Review: The Damned Things – High Crimes

Count me as one of the (many? few?) that found great enjoyment in The Damned Thing’s 2010 debut, Ironiclast. That album served as both the most interesting project released during the late aughts Fall Out Boy hiatus and an album that tugged at my hard rock heartstrings, even though some found it (incorrectly) to be too generic. In many ways, it was ahead of its time, laying a foundation for other punk and metalcore acts to explore more accessible sounds in recent years.

You can buy or stream High Crimes on Apple Music.

Nevertheless, as time passed, it began to feel more and more like a fleeting moment that never found its foothold. The band’s members (Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, and Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley) all have successful careers and plenty to do aside from scratching a side project itch that a select group of fans quietly clamor for. But here we are nine years later with another album on our hands. And let me tell you, High Crimes is unbelievably good, one-upping its predecessor in almost every way.

The easiest place to find fault in Ironiclast was in its safety. While full of melody and fun, radio rock guitar riffs, the album goes by in a breeze, never really changing pace or taking chances. High Crimes truly feels like the band, now employing Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano on bass, just said, “Fuck it. Let’s have some fun.”

Opening track and first single “Cells” capitalizes on the potential a band with this much star power possesses. It’s raw, wild and manic throughout, feeling from its opening moments las if it’s channeling In Utero’s spirit. The track’s best moment comes near the end as Buckley shouts, “Guitar!” just in time for a sick guitar solo. It’s a moment so carefree and silly that it allows you to lower your guard and simply enjoy the ride.

High Crimes succeeds in capturing very distinguishable influences from each of its members – something Ironiclast could never fully execute. Here, there is no pressure to make something specific – just a group of musicians having a great time and bringing their own ideas playfully to the table. The album transitions from fast and dirty hardcore punk tracks like “Carry a Brick” to dark, eerie synth-driven songs like “Storm Chaser” to cheesy rock n’ roll sing-a-long moments like “Something Good”, which opens with a group chant of “Y-E-L-L / All of my friends are going to hell”.

Hearing Trohman and Ian have so much fun on guitar throughout the album is truly a delight. It’s almost as if that metaphorical loosening of the tie allows Buckley to tap into his signature wit and exuberant nature. On “Invincible”, easily the most accessible track on the album, Buckley croons, “And if you’re trying to bring me down / Then you’re the last to know / Once the bullet leaves my brain, it can’t be stopped / You’re in over your heard / I’m invincible!”

Later, on “Young Hearts”, Buckley flexes his voice in new ways, with ghostly back-up vocals added to the mix: “Young hearts don’t come free tonight (come free tonight) / And not one of them is built to save my life (to save my life)”. On grimy rocker “Keep Crawling”, he taps into a dark mood of self-loathing, singing, “I’ve been broken / I’ve been shamed / But I keep crawling back / You keep calling it faith”.

With all of its variety, High Crimes still manages to feel cohesive. There are changes of pace and plenty of moments to catch waning ears, but there’s an easy-going sense of purpose that helps tie things all together. Each member finds moments to shine, but never at the cost of pulling the sound too far in one direction. The band even manages to save one final fastball for closing track, “The Fire is Cold”, unleashing ripping guitar riffs and spastic screaming from Buckley, feeling like one final burst of artistic energy that has pent up over the past nine years.

Since its inception, The Damned Things has been a project full of the kind of potential that could conceivably go toe-to-toe with the legacies of the parts that made it. Unfortunately, super groups often suffer from that very trap, never living up to the expectations that come naturally with so many household names. High Crimes may not sit on the same shelf as some of the best releases from Every Time I Die, Anthrax or Fall Out Boy, but it sure as hell works as the kind of rock record that feels fresh in 2019, which is truly no small feat.

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.

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Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – Folie à Deux

Like the other albums I’ve reflected on this past year, I was eleven (and completely oblivious) when Fall Out Boy’s album Folie à Deux was released. Now I’m 21 and, while there are some who still feel like this wasn’t their best work, I’m of the other camp that considers this to be one of Fall Out Boy’s – and the scene’s – best releases.

You can buy or stream Folie à Deux on Apple Music.

One reason people didn’t like it when it came out was because it wasn’t the hard-hitting, pop-punk follow-up to 2007’s Infinity On High. This is where I feel that listening to it later gave me an advantage. I never liked Fall Out Boy until my best friend basically forced me to listen to them. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that “Sugar, We’re Going Down” was their song. I know, it’s looking bad for me.

Anyway, with that major confession out of the way, I’m a big Fall Out Boy fan now. I even almost gathered up the courage to use “(Coffee’s for Closers)” in a high school music theory class presentation on Baroque music because of how the strings are layered at the end of the track. I played it safe and used a piece by Handel, but I legitimately regret not using the FOB song.

I wasn’t a huge fan of MANIA, but I guess that puts me in the same position that everyone who didn’t like Folie was in when it released. Now that everyone’s gotten over thinking Folie is weird or whatever, it took its rightful place (where all underrated albums should go) at the top of the fanbase. Maybe MANIA will make it there at some point, but at that point I’ll be 31 and won’t care (Ed. note: Yes, you will).

