Podcast: The Best Music of 2018

Part 1

As 2018 comes to a close, the team at It’s All Dead have crunched the numbers and compiled their lists of the best albums and best songs of the year. On this podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by Nadia Paiva to break down some of the year’s best music, including releases from Pianos Become the Teeth, The 1975, The Wonder Years, mewithoutYou, and much more. They also discuss what made music great in 2018 – both in terms of commentary and in terms of escape. Listen in!

Part 2

But wait, there’s more! On part 2 of our Best of 2018 podcast, Kiel Hauck is joined by It’s All Dead senior editor Kyle Schultz to talk further about the year in music. The two discuss the merits of Fall Out Boy’s return with MANIA and how Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco ascended to new heights with Pray for the Wicked. They also break down releases from Architects, Justin Courney Pierre, Pusha T, and As It Is. Listen in!

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What were your favorite albums and songs of 2018? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Review: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

It took a long time for me to get into The 1975. I thought they were another record-company-manufactured English boy band because, if you recall, we were still in the age of One Direction when their first album, The 1975, released in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 when their second album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it came out that the band caught my interest. Now, both albums are in heavy rotation for me, and I found myself excited for their third.

You can buy or stream a Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships on Apple Music.

According to every signal we got from the band throughout 2018, the album was slated for a release in the summer. We got a single instead, the first of several, and the album got pushed until now. They changed the title from Music for Cars to A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The album is perfectly titled.

At the crux of this album is a picture of today’s society. We’re a generation rampant with social anxiety, and science shows that this is due largely to the presence of the Internet in our lives. We’re constantly within arm’s length of what’s happening in any part of the world, whether it’s positive or negative. Matty Healy and the other members of The 1975 have taken two-and-a-half years forming an album that’s really a plea for change in these habits. Heck, Healy even sings that we should be “going outside” in the lead single, “Give Yourself a Try”. He has seen firsthand the negative effects that fame and constantly being in the spotlight has brought him and is begging us to use responsibility in our social media habits and other personal spheres of influence.

Like the other two albums by The 1975, A Brief Inquiry talks a lot about heroin and other drug use. Healy has excitedly been clean and sober for some time now, but does talk about his experiences in some of the tracks – largely, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “Surrounded By Heads and Bodies”, as well as some smaller references sprinkled in others. Like any medical problem, addiction is so hard to recover from, and Healy tells us that it’s even harder when he is “…connecting with 10,000 people and then going to a hotel room by myself.”

The band prides itself in its creativity. They’re never one to do the same thing twice. Each iteration of the first track on each album, “The 1975”, is composed as an entrance into the world the album intends to transport us to. In their first album, we had songs about partying and doing drugs and other frivolous behavior. In I like it when you sleep, Healy went on a personal journey of introspection. There were songs about drugs and parties, sure, but there was also a song about losing his grandmother, and a song about fighting to find some faith somewhere. Healy had started the growing-up process.

This third album, though, is taking an outrospective look at what’s around him. He sees where he’s failed in relationships because of the intense need to be connected to the rest of the world. He looks at the political climate of the United States and is appalled at what he sees. He wrote a song about gun control.

Sometimes, an album can have such a great lyrical depth that the musical side is left lacking. Not so with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The band has equally composed a soundtrack that very well may have gotten the point across even without lyrics. Where there are many electronic and computer-y effects toward the beginning, there’s a change in the middle, followed by songs like “Mine”, which is straight-up jazz.

One might say at first glance that the constant stylistic changes don’t work, but it’s The 1975. If they don’t care about what works, why should we? It took me a little while to get used to how the album flows – or rather, doesn’t flow. Each track sits well on its own, but the way it’s all tied together lyrically is enough to counteract how strangely it jumps from both genre to genre and era to era. There are some 80’s inspired synths, and then there’s “Be My Mistake”, a song I could see being performed at a Woodstock Festival.

I would be making a huge mistake if I didn’t draw special attention to the final track. “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” starts like it could be the end-credits track to a sappy emotional movie, but it’s a great picture of how depression can cloud everything. A person who’s deep in that mindset can feel like it’s always been that way, that there’s never been a time they’ve been truly happy. But the truth is, it’s only sometimes. Healy is reminding us to remember the “sometimes.” I think it’s the most beautiful thing The 1975 has offered us, and it’s a perfect ending to an album that is imploring us to live life to the fullest.

