10 Halloween Songs to Bump in the Night

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October is in full swing, and soon, we’ll all be clad in our favorite costumes, celebrating the spookiest of holidays. To get you ready for your next Halloween bash, we’ve put together a monstrous list of the most terrifying pop punk and post-hardcore songs to ever walk the earth.

Throughout the years, several bands from the scene have taken the opportunity to tell chilling tales set to the sounds of squealing guitars and drum fills. We think it all makes for the perfect brew – a frightening soundtrack of Halloween terror. So go ahead and listen, if you dare. These songs are so good, it’s scary.

Showbread – “Dead By Dawn”

What better way to indulge in Halloween revelry than with a screamo portrayal of “Evil Dead 2?” Showbread, forever a band with a flair for the dramatic (and a love of horror movies), unleashes a terrifying tale of the Book of the Dead and the subsequent mayhem that ensues.

Sleeping with Sirens – “Dead Walker Texas Ranger”

Sleeping with Sirens made their entry into the post-hardcore Halloween canon with a song inspired by “The Walking Dead.” Here, the band advises us to run for our lives and “Watch as your greatest fears return to life.” Look out! They’re right behind you!

The Devil Wears Prada – “Outnumbered”

Speaking of the undead, The Devil Wears Prada have something to say with their five-song Zombie EP. On “Outnumbered”, the band depict a fallen world overrun with the living dead, backlit by brutal breakdowns. If the frightening tale won’t crush you, the music will.

Panic! at the Disco – “This is Halloween”

Want something a touch more light-hearted? Brendan Urie and co. are here with a rendition from everyone’s favorite Tim Burton tale. Panic! capture the mischief and magic of Jack Skellington on this frightfully fun track.

He Is Legend – “Attack of the Dungeon Witch”

Another band with a knack for scary stories, He Is Legend tell the tale of a violently vile antagonist that appears to cast a spell of charm. “I drank with the dungeon witch / Left my ring on her night stand / I woke with the dungeon witch / Now she’s got the upper hand”.

My Chemical Romance – “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”

For a band that made a living off of dark stories of revenge and death, it’s hard to pick just one song by My Chemical Romance that fits the Halloween mold. Before he shouted Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge or marched along with The Black Parade, Gerard Way sang of the allure of bloodsucking monsters.

The Maine – “Forever Halloween”

With Forever Halloween, The Maine took a lighter approach to the spooky holiday season. On the album’s title track, we’re told that the bumps in the night are nothing to be afraid of: “And darling, don’t you start to scream / It doesn’t mean anything / It’s just make believe”.

AFI – “Halloween”

The Misfits were certainly a band custom made for Halloween and AFI beautifully encapsulates that spirit on their cover of “Halloween”. Another band that knows their way around the darkness, AFI rip through this track for their All Hallow’s EP as Davey Havok sounds like a man on fire.

Fall Out Boy – “What’s This?”

You could argue “What’s This?” as more of a Christmas song, but its inclusion as a vital piece of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack makes it eligible for this list. Plus, who could resist the sounds of Patrick Stump crooning, “Instead of screams, I swear / I can hear music in the air”.

Showbread – “George Romero Will Be at Our Wedding”

Our list wouldn’t be complete without one more song from Showbread as they pay homage to horror genius George Romero. Here, Josh Dies sings from the perspective of a man-turned zombie in search of his love. “If true love lasts forever, then love doesn’t die / It just becomes the living dead”. How romantic!

BONUS! Kanye West – “Monster”

What’s scarier than “Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, Loch Ness”? How about a dark track in which ‘Ye, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj all embrace their inner monster? In fact, if Nicki’s blood-curdling shriek at the end of her manic verse doesn’t send chills down your spine, you may want to literally check your pulse.

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: Paramore – Riot!

I was sitting in my first apartment at a TV tray, which served as a desk for my old, rickety laptop, when I first heard “Misery Business” over a pair of shitty $10 headphones. Although far from an audiophile’s dream scenario for such a moment, I immediately understood its importance. I can’t remember if anyone else was in the room, but I vividly remember saying aloud, “Paramore is about to be the biggest band on the planet.”