When I finally saw Fall Out Boy live this past August, they opened with “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes”, which was surprising to me. Folie is an album that has a lot of emotional baggage attached to it. I would understand if the band didn’t want to play any tracks from it again, because I’m sure it’s potentially salt in the beginning-of-their-hiatus wound. From a fan standpoint, though, I was disappointed that the only other track they played from Folie was “I Don’t Care”. It’s definitely selfish of me to want them to play songs written in the darker portion of their history, but I feel such a fondness for and an attachment to the album that I wanted it to have better representation.

I believe the experimentation that happened in the production of the album really brought the band to where they are today. If in 2008 they have released another Cork Tree or Infinity On High, I doubt they woud’ve come back in 2013, or in 2015, or just this past January. Maybe the fact that Folie wasn’t as popular as their past work was a blessing in disguise. I think they needed that lull in the action. It allowed them to take some time off and could be (should be?) seen as a sigh of relief rather than just a bad album.

Maybe it’s a bit of a cliché that I ended up being such a fan of Fall Out Boy’s best album. I think it’s their best because of where they were personally. Tensions were running high between the members, totally burnt out from their last, also very good, album. I feel like they realized they were over before they ever officially announced it and thus gave Folie à Deux their all. The vocals are some of Patrick’s finest, the musicianship is innovative, the guest vocals could fill a red carpet. It really does bring together all of Fall Out Boy’s best qualities and amplifies them.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

The Best Songs of 2018

You can view our list of The Best Albums of 2018 here.

In 2018, the idea of what one song can accomplish and the story it can tell outside the context of an album continued to evolve. Certainly, songs on this list work best within the overarching narrative of the album they exist on, but many others told us a story worth unpacking in a variety of intriguing ways.

Some offered commentary that put previous works by the artist in a new light. Some were driven to new heights by an accompanying music video that expounded on the story within. Others were just fantastic songs to help chase away a year of bad news. They all had a part to play and all proved worthy to make our list of Best Songs of 2018. Take a look – and a listen.

15. mewithoutYou – “Julia (or, ‘Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses)”

This was the perfect single for mewithoutYou to release as a taste of [Untitled]. It fits the tone of the album perfectly and is a wonderful showcase of both Aaron’s vocals and the band’s musicianship. It breaks new ground for the band, but sounds like it could be a B-side on [A→B] Life. I love the intensity of the crescendo. I love the honest call for social unity in the lyrics. The video is super fun. This song has everything we expect from the band and more. – Nadia Paiva

14. Pronoun – “Wrong”

Pronoun were one of the biggest surprises for me this year. Opening for Justin Pierre, Pronoun hypnotized a full theater into believing that they are one random Tuesday afternoon away from being the biggest band in the country. “Wrong” is an emotional song about the conflict of being angry at someone and the turmoil of coming to terms with conflicting feelings. Simple guitar melodies and drums balance soft vocals and a bouncing synth before exploding towards an unleashed pop guitar. “Wrong” is a perfect introduction to a band that is still finding their footing in the world. – Kyle Schultz

13. The Wonder Years – “The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me”

This was undoubtably my favorite track on Sister Cities. I wrote a lot about it in my review of the album but I feel it’s worth mentioning again just how important this track is to the album. It ties together the entire theme: being away from home when you should really be there. Dan Campbell has to rely on the fact that the only thing he and his loved ones have in common at the moment is the ocean that’s between them to make himself feel better about being away at such a pivotal point in time. It’s heart-wrenching in a way that only The Wonder Years can pull off.– NP

12. Kacey Musgraves – “High Horse”

Did Kacey Musgraves write a song about me? Listening to the lyrics of “High Horse”, it’s hard not to feel the culprit, because haven’t we all been a jerk sometimes? “’Cause everyone knows someone who kills the buzz / Every time they open up their mouth”, she sings during the track’s irresistible, radio-ready pre-chorus. “High Horse” is the gateway drug (haha, get it?) to Golden Hour by infusing dance and disco into this uniquely country track and serves as the showcase of how Musgraves is driving the genre into a new era. So maybe “High Horse” is actually directed at all those staunch and rigid country music gatekeepers? Or maybe it’s just about me after all. – Kiel Hauck

11. Saves the Day – “Suzuki”

While 9 is an album full of off-beat, meta songs, “Suzuki” is arguably the most honest. At barely over a minute long, “Suzuki” is not only aware that it is a song, it knows what album it’s on (“I played on Can’t Slow Down so many years ago / Writing album number nine right now”). If Saves The Day is known for anything, it’s a legacy of rock music with vivid imagery painting honest emotions. Not only does singer Chris Conley give the address of where he is, he reflects on the couch, the room and his friends who inspired his career. Equal parts raging and restrained, “Suzuki” is a reflection and acknowledgement of 20 years worth of music, and appreciative of his career. With cool refrain, Conley finishes with, “So in love with life, sometimes it’s all too much / Thank you all forever and always”. – KS

10. Pianos Become the Teeth – “Love on Repeat”

This song makes the list because of how it’s made me feel since it was released and because of the fact that I’ve probably heard it at least once a day since February 15th, which means I’ve listened to it at least 293 times. The whole album always hits the spot for me, but something about this track stood out to me immediately from the first listen. The music drives with such fervor and feeling that you almost can’t help feeling something when it starts, and then all the way through till the end. – NP

