Most Anticipated of 2022: The Rejuvenation of Real Friends

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Ever since the addition of lead singer Cody Muraro to the band’s lineup, Real Friends have been on an absolute tear. Shortly after release of the stellar Torn in Two EP last year, the band embarked on a full autumn tour. Not only are the band preparing for another full tour with Mayday Parade and Magnolia Park, they’ve been in the studio all winter recording new material.

Real Friends seem to be utterly rejuvenated and at a creative peak in their career that many bands seem to lose after their first couple of releases. If their new music even remotely compares to the quality of emotion and blazing guitar riffs of Torn in Two, Real Friends are preparing for a release that will be known as a career highlight for the band.

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 is currently braving the coldest of winters, snuggled close to his cat.

Most Anticipated of 2022: A New Album from Paramore (Please?)

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This is my wild card album that I always toss into the Most Anticipated. I got it right with Lorde last year, but I doubt I’ll have the same luck with Paramore. My actual prediction is next year, but it only feels right that they would come back and grace us with another Paramore album after Hayley and Zac have had such blockbuster years with their own solo albums. My other bold prediction is that this will be the final Paramore album. As much as I don’t want that to be true, as Paramore has been a true constant in my life, it feels like a natural ending for what has been an incredible movement in both the scene and modern music as a whole. 

I think that Zac and Hayley will move on to do illustrious things on their own, and they’ll let Paramore rest easy very soon. As for an album? I want it to head back to their scene roots and give us some headbangers, but I know this is almost impossible given the moves they’ve made artistically since 2017’s After Laughter. But at this point, I’m willing to latch on to anything they offer me.

by Nadia Alves

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

The Wonder Years (and Friends) Pack a Punch

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I’m a sucker for opening bands. Oftentimes I will leave a show with a shirt from every band, and that’s a testament to my lack of self-control, but it’s also a testament to the caliber that opening bands are at these days. Long gone are the lineups that exist to sound gross to make the headliner look good. Sometimes, the artists get added to my regular roster, and other times, I let them pass me by, just grateful for the live experience they offered. Last night’s lineup was one of those shows where everyone was incredible and at the top of their game.

The first band of the night was proper., a band from Brooklyn. The band was kind enough to respond to my Instagram message asking for their setlist – love y’all. A three-piece that packed a huge punch, and the lead singer Erik’s stage presence was great. For their first time in the city, they were able to really connect with us in the crowd and everyone fell in love with them. Musically, they have a frenetic punk sound, but there was nothing chaotic about them as a band. Everything was tight, and even though they “hadn’t practiced in the past calendar week,” their set was solid and I wish they had been able to play more. 

PRONOUN from Boston was next, and she also graciously allowed me her setlist after I sent her a DM. I’ve seen her play before, at a Turnover show in 2017, but she was a one-woman show at that point. She has added two more members to the outfit, and a whole lot of experience as well. The first time I had seen her, she didn’t really stick with me for some reason. This time around, she has a few more releases under her belt, and a lot more confidence. With easy vibes, and song titles like “I wanna die but I can’t (cuz I gotta keep living)”, it’s clear that she has found both her niche, and the perfect genre for those of us who use guitars to soothe our mental illnesses.

After a brief intermission and rousing crowd rendition of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire courtesy of the venue playlist, it was time for band three of the night. At this point in my concert career I’ve usually disassociated and want to head home, but of course, I always push through. The sweaty people, the smattering of conversation, and the alcohol seeping through my sneakers is a lot to handle, especially after so long out of the game. But onto the stage steps Future Teens.

Another Boston native band, Future Teens was the perfect act to be third. Not only because of their acclaim in the scene, but for their ability to bring everyone back together. Everyone was dancing to these songs about Boston being overrated and crying in traffic, and the togetherness was palpable. There has been such a disconnect in the scene because of the pandemic and every time a crowd unites – old fans and newly budding fans alike – it feels like old times. Future Teens did just that. It’s always interesting to me when I get to see a band that I’ve only heard about, and sometimes I will deliberately not dive in, and just let the music wash over me that night. Future Teens has made a lifelong fan of me with their show last night. Endlessly energetic, and great music to boot. I didn’t grab a t-shirt from the merch table last night because of how crowded it was, but I have one of their  90’s inspired t-shirts coming in the mail to rep my new faves.