I bought Paramore’s debut album All We Know is Falling because of the recommendation attached to the shrink wrap of the CD’s jewel case. Copeland vocalist Aaron Marsh made a similar proclamation on that sticker to the one I would make two years later in my apartment, and it was enough to provoke an unexpected purchase. I ended up loving that album with its raw production and youthful energy. Even then, with all of the apparent promise attached to the band, it was hard to foresee what would come next.

You can buy Riot! on iTunes.

A decade later, I’m not 100% certain that Riot! is Paramore’s greatest achievement, but I won’t argue with anyone who feels that way. It’s undeniably one of the most explosive and important albums to come from the scene and the defining example of the sound of an era.

I drove an hour and a half from Enid, Oklahoma, to Oklahoma City on the day of Riot!’s release to purchase the CD at a Hot Topic and enjoy the album from front to back on the drive home. I remember being immediately struck by David Bendeth’s production, which had literally taken the band to a whole new level. I also remember being surprised at the diversity of sound throughout the record’s 11 tracks. “Misery Business” will forever be attached to Riot!’s success, but this album is still a goldmine of hits.

Nevertheless, it was that first single that changed everything. It was hard to go anywhere in the summer of 2007 without hearing that unforgettable opening riff or Hayley Williams’ chorus of, “Woah! I never meant to brag”. Add in an unforgettable music video, striking bright colors attached to the album’s marketing, and the unrivaled energy of the band’s live performance, and Paramore had concocted the perfect cocktail for success. Riot! would move one million copies within a year before eventually going double platinum.

Just a few months prior, Fall Out Boy had appeared to set the standard for scene bands on the big stage with the release of Infinity on High, but were suddenly rivaled in the most unexpected of ways by a band that would outlast the rest of their competition. One of the things that makes Riot! so unique a decade later is that the band has actually gotten much better since the release of its signature album. Good luck naming an active band from that era that can make the same claim.

Yet for all of the excitement surrounding Riot!’s success and, sadly, the ensuing inter-band drama that would become intertwined with Paramore’s narrative, it’s important to acknowledge the uphill battle that Paramore, and more importantly, Hayley Williams, have climbed amidst their continued success.

In a scene that has consistently been plagued with persistent sexism and misogyny, it’s difficult to look back and not grimace at some of the painful conversations surrounding Paramore in 2007. Still, Williams persevered and undoubtedly impacted the community around her in ways that are still blooming. There’s much more work to be done, but the call for elevating women’s voices in the scene continues to rise, often led by Williams herself.

Riot! is not only a hallmark album for the 2000s pop punk scene, it’s a testament to a voice that refused to be ignored. Only 18 years old at the time of the album’s release, Williams commanded our attention with confidence and drive well beyond her years.

I love Riot!. I still own and wear the t-shirt I bought along with the CD that day back in 2007 and remember my initial excitement every time I put the album on. However, I cannot express how delighted I am that it was only the beginning of what was to come – the music and the progress.

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.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2017

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

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

Paramore – “Misery Business”

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

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

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

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

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

The Almost – “Say This Sooner”

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

Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over”

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

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

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

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

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

We the Kings – “Check Yes, Juliet”

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

MxPx – “Shut it Down”

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

Kanye West – “Stronger”

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

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: The Academy Is… – Santi

It’s been 10 years and I’m still not completely sure how to use the word “Santi” in a sentence. Employing an inside joke from your high school days as the title of your sophomore release and potential mainstream breakthrough is admittedly curious, but The Academy Is always seemed to have an affinity for doing things their own way.

Two years before Santi’s release, the Chicago rock act had their breakthrough on Fueled by Ramen with Almost Here – a scene classic that helped define an era of snide emo pop, even as the album itself remained a relatively underground gem. The ensuing years would see a cast of the band’s label mates rise to pop radio stardom (Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, Gym Class Heroes) while The Academy Is seemingly remained a buzz band on the brink.

You can buy Santi on iTunes.

Enter Santi – an album that seemed primed for success. With a stellar debut under their belt, one of the most exciting young frontmen in music behind the mic, and the benefit of rising Fueled by Ramen stock in their pocket, The Academy Is tabbed the legendary Butch Walker to produce the record. The resulting effort remains the band’s most divisive album to date, but is arguably their best.