9. Fall Out Boy – “Church”

On an album full of epic pop songs, “Church” is a stand-out. The soulful song rages with deep drums and bass tracks and a choir backing one of Patrick Stump’s best vocal performances to date. “Church” manages to be dark, moody and romantic all at once. The conflicting experiences of isolation (“I love the world, but I just don’t love the way it makes me feel”) and romance (“My sanctuary, you’re holy to me”) describe the experiences of religion that many feel. Pete Wentz’s ominous bass lines tread against Stump’s uplifting voice to create an experience equally judgmental and hopeful. – KS

8. Vince Staples – “Feels Like Summer”

At first blush, Vince Staples third studio album, FM!, plays like a radio broadcast serving as soundtrack to a summertime Long Beach barbecue. Listen closer and you’ll find Staples telling stories of the mundanity of violence in his neighborhood. It’s another blunt and beautiful release from one of the most subversive artists of our time, and album opener “Feels Like Summer” sets the stage perfectly. Atop a bass-heavy summery beat, Vince begins with the lines, “Summertime in the LB wild / We gon’ party ‘til the sun or the guns come out”. The cues are easy to miss on a track this smooth, highlighted by a chorus for the ages from Ty Dolla $ign. After a second verse reflecting on friends and family lost, Staples coolly states, “Moved on, life fast like that”. It’s an appropriate aside for a song this affecting and complex that clocks in at a mere 2:29. – KH

7. Watsky – “Welcome to the Family”

I’m not usually one to turn on hip-hop…I leave that to Kiel, but this song is too good to ignore. I’ve been listening to Watsky for years and I feel that this is his best release to date. “Welcome to the Family” came out just before my wedding and it’s become a special track for my husband and I. It’s all about facing things together and making it work even though life is hard. It makes me cry pretty much every time I hear it because it’s so relatable. We all deserve love and this Watsky song is a great reminder of that. – NP

6. Brian Fallon – “Little Nightmares”

“Little Nightmares” scared me so much upon first listen that I simply turned off the music and left my apartment to seek friends for a reassuring drink. Decorated in bouncing guitars and an energetic keyboard, Fallon’s warbling voice tells a story about a couple unraveling with the same inner demons while they tell each other that it will all be okay. The song is told from the shy narrator’s perspective (“All my life, I was the quiet kind / I just kept to myself and my dreaming”) as they attempt to find the courage to reassure their partner during a breakdown (“My words get lost and haunt the back of my throat / And little nightmares keep telling me you’ll go”). The energy of the song hides the darkness, much in the same way that the narrator tries to shield their partner. But there is hope that pours through as they find their courage, and a sense of security finally permeates as Fallon sings, “Don’t you know there’s an ocean of hope / Underneath the grey sky where you’re dreaming”. Fallon is at his emotional and storytelling best during “Little Nightmares” as he manages to break our hearts and then let us know that it will all be okay in the end. – KS

5. Ariana Grande – “thank u, next”

During a year in which Ariana Grande stood at front and center of the pop culture zeitgeist, it wasn’t her high profile relationships or even the success of her fourth album Sweetener that stood as her signature moment. Instead, it was a standalone single in the aftermath, a song so full of hope, given the circumstances, that it was impossible not to enjoy. And oh yeah, it’s one hell of a pop song. “One taught me love / One taught me patience / And one taught me pain / Now I’m amazing”, Grande tells us, knowing full well of our encyclopedic knowledge of her private life. Here, she invites us to look past it all on a song of self-love and empowerment. With her eyes set forward, “next” could mean anything for Grande – the pop world is hers and she is intent on letting nothing hold her back.– KH

4. Childish Gambino – “This is America”

In many ways, “This is America” is the quintessential 2018 song – existing not just as a song itself, but as a multi-media experience of cultural commentary meant to provoke a wide range of emotions before leaning into the continued conversation around race and violence in our country. Donald Glover is a genius in that way, far too coy to meet our general expectations but driven to create something that makes us question them. The brilliance of “This is America” lives largely in the music video – a kind of short art film that teases out and expands upon the song’s minimal and ambiguous lyrics, giving us a grander picture of statement. It’s a stark and affecting display of the black experience in America, fading into a haunting ending – a prolonged shot of a terrified Glover running for his life. Don’t let the weight of it all stop you from unpacking – the progress is meant to begin when the music stops.– KH

3. Senses Fail – “Double Cross”

“Double Cross” is one of pop punk’s most heartbreaking songs, even though Senses Fail are known primarily for hardcore music. It is a memorial to the punk scene Senses Fail started in, and possibly to past members of the band itself. Singer/ songwriter Buddy Nielsen reflects on being one of the last of his generation still active after watching his friends fall off this career path. Almost mocking the pop punk scene of the early 2000’s, “Double Cross” is the poppiest song of the band’s career, even as Nielsen rages, “I’ve been spilling my guts out on the stage / I’ve spent the best years of my life / Drinking myself to sleep at night / And now the glory days have all but faded”. Nielsen comes across equally angry, sad and apologetic as he sings, “Where is the passion that you used to have when music was the only thing that you had”. Making it as a musician is the dream of countless people, and “Double Cross” expresses the regret of ‘making it’ but discovering you stand upon the sacrifice and broken dreams of countless friends, as well. – KS

2. The 1975 – “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)”

This is without a doubt the best song The 1975 have released. I said it about “Robbers” from 2013’s self titled, and about “Somebody Else” from 2016’s I like it when you sleep, but those have been pushed aside for this epic of a track. It’s pretty unassuming at the start, but by the end of it, you’ve been swept into a whirlwind of some of Matty’s best vocals and some of the band’s most well-composed guitar work of their career. The strings at the end totally make it even more perfect. I could listen to it all day. – NP

1. Drake – “Nice for What”

As Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation turns 20, Drake’s “Nice for What” samples “Ex-Factor” while creating a female empowerment anthem. It’s the song that 2018 needed and hip hop itself needed even more. Not only is the track infectious (note the timeless brilliance of Lauryn Hill), but it flips the typical hip hop club anthem on its head, dropping degrading references to women in favor of an impressed observer, noting everything as worthy of praise.