And of course, eventually we make it to the ones we’ve all been aching to see: The Wonder Years. This was my second time seeing the band play (the first was with Tiny Moving Parts, Microwave, and letlive.), but my third time seeing Dan Campbell play – I caught an Aaron West show in 2017. The energy in the room as they finished setting up was undeniable, and as the guys stepped out and Dan said “this is our first headlining show in 21 months,” we knew we were in for a treat. They played tracks from all of their albums, as well as their new Christmas song “Threadbare” for the first time. They pulled out “Christmas at 22” from their back pockets, and according to some fellow attendees who updated the setlist.fm page for the show, they hadn’t played that one since 2014. I’m past my pit days now, but the crowd went wild, and security let up on the no-crowd-surfing rule and let the chips (and the people) fall where they may. 

This was my second venture back into live music, and it’s one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. The Wonder Years have mastered how to put together both a perfect lineup and a perfect setlist, and it’s a joy to see them when they come in from Philly. After this run of shows, they are headed out on a tour where they will be playing both The Upsides and Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing in their entireties.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves 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.

Review: Grayscale – Umbra

Every once in a while, a band just finds their sound. For Grayscale, this came in the form of the single “In Violet”, a song that stood out against the rest of their album Nella Vita. Although the album itself was stellar, there is a magic to “In Violet”. The song is a vortex of moody melodies and dark lyrical subject matter that swirls around a joyful chorus and the swelling of celebratory horns. For their newest album, Umbra, Grayscale have fully leaned into the ideas that gave birth to “In Violet”. The results of this is an album that is over-the-top, stylish, fun and arguably unlike anything else currently in the scene. 

You can buy or stream Umbra on Apple Music.

For Umbra, Grayscale have thrown everything at what made “In Violet” stand out at each song. In a way, it almost sounds overwhelming. There are extensive saxophone solos (“Motown”), gospel choruses (“Live Again”), glitzy guitar solos (“Dirty Bombs”) and songs that include literally all of the above (”Without You”). While these elements could easily be overdone, they’re presented in a way that sounds modernly creative as well as like a long-forgotten soundtrack to an 80’s blockbuster. Simply put, Umbra is exciting because it seems like almost anything can appear throughout the album’s 11 tracks. 

What ties these elements together and reigns them in is a retro-style guitar, courtesy of guitarists Dallas Molster and Andrew Kyne. Opener “Without You” carries a heavy vibe reminiscent of Rick Astley. However, much like “In Violet”, the energetic music hides the bitter lyrical subject matter. Amidst the roaring saxophone and guitar solos, vocalist Collin Walsh sings about the freedom he feels after leaving a toxic relationship (“How could I find love in a car crash? / I was pinned down with my hands back / I’m finally without you”). 

Bassist Nick Ventimiglia stands out most during the quieter moments (“Carolina Skies”), while percussionist Nick Veno finds a healthy restraint amidst the melody of songs, and switches up from a heavily produced sound (“Motown”), to what seems to be some nostalgic gated reverb (“Babylon (Say It To My Face)”).

Walsh’s vocals carry stories of loss and coping with darkness throughout Umbra, such as “King of Everything”, which chronicles the loss of a someone who seems to have left their marriage and friends in a type of mid-life crisis (“Yeah, you’re still a part of me / See the life you threw away, wedding bells and silver rings / No more pain and suffering / So go be the man you want to be”).

Meanwhile, closer “Light” sees Walsh mourning the loss of someone he loves as they pursue their dreams and leaves him stranded in place (“Hearts, they never heal in a straight line / Twelve weeks since you had to go and break mine / Sinking here like a stone / Sad to say, yeah, I know / It’s dark here, spinning deep into my head”). 

Umbra seems like too much, sonically, yet it works. Part of this is that all of the extravagant elements on the album are spread out, providing a taste of each from song to song. As such, the album somehow manages to weave an experience of sound that seems more fitting to mainstream pop than indie rock, but fits with the mood of the band. Umbra explores the darkness of relationships and the aftermath that haunts those stuck trying to find a new adventure. “In Violet” seems to have sprung a surge of creativity from Grayscale that heavily influenced this album, and the band is better for it.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle 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 is slowly baking in the humidity like a potato. A mighty Idaho potato.