Conceptually, the album is wonderful. It puts forth a strong message about how the world desperately needs to change. There are hard-hitting lines about politics, climate change, and even a spoken word about a man who falls in love with the Internet (a.k.a. all of us, in some way or another).

It’s a hard lesson to learn on our own, never mind when we’re being reprimanded for all of these bad habits by a band who we’ve generally just enjoyed the music of. Now they’re asking us to put effort into being present in our daily lives? Yeah, they are. Which is what makes The 1975 so great. They’re obsessed with pushing their own creative boundaries so much, that we’re forced to grow with them. So maybe we should close our browsers, but I think we should keep our headphones plugged in.

5/5

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.

Podcast: Interview with Trenton Woodley of Hands Like Houses

On October 12, Canberra, Australia, rock band Hands Like Houses released their fourth full length album, Anon. on Hopeless Records. As the band hits the road for their headlining U.S. tour, Kiel Hauck caught up with lead singer Trenton Woodley to discuss the new album and the band’s sonic journey on our latest podcast. Woodley also shares details about the band’s songwriting progression over the years, how to evolve as an artist while bringing your fanbase along for the ride, and how Hands Like Houses keep up with an ever-evolving music industry. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Emery – Eve

I’m obsessed with Emery. The harmonies, musicianship and lyricism have both spoken to me and impacted the rest of my musical taste in a way (almost) no other band has. I get excited whenever they even think about releasing something new. This stems from the time I saw the music video for “Butcher’s Mouth”. Something about that song (the video was just a means to an end, I guess) opened up a possibility to me about the span of music that was outside my adolescent bubble, and I’ve followed the band ever since, from albums to podcasts. I’ve never seen them live, which is really to say, hey, Emery, please come to Boston.

You can buy or stream Eve on Apple Music.

With 2015’s You Were Never Alone, my personal favorite album, the band embarked on a Kickstarter journey to self-fund the music they create. They broke up with Tooth & Nail Records and, with no offense to Brandon Ebel, started creating the best music of their career. This led to the release of last year’s Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined, and their latest, Eve.

Eve looks like a heck of a long album with 15 tracks, but it’s only 41 minutes long. Throughout the album, the band gets personal in a way they haven’t really done before. Generally, an Emery album consists of a bunch of songs about breakups, but (and I’m not sure whether this is a correlation) with the split from Tooth & Nail, the band’s last two albums constantly touch on new themes for Emery. There’s an entire set of Break It Down (Matt Carter’s podcast) episodes about You Were Never Alone. I won’t give you the details of them because it’s much more fulfilling to listen to them. The time and thought Emery puts into their art is really showcased in the episodes and really made me appreciate them more than I already had.

“Fear Yourself” might be the heaviest track here. Talking about sin and the hypocrisy in the church, Toby sings in the chorus: “Fear yourself is all I heard / Horror-struck from the Holy Word” and, “…outside those walls they mauled the witness / And we got back to business”. Very on-brand for the members to sing about; they deal with it in virtually every episode of their “Bad Christian” podcast. I mean, they wouldn’t have to deal with it so much if it weren’t so true and physically visible, but c’est la vie. These guys have become a voice of dissension in millennial church circles, but I happen to think it’s necessary.

“Safe” is a song that Devin and Matt wrote after both of their mothers passed away during the recording of Eve. It’s a lovely tribute, and the harmonies Emery is so known for really shine here.

A highlight of the album is the ridiculously titled, “People Always Ask Me If We’re Going to Cuss in an Emery Song”. Emery did not. I’m pretty sure this is a song to everyone who listens to their podcast (in which profanity is abundant) and, other than the question in the title, ask: “How can you guys talk like that and still be religious?” Emery’s reply is that they’re just words and they don’t matter.

Needless to say, I’m psyched with the new Emery album. I’ve got to take a little more time to dive into the lyrics and figure out where it fits into my Emery album ranking, but, so far, it’s pretty high up there. Kickstarter was made to release albums like this. The band has proven three times now that they’re capable of producing exquisite art, and Eve is another great example of that.

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.

Queue It Up: November 12, 2018

This week’s Queue It Up is somewhat predictable because our first track is “thank u, next” by Queen of Pop, Ariana Grande.

I know, I know. You saw it coming. Well guess what? “thank u, next” is a straight up jam. Not only was it totally savage of Ariana to release the track right before an SNL episode featuring ex-fiancé Pete Davidson, it was even more savage of her to spin it around and turn it into what is arguably the biggest self esteem boost in music. Not gonna lie, when she started referring to herself as the biggest part of her own character development, I teared up a little. It’s an important message for everyone.