In the lines, “With your phone out, gotta hit them angles / With your phone out, snappin’ like you Fabo / And you showing off, but it’s alright”, Drake makes note of even the most mundane of activities. Here, selfies and social media posts are earned – rewards for hard work and a deserved night out with friends. Leave it to Drake to turn toxic notions of a digital culture inside out. Leave it to Drake to usurp navel-gazing tendencies for an honest and deep look at women, who have remained one-dimensional in this context for far too long. – KH

Honorable Mention:

As It Is – “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)”
Pusha T – “If You Know, You Know”
Underoath – “On My Teeth”
Bring Me the Horizon – “Mantra”
Cardi B – “I Like It”

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Best Albums of 2018

You can view our list of The Best Songs of 2018 here.

Let’s face it: 2018 was not a great year. Fortunately, amidst the constant deluge of infuriating news, the year provided us with a flood of incredible new music. It was a year in which old friends returned, sounding better than ever. A year in which new artists made their mark with exciting debuts. A year in which some of our favorite artists delivered some of the best music of their careers.

Most importantly, the best music of 2018 offered us a much needed reprieve from the noise, and in many cases, provided helpful commentary and a voice for the marginalized. Whittling the list down to 15 wasn’t easy, but we think these albums best captured our ears and our hearts. Take a look below to read more about the albums that the It’s All Dead writing staff found to be the best and most important releases of 2018.

15. Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming…Of Days Long Past

I’m Only Dreaming… Of Days Long Past is a reinvention of an album barely a year old and one of the best albums of 2017. This new take on the record adds a moodier, dreamier landscape to an already ethereal album. Relying heavily on the majestic voice of Sherri Dupree-Bemis and the simplest melodies, this take on one of Eisley’s best albums somehow feels more honest, heavier and emotional in all of the best ways. Songs of beguiled confidence and love like “Defeatist” and “Louder Than a Lion” carry more weight and atmosphere than most songs have any right to. Eisley don’t need to reinvent themselves to be their very best – they just need to keep dreaming. – Kyle Schultz

14. Real Friends – Composure

My choices for end-of-year-lists are very personal. They’re chosen because I like them musically, thematically, lyrically – you name it. Composure is here because of how important of a story it tells. We see a firsthand account of someone dealing with mental illness. It’s a perfect picture of the way people process mental illness in their lives and has become a staple of how I get out of my own slumps and bad days. It’s a great album through and through, but I think, for me, its relevance is what brings it to the top for me this year. – Nadia Paiva

13. AFI – The Missing Man

AFI are meticulous with their releases. The Missing Man EP is looser than any of their full albums are allowed to be and dips far into their punk rock roots. The Missing Man treads a fine line between the dark conceptual stories of AFI’s best recent albums and the quick skate punk that helped raise the group to prominence 20 years ago. It’s a taste of everything that makes AFI. The Missing Man shows that not only are AFI constantly striving for something new with their music, they’re constantly updating their history. – KS

12. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

I think [Untitled] is mewithoutYou’s best release to date. It’s lyrically exciting and delves into a lot of new territory for the band, without ever losing what makes the band so unique and special. It’s musically exciting and they’ve proven that they’ve still got what it takes to create something new. This album is a constant in my rotation and I doubt that will change any time soon. I love an album that takes some effort to work through and this was the perfect project and challenge for me this year. – NP

11. Underoath – Erase Me

A band that spent its heyday pushing genre boundaries and shifting the notion of what modern heavy music could sound like returns eight years after its last release to continue its evolution. Fans can argue until the sun explodes about which Underoath album is the best – and there are several great ones to choose from – but consider this: With Erase Me, Underoath chose not to live in the past, creating an unexpectedly accessible and divergent release that carries on the spirit of a band that would never settle for stagnation. It’s just about the most “Underoath” thing the band could have done, and the fact that it resulted in their second-ever Grammy nomination makes things just that much sweeter. – Kiel Hauck

10. Pusha T – Daytona

In 2002, Pusha T helped soundtrack my freshman year of college atop percussive beats from The Neptunes on Clipse’s smash release, Lord Willin’. Sixteen years later, at the age of 41, King Push may have unpredictably created his masterpiece. Daytona is a perfect exercise in minimalism, finding Push flexing his crisp and surgical delivery atop sample-heavy beats that allow his voice to drive the songs forward. At seven tracks long, there is no filler – just 21 minutes of canvas for one of the most underrated rappers of our time to finally stake his claim as one of the greats. If Yeezus showed us what modern hip hop looks like when stripped down for parts, Daytona displays the beauty of rap as a timeless art form – no-holds-barred, no tricks. Just one of the best lyricists of our generation writing his long-overdue coke rap thesis. – KH