Podcast: The Wonder Years’ “Suburbia” Turns 10

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It’s been 10 years since The Wonder Years staked their claim as the flagship band of the 2010’s pop punk revival. Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing is officially a decade old but still just as powerful and impactful as the day it was released. Kiel Hauck is joined by Kyle Schultz to discuss their memories of the album’s release and how it took the scene by storm. During the discussion, they break down some of the album’s best tracks and a few of Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s best lines. They also debate where the album stands among the best pop punk releases of all time. Take a listen!

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Mike Herrera Talks Livestream Performances and (Almost) 30 Years of MxPx

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Thought we were done talking MxPx? Think again! Mike Herrera stopped by the podcast to talk with Kiel Hauck about the band’s current livestream series, Between This World and the Next, and how the band has stayed innovative when it comes to connecting with their fans. Mike also reflects on the upcoming 30th anniversary of MxPx and shares about the experience of exploring the band’s deep catalogue across their recent livestream setlists. Finally, he discusses the ebbs and flows of fan response to the band’s music over the years and the prospect of a new MxPx album. Take a listen!

You can grab tickets to the band’s next livestream performance on their website.

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Photo Credit: Jered Scott

Podcast: The Best of MxPx with Jason Tate

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This one has been a long time coming, folks. We welcome Jason Tate, founder of Chorus.fm, to the podcast to talk all things MxPx. Jason and Kiel Hauck break down the band’s history and legacy before diving into an extensive ranking of the band’s 10 studio albums. They also discuss the biggest “What if?” in the band’s career, their favorite MxPx concert memories, and why the band is still so vital and relevant almost three decades into their career.

It’s safe to say that It’s All Dead and this podcast wouldn’t exist without MxPx and the impact they’ve made on the scene. We had an absolute blast diving into the band’s legacy and discography and we hope you enjoy this (rather long!) episode. Long Live Left Coast Punk Rawk.

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Photo Credit: Jered Scott

Stand Atlantic Release “Deathwish” featuring Nothing,Nowhere

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It’s been just over eight months since Sydney pop punk act Stand Atlantic dropped their sophomore album, Pink Elephant. Not having the opportunity to properly tour their breakout release, the band haven’t twiddled their thumbs. Friday, they released a new track titled “deathwish” featuring rapper Nothing,Nowhere.

The track picks up where Pink Elephant left off, blending the dark, synthy sound of “Silk & Satin” with the aggressive feel of tracks like “Shh!” and “Wavelength”. Needless to say, the track goes hard as hell and sounds so catchy that you have to hit repeat.

With the temperatures reaching the 70s and the sun beginning to shine consistently, I threw on Pink Elephant this weekend and was transported back to last summer, when Stand Atlantic kept me sane amidst isolation. The days of Warped Tour may be behind us, but if you had to encapsulate the experience in a vibe, Stand Atlantic would be it. It’s crazy that this band just keeps getting better, but they sound firmly ferocious on “deathwish”, with Bonnie Fraser becoming more and more of a force with each new release.

There’s no telling whether this new track is a one-off single or part of something larger. Fraser recently told Rocksound that the track was recorded during quarantine and that “It’s probably our favorite song we’ve ever done.” It’s hard not to hope that there’s more where this came from, but even if not, I’m happy to have “deathwish” carry me into summer.

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 pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Vices & Virtues: Panic! At The Disco’s True Beginning

All things considered, Vices & Virtues is the first true Panic! At The Disco album. The tribulations of Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith in not only writing the record, but exceeding expectations and forging a new path for the band are legendary. Not only was the album Urie’s first experience acting as lead songwriter, he essentially played every instrument except percussion. While A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out made the band a household name, Vices & Virtues made Panic! At The Disco artists.

You can buy or stream Vices & Virtues on Apple Music.

