Review: The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes On Forever

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Every time I think The Wonder Years have finally peaked, they do something new and bring the bar up even higher. With The Hum Goes On Forever, we see the guys reckon with having younger eyes on them at all times, and the implications that has. In other words, The Wonder Years have finally grown up.

This album feels a lot like tying up loose ends in TWY lore, with callbacks to The Greatest Generation lyrically in several spots, but very in-your-face with lead single, “Oldest Daughter”, a song about “Madelyn”. There is a track called “Cardinals II”, in which we get punched in the gut with “I had that nightmare again / You fall and you’re helpless” sung in just the most devastating way vocalist Dan Campbell can find. In “The Paris of Nowhere” bridge, we get “It must get lonely / Without Colleen and Cheryl around”, a song title from their last full length album Sister Cities. This album all feels very overarching and a huge piece of TWY history. It feels effortlessly familiar

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You can buy or stream The Hum Goes On Forever on Apple Music

Every time I say, “This is their best album,” and with each release, I’m proven wrong. Somehow every album is their best, and I think it’s because of the honesty they pour into every one of their songs. They want to grow as a band, they want to grow as lyricists, but they also want to grow as people. And I think their earnestness and desperate search for something better keeps their art flowing. Even though someone who may just be getting into the band may think “everything sounds the same,” those who have been walking behind the band over the years and following their story can see the growth.

As the years have gone by and I have learned to cling to whatever is sure in life, I’ve never been more sure that The Wonder Years will stand the test of time. When I am older and my kids, or my nieces and nephews, ask for something to listen to, I know exactly who to point them to. This is one of those bands that have gotten me through my darkest days, even when they were going through their own dark times. I love this album. I love how raw it is.

I think my favorite track so far is “Old Friends Like Lost Teeth”. I’m not a parent so a lot of the tracks don’t quite hit my heart in that way, but I have lost people. I was on a run when I first listened through the album and when I heard “I wanna build you back from memory / Something that can stay / That can stay here when you go”, and “I’m caught in the gray / Drifting out here all alone”, I lost whatever breath I had left. It has still stuck with me several listens through, and i wait for it every time, which is basically my rubric for favorite album track.

I think at the crux of all of The Wonder Years’ art is just trying. And I think that’s what keeps us all around. The idea that the only thing someone could want from us is just whatever we have in our hands to offer in a demanding world is incredibly refreshing and relieving. And I think that the album title is a testament to that. Nothing will stop, the world will keep rushing around us, but for 45 minutes with The Hum Goes on Forever, or at the next TWY show, we can take whatever we need, and fill our hands with something to get us through. As the album ends, “Put in the work / Plant a garden / Try to stay afloat.”

5/5

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.

Riot Fest: My Chemical Romance Usher in the Return of Punk Rock

Riot Fest is always a bit of a shit show. It’s where Warped Tour kids went once they began contributing to a 401(k). But there is a draining magic to the event that draws us back year after year to brave the heat and feet for 10 straight hours a day. But this time, just this once, it felt different.

This year’s first day was held beneath clear but milky skies, the sun slowly peeling away sunscreen and shade to provide attendees with painful and splotchy souvenirs they’ll carry with them all weekend. While everyone’s experience at a festival is different, I spent Riot’s opening day shepherding a group of people who have never attended the Fest before from stage to stage, making it even more impossible to review the event as a whole. 

Instead, I have snapshots of the day burned into my brain. Anthony Green ditching his mic and launching himself into the crowd during L.S. Dune’s intense debut show. Singer Stubhy Pandav of Lucky Boys Confusion wiping away tears of joy as the crowd that showed up early to see them shouted “LBC! LBC!” after telling them about his recent struggles with muscular sclerosis. Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years brimming with an earned confidence as he introduced “Low Tides”, a song from their upcoming album The Hum Goes on Forever, before announcing that he was dying from the heat of the blue jumpsuit he wore on stage. 