9. Panic! at the Disco – Pray for the Wicked

When Brendan Urie transitioned Panic! at the Disco towards pop superstardom, I was hesitant. Death of a Bachelor felt somewhat forced to me, though I eventually came around. Pray For The Wicked is a masterpiece that cultivates the best aspects of every one of Panic!’s past releases and merges them into a mini concept album about the glamour and steep price of stardom (“Hey Look Ma, I Made It”). Each song has a unique flair, style and message that dances toward a larger story about fame. Pray For The Wicked is arguably Urie’s potential opus. It solidifies him as one of the biggest pop stars in the world as much as it honors everything that has ever made Panic! at the Disco beloved. – KS

8. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

Sister Cities is a special album for The Wonder Years. It seems like it could be the last major release we get from the band for a while, with Dan Campbell’s pending fatherhood and the band’s other ventures, including their new subscription service. The album is quintessential Wonder Years material, yet showcases that the band is still heavily focused on musical growth, and at their stage in the game, it’s important that their love for what they do is still present. Sister Cities proved that The Wonder Years are far from running out of creativity, and I look forward to how they’ll channel that in the next season of their existence. – NP

7. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Even before the release of her debut studio album, Cardi B was ascending to rap legend status – an uncategorizable and unpredictable figure, harkening back to days when rappers like Biggie and 2Pac seemed larger than life. That Invasion of Privacy actually lived up to the ungodly hype built on viral sensations like “Bodak Yellow” is a testament to her drive and talent. The album is deeply personal, truly funny, and wildly entertaining. But more than that, it’s the story of self-empowerment and standing firmly confident as a rapper in a genre that has for so long marginalized women. Cardi refuses to be quieted or sanitized to fit a mold or play a part – with Invasion of Privacy, she’s snatching the game without asking for permission, with no intent of backing down. As she states on album closer, “I Do”, “My little 15 minutes lasted long as hell, huh?” – KH

6. Justin Courtney Pierre – In the Drink

In The Drink is an album equally familiar and adventurous beyond its comfort zone. Justin Pierre proves himself to be one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, something few already doubted. With the opportunity to create a sound truly his own, the fact that In The Drink sounds like an extension of Motion City Soundtrack adds credence to how honest his writing has always been. Whether toying with orchestration in “Undone” or diving face first into punk songs like “Ready Player One”, In The Drink is an unapologetic rock album filled with self-depreciative humor, inner turmoil and anthems of confidence. In The Drink delves as far into Pierre’s past as it does his future and is all the better for it. – KS

5. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

There’s no doubt that this has been an exhausting year in terms of our current social climate. The 1975 wrote a whole album about it and released it right at the end of the year. I generally never choose an album that’s been too recently released because I don’t feel like I get enough time to really pick it apart and find all of its pros and cons, but I felt at home with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships almost immediately. It’s beautifully composed and full of good conversation starters. Maybe we can take some of the advice offered to us within it and make 2019 a better year. – NP

4. Architects – Holy Hell

On the surface, one might find metal to be the perfect genre for processing the stages of grief. But what about ponderances on the mere idea of grief and loss and what it means to move forward with a quiet understanding of our fate? With Holy Hell, Architects created one of the most powerful and purposeful metalcore releases of our time. Part lament of fallen comrade and key songwriter Tom Searle, part meditation on existence and death, Holy Hell pulls no punches when tugging at some of the hardest questions we rarely speak aloud. From the technical, brutal brilliance of tracks like “Death is Not Defeat” to the more gentle introspection of “Royal Beggars”, Holy Hell is both a sonic and thematic masterpiece that finds ways to let hope glimmer through the wreckage, just as Sam Carter delivers during the album’s closing track: “Love comes at a cost, but all is not lost”. – KH

3. Fall Out Boy – MANIA

MANIA is one of the best albums Fall Out Boy have ever released in a discography already stacked full of career-defining records. MANIA is an album that forces listeners to earn its respect. It hones the sound of modern pop music to a razor’s edge, blurring the lines between genre and takes risks that would ruin lesser artists. Fall Out Boy are at the height of their ability by pushing back against anyone hoping for just another pop punk record. Stadium anthems like “Last of the Real Ones” and rock songs like “Champion” are new staples to live shows as much as they are battle cries of rock music in an era when the genre seems largely ignored. MANIA is the result of two albums’ worth of experimentation and adventure, and it’s now hard to argue that Fall Out Boy’s best days are behind them. – KS

2. Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love

On Wait for Love, there isn’t a spot where I say to myself, “Eh, that could’ve flowed a little smoother,” or, “There’s too much of a lull in the action.” This fourth full-length album is perfect from front to back, and probably from back to front. Lyrically, it’s meaningful and relatable in a way that a lot of rock music isn’t. It’s a beautiful display of how a band can mold and shift to fit in with their changing personal lives. I think I’ve listened to the album at least once a day since its release, and I haven’t done that with an album since 2013, so you know the love is real. – NP

1. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

It’s easy to be distracted by the many narratives swirling around Golden Hour, the fourth studio album from Kacey Musgraves. Stories of acid trips during writing sessions and outspoken support of the LGBTQ community from one of country music’s rising stars. Yet underneath it all is a warm and affecting collection of songs that take time to look for beauty wherever it can be found, even within the most imperfect of us. In a year like 2018, it’s a 45-minute exercise in relief.