Vices & Virtues came out the first year that I was finding my way in the world. College roommates had ventured off into the world while I worked a lowly job, feeling left behind and in some ways betrayed to sit with what remained of our previous lives together. I played mixtapes we had all made, many of which included many Panic! songs, to remind myself of the fun we used to have on summer nights that I now spent in my bedroom at home. It wasn’t until after the album’s release did I realize how much Vices mirrored that feeling of abandonment and looked out over the horizon for something bigger that I could scarcely imagine at the time.

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out was the epitome of a breakout record. Stylized, edgy, wrapped between multiple genres and engrossed in a circus-like visual flair, it launched Panic! from would-be opening band to headliners over night. “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” became such a staple single that it’s still the song everyone knows by the band. Panic! At The Disco were the rare overnight sensation that stayed. For years after their debut’s release, audiences demanded the next album. Although it’s looked at more favorably in retrospect, the immediate reaction to 2008’s Pretty. Odd. was mixed at best.

Pretty. Odd.’s retro style rock was so jarring, that 13 years later I still know people who refuse to listen to the band because of it. That’s why for many, the news in mid-2009 that guitarist and songwriter Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker were leaving Panic! At The Disco was met equally with a sigh of relief and a fear that the group was dead and out of its misery. 

Just months after the split, I watched a neutered Panic! open for Blink-182 on their reunion tour. Vocalist Brendon Urie paced back and forth slowly across the stage in a suit and tie, seemingly dazed and uninterested. Shortly thereafter, one-off single “New Perspective” released in the summer of 2009. While catchy, it proved to just be a safe, lackluster pop song. 

“The Ballad of Mona Lisa”, released a year and a half later, is arguably Panic!’s most underrated song of all time. It was the first real single from the new version of the band, now consisting of only Urie and drummer Spencer Smith. Returning to the “masquerade rock” sound of Fever, “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” ushered in the true era of Panic! At The Disco. Harsh power chords, a sprawling anthemic chorus and rampant walls of percussion found a seductive mix between punk rock and radio pop. 

The song was made all the more impressive after the fact: Urie revealed that he had become lead songwriter after Ross’s departure, and that he sang, played guitar, bass, and the keys all while sporting a steampunk ensemble in the music video. He continued this blistering commitment throughout the rest of the album (sans the steampunk). 

Vices & Virtues wasn’t just a rebirth for Panic! At The Disco. It was an album of catharsis, anger and forgiveness that utterly cleared the path for Brendon Urie to become a global superstar. Despite having just become a “songwriter,” no two songs on Vices sound alike. Sweeping choruses and intricate instrumentation (“Hurricane”) permeate the album entirely. The inclusion of the defining genre sounds of Fever felt like a rebranding more than it did a retread. 

It’s hard to find a track that truly shines brighter than the others throughout the record. “Let’s Kill Tonight”, with its aggressive pop riffs teetering on the edge of new wave, stands just as brightly against “Memories”, a dance track describing the downfall of youthful love. However, “Sarah Smiles”, a song for Urie’s now wife is a lusciously haunting track teeming with layers of aggressive folk rock and punctuated with trumpets.

Hidden in the mix is “The Calendar”, arguably one of the band’s most important and often forgotten songs throughout their entire discography. Although the song is framed around a relationship, it is a direct reaction to Ross and Walker’s departure. The song balances the regret and sadness at how things ended for the full group and the shock of inspiration that spurred Urie and Smith forward. (“Don’t wanna call it a second chance, but when I came back, it was more of a relapse. / Anticipation’s on the other line, an obsession called while you were out.”)

Vices & Virtues was a redemption and reaffirmation of Panic! At The Disco that almost no one expected. Vibrant, emotional and utterly energized, it was worthy of the restored “!” in the band’s name. Although Smith left the band shortly after release as well, the confidence from Vices & Virtues gave Urie more leeway to experiment with less rock and more synth on Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, and explore the burlesque and crooner sounds on Death of a Bachelor and Pray For The Wicked, Urie’s (current) pop magnum opus.

