CHVRCHES cover Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope”

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In conjunction with Billboard’s recent Women in Music Event, Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES covered Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope”. You can check out the video of the performance below:

CHVRCHES recent debut release The Bones of What You Believe is one of the best albums to be released in 2013. If you haven’t heard it yet, give it a listen. You can but the album on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The top 10 songs of 2013

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There was certainly no shortage of awesome songs this year to sing along in the car to, cry alone in your bedroom to, or reflect on the meaning of life to. That’s a good thing. The curious and awesome part about this year’s plethora of great songs is how many played a role in making the album they appeared on complete. It’s one thing to write a great song and a completely different thing to make that song tell part of a greater story.

Many of the songs on our end-of-the-year list are songs that told a chapter of their album’s story or helped tie it all together. They dug deep and spoke to something greater. Check out our list, take a listen to the songs and share your own favorite songs of 2013 with us in the replies!

10. The Super Happy Fun Club – “Okay Okay”

Super Happy Fun Club is the newest project from the singer of Lucky Boys Confusion and includes some of Chicago’s best. “Okay Okay” is one of the band’s finest, surging forward with gritty melodic punk and featuring extremely prominent gang vocals and shouting lyrics while providing choir-like backing. Stuby Pandav’s singing pushes the vocalist to his limits with a graveled undertone that bites through the chorus. The strength of the guitar chords propels the song’s pop with slight hints towards ska in the breakdowns. – Kyle Schultz

9. Eisley – “Currents”

Eisley has been known for some time to toe the line between indie pop and rock with dreamlike sounds and ambiguous lyrics, and this year’s Currents is a return to form, kicked off by the title track. Stacey King takes the lead vocals on this opener, and sets off the course of the album, which gives an underwater, oceanic feel. Her opening lines of “I would part the waters if you said so / I would shift the currents if you had to row” blend into the fluid backdrop, creating a perfect combination. The song is melodic and light, but forceful when it needs to be, driven by Sherri DuPree-Bemis’ guitar. “Currents” is a refreshing kick-off to one of the year’s most unsung albums. – Kiel Hauck

8. AFI – “The Conductor”

“The Conductor” is a force of rock that defines the sound of Burials. Davy Havok sings the illustration of love through electricity and shows off the force of his singing ability, but the real beauty at work here is Jade Puget’s guitar. The simple melody that plays throughout the song feels effortless, as though it just slides off of the guitar. But as soon as the chords kick in for the chorus, they’re hard and vicious, standing strong against anything the band has put out amidst a wall of bass. “The Conductor” is a song that slows down the sound AFI is known for and presents it on their own terms. – KS

7. Deafheaven – “Dream House”

Deafheaven’s “Dream House” is nine breathtaking minutes – an introductory ride into their fantastic record, Sunbather. The song is simultaneously furious and light, transitioning through multiple phases, capturing the emotion of a man fighting for meaning amidst the monotony and triviality of the American dream. Sunbather excels because of its painful beauty, perhaps displayed best by this swirling and wandering track. In what are perhaps the most haunting lines of 2013, George Clark wails, “’I’m dying’ / ‘Is it blissful?’ / ‘It’s like a dream’ / ‘I want to dream’”. – KH

6. letlive. – “White America’s Beautiful Black Market”

Picking a favorite song from The Blackest Beautiful isn’t an easy task, but “White America’s Beautiful Black Market” is the song that really stood out to me. Letlive. are a viciously bitter band, based in hardcore but wreathed in tempo changes and an almost bipolar switch in sound and tone at a moment’s notice. This band is taking a stand against what they feel is unjust in the purest way possible, and “White America’s Beautiful Black Market” tackles the healthcare system of America. For most bands, this would be an impossible task, but letlive. attack the issue head on, calling out the parties they find responsible and tearing away at the issue with a hauntingly bouncy melody and vicious chorus. – KS

5. CHVRCHES – “Gun”

If you’re attracted to the bouncy, melodic vocals of Lauren Mayberry, don’t be caught off guard when you listen closer. Not only is “Gun” one of the poppiest and catchiest songs from CHVRCHES’ debut The Bones of What You Believe, but it’s also a look into the fierceness of Mayberry. Her lines of “You had better run from me / with everything you own / Cause I am gonna come for you / With all that I have” and “I will be a gun, and it’s you I’ll come for” speak of deep scars that propel the singer throughout much of this debut. What makes The Bones of What You Believe so brilliant is its ability to juxtapose the electronic pop of it’s music against the often-edgy and pointed lyrics of its frontwoman. “Gun” will make you dance, even when it hurts. – KH

4. Saves The Day – “In the In Between”

Saves The Day’s self-titled album was a return to form for the band and includes one of the best songs of the group’s career. “In the In Between” is a classic sounding STD song with an incredibly catchy melody and chorus that continuously builds to a powerful guitar solo that demands your attention. Saves The Day may be the face of emo pop, but the fact of the matter is that simply no one can write a pop song like this band. They have an established sound and style, and if you need a song to represent it, “In the In Between” does it beautifully. With lyrics curiously weaving the idea of love with a detailed car crash, this is a song that boasts the experience of one of the most respected bands in the scene. – KS

3. Paramore – “Ain’t It Fun”

On Paramore’s self-titled album, the band appeared to throw out the rulebook that had defined their previous pop-punk output and opened a new chapter for the band. Nowhere else is this more obvious than on their explosive single, “Ain’t it Fun”. The song is a kitchen sink of sorts, a building rock number complete with smooth guitars, a fantastic chorus and a backing church choir. Whether the song is directed at the Farro brothers or is more generalized is up to interpretation, but the song is certainly driven by a feisty Hayley Williams, who sings, “You’re not the big fish in the pond no more / You are what they’re feeding on”. At any rate, Paramore has become a force to be reckoned with in the pop world and has outdone themselves with this instant classic. – KH