Pioneer skate punks Lagwagon slaying the stage, as well as a man accidentally trebucheting a tub of cheese fries onto the grass after throwing his hands up in excitement to yell “Tony Hawk!” when they played “May 16”. A girl in a large hoop skirt running across the open field of grass to see Anberlin, only for her foot to catch in her clothing and faceplant into the dirt. A girl sitting alone on a swing hanging from a poorly lit plastic arch, watching Portugal. The Man with a gentle kick of her feet. A man in full face paint of the classic Misfits skull logo giving a resigned “Fuuuuuuuck,” when he realized that they were actually playing on Saturday, and he was watching Friday’s punk legends The Descendents. 

The question everyone seemed to be wanting to ask, though, was how My Chemical Romance would play, considering they were booked on the stage tucked furthest away in the corner, with the worst view and nowhere for the monolithic crowds to go. Seemingly every third attendee wore a different MCR shirt, some even in the blue leather Danger Days jacket. People flowed through the ever-swelling crowds in fluid rivers to a single stage. Considering MCR’s headline gig (and reunion tour) had been postponed a full year, it was hard not to consider their set something entirely different from the rest of Riot Fest.

A close friend of mine said that seeing David Bowie’s 1979 performance on Saturday Night Live was an event. The 80’s were just days away, but Bowie’s spellbinding performance in the last moments of the decade was Bowie himself allowing the 70’s to end and announcing, “Okay. Now the 1980’s may begin. Now, you may have new wave.” Forty years later, he swears that seeing that single moment of television was a monumental moment of his life.

Bands like Descendents and Lagwagon taught us what punk rock was. Alkaline Trio and Taking Back Sunday showed us what a new generation of punk rock could be. The Wonder Years and Anberlin redefined punk rock entirely. My Chemical Romance somehow managed to naturally encapsulate all of those sensations into one tidal wave of energy that even people who don’t pay attention to the genre can still sing along to. 

My Chemical Romance at an offensive distance from the stage

As the lights flared, Gerard Way stepped on stage in dark glasses, a shawl, and a dark coat over a dress like a vampiric babooshka. The image stood haunting, iconic even, as the opening notes of new single “The Foundations of Decay” swept over the fields. The image of My Chemical Romance on stage together bore a palpable energy for anyone standing below that seemed to say that punk rock itself was re-energized. 

My Chemical Romance said, “Okay. Punk rock is back.”

Was it the best show I have ever seen? Simply put, no. Gerard’s vocals seemed stunted at times, pronouncing each syllable so startlingly disjointed from one another at times, and lacking some of the trademark swagger of his elegantly disheveled vocals. Despite that, the drama he brought to the stage was a power on par with a relaxed David Bowie. Between every song, Way took the time to check on the sea of people mushing themselves together like an ocean wave to be as close to the stage as possible.

Frank Iero and Mikey Way moved little on stage, but the sound they expelled was a force of nature. Hearing those guitars again was an event. Whether MCR makes new music or not, just knowing the band is a ruling force of music again feels like it is singlehandedly ushering in a new era of the genre.

The next night, I was able to see one of the Drive-Thru Records bands I thought were gone forever, Midtown, reunited and preparing to tour with MCR. Their sloppy but thrilling set was cobbled together allegedly at the request of Mikey Way himself.

The Academy Is…, performing together for the first time in seven years, headlined the Concord Music Hall with a passion and fury that had been missing from pop punk for over a decade. William Beckett may in fact be the best frontman in all of pop punk, in utter control of the stage and sounding better with age.

Pop punk royalty Yellowcard, playing Riot during the day Saturday, were reunited after years apart.

L.S. Dunes, courtesy of Alice Wiltgen

Speaking of Frank Iero, the other big takeaway from Riot was the debut of L.S. Dunes. Composed of Iero, Anthony Green, and musicians from Coheed & Cambria and Thursday, the new supergroup is one of the few times such a team-up seems to not just succeed, but astound. Bringing together the best parts of post-punk hardcore, L.S. Dunes threaten to compete with the best the scene has to offer, shining as a particular high point in Anthony Green’s already astounding discography, comprised of some of the best and most influential bands in the genre. 

As previously stated, Riot Fest was a shit show. There was no shade. One of the biggest bands in the world performed in a corner. The line for artist merch was an hour and a half long. Beer was a felonious $14. But it’s our shit show. Its very existence is a symbol of the thriving perseverance of punk through ages and eras, as well as a beacon of inspiration for bands on the rise. I can’t wait to be told “Holy shit, the sunburn on the back of your neck is impossible,” again next year.