Vices & Virtues seems to be more or less hidden in the background of Panic!’s discography at this point, now that there are several high profiles albums that have dominated the pop world. However, the emotional energy behind this album allowed Urie to not only vent the feelings of betrayal and loss, but also test the waters of who he was as a songwriter. Despite already being two albums deep, Vices & Virtues served as the true start of Panic! At The Disco’s conquest to become one of the world’s top tier pop artists, and Urie’s journey toward becoming a superstar.

by Kyle Schultz

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Kyle 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 ate a reuben sandwich with such vigor that he still feels guilty for the “slaughter” three days later

Review: A Day To Remember – You’re Welcome

Part of the charm to A Day To Remember is knowing how much their sound shouldn’t work as well as it does. A conglomeration of hardcore, punk and mainstream pop, most of ADTR’s back catalog is something that feels like it has always kind of been looked at through a lens of a band having fun more than anything else. Although You’re Welcome doesn’t change this dynamic, this is the first album that doesn’t seem to hide the flaws of this amalgamation as well as past records. What remains is an album burdened by an undue weight placed upon it, but may very well be held in much higher esteem a year from now.

You can buy or stream You’re Welcome on Apple Music.

The biggest flaw of You’re Welcome is that fans were forced to wait almost a year and a half for its release after the initial announcement. Delays of a few months can sour fan expectations, but one that long can breed resentment. You’re Welcome is full of big swings for the band that shouldn’t sound as shocking as they sometimes do (“Bloodsucker”) when compared to ADTR’s discography. But with so long to soak in a slew of singles, You’re Welcome feels even less cohesive than it should.

You’re Welcome has a wide range of sound and influences, whether that be hardcore (“Last Chance to Dance (Bad Friend)”), radio pop (“Bloodsucker”) or pop rock (“Permanent”). The issue is that while a lot of these elements aren’t necessarily new for ADTR, they either don’t commit to them enough (“Only Money”) or commit too much (“F.Y.M.”) for them to resonate in any meaningful way.

Peppered throughout You’re Welcome, though, are some truly great songs. “Brick Wall” resonates with the crunching guitars and energy of classics like “The Downfall Of Us All”. Closing track “Everything We Need” is a gorgeous acoustic ballad brimming with the reflection of youth and the swagger of a country song. Meanwhile, “Viva La Mexico” is a rager, allegedly about a bachelor party in Mexico, that feels destined to infect many a playlist.

The hypnotic elegance of “Permanent” proves to be one of the best songs that band has released in some time. While not groundbreaking, it flawlessly intermingles an electronic sound around a harder edge that builds to a well-earned breakdown and may best encapsulate what the band had aimed for throughout the album.

If there is a theme to You’re Welcome, it falls on the mass resentment that people pass on to one another. This is highlighted best in lead single “Degenerates”, a glossy pop punk song with a cheerleader-like chorus (“Why do we tend to hurt one another? / Dividing up all the books by the covers / Like it ain’t hard enough simply being me”).

“Brick Wall” chants defiance at pessimism and includes what may arguably be one of the great circle pit lyrics of all time (“Saddle up, boys / We’re headed for the brick wall”). “Bloodsucker” highlights the negative influence the judgement of religion can play on a person (“I’ve only got a lifetime / So I’ll give no more to you”) while sounding like a swirl of the best of Fall Out Boy and the worst of Maroon 5.

But in the face of this, a song like “F.Y.M.” is bred from that same resentment the album is pushing back on. Although it feels like the laziest written song on the record, it is destined to stick in your head for longer than anticipated as vocalist Jeremy McKinnon sings, “Wait’ll I get some fuck you money”.

You’re Welcome is an album that may not be what fans had hoped for after such an extensive delay, but it earns its place more with each new listen. Removing the weight of prolonged expectation, it feels reminiscent of the disjointed lovability of What Separates Me From You. Fans of every form of ADTR will find something glamorous here, even if they have to look a little harder than they may have initially hoped.

I found a true appreciation of the album during penultimate track “Re-Entry”. The song encapsulate the best of the band while showing both, the frustration and the relief of recording this album and may be the catharsis they needed for when it was finally finished. Over ridiculously playful guitars and cartoonish group vocals during the chorus, there is a genuine drain, relief and joy and McKinnon sings, “I just wanna go home”.

4/5

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 stubbed his toe on the coffee table so hard he briefly thought his foot was amputated. Send him flowers. And a foot. Just a new foot, please.