I still remember purchasing Santi on the day of its release at a Hasting’s book store in Enid, Oklahoma. As a huge fan of Almost Here and a firm believer that the band was destined for stardom, I was giddy to see the CD’s front and center placement when I walked into the store. I also remember those subsequent first listens as I tried to process what I was hearing. Despite spinning the album for weeks on end, I couldn’t decide if I actually liked it.

Everything about Santi (aside from its peculiar title) seemed primed for a breakthrough. The album’s cover, featuring the band’s name in flashy neon lights. The Pete Wentz cameo in the band’s video for first single “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands” (which was later referenced in a Fall Out Boy video). A prime slot on the summer’s premier Honda Civic Tour. William Beckett’s cocky swagger blossoming even further, placing ruminations on impending fame to tape: “It was a big bang and a bright white light from nowhere / It turned my coach class window to a first class seat on the evening news on NBC”.

Despite all of the signs, Santi never quite took off. True to the band’s free and unconventional tendencies, the album was a complete departure from their debut. Gone were the pop punk leanings and snappy production of Almost Here, replaced by gritty guitars and stark changes of pace that gave Santi a garage or indie rock type feel. As the scene around the band began embracing the successful sheen of pop radio, Santi may have been ahead of its time, simply by avoiding an obvious approach.

If you were to dare administer criticism in the direction of Almost Here, you might draw attention to its lack of variety. That debut, for all of its worthy praise, avoided diversity at all costs, choosing to play to one very commendable strength. Santi, on the other hand, is so full of range that it’s hard to pin the album down to one particular genre.

While rich melody is present throughout, its presentation changes from track to track. Here you’ll find homages to classic rock (“Bulls in Brooklyn”), dance-y post-punk (“Same Blood”), mid-90s alt rock (“You Might Have Noticed”) and even a gentle ballad (“Everything We Had”). A signature Butch Walker underbelly of raw guitars serves as Santi’s refrain, even as the songs themselves vary wildly.

It is my firm belief that there is not a bad song on Santi. In fact, many of the album’s tracks would quietly prove to be the best work The Academy Is produced during their eight year run. Unfortunately, a lack of cohesiveness accompanied by a hard right turn from the sound that put the band on the map made Santi a tough pill to swallow for most fans, even though most seemed to have softened on the record over the course of the past decade.

The Academy Is released three very different albums during their short existence, each showcasing the kind of range that many bands could only dream of. In the case of The Academy Is, this penchant for variety potentially hamstrung the band from cashing in on a definitive sound that could have propelled them to greater heights. Instead, they remain mysterious legends, respected for their refusal to follow the crowd. If I had to make a guess, the band would likely say that they wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Honestly, I don’t think I would either. On a warm, sunny summer day, Almost Here can be found in regular rotation on my stereo – the perfect background music for the season. But when I want to remember how great of a band The Academy Is truly was and ponder on what could have been, I reach for Santi.

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: Fall Out Boy – Infinity on High

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I believe Infinity on High to be Fall Out Boy’s best album, but there’s plenty of room for debate. What’s not up for debate is the fact that the scene will never again see the heights it reached by the time the album released.

Between the moment “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” hit radio airwaves in 2005 and the opening notes of “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” first graced our speakers in early 2007, things had changed. Underoath had a gold record. Gym Class Heroes were in regular rotation on top 40 radio. Cartel had signed on for an MTV reality show. Panic! at the Disco had graced the cover of Rolling Stone. A few months later, Paramore would crash the party and go platinum.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

To say that the stakes were high for Fall Out Boy leading up to the release of Infinity on High would be putting it lightly. With From Under the Cork Tree, the band had fallen backwards into unlikely stardom, effectively dragging an entire scene into the spotlight with them. Was Fall Out Boy’s success a flash in the pan, or were they truly an outlier – a band with legs that could carry them far beyond the confines of the Warped Tour bubble?

Infinity on High did not disappoint, and in hindsight, it’s easy to look back at the album as the moment that Fall Out Boy lifted the title belt as the clear winner of the very competition they inadvertently started.