Next we have As Cities Burn. They’re back with a new track called “2020 AD”. They also recently signed to Equal Vision, which means we should get more than one track, assuming all goes well. I’d like to chalk their return up to the episode of the Labeled podcast where Toby Morrell of Emery basically forced them to metaphorically kiss and make up, but I could be wrong. Either way, it’s a great track.

Finally, we have Regina’s Spektor’s “Birdsong”. It was featured in an episode of that new show, “The Romanoffs”, which I know nothing about and most likely will not watch. The song is lovely, but honestly, what else should we expect from Regina Spektor? It’s a quick track, literally one minute and 40 seconds long, so you have no excuse to skip it.

Have a great week!

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.

One More Spoon of Cough Syrup for Young the Giant in Indianapolis

I have a lot of music nostalgia wrapped up in a radio station from my hometown of Novi, Michigan: 96.3 WDVD. Their morning radio show, which I would crank up with gusto everyday on the way to school, touted the catchphrase “Today’s best hits, without the rap.”  Unfortunately for the station, around 2011, a lot of the greatest hits were rap. I remember alternative and pop artists rising to the top of 96.3’s playlists; while other stations were spinning “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj, 96.3 was playing “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant. Since 2011, Young the Giant has become an alternative powerhouse, with four albums commenting on everything from relationships to politics.I was extremely excited to join the seasoned performers for their Mirror Masters Tour at the Egyptian Room in Indianapolis.

Young the Giant’s lead vocalist, Sameer Gadhia, is from Ann Arbor, Michigan; I would not be surprised if he also listened to 96.3 WDVD at some point in his childhood. From the moment Young the Giant took the stage, it was evident that Sameer brought incredible energy and passion to the performance. Even during relatively subdued songs for Young the Giant, like “Apartment”, Sameer’s powerful voice was spotlighted by lyrics like “Cause sooner or later this is bound to stop / Come on, let’s savor what we’re falling over”.  Sameer drew the audience into every performance, interacting with the fans and making every lyric feel personal. Even more striking was the crescendo of voices from the sold-out crowd at the Egyptian room, playing a supporting role during every song Young the Giant performed.

I started to take note of the rest of the band when Young the Giant transitioned to play “Titus Is Born”. This song really highlighted the versatility of each band member. With quiet classical guitar in the first verse, Young the Giant created a very cool twist on their usual high-energy pop tracks. Impressively, every band member can play multiple instruments or sing. Lead vocalist Sameer played tambourine and guitar, drummer Francois Comtois sang backup, guitarist Eric Cannata played keyboard, and guitarist Jacob Tilley and bassist Payam Doostzadeh played the synth. The musicality and talent of each band member continued to shine in the stripped down version of “Strings”. This arrangement was part of the band’s “In the Open” video series, where they performed versions of their songs in different outdoor locations; check out “Strings” below.

The back half of the show was hit after hit; the sultry beat of “Mind Over Matter” and fun dance interludes of “Nothing’s Over” followed the radio favorite “Cough Syrup”. By the end of the set, the audience was absolutely begging for more. Young the Giant returned to the stage for a marathon of an encore, playing “Superposition”, “Tightrope”, and “Silvertongue”. The show ended with the entire audience jumping up and down to “My Body”, screaming the lyrics “But I won’t quit / ‘Cuz I want more”. When the house lights came up, everyone was buzzing, probably realizing the truth of those words.

Young the Giant put on an absolutely incredible show, showcasing 10 years of touring experience and stellar discography. Luckily, Indianapolis was only the second stop of the tour – if you can get your hands on tickets, I would highly recommend it. In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for the Indianapolis equivalent to 96.3 WDVD; I would not want to miss out discovering on a band like Young the Giant.

by Katie Baird

kiel_hauckKatie Baird is a lover of music that firmly believes transitions between songs on playlists matter, albums are made to be listened to in order, and songs that don’t mention the title in the lyrics are just *better.” Her music obsession began with classic rock records and has evolved to include all genres, with a soft spot for alt pop. While she could talk about music all day, this is her first time writing about it.

