darker lyrics, the warmth of these lyrics play as a counter balance to most everything the band has put out while retaining the charm that has earned the band praise for over a decade. With some of the best songs written since the band’s inception (I’m looking at you, “In the In Between”), Saves The Day not only partially reinvents the band in the most positive light they’ve ever been in, but proves that there’s just nothing quite as amazing as a new release from one of the classic bands in the scene. – KS 

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.33.46 PMTouché Amoré – Is Survived By

Is Survived By essentially encompasses everything that we all knew Touché Amoré was capable of. The spacey, off-kilter post-hardcore sound, accompanied by the desperate vocals of Jeremy Bolm create the most unique and genuine sound the scene has heard since mewithoutYou. The band’s previous album, Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me hinted at what was to come, but Is Survived By is much more patient in its movements and builds as a crescendo. There’s breathing room within these 12 frantic tracks, giving the listener time to digest what Bolm is saying, even if the reaction is a painful one. Touché Amoré has truly made their mark on the post-hardcore scene. – KH 

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.33.26 PMFall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll

Save Rock and Roll is perhaps the biggest surprise of 2013. One of the year’s biggest singles, “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” was released on the day the album was announced – not to mention that the band announced that they were back together on the same day. This record sees Fall Out Boy reinvent their sound to be poppier than ever and nixes the pop punk sound the band has been known for almost entirely. Despite this, the group sound like they’re not only having fun together again, but it launched their careers to heights that they’d never known before. This is hands-down one of the most beautifully crafted records of the year, and a highlight for a band known for putting out near perfect records. Save Rock and Roll is Fall Out Boy at the top of their game with an album that sounds like every song should be a lead single. – KS 

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.33.09 PMCHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe 

The great thing about Scottish synthpop newcomers CHVRCHES, is how much fun they’re having. Sure, they’ve managed to flip pop music on its head with their fresh debut album The Bones of What You Believe, but they’ve done it with wit and intelligence all while having a good time. Their debut is full of bounce and meaning, thanks in part to lead singer Lauren Mayberry, whose innocent and darling delivery is marked by words of anger, hope and wonder. Whether it’s the dance-worthy pop tracks like “The Mother We Share” and “Gun” or the more dreamy “Night Sky”, The Bones of What You Believe delivers on every front and is a sure sign of great things to come. – KH 

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.32.49 PMParamore – Paramore

After the loss of founding members Josh and Zac Farro in 2010, there may have been some suspicion of the remaining members’ ability to not only move forward, but to deliver another classic album. Not only did Paramore return to the scene in 2013, they unleashed the best album the band has created thus far. Their self-titled release departs from the innocent pop-punk of past endeavors and delves into new territory, combining a plethora of sounds and genres into a project that flows effortlessly. Whether it’s the stripped down interludes, the powerful ballad “Ain’t it Fun” or the frenzied pop sound of “Still Into You”, Paramore has shown themselves to be far more than a one trick pony. Hayley Williams sounds better than ever, officially transforming from pop star to near-diva status with her powerful vocal work.  – KH

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.32.25 PMThe Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

The Greatest Generation is arguably one of the most in depth and telling albums released in decades. The record is filled with songs with the right hooks and lyrics to stay with you for years to come, the way that any legendary pop punk song of yesteryear will. The Greatest Generation is a battle cry against using excuses to not succeed and a call to believe and trust in yourself, no matter what. Like any Wonder Years record, this is heavy, loud music with a drive, a story and an anthem that spans three records, only to tie everything together in one of the best closing songs of all time. The Greatest Generation will be remembered for years as one of the pinnacle moments for the genre as a whole. – KS

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.31.55 PMletlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

The Blackest Beautiful is the album that post hardcore – hell, rock and roll needed. From “Banshee (Ghost Fame)” to “27 Club”, the album never relents, never compromises its purpose. Not only is The Blackest Beautiful an ambitious sonic endeavor, with all of its twists and turns, unique guitar riffs and the most controlled form of chaos you can imagine, but it has a point. Whether Jason Aalon Butler is taking on topics like race, faith or the American healthcare system, the album itself is a document dedicated to bringing issues to light while taking a moment to reflect on our own self-worth and purpose. It’s furious, it’s fragile, it’s focal and it’s just the wake-up call that rock music needed. – KH

Honorable Mention:

Haim – Days are Gone

Eisley – Currents

Hands Like Houses – Unimagine

Blessthefall – Hollow Bodies

Deafheaven – Sunbather 

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.

It’s All Dead Podcast Episode: 002

IAD_Podcast_Image

On the second episode of the official It’s All Dead podcast, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz chat about some of the best albums of 2013 and why they made such an impact. Included in the discussion are releases by letlive., Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Saves the Day, The Wonder Years, CHVRCHES and much, much more.

Subscribe to our podcast here.