If you’re like me, you can easily recall certain moments outside of the music itself that stick out in your mind. The shock of hearing Jay-Z’s voice open the album, declaring the band’s arrival on the big stage. Walking into a Circuit City and seeing the video for “This Ain’t a Scene” playing on every TV screen in the store. Finding the band on the cover of magazines and tabloids in every check out line, exuding an air of emo indifference.

Ironically, it was this very fame and the suffocation it breeds that led Pete Wentz to unleash his pen in retaliation. Wentz had already cemented himself as a narcissistic, silver-tongued lyricist before Infinity, but decided to turn his attention away from perpetual heartbreak and self-destruction and toward critics, haters, the scene and even himself.

Wentz flashes his pessimism on “The Take Over, The Breaks Over” with, “They say your head can be a prison, then these are just conjugal visits / People will dissect us till this doesn’t mean a thing anymore”. Moments later on “This Ain’t a Scene”, he dismisses the late arrivals: “This bandwagon’s full / Please, catch another”.

With the release of Infinity, the days of starry-eyed Chicago boys with dreams of a breakthrough would forever be over. The consequences of those achievements proved to be even more compelling. Wentz’s ability to communicate the resulting pain in between his rapid cocksure gunfire remains both legendary and poignant in lines like, “The only thing I haven’t done yet is die / And it’s me and my plus one at the afterlife” and “I sing the blues and swallow them, too”.

With lyrics this meaty and full of double meanings and unexpected turns of phrase, translation into digestible bites would have been nearly impossible had Patrick Stump not come into his own at just the right moment. On Infinity, Stump makes his first major transition from pop punk crooner to pop star diva, taking full advantage of his vocal range. His high notes are higher, his runs are more daring, his melodies are tighter. With the band now fully incorporating R&B, pop and soul elements, it provided the perfect platform for a star to appear right before our very eyes.

As a result, the band’s most unrelatable album became a smashing success on the charts. Half victory lap around the ring, half vicious rebuttal to naysayers, Infinity on High succeeded amidst Wentz’s snark thanks to a sonically diverse experience that elevated the band out of the pop punk mire. Even so, early signs of the band’s crash landing hiatus could be seen on the horizon, with Stump and Wentz fighting for the proverbial spotlight with drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman watching from the sidelines.

As clear as the warning signs were, it’s also obvious that this period of the band’s career made their later comeback possible. Fall Out Boy’s 2013 rebirth and subsequent return to the top of the charts speaks volumes to the clout the band has earned. Following the events of 2007, the scene at large would begin to descend back to its original home in the underground with only a few stars surving the oversaturation.

A decade later, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a band from our scene rising to fame as quickly and powerfully as Fall Out Boy. Could another band be this divisive? Be this willing and able to transform? Have this much longevity? Love them or hate them, Fall Out Boy are still the undisputed champions of a short-lived arms race, with Infinity on High standing as a monument to a time when the sky was the limit. Long live the car crash hearts.

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: Panic! At the Disco – Death of a Bachelor

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Did you like Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die? Go listen to Death of a Bachelor – you’re going to love it.

Now, let’s begin.

Panic! At the Disco is an institution, similar to bands like Weezer. They immediately made a lasting impact on the scene that launched them to fame and has kept them there for a decade, giving the band the freedom to experiment with each album in a way that most bands would kill for. Because of this, their new releases can cause waves in the music scene and rifts among fans, arguing which era of their career was when the band hit their peak.

Regardless of the outcome, each album not only spawns a new wave of fans and an ever expanding discography, it also allows Panic! At the Disco to cover a larger swath of genres while maintaining the spirit of the band intact. The more I listen to Death of a Bachelor, the less and less I feel Panic! in the music, and the more I feel Brendon Urie running obnoxiously rampant. For the first time, he’s not leading the charge in pop music, he’s playing catch up.

Musically, and in terms of vocal ability, the album is fantastic. While Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! felt off kilter due to the overpowering influx of synth pop  instrumentation, Death of a Bachelor brings back some of the  vaudevillian instrumentation to the dance beats (“Crazy=Genius”). It makes for some great sounds, and feels like a genuine callback to, arguably Panic’s most famous album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Depending on your taste, the album might feel overproduced. The guitars tend to take a back seat to percussion, intricately woven bass and flaring trumpets.

