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!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Advertisements

The Best Albums of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

14. Real Friends – Composure

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

13. AFI – The Missing Man

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

12. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

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

11. Underoath – Erase Me

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

10. Pusha T – Daytona

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

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

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

8. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

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

7. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

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

6. Justin Courtney Pierre – In the Drink

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

5. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

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

4. Architects – Holy Hell

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

3. Fall Out Boy – MANIA

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

2. Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love

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

1. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love

If you’ve read any of my pieces regarding Baltimore, Maryland, post-hardcore band Pianos Become the Teeth, you’ll know that they’re one of my favorites. It will, therefore, probably be unsurprising when I tell you that I think their latest album, Wait for Love, is a masterpiece.

I found Pianos by chance in 2015 when Keep You was released and fell in love with their sound. The album was released in a year that was super tough for my family and I, so lyrically, the album is close to my heart and remains a comfortable spot to land when I want something familiar. Needless to say, I have been anxiously awaiting their follow up and am thrilled to say that it does not disappoint.

You can buy Wait for Love on iTunes.

Wait for Love starts with “Fake Lightning”, a perfect opener that sets the tone for the record. It kind of encapsulates the entire theme, even stating, “We wait for love / Tradition can’t be kept”. When I heard the second part of the line, I felt like it was almost for us, the listeners, as if to say, “Tradition can’t be kept, so here’s our take on that idea.”

Lead single “Charisma” can be seen as just another love song, and that’s how I first took it (and partly still do), but upon further listening and digging into vocalist Kyle Durfey’s essays (further expounded on below), this song is about the birth of his son, which made it even more beautiful to me. Musically, it’s euphoric, and it displays that joy that only new parents know.

If you follow the band closely, you’ll have at some point received a Twitter notification, an Instagram post, an email, etc. that contained a link. Durfey wrote an essay on each song from the record, and at the end, he writes, “It is not necessary to read this before listening to our record, but in doing so, my hope is that you keep these words in mind whilst you do.”

I read it but tried not to keep it in mind too much at first. Given my emotional connection to Keep You, I wanted to listen to the new album for myself and take what I could from it. Only recently have I really started picking apart the lyrics and matching it up to what Durfey wrote.

Keep You was largely about the death of his father, and “Bitter Red” draws to that topic again. As much as we want the pain of these things to eventually leave us, they never really do. Needless to say, the piece Durfey wrote on his album made me feel a lot. It brings a new perspective to the deeper meanings of these songs. Oftentimes, we as listeners aren’t always in tune to what the artist is trying to convey and just boil down these songs into lyrics and melody. Durfey has reminded us that this is his life.

Even the album title itself is poignant. In each song, the band shows a different facet of waiting. Throughout the album, the band discusses waiting for children to be born, learning to live without the immediate love of someone we’ve lost, and loving ourselves despite our mistakes. It’s about the love others have for us and how difficult it is to see and believe in sometimes. It’s about loving life on the road and experiencing new things in new places. It’s about loving a child we’re waiting to meet but won’t be able to because of a miscarriage. It’s about loving others through the curveballs life throws at us. It’s about loving others when things are going great and when love is new and exciting. It touches on every facet of life and love, which means that it has something to offer for everyone.

Simply put, this album is a work of art. Where Durfey’s vocals weren’t an overt focus on past Pianos releases, they are here. His voice shines and truly becomes an additional instrument. The drums are impeccable and driving, the guitars subtle. These guys are some of the most talented musicians, both recorded and live on stage. They’re completely captivating in every way, shape and form, and Wait for Love is a perfect example of what they’re capable of.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2018: #3 Pianos Become the Teeth Wait for Love

If you saw my latest event piece on mewithoutYou, you’ll know about one of my favorite bands: Pianos Become the Teeth. Their last album was released in 2014 and was called Keep You. It’s an album that has meant a lot to me over the past few years and I’ve had the privilege of hearing most of the songs played live. However, I was feeling that it was about time that I had some new songs to cry to. Thankfully, the band is releasing a new album, Wait for Love, on February 16, 2018.