Call it genre-bending if you like – Musgraves boldly grafts in disco and indie rock elements to balance out the twang – but at its core, Golden Hour is a perfect pop album. Songs like “High Horse” and “Lonely Weekend” effortlessly find the perfect balance of sound that so many mainstream country artists have been aiming at for years. Musgraves makes it seem almost too simple – just be yourself and write songs from your heart. That the resulting album feels so counter to our expectations could very well amplify the point she’s trying to make. As Musgraves so eloquently puts it during opener “Slow Burn”, “I’m alright with a slow burn / Taking my time, let the world turn / I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright”. – KH

Honorable Mention

Vince Staples – FM!
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
Lydia – Liquor
Black Panther: The Soundtrack
As It Is – The Great Depression

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Fall Out Boy – Lake Effect Kid

fall-out-boy-2018

It’s a cliché at this point for bands to try to rediscover their roots or pay homage to their hometown. However, Fall Out Boy’s Lake Effect Kid EP is one of the few that feels genuine. Brief as it may be, these three songs not only form a love letter to Chicago, they offer a brief history of the band’s evolving sound. What could have easily been a quick gimmick is actually a near essential piece that quickly and unapologetically shows Fall Out Boy paying attention to their own legacy.

You can buy or stream Lake Effect Kid on Apple Music.

“Lake Effect Kid” is a B-Side that has made the rounds online for quite some time. Without a proper release or context, it could be easy to overlook. I have often enjoyed the song, but understood why it had been cut from Infinity On High or Folie à Deux. However, this new mix sounds more refined and complete. Additionally, when paired with “City in a Garden”, the song takes on more body, context, and heart.

“City in a Garden”, though it may be a Chicago-centric love fest, is arguably Fall Out Boy’s most accessible and singable single since “Thnks fr th Mmrs”. Oozing with nostalgia, hooks, and dreamlike drumbeats, “City in a Garden” is for Chicago what Jason Mraz and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are for California. While it sonically sounds like a ballad off an older release, the synth and beat are distinctly part of FOB’s new era. “City in a Garden” manages to encapsulate almost every aspect of Fall Out Boy that could make a person fall in love with the band.

Lake Effect Kid’s biggest strength is how reflective it is, while still pushing ahead for the band. “Lake Effect Kid” is the pop punk older fans have been craving for years. “City in a Garden” is the kind of pop song the band couldn’t have written even a couple of years ago without the experience they have now. Meanwhile, closing track “Super Fade” moves forward with experimentation in a place that won’t ruin the flow of a full album. Borrowing heavily from the divisive single, “Young and Menace”, “Super Fade” sounds like a slip-up of a song. However, this EP is the ideal place to work out the kinks of this style of songwriting.

Lake Effect Kid not only pays homage to Chicago as the band’s stomping grounds, it pays homage to their past work. The EP is an answer for anyone who has claimed that the band sold out their sound over the last few albums. Equally as exciting, it shows Fall Out Boy’s willingness to look back on themselves with the same reverence and enthusiasm they’ve shown when looking forward.

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 makes a gosh darn good apple pie.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2018

Even with the days of MTV music video rotation squarely in the rearview mirror, the impact of the music video can still be felt. In 2008, YouTube had become the new gathering place for music fans to experience their favorite bands and artists in a visual way, with music videos garnering tens of millions of views in the blink of an eye.

Taking a look back at some of the videos turning 10 this year, it’s easy to remember a time when we were willing to wait out the annoying buffering to get a glimpse of our favorite bands doing their thing on screen. Take a look at some of our favorites from 2008 and be sure to share some of your favorite music videos from 2008 in the replies!

Panic at the Disco – “Nine in the Afternoon”

Remember how weird it was to hear Pretty. Odd. for the first time? Lead single “Nine in the Afternoon” captured all of that stark strangeness from every angle. Clearly stylized after Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Nine in the Afternoon” combines vivid colors, marching bands, archery, and odd uses of vacuum cleaners to create a surreal experience.

Fall Out Boy – “I Don’t Care”

Before the “hiatus,” Fall Out Boy gifted the world with Folie à Deux, an album unappreciated in its time. In the video for “I Don’t Care”, the band’s members embrace their inner bad boy, only to be later revealed as various celebrities and other musicians. In typical Fall Out Boy fashion, there’s more than meets the eye – it’s a satirical look at the caricature of celebrity – and it’s fun as hell.

Kanye West – “Welcome to Heartbreak”

Long before Kanye stole the mic from Taylor Swift or donned a MAGA hat on Twitter, he made a sad album of sad songs called 808s & Heartbreak. One of those songs introduced us to Kid Cudi, whose chorus on “Welcome to Heartbreak” is still just as stellar as it was 10 years ago. The dark, dingy music video matches the vibe and showcases a softer side of a complicated artist.

Anberlin – “Feel Good Drag”

It’s still hard to believe that track 8 from Anberlin’s sophomore album would go on to be the smash single from their fourth album, New Surrender. The year’s biggest rock song is displayed on video in deep sepia tones and captures the sin buried within the song. It’s the perfect video for a breakout from a band that had long ago earned its time in the spotlight.

Hey Monday – “Homecoming”

Long before Cassadee Pope was winner of The Voice and a star country singer, she fronted the pop punk band Hey Monday. The band’s lead single “Homecoming” is captured here in a bowling alley where Pope’s jerk ex-boyfriend is pulling the same tricks with a new girl. Fortunately for her, the band’s power chords save her from heart break. Or something?