Punk rock is back. Now, we may see it evolve.

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 almost spent $7 on a water bottle. There was a sign saying they were $4 in the distance, but he was first in line at a cart and just wanted to look cool in front of his friends. What a fool he is indeed.

Queue It Up: May 2, 2022

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It has been a heck of a week for music fans. After Hayley Williams wowed us at Coachella with Billie Eilish, she announced a new podcast in partnership with BBC called Everything Is Emo. Lil Nas X announced a headlining tour. The B-52s are heading out on their last tour. And of course, we received the whole tracklist for the new Harry Styles album Harry’s House. Let’s talk a bit about some tracks that were released to lead us into late spring.

Harry Styles – “As It Was”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Harry’s new single “As It Was”. Somehow I already know all the words, despite hearing it on the radio maybe twice, and not going out of my way to listen to it on Spotify (I’ve been in a hardcore mood lately). But the whistles and literal bells keep calling out to me, because every time I hear this song in a TikTok I think to myself, “What a jam.” If the album keeps going with this sleek pop vibe he offers us here, I’ll play it all summer. He debuted it at Coachella Weekend 1, which also featured cameos from Shania Twain and Lizzo, because why not. His new album releases May 20th.

The Wonder Years – “Oldest Daughter”

My most re-played song this past week is definitely “Oldest Daughter” by The Wonder Years. I heard the premiere when they first played it on Alt 104.5 in Philly, because of course Philly gets the first taste of all the new TWY tracks – the guys are nothing if not loyal. This is the first single from their latest album, which Dan Campbell has said is finished and in the final stages of production and artistry. He seems to be more excited about this album than I’ve seen him be about a TWY album in past years, so we know it’s bound to be good.

Tiny Moving Parts – “North Shore”

My favorite math rock band is back with a new single, “North Shore”. Since seeing Tiny Moving Parts open for The Wonder Years, I can’t stay away from playing through their discography at least once a month. I love their melodies and their lyricism. I’m psyched for this single because not only is it great, but it most likely means a new album. And everyone knows that melodic hardcore is the best spring and summer genre. No other announcement accompanied the single, so it’s based purely on hope, but the guys are going on tour with This Wild Life and In Her Own Words this summer, so do with that what you will. New single + headlining tour = big things coming from the TMP camp. Simple math.

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

The Wonder Years Providence Splash

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.

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!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2021

Welcome to year seven of my dumbest annual list. Honestly, this list usually happens during that stir crazy part of winter, just before the dawn of spring. I get drunk on a weekend, fire up YouTube, watch a bunch of music videos, and write about the experience. Unfortunately, the past year has provided WAY too much time for me to sit inside, drink too much, and watch things on my TV. It’s sad, really.

But hey, why not make the best of it? There were some really great videos from 2011 that I’d totally forgotten about. It was a year of transition in my life, marked by leaving some difficult things behind and moving forward to some really great things. Thus, I have a lot of fond memories associated with the music videos below. I hope you’ll enjoy them. And please share your favorites in the replies!

Eisley – “Smarter”

The Valley arrived four years after Eisley’s sophomore album Combinations but was very much worth the wait. On lead single “Smarter”, Sherri Dupree-Bemis finds herself leaving her own funeral to return to her waiting family/bandmates in an abandoned church while singing lines like, “If I sound angry, I’m sorry / This body can only cry for so long / And if you want to blame me, then go on / I’m smiling now ‘cause I’m smarter than you think”. It’s an angry, poignant, determined return for a band that had been through the ringer in more ways than one.

Yellowcard – “Hang You Up”

“Hang You Up” is such a great video because it’s a lovely song and the video could’ve been played straightforward, but instead, they leaned into comedy. Here, Yellowcard vocalist Ryan Key wanders the street before entering his job at a fast food restaurant, annoying strangers and patrons along the way with his singing. Top moments include a woman in the parking lot threatening, “I swear to god, if you open your mouth and start singing a pre-chorus…” and drummer LP handing Ryan his signature black leather jacket.