Urie’s vocal abilities are at full capacity and the album includes some of the best singing of his career. His high notes are higher, his ability to find a charming melody are at their zenith, and he’s added the gentle croons of the big band era (“Golden Days”). His vocal abilities are beyond amazing and officially put him par as dueling Patrick Stump as the best male vocalist in pop from our scene.

The comparison to Stump isn’t a coincidence. The only real detriment to the music itself is that it sounds like Urie is chasing the new version of Fall Out Boy. The pop has completely overpowered the pop rock. At times, it does tend to feel that Urie tried to re-imagine American Beauty/ American Psycho with trumpets. THIS ISN’T A BAD THING. It’s an incredible sound, and has some utterly hypnotic beats (“Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time”, “Crazy=Genius”).

The thing that ruins this album is the lyricism. Simply put, the lyrics are garbage. The entire album is a drunken nightmare, line by line. Nearly every song refers to alcohol multiple times or references a variety of drinks (champagne, wine, etc.) over and over and over. This isn’t Panic! At the Disco. It’s early Kesha. “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” features the line, “I told you time and time again / I’m not as think as you drunk I am / And we all fall down when the sun came up”. Ugh.

When the band first erupted in 2005, what drew people to them was the witty lyricism, dark humor, and the cocky swagger of Fueled by Ramen perfected to an art.  Even after the departure of Ryan Ross, Brendon Urie proved himself just as capable, if not more so, as a lyricist. He was able to tell a story and pack his songs with passion and flare. This is not that Brendon Urie.

Each song has references to lavish Hollywood style gluttony “sycophants on velvet sofas / Lavish mansions, vintage wine / I’m so much more than royal” (“Emperor’s New Clothes”), or “Swimming pools under desert skies / Drinking white wine in the blushing light, just another LA devotee” (“LA Devotee”).

I don’t expect an artist to trace the same tropes album to album, or to forego exploration into new topics. I love pop songs. But this collection is overbearing and becomes a burdensome as the album progresses. It makes getting to some of the less booze-inspired songs like “Golden Days” and “House of Memories” near the end of the album a chore. It might feel like a different story if the album was inspired by blasting through a booze-fueled fury and coming to terms with the consequences, or just SOMETHING of slightly more substance. Unfortunately, the only song to deal with anything like this is the closing song, “Impossible Year”, which includes Sinatra-style crooning a bit flatter than that found in “Death of a Bachelor”, with yet another reference to gin.

Believe it or not, I like Death of a Bachelor. I believe that this will be an album that I will come back to in a year and fall in love with more than I do now, and the fact that Death of a Bachelor was just announced as the band’s first Number 1 on the Billboard 200 proves that I am most likely in the minority (Ed. Note: He’s not). I’ve truly loved each iteration of Panic! At the Disco for a decade, but Death of a Bachelor really stepped on my respect for Urie’s writing prowess.

If you’re able to overlook the lyricism and maddening amounts of alcohol references, Death of a Bachelor is a fun, highly energetic “near-concept” album about a partier who has gone too far, gotten too caught up, and ends trying to figure out how he got through it at the last second during a raging hangover. If not, although this album has some true highlights and true musicianship at the highest level, it can feel like wasted potential and just another pop record about nothing.

3/5

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 will eventually enjoy this album and feel like an ass. Yay!

Top 10 Songs of 2015

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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

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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.

Podcast: Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy and the Art of the Remix

IAD_Podcast_Image

Time to mix things up! On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz examine Ryan Adams’ re-imagined 1989 and discuss the pros and cons of remixes and cover albums. They also speculate on the upcoming Fall Out Boy remix album and the Punk Goes… series. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What’s your favorite remixed or re-imagined album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Panic! at the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

panic-at-the-disco-2005

During 2015, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

In the fall of 2005, Panic! at the Disco came out of nowhere. Just saying it doesn’t carry the full weight of that sentence. No one had heard of this band – no one had seen this band. Their debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, appeared on the Fueled by Ramen/Decaydance label, the home of Fall Out Boy, Paramore, The Academy Is… and Gym Class Heroes. It was basically a printed ticket to modest fame.

You can but A Fever You Can't Sweat Out on iTunes.

You can but A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out on iTunes.