2. The Wonder Years – “Passing Through a Screen Door”

The Greatest Generation is easily one of the best records this year and filled with songs that qualify for this list, but it’s their first single, “Passing Through a Screen Door” that makes it. This is currently the magnum opus of the band’s career: absolutely perfect song writing that is both catchy and biting with incredibly intrusive and personal lyrics that stand vibrantly illustrated with a clear story of loneliness, regret and hope. This is not only the definition of The Wonder Years as a whole throughout their discography, it’s the essence of punk, emo and pop, as well as the anthem for anyone in their twenties who isn’t sure about the road they’re on. “Jesus Christ, I’m 26 / All the people I graduated with / All have kids, all have wives/ All have people who care if they come home at night / Well Jesus Christ, did I fuck up?” “Passing Through a Screen Door” is the reason we listen to music in the first place. – KS

1. Letlive. – “27 Club”

The Blackest Beautiful hits the height of its crescendo with this album closer, a raucous and passionate affair fueled by the collision of fast-paced punk rock and furious hardcore. Jason Aalon Butler shrieks and shouts, caught in a whirlwind of emotion. While the album itself fitfully storms through a barrage of socially-relevant topics, “27 Club” collapses under the weight, as Butler focuses in on his own shortcomings and his search for hope. His repeated refrain of “He talks like a Christian but walks like an atheist” becomes intelligible as emotion overtakes his voice. The song finds Butler wresting with faith and self-doubt before the final spoken words of the strength found in unity, despite our flaws. “27 Club” is a conglomeration of everything that makes letlive. so special and is arguably the best track of the year. – KH

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.

The top 10 albums of 2013

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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

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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.

Is indie rock starting to have fun?

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Pardon indie rock if it seems a bit pretentious, but you just wouldn’t understand. Even if you pretended to understand and started buying vinyl copies of its albums and getting floor seats to arena shows of its biggest crossover acts, well, it just makes it look like you’re trying to hard. But that’s okay – you’ll just feel dumb the next time you climb into your mom’s SUV and she’s blasting the newest CD of the band you feel cool about listening to.

Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sums up the sneer that many “outsiders’ that enjoy the music feel. For decades, indie rock has prided itself on being an exclusive club – a group that actually “got” what music was supposed to sound like and reveled in keeping it close to the vest. The recent breakout of arena-filling indie rock like Arcade Fire or any of the major folk-indie acts that have found their way onto pop radio has resulted in another knee jerk reaction away from the bandwagon for some.

But to say that the majority feels this way would be dishonest. In fact, there’s been insurgence of indie acts that are having a good time and invite as many as would listen to come have a good time, too. Last year’s Celebration Rock by the Japandroids was the perfect example of an inviting experience – one that didn’t fit the mold of pop radio, but certainly didn’t possess the exclusive attitude or wet-blanket response to positive involvement.

This year has seen an uprising of even more welcoming, fun and downright inviting bands. Below are just three of the bands that are adding a smile and a dance step to the indie scene. Don’t feel bad about enjoying them.

Haim

The all girl indie pop outfit from Los Angeles released one of the best records of the year in September. With Days Are Gone, Haim has created one of the most promising debut efforts of the past few years and has cemented themselves atop the indie pop landscape. Days Are Gone certainly has its fair share of heavy and painful content, but the band responds to this subject matter with a wink and a smile as their music exudes a hopeful bounce.

Shifting between 80s pop, 90s alt rock and even a dash of R&B, Days Are Gone hints at the band’s many influences and creates its own unique sound. Singles like “Falling” and “The Wire” are sing-a-long worthy, while “If I Could Change Your Mind” is slick and full of groove. If their upcoming Saturday Night Live performance is any indication, Haim will be recruiting even more listeners very soon.

CHVRCHES

Scottish sythpop act CHVRCHES have been bubbling on the brink since they appeared on the scene last year. After a few EP releases, the group dropped The Bones of What You Believe in September and is currently crashing dance parties around the globe. The vocal delivery of Lauren Mayberry is sweet and calm, matching the synth-laced electronic soundscape laid out by the band. But don’t be fooled – Mayberry is no pushover, singing lines like, “I will be a gun and it’s you I’ll come for”.

Like Haim, CHVRCHES has some tough subjects to deal with throughout The Bones of What You Believe, but approaches them with snarky tongue-in-cheek lyrics and some of the catchiest, dance-worthy music you’ll hear this year. It would be easy to label Bones as a guilty pleasure, but that would be to slight the intelligence of what the band is saying and how they’re saying it. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that CHVRCHES is more than a catchy tune, but a welcome and joyful response for the downhearted.

The 1975

You haven’t really danced until you’ve heard the debut self-titled record from Manchester’s The 1975. While the album’s lyrics don’t delve as far into painful past memories as the bands listed above, the band excels in its ability to enjoy the things that are worth enjoying. The indie rock four-piece has a knack for writing killer choruses and moving bodies with their funky guitar work.

The beauty of this album is that it doesn’t feel the least bit exaggerated or hollow. If you’re response to the peppy bounce of The 1975 is to guffaw or roll your eyes, you’re not doing it right. This isn’t the mindless self-indulgent American pop of the last decade. Instead, the band seems very self-aware of what it is and wants to sing and dance for all of the right reasons.  In short, The 1975 is a damn good time that’s offered to anyone that would have it.

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.

Chvrches release “Lies” music video

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Chvrches have released the music video for “Lies”, the latest single from The Bones of What You Believe. The video was directed by Sing J. Lee, who also directed the video for “The Mother We Share”.

Check out the video below:


You can buy The Bones of What You Believe at iTunes.