Blessthefall – “Promised Ones”

Look, I’m an unabashed blessthefall fan and there’s no way this video wasn’t making the cut. It combines the intro/opening track from Awakening into one video, which is cool, and it’s set in some sort of post-apocalyptic world or something? I think? I dunno. There are a lot of fired up blessthefall fans that are all dirty and they’re running, driving, and throwing molotov cocktails, baby. And I don’t blame them. That breakdown at 3:50 fucking RIPS.

Childish Gambino – “Heartbeat”

The ascent of Donald Glover into a cultural force happened fast and it’s still incredible to think about how it happened. From a musical perspective, a lot of the forward movement began with his debut album Camp, which features this gem. The video for “Heartbeat” includes two very cool things. 1. A bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. 2. A really cool analogy about a slippery, messy relationship told through the very clear image of who’s in the driver’s seat.

Christina Perri – “Jar of Hearts”

I met my wife in the summer of 2011 and she was so into this song. And I got hooked, too. The video is one of those cool things where the color and choreography match the cold, dark feeling of the song in a way that’s just perfect. Perri’s raging bridge to the song is captured perfectly in the mid-street dance between the shitty dude character and the women that he seeks (and fails) to control.

Jay-Z and Kanye West – “Otis”

I just see this video and I’m taken back to the summer of 2011, which was a very good one for me. It was a celebration, just like this video. It reminds me of a time when we could get together and party. It reminds me of a time when Jay-Z and Kanye were like best buds and Kanye hadn’t made me sad. It reminds me of what a victory lap Watch the Throne was for hip hop and how good that felt. It just reminds me of good times, and that’s something I need right now.

The Wonder Years – “Came Out Swinging”

SPEAKING OF THE SUMMER OF 2011. This song is just a damn rager and a touchstone of when pop punk began its renaissance moment. The shots of The Wonder Years playing in that weird basement just says everything about that moment. It’s also a reminder that there was like a year where every scene band had light bulbs hanging in their video. But this was probably the best version of it because there’s like 20 bulbs and we all know that more bulbs = better.

Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”

It’s crazy how certain years in music are simply defined by the question, “Did Adele release an album that year?” And if the answer is yes, you kinda know what the conversation was about that year. And 21 dropping in 2011 was probably the biggest one. This song was fucking everywhere and the video is one of those kitchen sink videos. It has everything. A dude dancing with a sword, dishes smashing against a wall, a floor full of water glasses that ripple to the music, and Adele sitting on a chair. What more could you ask for?

Chiodos – “Notes in Constellations”

Ready for a really hot take? “Notes in Constellations” is the best Chiodos song. Yeah, you heard me. And the video makes it even better. It looks like it cost a lot, too. The video matches the song’s narrative about the passing of a loved one, with the bereaved carrying on with all of the memories. Brandon Bolmer’s voice is angelic on this track and he’s hot as hell in the video. Yeah, you heard me. Did I repeatedly watch this video at 2 a.m. in my apartment whilst crying many a night back in 2011? That’s none of your business, mister.

Katy Perry – “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”

There’s no way this video wasn’t making this list. It’s either the most notable or second most notable video of 2011, depending on how you feel about Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. But guess what. Just four months after that crazy Rebecca Black moment, Katy Perry GOT HER IN THIS VIDEO THAT IS ALSO ABOUT FRIDAY. I mean, damn. And then you’ve got Kenny G playing the sax solo on the roof at a house party. It’s all so dumb and crazy and silly, but this is kind of a moment that said, “Hey, if you’re gonna release a music video and have it actually matter, you have to do something big.” And that’s what Katy Perry did in the summer of 2011.

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.

In Defense of Anniversary Tribute Albums

In the last few years, there has been a flood of “reimagined” versions of classic albums and songs. Some might see this as a waste, since it’s not technically new material. But in recent years, the ante has been upped in many ways beyond a basic acoustic cover. Acoustic versions of songs are always a welcome addition to a band’s catalog, but complete re-recordings offer a chance to reevaluate the journey, and analyze not only why the album meant so much in the first place, but also how the listeners and the bands have matured in the years between.

The Wonder Years were the first band to really catch my attention with reimagined versions of their songs. Burst & Decay Vol. I slowed down tempos, revitalized the lyrics of songs like “Don’t Let Me Cave In” to be conversational and somber reflections. “Cardinals”, a song already heavy in terms of regrets over a failed friendship, becomes even more burdensome when every single lyric has time to resonate. Though the reimagined versions of songs never quite match the scale or eccentric hype of the original, the new attention serves as a reminder for why these songs resonated so well with fans.