Podcast: Interview with Lindsay Zoladz of The Ringer

On our latest podcast, Kiel Hauck talks with Lindsay Zoladz, music and pop culture critic with The Ringer. During the conversation, Zoladz talks about the evolution she’s seen take place in music journalism during her time with The Ringer, Pitchfork and more, while also discussing the obstacles still facing women in the music industry. Zoladz also shares her thoughts on how the current political climate shaped pop music in 2018 and breaks down some of her favorite albums of the year. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Queue It Up: November 5, 2018

While there may not have been that many notable albums hitting shelves last Friday, some of our favorites released some individual tracks that I know everyone will be interested in.

First up is the King of Emo himself, Gerard Way. Just in time for Halloween, Way turned in “Baby You’re a Haunted House”, a short song about the way we hide things in relationships. The “haunted house” refers to all the things that are wrong in Gerard’s subject’s life, and the way he or she masks that is by making it look like it’s not a big deal.

Gerard says in the bridge, though, “I’ll be the ghost inside your head when we are through”, and it seems like one of the biggest problems is the relationship itself, and when it ends, they’ll add Gerard to the group of things inside the haunted house. Perfect for both Halloween playlists and for crying your eyes out when you’re the ghost.

Next we have ”Pope” by Copeland. The track is not officially attached to an album or an EP (yet), which is equally exciting and terrifying. Just one mystifying track. With sprinklings of dialogue in the middle and at the end, Copeland really keeps surprising us with every new release. Whatever this turns into, “Pope” itself seems like a B-side from Ixora, and that thrills me.

The band performed “Pope” at their Imperial Symphony Orchestra show, and on the web page for that show, it states that, “Lakeland rock band Copeland will release a sixth album in Spring 2018,” which, granted, has already passed us by, but gives me hope that whatever happens next will be beautiful.

Finally, hot off the presses as of this author’s recording, and perhaps the most praise-hands-emoji inducing, is “Baby”, the new track from Clean Bandit featuring Luis Fonsi and Marina Diamandis. I am especially excited because this track will also be on Marina’s next studio album. She’s back, even when we all thought she never would be. There was a comment on this song calling it “Despacito ,,” and to be honest, if that were the case I wouldn’t even be mad. The track is catchy and totally dance-worthy, and the video is just as great.

So, some rad new jams to throw in your rotation…Enjoy the week!

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.

Podcast: Reflecting on Five Years of It’s All Dead

Five years ago, we had a crazy idea to launch a website and a podcast. It’s been a wild and incredibly fun journey in which we’ve been able to tell the story of how music impacts our lives and the lives of those around us. As we reach our five year anniversary, we decided to use our podcast to look back on the ride, sharing our favorite stories, our favorite albums, and our favorite bands of the past half-decade. Have our opinions held up? Would we do anything differently? Is Kyle Schultz truly the biggest The Wonder Years fan on the planet? Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

The past five years of It’s All Dead truly could not have been a reality without you (yes, you!) We’ve been so fortunate to grow an audience that’s as passionate about music as we are. As we get ready for the next five years, please use any variety of avenues to contact us and let us know what you’d like to see. Leave a podcast review, post a comment, send us an email. We love hearing from you. Thanks again for everything!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

I feel like everyone prefaces mewithoutYou’s music in the same way that I’m about to. I apologize if this is redundant, but learning the backstory of main lyricist Aaron Weiss is an imperative step in making any sense of this band and their music, which, to the outside, seems to be from another world.

Aaron and his brother, Michael, had an intensely religious upbringing. Their father followed Jewish teachings and their mother followed Episcopal teachings before eventually converting to Sufi Islam. It’s no wonder then, in their artistic outputs, that all of these ideas and more come out. I think this is part of what makes mewithoutYou fit into so many categories. So much religious diversity means that no one is left out – which is also part of the message that mewithoutYou aims to spread.

You can buy or stream [Untitled] on Apple Music.

It took seven albums for mewithoutYou to finally throw up their hands and say, “We don’t know what to call this.” Pretty impressive that it took that long, if you ask me. But for something with no definitive name, this album hits you hard. If you’re not taking a deep dive into the lyrics (and if you aren’t, why?), this album moves fast. There were times when I put it on mindlessly in preparation for writing this and was surprised when it started again. “Lyrical detective” should be a job, and there should be a whole department devoted to mewithoutYou.