Taylor Swift – “Love Story”

In 2008, Taylor Swift was coming into her own and blossoming into aa full-blown star. The video for “Love Story” finds her traveling back in time, petting a horse, and running through a field. Wait a minute, is this video actually good? No, but it’s definitely a time capsule of what 2008 sounded like.

Beyoncé – “Single Ladies”

“Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Need we say more?

Anthony Green – “Dear Child (I’ve Been Trying to Reach You)”

This is such a weird little video, but it fit the quirkiness of Anthony Green, who in 2008 was blossoming into aa full-blown rock star. With Saosin and Circa Survive success under his belt, Green led his solo debut Avalon with this video featuring a variety of animated creatures, along with a scorned ex with…octopus arms? Eh, whatever. It works.

Lil Wayne – “Got Money”

Was there anything more thrilling in 2008 than Lil Wayne and T-Pain robbing a bank in a music video? The answer is no, there was not. Still one of the best autotune pop rap songs of its time, “Got Money” is just about as fun as music videos get, especially Wayne and T-Pain’s adorable shirts displaying “He Sings”, “He Raps”.

Metro Station – “Shake It”

This song is kinda gross and the video is mostly boring. But can you honestly think of 2008 without remembering this track playing in the background of every memory? Damn you, Trace Cyrus and Mason Musso with your whisper verses and over-the-top hooks!

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.

Reflecting On: Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.

Pretty. Odd. may be the biggest upset in music that I was alive to see. In 2007, to say that Panic! At the Disco were on top of the world is an understatement. Their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, was a massive hit. The band had more or less overtaken Fall Out Boy as the poster child for record label Fueled By Ramen, and their live shows had become the things of legend. The anticipation for their sophomore release was ravenous, especially after hearing reports that the band had scrapped an entire record themed around fairy tales. Pretty. Odd. caught absolutely everyone off guard except the band that created it.

You can buy Pretty. Odd. on Apple Music.

Pretty. Odd. was a true gamble. Leveraging the fame of Panic!, the band decided to completely and utterly change who they were. Gone were the live stage shows, emo-infused lyrical wordplay, electronic beats and cabaret inspired rock. Even the exclamation point in their name was removed. What took its place was a mock version of The Beatles. It pissed off everyone I knew, and it almost destroyed the band completely.

In retrospect, Pretty. Odd. is a glorious masterpiece. It is a solid rock record, inspired by classic British rock and folk music. It is utterly unique. Nothing like it has been created since, and the current version of Panic! has more or less swept it under the rug. However, while almost everyone (that I know of) prefer any other album from the band, Pretty. Odd. has held up considerably well and has never gotten the full respect it deserved.

The shift in the album’s sound is a stark one, so much so that the opening song, “We’re So Starving”, actually has to tell the audience, “You don’t have to worry, cuz we’re still the same band”. Looking beyond the shift in sound though, is an album that, in almost any other circumstance, would have been regarded as an uncontested indie cornerstone. The pop anthems are expertly crafted, backed by an absolutely massive orchestral piece. Harmonica, violins, mandolin, saxophone and flutes bring a life to the music that is rarely found outside of movie scores.

What they enhance, though, is a series of secretive fairy tales and stories hidden beneath the shock of classic rock. The surreal imagery within the songs is second to none, such as in “Behind the Sea” (“Like bobbing bait for bathing cod / Floating flocks of candled swans / Slowly drift across wax ponds”). Or in the tuba encrusted “From a Mountain in the Middle of the Cabins”, as Brendon Urie sings, “Lying there, with a halo in her hair she cried / There are feathers everywhere, but it’s fine / You do this all the time”.

The legacy of Pretty. Odd. is one of gambles that paid off in ways that no one foresaw. Guitarist and songwriter Ryan Ross allegedly had a large hand in controlling the band’s direction for this release. Removing everything that made Panic! famous in the first place moved the attention aimed on them to the opposite spectrum. The shock was that they weren’t shocking.

Ross threw his full weight behind this direction for the band. It was an utter rebirth of the sound of pop rock from the 60’s, both paying homage to and inspired by the bands of the era. In many ways, Panic! surpassed the bands that inspired this record. When Ross and bassist Jon Walker eventually left to form The Young Veins, they carried this sound with them. Unfortunately, their biggest sin was nothing but timing.

Following A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out with this new sound was a dire mistake. The fan base craved the dark electro-pop that the band had created and the showmanship that oozed from it. As a result, a large portion of fans rebelled. Especially after the near dissolution of Panic! At the Disco, the blowback followed The Young Veins and never gave them the chance that they deserved.

On the other side of the split left by this record, Brendon Urie suddenly had an allowance to literally do anything he wanted. With Pretty. Odd. already in the band’s catalogue, he was free to explore nearly any sound he wanted to going forward with Panic! at the Disco. Without the restraints of fan expectation, Urie wrote some of the group’s biggest hits afterwards.

The sad irony is that had Pretty. Odd. been released as the band’s third album or later, after establishing their sound, they would have had a fan base loyal enough to take the journey with them. There wouldn’t have been the worry that the band had severed ties with what made people love them in the first place. Similar to how My Chemical Romance took on a new persona with each new album, Panic! at the Disco would have had an easier time rallying fans to Pretty. Odd. if they had a firmer grasp of who the band actually was. The shock wouldn’t have kicked in nearly as hard.