All Time Low’s It’s Still Nothing Personal tribute album may be the best example of a re-recorded release. Nothing Personal helped cement All Time Low as a permanent fixture in the scene. In the decade since, their sound has morphed to the point that it’s hard to see them as the motley crew standing on the stage of the “Weightless” music video in a small club anymore. This updated version of Nothing Personal hardly surpasses the original, but it shows listeners just how starkly the band has grown since then. 

Singer Alex Gaskarth’s voice is much more rich and mature, compared to the autotuned vocals of the original release. The guitars are more relaxed, and the production tighter. The addition of harsh vocals during “Lost In Stereo” changes the dynamic of the song when compared to the poppier lyrics. It’s also a stark reminder of the chances the band are willing to take that never would have appeared on earlier albums. The addition is minimal, but it’s a curve that makes the song instantly different, especially when paired with the vocal twists of Gaskarth. Even the closing track “Therapy” benefits from the restraint of the full band.

We the Kings’ Self Titled Nostalgia does the same by removing the guitars entirely and rewriting every song as a piano-driven, semi-electronica experiment. Though the original songs were seminal pop songs of their era, these reworked versions sound less like emo-pop songs and more like the soothing anthems of romance that they were always meant to be. 

In contrast, Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s Sol-fa 2016 is strikingly similar to the Sol-fa album released in 2004. AKFG, one of Japan’s most famous rock bands, are well known in the States for “Rewrite,” one of the opening songs to the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime. The version on 2016’s release features singer Masafumi Gotoh’s with slightly more matured vocals, and the instrumentation tighter and closer to the sound the band plays during live shows. “Re:Re:” includes a new instrumental opening that vastly improves the song, as live show performances had proven for over a decade. 

These types of anniversary albums feel different from other reworked albums, such as Eisley’s I’m Only Dreaming and I’m Only Dreaming… Of Days Long Past. Part of this is due to both albums being released so close together. A decade between re-workings gives space to appreciate the alternate versions of songs, whereas these albums feel more akin to two halves of the same piece. 

This is the case as well for Dashboard Confessional’s Alter The Ending, which released a full band and acoustic album together. These types of albums are extremely welcome, and gives the artist the opportunity to stretch and not feel restrained when the sound they hear is so much wider than a single song. However, it still doesn’t hold the same affection to something like Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue Acoustic, which was in part a celebration of the band’s reformation.

It’s hard to say that any band has fully found the best way to honor a fan-favorite album, but re-recording them with 10 extra years of experience, insight and creativity is something that more bands should embrace. It’s a way to show appreciation to the fans that have stuck around for so long. It also allows bands the opportunity to show how much they’ve grown when tasked to rewrite the songs they created as kids.

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 doesn’t understand why the birds won’t come to his window to say hello. It’s just a new birdhouse! There’s still seed, so why won’t this HOARDE OF SPARROWS lay siege to the windows once more?! Cowardly birds!

Podcast: Music Therapy During the Covid-19 Lock-In

It’s been a strange few weeks, to say the least. As the country takes measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, we take some time on our podcast to discuss how we’re handling a new reality. Kiel Hauck, Kyle Schultz and Nadia Paiva discuss how music is providing comfort during this time, debate the best band discographies to binge, and share some of the new music released in 2020 that has left its mark. Take a listen.

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What albums are keeping you company as you self-distance? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

10 Sappy Songs to Share with Your Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day and, take it or leave it, love is in the air. I have searched far and wide for the scene’s sappiest offerings to bring you this – a playlist perfect for a candlelit dinner.

1. Anchor & Braille – “Summer Tongues”

This track was on my shortlist of choices for the first dance at our wedding. It showcases Stephen Christian’s sentimental writing style at its best, and is a highlight on Anchor & Braille’s first album, Felt. The idea for this article actually came to me as I was listening to the album recently and realized what a lovely song this is. Its gentle tones will make you dream of sunnier days.