As glad as I am that I’ll get new Pianos tunes, I’m hoping that they’ll be slightly more upbeat. Keep You dealt heavily with the theme of loss and I hope that the band members are having a better season in their life. That seemed to be the idea in their single, “Charisma”.

In listening to the new song, it seems that the band plans to keep the same clean vocal style on Keep You, but since we’ve only got one song to go off of, we’ll see whether they stick with that idea. Musically, though, it sits right in between all of their albums, and I’m very excited for the new approach. The video is interesting as well – the band isn’t featured at all, it’s more of a videographic trip through a city.

You can preorder Wait for Love now on Bandcamp. It was produced by Will Yip for Epitaph Records.

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.

mewithoutYou Celebrate 15 Years of “[A→B] Life” on Recent Tour

If I had to describe mewithoutYou’s recent stop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in one sentence, it would be this: “Come watch Aaron Weiss shred the flowers taped to his mic stand while he screams the lyrics to ‘Gentleman’.” I watched their stagehand come through with a bouquet and duct tape in between guitar tuning and soundcheck. I smiled and thought about how sweet it was, not even realizing how insane their set would be. This show was my first experience seeing mewithoutYou and I was not disappointed. All three bands that played were full of raw energy and talent.

The first band to take the stage was Slow Mass. Based in Chicago, they are one of the most talented opening acts I’ve seen this year. The energy they exude is completely infectious. I love seeing a band interact with one another on stage; I love a band who is in touch with all of their members, equally. The bassist stood out for her intricate and unique playing, as well as for her use of subtle vocals. Their second song, “Dark Dark Energy” especially displayed their creativity and originality. I never wanted their set to end.

Slow Mass

I feel like bands choosing support for their tours have been more intentional and considerate, and it has paid off. Some of the best bands I’ve heard have been opening acts and it thrills me to see newer bands going on the road with bands who are seasoned and getting to watch today’s opening bands grow into their sound and eventually become tomorrow’s headliners.

I typically grab my merch before the show so I was all set by the time Slow Mass took the stage. Needless to say, I made another purchase after their set and let the band know how impressed I was. (Seriously, look them up – you won’t be disappointed). They’re loud and heavy and drove their sound forward in a way that really ignited the crowd and got us into the mood for the rest of the night.

The next band was Pianos Become the Teeth. I saw them perform in 2015 with The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and I was so excited to see them play again. Their last album, Keep You, really resonated with me when I first heard it and I enjoyed getting to hear those songs live again. They also played a new song, “Charisma”, and that got me even more pumped for their 2018 release, Wait for Love. They really brought the show into a quieter spot with a lot of their setlist, mostly tracks from Keep You, which was a bit of a break when compared with Slow Mass.

Naturally, the whole reason the Sinclair was full was because of mewithoutYou. A band full of mystery and the topic of whimsical legends, I was excited to see how they’d bring that persona into their stage presence. They played their album [A→B] Life in its entirety, in honor of the 15-year anniversary of its release. The album is known for its heavier sound; I could hear the strain in Aaron Weiss’ voice as he yelled out the lyrics and it brought a new perspective to why they pulled back on a harsher vibe in their later releases.

mewithoutYou

There was actually a date on the tour where he lost his voice and they had to play the whole album acoustically. That was not the case, however, for this particular show, and the crowd was full of energy and raw affection for both the band and the songs that we’ve all been enjoying for a decade and a half.

Everyone around me stopped moshing after the band finished playing [A→B] Life and stood with rapt attention to the stage as Aaron and his brother Mike played the acoustic, hidden track version of “I Never Said That I Was Brave”. Aaron then stayed on stage alone with his acoustic guitar and played “Chapelcross Towns” and “Goodbye, I!” I’ve never heard a venue so quiet before. It was truly a lovely testament to just how much respect mewithoutYou garners. The rest of the band then returned and played five more songs from their discography, my favorite being “Torches Together”.

It’s truly special to be able to go to shows and spend the evening with people who are there with you to celebrate a musical milestone. mewithoutYou has been such a steady musical influence and it was a privilege to be able to experience an album that is still relevant 15 years later.

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.