It wouldn’t be easy to become one of the top bands on the label, but without any proper touring experience, previously-released EPs or available demos, Panic! took over the rock world like a firestorm with the release of Fever and the monstrous single, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”.

Panic! at the Disco is a dreamlike success story. Legend has it that one of the band members found Patrick Stump after a Fall Out Boy concert, handed him a demo tape, and then Pete Wentz personally flew out to Las Vegas to sign the band. If any of that is true, I have no idea, but it’s cool to think about.

Panic! had something special about them that rose above the rest of the Fueled by Ramen crew. Their songs had the hooks, wordplay and instant memorability of Fall Out Boy, mixed with relentless digital and techno overtones backing the flaming power chords. The dreary, macabre nuances, the likes of which only teenagers and kids in their early twenties are able to create, added a mystique to the band that made them utterly irresistible.

The concept of Panic! at the Disco originally set up to be a themed stage act from Vegas. The album cover featured an array of burlesque dancers, and although I never got a chance to see them, rumors of their live show swept the scene; tales of a circus act, stilts and a crazy light show the band brought with them on stage. Plus, the persona on magazines and music videos of young men dressed dashingly with creepy, painted faces made them hard to ignore.

Not only was this band impossible to avoid, it was impossible not to love them.

The allure of pop punk in 2005 was that the bands were finding new ways to make music harder, make the songs catchier, and make the lyrics sexier and immediate. The song “Introduction” was nothing more than the sound of an old fashioned radio scanning the airwaves, with the fleeting message of “Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present a picturesque score of passing fancy” followed immediately with the lines of “Sit tight, I’m gonna need you to keep time / Come on just snap, snap, snap you fingers for me / Good, good now we’re making some progress / Come on just tap, tap, tap your toes to the beat” in the impossible to remember, but aptly titled song, “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage”. It was the first we heard Brendan Urie’s voice, and the perfect first few sentences to ensnare a generation of music lovers.

This song, and its title, were important to the band in many ways. For some reason, at this point in time, incredibly long song titles that usually had little or nothing to do with the actual contents of the song were made famous by Fall Out Boy, and Panic! followed suit. While not as outrageous or random as FOB, Panic!’s “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” always impressed me by how perfectly it personified the band.

Taking a Vegas stage idea and transforming it into a pop punk act, accelerating rock music with techno beats and adding a gaudy dark emo personification, could only work if everyone was watching with interest. Otherwise, the band would look like yet another wannabe king of the emo rockers from the early 2000’s. Without the coverage that the band received almost immediately, the effort put into the stage act, the song writing risks, and the danger of being a headlining band that had barely played any shows was almost certain to prove not only suicidal, but build resentment amongst fellow bands and label-mates.

But the writing was right. It was captivating and spoke directly to the audience (“The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage”), alluded to the fact that the band wasn’t ready for this level of fame, so they’d better “Back their shit up”, (“London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines”), invited them to dance (“Time to Dance”) and concealed the overtones of classic, old-fashioned jazz (“There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of It Yet”).

The fact that this album caught everyone’s attention with the amount of foreshadowed grandeur and glory is no surprise; that a group of kids with no experience as a band managed to pull it off and maintain that image is nothing short of a miracle. They managed to write an album with each song capable of being a massive single on its own, create a unique image, and learn how to be a headlining band while on the road.

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is a miraculous album. All things considered, with the innumerable amount of ways that this record should have collapsed in on itself from an inexperienced band, and the ways that touring and playing these songs live should have turned off the fan base, seeing Panic! at the Disco rise above it all added to the legend that seemed to grow within months of the record’s release.

Unfortunately, the band did eventually collapse with the departure of every original member, eventually becoming the solo project for Brendan Urie, who was forced to learn how to write songs, lyrics and how to play every instrument in order to maintain the majesty that A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out established. The legend surrounding it is one of the greatest stories not only in the scene, but in music as a whole.

It might be impossible to know exactly how the band came together, how they got their beak with Decaydance, or how they managed to create a behemoth from nothing in front of much more experienced bands, but that doesn’t take away from what the album is.

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 has been violently addicted to Panic! for ten years running. IS THERE NO WRONG THEY CAN MAKE?!!!