Pretty. Odd. is an amazing album that will truly never receive its due credit. The diversity of sound and surreal, dreamlike paintings throughout the record are mesmerizing in ways that no other band has been able to replicate. It is a shame that instead of having an anniversary celebrating this unique entry in their history, Panic! At the Disco has more or less hidden Pretty. Odd. beneath a mountain of top 40 pop songs and dance beats.

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 first listened to Pretty. Odd. in a car full of groaning college kids. They have all since been eaten by alligators and small cats. The album survives.

Podcast: Unraveling Fall Out Boy’s “MANIA”

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

Subscribe to our podcast here.

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Fall Out Boy – MANIA

Fall-Out-Boy-2017-cr-pamela-littky

MANIA may be the most infuriating album of the last few years, and one of the few to actually exist and live by its name. Announced nearly a year in advance, launched with a lackluster single, delayed six months, and posted with the wrong tracklist on every digital platform, MANIA is a mess at every conceivable angle. And yet, it is absolutely brilliant.

You can buy MANIA on iTunes.

It is the direct result of Fall Out Boy’s experimentation in pop since their reformation in 2013. The songs are cleaner and the choruses reflect the soaring experiences of Folie À Deux. But MANIA is an experience unto itself that forces you to earn its respect. This will surely be Fall Out Boy’s most divisive album for a number of reasons, but one stands out in particular: There are accidentally two versions of it. If nothing else, the album is a master class in how the order of the tracks can make or break an album.

The initial digital release (the wrong tracklist) held to my belief that I wouldn’t care for MANIA. It sounded dourer and lacked the energy I expect of FOB; just a bunch of uninspired singles with “Young and Menace” as its thesis. However, once the tracklist for the physical release appeared (the right one) and the songs were rearranged, it completely and utterly changed everything. MANIA was an entirely different album that somehow shined and overflowed with the confident sway of Fall Out Boy. It was tight, concise and moved seamlessly.

This version of MANIA is the best album Fall Out Boy have released since Infinity on High.

This album shines with the sound of a classic the way the band’s early releases did. After the unarguable mixed results of pushing the radio-pop sound of their last two albums, MANIA focuses those efforts to a fine point. The guitars are more noticeable than any release since their pop punk days, the percussion is hypnotic, and the bass is monstrous. Patrick Stump, already guaranteed to give a stellar performance, absolutely soars. If the singles didn’t impress upon initial release, listen to them in the context of the album. I don’t know what black magic is at work, but it somehow changes everything.

Opener “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is a dark rock song with a deep bass that sets up the album with a thesis of acknowledging a chaotic world and the frustrations in it, but how a belief in yourself can overcome it. “The Last of the Real Ones” is a raging pop song centered on imagery of celestial bodies spinning in space.

One of the biggest surprises is the pairing of “Church” and “Heaven’s Gate” at the midpoint of the album. “Church” is an epic sounding rock song that focuses on Pete Wentz’s melodic bass leading a ‘church’ choir through the song. Accompanied by the soft chime of bells and Andy Hurley’s hard percussion, Stump finds equal footing in the love song and prays for a way through personal demons as he sings, “I love the world but I just don’t like the way it makes me feel / Got a few more fake friends and it’s getting hard to know what’s real”.

“Heaven’s Gate” is much softer, with a soul sound that allows Stump’s vocals to jump in spectacular fashion. If you ever needed proof that he may be the best vocalist of any rock band, this will be all the evidence you need. Propelled by the strength of “Church” before it, “Heaven’s Gate” feels all the stronger when Stump croons, “Give me a boost over heaven’s gate / I’m gonna need a boost cause everything else is a substitute for your love”.

Which brings us to “Young and Menace”, the reason I initially soured to MANIA a year before it was even released. An EDM inspired hot mess with a bare thread chorus, I have found this song near unlistenable since its release if for no other reason than the high pitched sampling of Stump’s vocals during the breakdown. However, sitting near the end of the album (instead of the opening track), it is propelled by the songs before it and doesn’t sound nearly as out of place.

After the soaring choruses and precise pop of songs like “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T”, “Young and Menace” is an acknowledgement of Fall Out Boy’s mixed reception since their reformation. The song itself is the most extreme sound they’ve ever attempted, as though it is meant to turn off listeners. However, as Stump sings, “I’m just here flying off the deep end / I’m just here to become the best yet / I’m here for the psych assessment / I’m just here for the, for the fall”, it’s a message to fans that they are aware that they aren’t writing the punk songs half of their fanbase still wants. Instead, they know what direction they to travel in order to become the best band they can be.

MANIA is an anomaly that may just change your opinion of it based on what tracklist you hear. It forces you to work to enjoy it. But once it clicks, it is a beast that harnesses years of experimentation. Even a song as manic as the garbage fire of “Young and Menace” feel like one big feint to throw you off the trail, just to swing out of nowhere. It took a year to make me excited about this album, but it was absolutely worth the wait.

5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and cannot accept how much he enjoys MANIA. On a scale of just and even, he is sooooo can’t. See you at Wrigley, you monsters of music.

Preparing Ourselves for Fall Out Boy’s “MANIA”

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

– Nadia Paiva

***

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

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

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

– Kyle Schultz

***

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

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

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

– Kiel Hauck