Will The Academy Is… Reunite for “Santi” Anniversary Tour?

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Last week, The Academy Is… updated their Facebook profile photo with a promo shot from the Santi album cycle. Seeing as how the album turns 10 years old in April, the subtle update raises some big questions about what lies ahead.

Seeing as how the emo pop darlings from Chicago reunited two years ago for a run of dates in support of Almost Here, another round of anniversary dates wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility. In the decade since its release, the band’s sophomore effort has become seemingly more lauded than it was upon its release.

Fresh off the buzz of their debut, The Academy Is… hoped to capitalize on the momentum that seemed to be carrying scene bands into the mainstream in bulk. In many ways, Santi was truly a more well-rounded and mature effort than Almost Here, but failed to capture the same spark that their debut did in many fans’ eyes.

Now, 10 years removed from that release, tracks like “Same Blood”, “Seed” and “Bulls in Brooklyn” sound full of life and even outshine the album’s original singles. Based on the turnout from 2015’s mini-reunion, it seems undeniable that a similar run for Santi would be happily welcomed. Here’s hoping for an announcement soon.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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!

Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree

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From Under the Cork Tree was an album that slipped under my nose entirely when it first came out. I was too busy gushing over New Found Glory and Saves the Day to notice Fall Out Boy, a band that seemed to rise out of nowhere, thanks to a swanky music video for “Sugar We’re Goin Down” that featured a boy with buck antlers winning the heart of a young lass.

That video was everywhere. The song dominated the airwaves of radio and television alike in the summer of 2005, the likes of which we haven’t seen since. From Under The Cork tree is important, and not only for being the album that gave rise to arguably the biggest rock and roll megastars of their generation. It signaled a new era of pop punk unlike any that had come before it, as well as the death of the genre to mainstream media.

Fall Out Boy was already a big name to those paying attention at the release of the album, but they were staples as soon as “Sugar We’re Goin Down” landed. The album is a lesson in swagger that the genre had never really seen before. Pop punk is grounded in songs about girls, but few brought the confidence and sexiness to the genre like Pete Wentz.

“Of All the Gin Joints In All the World” has Patrick Stump singing, “Turn off the lights and turn off the shyness / Cause all of our moves make up for the silence / And oh, the way your makeup stains my pillowcase / Like I’ll never be the same”. In the same breath, the instant meta-introspection kicks in as he sings, “You only hold me up like this / Cause you don’t know who I really am”, questioning the value of romance when fame overshadows everything else.

The album was a versatile beast, sounding deeper and more thoughtful than anything else competing for attention. It tackled every convention; the standard pop song (“A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me””), the rocker (“Champagne For My Real Friends, Real Pain For My Sham Friends”) and the obligatory acoustic ballad.

For a song that slows the record down, “I’ve Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)” touches a critical spot of insecurity for anyone just coming to terms with themselves as Stump sings, “We’re the kids who feel like dead ends / And I want to be known for my hits, not just my misses / I took a shot and didn’t even come close / At trust and love and hope / And the poets are just kids who didn’t make it / And never had it at all”.

From Under The Cork Tree is a rare exception in pop punk. All too often, great albums fall under the radar and fail to get the credit they deserve for forging a new path. Not only did this album get recognized as a game changer, it launched Fall Out Boy’s career to one of the biggest acts on the planet and it changed the genre as a whole.

Pop punk faded from mainstream music shortly after this album released, whether by the taste of the public or the fact that bands tried to imitate them almost immediately, to varying results. Pop punk sank back to the underground genre it had been before Blink-182 put it in the public’s eye.

One positive effect was that bands wanting that kind of success had to try harder. Pete Wentz’s own Decaydance record label (a part of powerhouse Fueled By Ramen) gained traction after the album. For a solid two to three years, the best bands in the business (Panic! At the Disco, Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes and The Academy Is…, each of which made their own significant splashes on the scene) were either signed to Decaydance or had some type of relationship to FOB.

One of the more remarkable aspects of From Under The Cork Tree is just how different it sounds from the FOB of today. Pop punk was used as a spring board to launch the band into a direction of intense, dark pop music unlike anything else out there. This record helped redefine a genre already rich in identity, but after returning from hiatus two years ago, the band have constantly redefined themselves. From Under The Cork Tree started a long trend of fans arguing which era and album from FOB’s career is the best for the last ten years. It’s an evolution, and a successful one, that no one knew could be possible.

From Under The Cork Tree ushered in the modern era of pop punk, and is more or less the foundation that a sizable amount of up and coming bands base themselves on, even now. Ten years later, we’re still feeling the ripple effects of its initial release. Whether you love or hate Fall Out Boy, there’s no denying that this one album single-handedly changed an entire genre of music.

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 would like to hug Patrick Stump for an uncomfortable amount of time.

Reflecting on: The Academy Is… – Almost Here

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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!

You could quite easily call 2005 the year of Fueled by Ramen. Although the indie label was no stranger to success stories (see: Jimmy Eat World), the mid-aughts served as a gold mine. In 2005, Fueled by Ramen saw the meteoric rise of Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco, along with breakthrough records for soon-to-be-stars Gym Class Heroes and Paramore.