2. Panic! at the Disco – “Always”

“Always” from 2011’s Vices and Virtues is an ode to the great literary classic The Great Gatsby. For those who either skipped the reading or forgot the plot, the book centers around Jay Gatsby and his endless pining after the married lady across the water and the destruction that brings to his life. But I digress. Brendon Urie drew a lot of early Panic!’s writing inspiration from literature, and this track is a wonderful tribute to a great love story of the past.

3. Copeland – “Have I Always Loved You”

This is one of Copeland’s many offerings in the relationship department. Between “Coffee”, from Beneath Medicine Tree, to basically the entirety of 2019’s Blushing, Copeland doesn’t let a chance for a thoughtful love song pass them by. This track opens Ixora (2015) and is a reflection on (presumably) Aaron Marsh’s marriage. It begins with him reminiscing on their wedding day and moves to just doing life together, always remembering the way it began: with a white dress.

4. House of Heroes – “If”

The End Is Not the End might not seem like your top Valentine’s choice for background music but this concept album about war and relationships was one of the first albums my husband and I bonded over. He was just as surprised as I was to learn that we both knew and loved House of Heroes. This is his favorite song from the album, and ties into the theme of pop culture references with the “Bride of Frankenstein” line.

5. A Day to Remember – “You Had Me At Hello”

Here’s another song I wouldn’t have known about without Jeremiah. I pride myself in being the audiophile out of the two of us, but he has made some important contributions to my roster, including adding “You Had Me At Hello”, from A Day to Remember’s 2005 album And Their Name was Treason, to a playlist during our dating years. They’ve never been my favorite band, and the bridge to this song is pretty awkwardly written, but you can’t deny it’s cute.

6. The Wonder Years – “You in January”

Of all the songs on No Closer to Heaven, this is the one I find myself returning to again and again four years later. It’s got the trademark attention to detail writing from Dan Campbell, and as a bonus they remixed it for the first Burst and Decay EP. I like the original better, but I might be biased because of how much I liked it when the album came out. I love the personal aspects of the song, like in the bridge where he sings about how they’ve traveled together, and I love the fact that he called back to “Passing Through a Screen Door” by ending the song with “I’m glad that you stayed”. It’s The Wonder Years at their best.

7.  Say Anything – “I Want to Know Your Plans”

Another track from our wedding playlist is this surprise from Say Anything’s magnum opus …Is a Real Boy. I say “surprise” because of how unorthodox the rest of the album is compared to this almost-Shakespearean ballad. It’s always been one of my favorites from the album, simply because it is such a stark difference from the way he deals with other subjects on the album (“Every Man Has a Molly” comes to mind). It has become almost a theme to my marriage as I work every day towards keeping our relationship harmonious.

8. Mike Mains and the Branches – “Stop the Car”

Mike Mains and the Branches are a band that was largely anonymous until they signed to Tooth and Nail in 2018 to release their third album, When We Were In Love. I didn’t choose one of their new songs, but rather one from their first album called Home from 2011. This is a playful song about young love that packs a punch in the bridge. Mike sings about love, “It’s when you give and give of yourself / Until your tank runs on empty / Just to be with the one you love”. It’s an album worth your time for this song and more.

9. Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over”

No list about emo love songs would be complete without Mayday Parade. They were undoubtedly the kings of the moody love song and the best example is “Jamie All Over” from A Lesson In Romantics. Even if you’re not a Mayday Parade fan, chances are you still jam and maybe cry to this song. If only all dreams were this great, and the fact that Derek and his girl are (probably) on a break outside of the dream world is non-existent for eight hours. If they weren’t on a break who would he have written “Miserable At Best” about, amiright? It’s a total cliché to say that this is my favorite Mayday song, but who cares, it’s a classic.

10. Fall Out Boy – “I’m Like a Lawyer With the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)”

Last but not least, my favorite Fall Out Boy song to close us out on this Valentine’s Day. This was probably Fall Out Boy’s best candidate for a love song up until they released “Alone Together” in 2013. This is also in the running for longest Fall Out Boy song title as well. The optimism in this track is unparalleled in early FOB and is always a breath of fresh air when it comes through the shuffle, and Patrick’s vocals are easy to get lost in. It’s not a perfect relationship, but they’re trying. Thanks, Pete.

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.

Review: Halsey – Manic

In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, Halsey name-dropped The Wonder Years as being an influence on her newest album, Manic. It makes sense when you think about it. Manic is a deeply personal work of art about Halsey herself – her demons, her fears, her frustrations, her trappings. Just as we’ve become accustomed to Dan Campbell writing the kind of lyrics that are so visceral and specific as to paint a very particular picture in your mind, Halsey has fully and beautifully captured this moment in her life. And while it may be highly specific to her own story, you might be surprised as to how easy you can find your own within.

Halsey Manic album cover

You can buy or stream Manic on Apple Music.

Halsey has come a long way since her viral breakthrough into the zeitgeist during the middle portion of the last decade. By the time “New Americana” hit the internet in the summer of 2015, she was lauded as the countercultural pop spokesperson for a new generation. Leaning into the dark synthpop stylings that have now become fully mainstream, Halsey excelled in making great pop songs that could strike a nerve. But one thing she hadn’t done across her first two releases (Badlands and hopeless fountain kingdom) was create a truly great album.

Ultimately, having that notch on your belt doesn’t matter as much as it used to, but there’s something about a cohesive collection of songs that thread together a story. You know it when you hear it, and it can be heard clearly and painfully on Manic.

Throughout the album, Halsey sheds any preconceived notions that listeners might have about her music. Gone are the deep bass lines and buzzing synthesizers. In are quiet tracks with space to breathe, accompanied by acoustic guitars and piano interludes. Gone are the thematic elements of fantasy and grandeur. In are the musings of someone alone in a room, deep in self-reflection, working toward recovery.

On opening track “Ashley”, Halsey sets the tone for what’s to come, quietly reflecting on her past persona and where she stands today: “Took my heart and sold it out to a vision that I wrote myself / And I don’t wanna be somebody in American just fighting the hysteria / I only wanna die some days”. It’s no secret that much of Manic sifts through the fallout of her broken relationship with rapper G-Eazy, but in truth, the songs dig deeper in an effort to uncover truths about herself and how those truths impact her ability to move forward.

While “Ashley” sets the table thematically, the album itself is true to its name, oscillating wildly between genres throughout, feeling like any train of thought that each of us have ridden on many a lonely night. There are still elements of electropop present, as in last year’s single “Without Me”, but Halsey finds room to inject country (“You Should Be Sad”), rock (“3AM”), and alternative pop sounds like those found on “I Hate Everybody” and “Alanis’ Interlude” – an absolutely wonderful track with Alanis Morissette, who happens to know a thing or two about how to put the sound of picking up the pieces to tape.

Truly, there are no weak tracks on Manic, and while you may not reach for certain songs as standalones on a playlist, they all weave together perfectly in the form of an album. And it’s in those non-single moments that we are hit with some of Halsey’s more poignant and personal songwriting. Singing atop a gentle acoustic guitar on “Finally // Beautiful Stranger”, she leans into the uncertainty of leaving the past behind, singing, “Oh, we’re dancin’ in my living room, and up come my fists / And I say I’m only playing, but the truth is this / That I’ve never seen a mouth that I would kill to kiss / And I’m terrified, but I can’t resist”. 

It’s moments like this that harken back to Halsey’s statement about The Wonder Years and the scene that helped form her artistic approach. Listening to Manic is like being brought behind the curtain and realizing that there is no level of stardom or success that separates someone from the demons we all face. On “Still Learning”, she shares, “I should be living the dream / But I go home and I got no self-esteem”. 

Album closer “929” finds Halsey spilling her guts one confessional line at a time in a three-minute stream of consciousness, highlighted by the most heartbreaking moment of the album: “And I remember the names of every single kid I’ve met / But I forget half the people who I’ve gotten in bed / And I’ve stared at the sky in Milwaukee / And hoped that my father would finally call me”.

Still, for all of the self-loathing and questioning across Manic’s 16 tracks, Halsey consistently makes room for grace and a belief that her direction is one of growth and improvement. “I’m still learning to love myself” she confesses near the end of the album. Manic is deeply specific to its creator’s trials and struggles, yet highly relatable. Because we’re all in this together. Halsey’s willingness to be so open and transparent has resulted in an album that could very well set the tone for the next decade of pop.

4.5/5

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.