I’d like to make the proposition of [Untitled] being A to B Life’s younger brother. Genetically similar with the same attitude, but different enough that no one can mistake the two. This new album is harder than either of the past two they released. It doesn’t even follow the same lyrical patterns of the past two. The last albums have been whimsical and, for the most part, easy to listen to. Aaron decided to look at the tougher side of his religion in [Untitled].

I want to try to go into every track in this album, because it’s so rich and detailed. It would be wrong of me to pretend like I understand every reference and every idea that is brought before me in the album, because I don’t. Like I said, there’s a lot to process, but I hope you’ll take the time to try. I’ll do what I can here, and I hope it can start a discussion.

***

So Aaron’s gone a little bit doom and gloom with the first track, “9:27a.m., 7/29”. He talks about whether salvation is a lasting experience or whether it can be taken away. He talks about the state of current events and laments, ”It’d be a pearl of a time now for a virgin birth”.

“Julia (or, ‘Holy to the Lord On the Bells of Horses’)” is a lovely example of their call to societal unity. He paraphrases Rumi in the first verse: “‘Out beyond ideas of right and wrong is a field / Will I meet you there?” Again at the end of the verse, “So many ways to lose / So many faiths”. A fitting first single — both from a professional sense and a cultural one.

“Another Head for Hydra” is about the influence we have on those around us and the example we’ve set for our children. Aaron talks about fame and how that changes us. He warns us about the dangers of materialism and worrying about a worldly perception that fame and social recognition can bring.

Sonically, two of my favorite tracks are “[dormouse sighs]” and “Winter Solstice”. They’re lyrically interesting, but I can’t really draw any concrete conclusions on what they mean for myself yet. But from a stylistic standpoint, they’re both wonderful. The former is just classic mewithoutYou and sounds like home. The latter, though, is sung in such a soothing and lilting way that reminds me of the mewithoutYou that I fell in love with. I started listening religiously (pardon the pun, I suppose) when Ten Stories was released.

“Flee, Thou Matadors” is written from the perspective of Ferdinand VIII and Isabella, king and queen of Spain. Historically, he’s known as one of the worst kings, while his wife, Isabella, was religious to the extreme. The spin that mewithoutYou puts on the story is the battle of good (Isabella) and evil (Ferdinand) they face as humans in everyday life.

There’s a lot of talk about responsibility in this album. This is seen in “Tortoises All the Way Down”, which is about how actions have consequences and is kind of Ecclesiastical, honestly. The mistakes we make will be made again at some point in history.

“2,459 Miles” and “Wendy and Betsy” are kind of a new direction for the band in the sense that they’re relatable. In the first, Aaron’s talking from the perspective of tour and being away from home and missing his family. In the second, he talks about his wife. They’re great tracks just in themselves but also (strangely enough) they’re a reminder that Aaron is a real live human. I think we all get so caught up in how head-in-the-clouds Aaron usually is as a songwriter that we can forget he has a real life away from mewithoutYou.

“New Wine, New Skins” brings up something that older Christians say a lot: ”God willing”. Aaron says, “‘God’s will’ or ‘come what fortune gives’ / Or is this truly how you’d choose to live / Managing the narrative”, as almost a taunt to his fellow believers about their (lack of) faith.

“Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore”, while also being a paramount spiritual in the hymnal, is a heavy track in which, like in the first track, Aaron wonders about his eternal state, as well as the eternal state of his family. He sings in the last line: “Have you heard from heaven today? / Tell me then, what’d Gabriel say? / Am I still on that narrow way?”

***

It’s fitting that the last line of this album is “Someday I’ll find me”. Throughout each track, Aaron has gone to each of the spiritual struggles he’s facing and dealt with them head on.

“Someday I’ll find me” is such a poignant way to end that search. Did he succeed? I think that when we take a deep look into ourselves and see who we truly are and who we’re becoming, it brings up more questions than what we bargained for. Maybe that’s why the album is [Untitled]. Maybe it’s because Aaron found more than what he planned – and maybe he didn’t like it.

If you have the time and perseverance to take a real look at this album, I think you’ll find what I found. I, like Aaron, have to take that look at myself and decide where I stand with the issues that plague society, the issues that I see in my personal life that affect only myself and those close to me. That’s what I love the most about mewithoutYou. They always force me to turn the lyrics right back onto myself and do some self-reflection. Sometimes, I don’t like what I find, but it’s okay, because the art that mewithoutYou creates is a reminder that I’m not alone not liking what I find within my heart, and I’m not alone in that I want to be better. Someday, I’ll find me.

4.5/5

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.