For all of the fame and platinum albums garnered by the aforementioned acts, there were a few Fueled by Ramen bands that came ever-so-close to the limelight, only to watch it fade away. Perhaps no band in the label’s history encapsulates “what could have been” better than The Academy Is….

Hailing from Chicago, just like their contemporaries in Fall Out Boy, The Academy Is… hit the scene with their debut album Almost Here after stirring some buzz with an eponymous EP one year prior. Almost Here is a non-stop whirlwind of glossy emo pop that could easily stand alongside any release this scene has witnessed. Not only was the album a near-perfect debut, it was also the best album the band would release during their startlingly brief career.

But before we get to the bad news, let’s just take a few moments and remember why Almost Here was so damn good. As a matter of fact, go ahead and stop reading and put the record on. I’ll wait. The album clocks in just over a half hour and is driven non-stop by the sleek guitars of A.J. LaTrace and Mike Carden. James Paul Wisner handled the production duties for Almost Here, and you can feel his signature polish on every track.

Michael DelPrincipe (drums) and Adam Siska (bass) round out the instrumentals, and each member plays a key role. No instrument overshadows another and each gets their chance to shine. It’s a credit to Wisner, per usual, that the mix feels so clean and full of life. Almost Here is a rockin’ record, but it’s impossible to deny how easy these songs go down.

For as talented as every member of this band proved to be on this debut, the album, and truly, The Academy Is… itself, belonged to William Beckett. It’s fully possible that no frontman in this scene has ever possessed as much swagger as Beckett does on Almost Here. His smooth, confident delivery seethes from every corner of the record. Alex Davies of BBC once described Beckett as a cross between Adam Lazzara and Prince – and he wasn’t wrong.

When Beckett opens the album with the gently delivered lines of, “Attention, attention / May I have all your eyes and ears to the front of the room / If only, if only for one second” we’re all put on notice. What follows is a band making the most of every opportunity. Every chorus, every breakdown, every swirling climax is handled with care. These are songs you can replay relentlessly, but Beckett’s knack for constructing a clever line makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

His lyrics meander from lost love to lasting friendships to a steadfast belief that he’s on the verge. When he snarls the lines of, “Oh Mr. Magazine, I never wrote one single thing for you / And your so-called music scene / You don’t mean a thing to me” on “Black Mamba”, you can hear his defiant confidence in every word. Beckett’s turn of phrase just adds to his repertoire. Consider “Slow Down”, which finds the band delivering one of the most dance-able instrumental bridges in recent memory, only to be eclipsed by Beckett, who effortlessly drops his legendary croon of, “I’m not saying that I’m not breaking some hearts tonight, girl”.

In a decade defined by razor-sharp tongues lashing against heartless former lovers, Beckett delivered a catalogue of one-liners on just his debut. On “Skeptics and True Believers” he opens with, “Don’t be so scared, we will not lead / You on like you’ve been doing for weeks” followed later by, “Someone, somewhere said some things that may have sparked some sympathy / But don’t believe, don’t believe a word you’ve heard”.

For all of its momentary guile, Almost Here is a surprisingly uplifting and forward-looking record. The album is loaded with singles, from the peppy “Checkmarks” to the high-flying “Season”. For every biting remark, there’s a complimentary brush of the shoulder and encouragement to carry on. “Hold your head high, heavy heart”, Beckett sings on “The Phrase That Pays”. The album comes to a close with his triumphant repeated declaration of, “Our time is almost, our time is almost here!”

Despite its artistic successes, Almost Here flew largely under the radar, overshadowed by the band’s contemporaries. Though the band would go on to receive moderate MTV rotation and meager radio play in following years, their follow-ups (Santi and Fast Times at Barrington High) failed to capture the spark of their debut. Sadly, the band always appeared a step or two behind their label mates. Their disbandment in 2011 after a few years of relative inactivity seemed depressingly unsurprising.

In hindsight, Almost Here is more focused than From Under the Cork Tree and more technically sound than A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. It helped pave the way for bands like Mayday Parade and All Time Low. After 10 years, it still stands as one of the greatest and most original emo/pop punk records to release amidst a decade of lookalikes. Even if The Academy Is… failed to burn out bright, there’s no denying that they captured the most thrilling kind of lightning in a bottle in 2005. And we’re all the better for it.

by Kiel Hauck

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

Thursday Spotlight: Ghost Town

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If your day is starting to get you a little down and you find yourself needing a pick-me-up, look no further than Ghost Town. The electronic pop rockers have enjoyed a rapid rise to internet fame thanks to the wonders of social media and inked a deal with hit-powerhouse Fueled By Ramen in 2013. In November, they dropped their official full-length debut Party in the Graveyard.

With pulsing synths, some sweet guitar riffs and some pop behind the drum kit, Ghost Town is about as close as you can come to a party in your ears. Think the best dance sounds of Breathe Carolina crossed with the aggression of I See Stars and the pop sensibilities of Fall Out Boy and you’re getting close to capturing the odd, yet undeniably catchy sounds of Ghost Town.

Want a taste of what you can expect? Don’t be scared – Check out single “You’re So Creepy” below:

If you like what you hear, you can pick up Party in the Graveyard on iTunes.

You can currently catch the band on the Savages tour with Breathe Carolina. Check out dates and snag tickets here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck