10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2016

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Though some may say the art of the music video died with the demise of MTV, we know better. Just take a look at some of the view stats on your favorite videos on YouTube – the art form is alive and well, and with the continued success of online streaming, is still serving as an introduction to some of our favorite bands.

It’s funny how the visuals from a great music video can stick with you years after the fact, popping into your head each time the song comes on. Just as we did last year, we wanted to take a look back at some of our favorite music videos that came out a decade ago. We remember the videos below playing seemingly on the hour on Fuse and waiting 30 minutes to watch a pixelated stream of the videos online. Ten years have passed, but the nostalgia of these clips lives on…

Underoath – “Writing on the Walls”

Directed by Swedish film company Popcore, “Writing on the Walls” immediately became an MTV2 staple and helped launch the band’s powerful Define the Great Line into the stratosphere. The video is a wild murder mystery set in a life-size doll house and would eventually be nominated for a Grammy award. Spencer Chamberlain’s literal in-your-face screams during the song’s crushing conclusion will still send chills down your spine.

Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure”

Speaking of songs that launched band’s to crossover stardom, “MakeDamnSure” served as Taking Back Sunday’s massive breakthrough, thanks in part to this incredible video. Trapped in a wind tunnel, the band sings atop artistic glimpses of tragic scenes turned beautiful with plenty of Adam Lazzara mic swings thrown in for good measure.

Cute is What We Aim For – “The Curse of Curves”

“The Curse of Curves” serves as a poignant reminder of what could have been. Cute is What We Aim For appeared destined to follow in the shoes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco with their emo-drenched debut single, coupled with this video of a dishonest dinner party. Though the band may have not achieved the breakthrough everyone expected, lead singer Shaant Hacikyan’s haircut lives on in infamy.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – “Face Down”

Another breakout single, “Face Down” introduced the world to The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. “Face Down” tells the story of an abusive relationship and the battle to walk away. We’re still not totally sure how they got all of that furniture to fly through the air. Ah, the magic of cinema…

Gym Class Heroes – “Cupid’s Chokehold”

Another year, another Fueled By Ramen breakout. Gym Class Heroes made waves on the radio and television alike with “Cupid’s Chokehold”, featuring Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. The video is as amusing as it is visually pleasing, telling the story of Travie McCoy’s search for that perfect girl, which turns out to be…Katy Perry. Too bad things didn’t work out.

Saosin – “Voices”

Would Saosin lose their edge with their debut full length and a new lead singer? Not after hearing the opening riffs of “Voices”. The song’s chaos is matched with inter-relationship and family fights and struggles, but there is peace to be found. As the song comes to its powerful close, the parties involved all make a decision to fight for peace.

Boys Like Girls – “The Great Escape”

Try to watch this video and not time travel back to 2006. The video for Boys Like Girls’ breakout single finds the story of the band on tour juxtaposed with some dedicated fans’ road trip to witness the performance. It’s the perfect summer anthem and the video captures the mood with brilliance.

Yellowcard – “Rough Landing, Holly”

There’s a good chance that “Rough Landing, Holly” is the most underappreciated pop punk video of all time. A spiritual successor to “Ocean Avenue”, director Marc Webb shows Ryan Key on the run. From what, we’re not sure, but in this universe, windows open into manholes and people can climb out of sinks. Pretty weird. And cool.

Cobra Starship – “Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)”

What a way for Gabe Saporta to make his first splash into the pop rock world. “Bring It” was attached to the end of the movie from which it was inspired, offering a laugh to movie-goers who stayed past the credits. For all of the silliness to be found in this song and video, it’s still exciting to see Saporta, Travie McCoy, William Beckett and Maja Ivarsson share the screen together.

Evanescence – “Call Me When You’re Sober”

After a prolonged absence following their breakthrough debut album, Fallen, Evanescence returned with the explosive “Call Me When You’re Sober”. It’s an over the top arena rock number highlighted by this video, featuring Amy Lee acting as a scorned Red Riding Hood, complete with wolves and levitational powers. Stay out of her way.

by Kiel Hauck

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

Pop Punk Legends Yellowcard and New Found Glory Rock Concord Music Hall

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A New Found Glory show can only be measured in one way: how drenched in sweat you are when it’s over. If you’re dry, you never cared for their music in the first place.

There’s an energy in the air the entire show, no matter who goes on before, or even after. It’s one of the reasons that their legacy and career has endured the rise, fall and rebirth of pop punk. It’s something that seems to emit from the bands that grew from the early 2000’s, and one that only another band from that era can replicate.

Yellowcard is one of those bands, and one of the most engaging. After almost two decades, the kids who grew up on these bands have refused to give up on them; a full house at the Concord Music Hall in Chicago consisted of everyone between the ages of 18 and 35 ready to open a circle pit.  As Yellowcard’s Ryan Key himself said, “If we had done this same tour in 2003, it would have been magical. But it’s 2015, and you’re still here.”

It was the first time Yellowcard and New Found Glory have toured North America together in their careers. If the first of their two night stay in Chicago was any indication, fans have been waiting a long time for this team up. Before opening band Tigers Jaw even took the stage, the room was packed. The sleek interior of the theater spaced people out nicely while filling the center, the entire eclipsing balcony full of onlookers. When Tigers Jaw finally emerged, they had a nearly full house.

Tigers Jaw mesmerized the room, jamming to a somber indie sounding version of pop punk. Dual vocalists, Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh trading and sharing vocals held firm against the popping guitar and hypnotic keyboard. Being unfamiliar with the band, I had no idea what any of their songs were or which album they could have come from. But they were wonderful. Their music took me back to a simplified style of songwriting that still managed to hit every correct note that hooked you in and refused to let go. I could understand why they had been around so long as a band, and why so many people had arrived early to see them.

Though they never hit the high mark of energy or noise of the rest of the night, their relaxed and steady stage presence paved their own path. The biggest mistake bands that tour with behemoths like Yellowcard or NFG can make is to sound like a pale imitation of either one, which is a trap that Tigers Jaw never fell into.

Yellowcard

Yellowcard

Yellowcard took the middle spot, demolishing the room upon entry. Guitars blazing and violin ripping, they tore immediately into the early catalog from Ocean Avenue with songs “Way Away” and “Breathing”. Every major single was hit, from “Lights and Sounds” to “Always Summer” and yet another riotous performance of “Ocean Avenue” enveloped the crowd, encouraging violinist Sean Mackin to do a back flip mid-song early on. One of the highlights of their set included vocalist Ryan Key alone on stage playing the keyboard for a softer, intimate version of fan favorite “Empty Apartment”.

The biggest detriment to Yellowcard is their range in discography. Each album has its favorites, and no concert will ever be able to cover everything fans want to hear. Aside from the hits, the band focused on two albums specifically; Ocean Avenue and Lift a Sail. “Crash the Gates” and “Lift a Sail” sound much better and harder in person than they ever could on an album, and it breathes new life into a record that sounds unlike anything else the band has put out.

While the band themselves put on an amazing performance, of note is current drummer Tucker Rue, formerly of Thursday. Longineu W. Parsons III is a brilliant drummer (my personal favorite), and filling his shoes is no small feat. Obviously a veteran, Rue managed to engage and make missing Parsons not hurt quite as bad.

New Found Glory

New Found Glory

New Found Glory headlined the evening, opening with a scorching rendition of “Resurrection”. From there, it didn’t matter what they played; each song might as well have been their big hit. Fan favorite “Hit or Miss” jolted the crowd early (rather than be a closing song) and spurred multiple circle and mosh pits. “All Downhill From Here”, “Selfless” and “Vicious Love” with a guest appearance by Brianna from Tigers Jaw were a few of the highlights, but the energy never so much as wavered throughout the set.

The only thing that paused the band from jumping across the stage at any time was when they pointed to a fan in the front row named Brad and not only invited him on stage, but asked him to pick a song that wasn’t on their set list and sing it was Jordan. He chose “Second to Last” from the band’s self-titled album, prompting the crowd to chant “Brad! Brad! Brad!” and guitarist Chad Gilbert to momentarily throw quick glances at the rest of the band to make sure they all remembered how to play it before rampaging through the song as though it were their big single.

New Found Glory remains one of the few bands that have not only retained their fanbase the entirety of their career, they have also kept their core sound intact while making each release sound new and intimidating among a new generation of musicians inspired by and evolving off of NFG. Every song they play, regardless of which record, sounds just as important as any song that could have made them a radio phenomenon. The audience jumped as though they had seen the band a dozen times before, and would see them again a dozen more. One man held his young daughter up on his shoulders in the back for her to see, and although she couldn’t have been more than five years old, NFG was already shaping her to be a new generation raised on their music.

Pop punk is a scene meant to push its way into your life, and immediately leave to some degree. Whether that means that you outgrow the sound, or the bands you love dissolve after an album or two, its rare to see a group stay together for a 10-year reunion tour, much less two bands together and better than ever after almost 20. Yellowcard and New Found Glory have carved their way into legendary status within music. Both have evolved with a generation of music that they helped shape and mold, and remain at the forefront.

I only managed to see the first of a two night headlining gig in Chicago, allegedly with different songs played each night for New Found Glory. But the fact that these bands can manage two nights worth of shows for fanatic listeners means something. Thankfully, it seems like they’re here to stay.

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 New Found Glory was his first major band. Long live NFG!

Vinyl Spotlight: Yellowcard – A Perfect Sky

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Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

As we continue our discussion of Record Store Day 2015, we turn our attention toward another highly sought after release: Yellowcard – A Perfect Sky. This 10-inch record features three unreleased/acoustic mixes from their 2014 album Lift a Sail. The pressing by Razor & Tie is limited to 1,000 copies.

It’s no secret that we were huge fans of Lift a Sail, making this pressing quite an exciting release. Adding to the intrigue was the lack of background information on the unreleased songs. Yellowcard very rarely fails to deliver, so it stood to reason that A Perfect Sky would meet our expectations. How did it measure up? Let’s take a look.

Packaging and Presentation

Judging from the pre-released image of the cover, A Perfect Sky looked quite pleasing to the eye. Sure enough, the artwork is striking, featuring deep purple, blue and green colors that echo the pastels featured on Lift a Sail’s artwork. The cover is simple and beautiful, featuring the band’s logo in the center, in front of what appears to be a cloudy, night sky.

The packaging here is quite simple, featuring an inner sleeve with lyrics on one side and a concert photo of singer Ryan Key with an acoustic guitar on the other. There’s really not much here, which is understandable considering that the release features only three songs. The record itself is pressed on 10-inch black vinyl, which feels odd with only one track on the B-side. More on that in a moment. All in all, the packaging is minimal, but the colors make it attractive.

Sound and Quality

This is where things get interesting. Featured on the release are two Neal Avron mixes of “MSK” and “California” from Lift a Sail and an acoustic Daytrotter session of “One Bedroom”. Put simply, the two Avron mixes are fantastic, but “One Bedroom” leaves a lot to be desired. “MSK” is given new life with a beautiful string arrangement backed by deep bass and gorgeous keys. The song was already outstanding in its original form, but this remix takes the song to a whole new level.

Likewise, “California” places delicate strings on top of the original keys, adding depth to the track. It could be argued that both of these songs sound better than the originals. The fact that both tracks are emotional, tug-at-your-heartstring numbers is only amplified by these new mixes. Many props are due to Avron, who never ceases to amaze when it comes to his Yellowcard production duties.

On the other side of the coin, this new version of “One Bedroom” is pretty bland. Part of the song’s original charm was its production value and swirling guitar solo, which are both stripped away in this version. It also begs the question of why an acoustic version of “Lift a Sail” or “Make Me So” wasn’t included on the B-side to fill out the record. In truth, it may have been better to leave “One Bedroom” off the release completely in favor of a simple 7-inch with “MSK” and “California”.

Nevertheless, A Perfect Sky is still a charming release that brings new life to a couple of the best tracks on Lift a Sail. There’s a chance that a few copies of the record may still be available, so drop by your local record store and have a look.

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by Kiel Hauck

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

Better Than Ever: Finch and Yellowcard Find Renewal on Spring Tour

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As captivating of a notion as it is, rebirth is a tricky endeavor for any band. Not only do you risk alienating a loyal fanbase, but such an undertaking also requires an immense amount of talent to boot. One false move (or one bad album) can bring it all to an end.

It’s fascinating, then, to watch two bands, in Finch and Yellowcard, undergo their own respective renaissances during their current spring tour.

What’s especially peculiar about these revivals is that Finch and Yellowcard share extremely similar career trajectories. Both bands rose to mainstream prominence in the early 2000s thanks in part to massive hit singles. Both bands took extended hiatuses after lukewarmly received follow-ups. Both bands returned to immense fanfare, with Finch being the most recent.

Now, over a decade since their initial breakouts, both bands are touring together and appear to having as much fun as ever. Their stories would almost mirror if it weren’t for their unique individual approaches to resurgence.

Finch

Finch

Finch unexpectedly reunited in 2012 before (even more) unexpectedly recording a new album that released last year. Back to Oblivion is the official follow-up to 2005’s Say Hello to Sunshine, but it feels like the spiritual successor to their 2002 debut What It Is to Burn. While Back to Oblivion lacks the sharp emo punch of the band’s debut, it certainly makes up for it in urgency. It’s clear that Finch want to rekindle the spark that lit a fire for the band all those years ago.

This current incarnation of the band took the stage in Indianapolis with a great deal of energy. It’s fascinating to watch Finch perform classics like “What It Is to Burn” and “Grey Matter” alongside newer tracks like “Anywhere But Here” and “Two Guns to the Temple”. While the songs lack certain similarities on tape, they feel akin on stage. There’s something nostalgic about their performance, but it also feels like it belongs in the here and now.

Watching Nate Barcalow scream and fall to the ground in an emotional heap, you could almost forget that the vocalist is closer to 30 than 20. It’s somewhat wild watching the band capture a youthful vigor in their performance while playing newer and more mature tracks. Finch has grown up, but they haven’t grown old. What better way to come back than to capitalize on what got you there in the first place.

Two albums into their return to the scene, Yellowcard chose to take a different approach with their recent release, Lift a Sail. Instead of cashing in on another collection of pop punk gold, the band moved to a new label in Razor & Tie and released the most commercial and accessible album of their career.

Yellowcard

Yellowcard

In case you were wondering, those aren’t bad words. Lift a Sail finds Yellowcard treading new ground and displaying their talents in the most unexpected of ways. To see Yellowcard perform new tracks like “One Bedroom” or “Crash the Gates” is to watch the band in their prime. Truth be told, the band hasn’t sounded this comfortable in their own skin since they returned from hiatus.

Now, with a catalogue of hits too large to fill any single playlist, fans can watch over a decade’s worth of sonic movements play out in real time. Yellowcard still plays “Lights and Sounds” and “Ocean Avenue” with just as much energy and excitement as they did all those years ago, but they sound even more at home when Ryan Key plays the delicate “California” or when the band leads the crowd in singing the chorus of “Make Me So”. When violinist Sean Mackin opens the set with the uplifting “Convocation”, it’s a call to witness the band’s rebirth.

What makes the night so much fun is that both of the band’s audiences seem sold on their corresponding approaches. Fans delight to see the renewed energy of Finch while onlookers rejoice in song to Yellowcard’s new direction. No matter how you slice it, watching these bands embrace the past while forging ahead is a pleasure to watch.

by Kiel Hauck

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

5 Record Store Day Releases We Can’t Live Without

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The time has come once again – Record Store Day 2015 is this Saturday, April 18. If you’re not already aware, Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 as a way for independent record store owners to celebrate vinyl culture and has evolved in to a worldwide event. On Saturday, hit up your local record store to find special vinyl releases made available only to participating independent stores.

Last year, we wrote about the importance of Record Store Day and why you should get involved. This year, we’ve decided to share some of our most anticipated releases and why we’re excited to snag them on Saturday. Want the full list? Take a look here. Check out our list below and share some of your most anticipated RSD releases in the replies!

brand_new_dejaBrand New – Déjà Entendu

This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. At long last, Déjà Entendu will be getting a repress, much to the delight of their rabid fan base. This 2 x 12″ vinyl is pressed by Triple Crown Records and comes served in a paper bag sleeve. Pretty sweet. Get there early or you’re sure to miss out.

Yellowcard_a_perfect_skyYellowcard – A Perfect Sky

If you loved Yellowcard’s 2014 release Lift a Sail as much as we did, you’ve got to be stoked for this 10″ pressing of three previously unreleased acoustic versions of songs from the album. Also, the cover art looks incredible, and that counts for something.

south_of_the_cityThe Devil Wears Prada – South of the City

This 7″ colored vinyl release features one brand new song from The Devil Wears Prada called “South of the City”. The vinyl features the single on side A and an etching on side B. You’ll also get a digital download of this unreleased track.

echosmith_acoustic_dreamsEchosmith – Acoustic Dreams

Echosmith exploded into the mainstream last year with their hit single “Cool Kids”. On Record Store Day, the band will be releasing a 12″ colored vinyl titled Acoustic Dreams, featuring four tracks from Talking Dreams, including their hit song.

every_time_i_die_salemEvery Time I Die – Salem

Every Time I Die are following up their furious 2014 album From Parts Unknown with the Salem EP, a 7″ brown/red/clear swirl vinyl. The EP will feature four tracks, including two unreleased songs and a cover of Nirvana’s song “Tourettes”.

by Kiel Hauck

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

It’s All Dead Podcast Episode: 013 – Best Album Openers and Closers

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There’s something about a great opening track that can set the tone for an entire album. Likewise, a killer closer can bring things full circle and act as the perfect bookend to a great record. On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel and Kyle break down their favorite album openers and closers of all time. Listen in and share some of your favorites in the replies!

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Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

It’s All Dead Podcast Episode: 010 – The Best Music of 2014

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If you couldn’t find good music to listen to in 2014, you weren’t listening hard enough. On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz break down the best albums, songs, tours and moments of 2014 and discuss the year in music. The conversation includes reflections on music from Architects, Anberlin, Yellowcard, Weezer, Taylor Swift and much more. Listen in!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/itsalldead/IAD_Podcast_010_mixdown.mp3|titles=It’s All Dead podcast episode: 010]

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Top 10 Songs of 2014

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Making a list of the top 10 songs of any year is a challenge. Each of us journeys through 12 months filled with highs and lows, challenges and dull moments. The soundtracks that fill those times are often created by our need for a particular sound or feeling in any given instant.

Does ranking these songs require us to distance ourselves from the emotions that helped them resonate? That’s debatable, but perhaps the true measure lies somewhere in between a relatable song that offered purpose or aid and a well constructed, perfectly executed track that showcases a band’s talent.

Needless to say, a lot went into the creation of this list. We did our best to break down what we feel were the best moments of 2014 – the songs that not only defined our lives this year, but the songs that made us perk up with rapt attention. Take a look and let us know what you think in the replies!

10. Merriment – “Backwards”

Perhaps best known as the younger siblings of the DuPree’s of Eisley fame, Merriment has certainly carved their own path with their debut album, Sway. The highlight comes in the form of “Backwards”, perfectly blending the band’s acoustic pop sensibilities with a folk sound that sets them apart from their peers. Christie DuPree’s vocal range is stunning here, especially on the song’s beautiful chorus. Dupree opens the song with the haunting lines, “Holding high your little head / Walking backwards in your steps / Nobody knows you’re dead”. The song is just as mysterious as it is charming, but catchy enough that you can’t listen to it just once. – Kiel Hauck

9. I Can Make a Mess  “Deciduous”

On an album of delicious pop songs, “Deciduous” stands out as one that has every ingredient of a good ICMAM song; gorgeous hooks, minimal production, Enders’ working every note of the vocal scale and the themes of finances and that love will overcome any problem. The song is at once a love song about being a musician, but acknowledges the fears that come along with it, including a singled out line where he quietly worries, “I hope one day my kids think I’m cool / Didn’t sell the farm to be the mule / I’m a fool”. – Kyle Schultz

8. Anberlin – “Stranger Ways”

Fans of Anberlin were fortunate to receive a final goodbye from the band in the form of 2014’s Lowborn. The best moment from the album comes on the 80’s inspired “Stranger Ways”, weaving the band’s tried-and-true songwriting formula with eerie electronics and synthesizers. In truth, it sounds like the best song Depeche Mode never wrote. Vocalist Stephen Christian opens with the chilling lines, “Locking eyes, a waning glance, mistook chance / Of adding meaning to the words forever”. The song climaxes during the bridge as Christian pleads, “Would you say with me, here in my dreams / If I promised you this heaven?” Alas, there will be no staying for Anberlin. Even so, we’re thankful for the fond farewell. – KH

7. XTRMST – “Conformist”

XTRMST are a welcome return to form for straight edge hardcore. The new project from Davy Havok and Jade Puget is what fans of AFI’s hardcore days have spent years hoping for. The guitar work is loose, hypnotically dark and as heavy as a physical attack. “Conformist” shows Havok in perfect form, swooning between spoken word and nightmarish screaming. The song is one of the few singles for an album that highlights the record succinctly. Each lyric is an attack on the listener, critiquing not only their way of life, but their tolerance of any other type of subculture with the repeated accusations of “You are conformist”. It’s an uncomfortable listen, but demands your attention for the rest of the record. – KS

6. Childish Gambino – “III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)”

Perhaps it’s odd that the best track on Because the Internet fits into the context of the album’s overarching story as a song sung by someone else. It opens as we hear the main character climb into his car and turn the key. The radio comes on, introducing the track, sung by “Lloyd”. Childish Gambino channels his inner-Drake on the track – it’s silky smooth as he sings of the confusion tied to romantic commitment. It’s background noise for our main character as he drives, but it’s speaking both to us and to him. “Everything you won’t say, you tweet it”, sings Gambino. It’s commentary on our internet culture – and an indictment on us all for our willingness to dive head-first into it. – KH

5. Say Anything  Judas Decapitation

Max Bemis’s most ‘Say Anything’ song is about how blogs, fans and the music industry criticize him for not making ‘Say Anything’ music the way they want. It couldn’t be more meta if he mentioned your name in the middle of it. Like the rest of Hebrews, “Judas Decapitation” forgoes the guitar work in favor of a hybrid mesh of flaring pop synth and intense percussion. The song is a scathing attack on the industry and his own fans about their interpretation of his music, which is one of the things that made his music so well respected to begin with. Lyrics like, “I hate that dude now that he’s married / He’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri”, and “Spike his fifteenth espresso with drugs / So he’s convinced it’s a manic delusion to know true love / Be nineteen with a joint in hand / Never change the band”, show that not only is Bemis aware of every criticism of his music, he’s attacking them head on. – KS

4. Yellowcard – “Lift a Sail”

The title track on Yellowcard’s triumphant Lift a Sail is quite possibly the best song the band has ever written. Gone are the pop punk riffs the band was so well known for – “Lift a Sail” is an anthemic rock song, born from a painful, traumatic event. There’s certainly a sadness here, but the track itself is about rising above the wreckage. It’s something we can all connect to, because in one way or another, we’ve all been there before, struggling to make the choice to press on amidst the pain. When vocalist Ryan Key cries out the song’s massive chorus of, “If a cold wind starts to rise / I am ready now, I am ready now / With the last sail lifted high / I am ready now, I am ready now”, it’s undeniably the most chill-inducing moment of the year. – KH

3. Against Me!  “FUCKMYLIFE666”

This is easily one of the catchiest songs on Transgender Dysphoria Blues due to the melody alone. The bouncing guitars and opening strings tear against the throbbing drums to make a fast, energetic hell of a song. Each verse bleeds into the chorus, hiding the fact that the song is a traditional styled pop song elegantly layered in harmony. It also contains one of the strongest verses on an album full of memorable lines as Laura Grace sings, “Chipped nail polish and a barbed wire dress / Is your mother proud of your eyelashes? / Silicone chest and collagen lips / How would you even recognize me?” The song is short, brutal and incredibly memorable. It manages to stand as one of the best songs in Against Me!’s infamously great catalogue. – KS

2. PVRIS – “My House”

On their debut album, White Noise, synthpop trio PVRIS have promptly destroyed any notion of what a Rise Records band should sound like. Originally formed as a post-hardcore act, PVRIS made the surprising and wise choice to turn pop, littering their landscape of atmospheric synthesizers with bouncing drums and pulsing bass. “My House” is one of the most powerful pop songs you’ll hear this year, thanks in large part to the vocal work of Lyndsey Gunnelfsen. During the track’s massive, dance-worthy breakdown, she howls, “Haven’t you heard? I’m not yours anymore, I’m not yours anymore!” The song is ferocious as it is infectious, making it the most captivating pop song of 2014. – KH

1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe”

On an album whose theme is caving in, “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe” is the lynchpin for Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties that sees our main character breaking down in his mother’s kitchen. It’s a powerful acoustic epic fueled by the slow burn of electric guitar and the tortured cry of a steel guitar yowling in the background. Dan Campbell’s vocals mimic the story perfectly, sounding on the verge of breaking into tears as he describes Aaron’s walk home, eventually building to screams of “Take the car and run!” The descriptions alone would be worthy of being one of this year’s best songs, but the true gem is what should be an impossible feat: Aaron and his mother having an actual conversation. Around a kitchen table, they lean and cry on each other’s shoulders as Campbell sings, “I know things ain’t been good since dad died, I know you don’t need this from me / But mama I’m breaking, there’s no light in the dark, Diane left this week / She said, ‘Son look at me, I know we ain’t been this low before and I’m sorry Aaron / I know this year has been hard’”. – KS

Honorable Mention:

Emarosa – “People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play”

Kendrick Lamar – “I”

Architects – “Gravedigger”

Fall Out Boy – “Centuries”

Taylor Swift – “Style”

 

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

Top 10 Albums of 2014

best_of_2014

Look, we don’t like this any more than you do. These end-of-the-year lists are tedious, obnoxious, self-indulgent…

Aw, who are we kidding – we love it! Even though it’s technically impossible to subjectively rank this year’s best albums, we took our best stab at it. This year was chock full of fantastic releases, many of which won’t be mentioned here because there simply isn’t enough room (or time) to spotlight all of them.

Nevertheless, senior editor Kyle Schultz and I put our heads together and came up with 10 worthy suitors to be a part of our second-annual Top 10 Albums of the Year list. Take a gander, then let us know what your favorite records of the year were in the replies!

every_time_i_die10Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

From Keith Buckley’s repeated opening shrieks of, “Blow your fucking brains out!” on “The Great Secret” to his final desperate cries of, “All I want is for everyone to go to hell / It’s the last place I was seen before I lost myself” during the final crushing breakdown on “Idiot”, From Parts Unknown is unforgiving and unrelenting. Who knew a band 16 years into its career could craft what may be their most punishing and challenging album? With From Parts Unknown, Every Time I Die don’t just want to carve their name into the stone temple of metalcore lore, they want to burn the whole damn thing to the ground. – Kiel Hauck

fireworks9Fireworks – Oh, Common Life

Oh, Common Life is the type of album that reminds you of an intimate conversation with a close friend. Fireworks’ distinct pop punk style is softened to allow for more melody while vocalist David Mackinder sings a hypnotic tale of maturation that comes with the bigger life changes during your twenties and the isolation that the world can impose on you.  While it starts off very poppy, the album slowly branches and touches on styles of playing that Fireworks have never tackled before as the lyrics grow more somber and accepting of life (“The Hotbed of Life”). It’s hard to say that Oh, Common Life was what fans of the band were expecting, but it’s what they deserved. – Kyle Schultz

copeland8Copeland – Ixora

Parting was sweet sorrow for fans of indie rock act Copeland, who closed up shop in 2010. Their surprising return is more than a mere nostalgia trip, it’s a return to rare form with their new album Ixora. The band is more playful than ever, sending listeners into a dream-like trance throughout the album’s 10 tracks that include haunting electronics, prancing pianos, and even a saxophone solo. Frontman Aaron Marsh is still on top of his game, adding to his vocal repertoire during the silky-smooth chorus of “Like a Lie”. From front to back, Ixora finds Copeland better than ever – here’s hoping there’s more where this came from. – KH

new_found_glory7New Found Glory – Resurrection

Resurrection is the first New Found Glory album in several years to sound like a classic. The new four-piece rebuild their sound to be more succinct and brutal, mixing their signature pop with much heavier guitars and a thundering bass. Each member pushes their musicianship to their limits with lyricism and themes that are significantly angrier than past work. While the songs are undeniably catchy and easy to sing along to (“Selfless”), they can make the listener uncomfortable (“The Worst Person”), which may have been the point given how much the band went through in the last year. As a longtime listener of the band though, it’s easy to see how much passion and energy went into creating a record that would rise above the trials that hit them all at once. – KS

emarosa6Emarosa – Versus 

The loss of lead vocalist Jonny Craig appeared to spell disaster for Emarosa after the band released their stellar self-titled record in 2010. Not so fast. Emarosa roared back in 2014 with Bradley Walden at the mic, releasing the best album of the band’s career. Versus is rife with conflict, but it’s a struggle that produces something beautiful. When Walden flips the script just over a minute into opening track “People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play”, it feels like the sort of sonic shift that not only changes the course of the band’s trajectory, but one that slams the door shut on the past. – KH

weezer5Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End

Say what you will about Weezer, there’s no denying that when they feel like it, they can put out a masterpiece of an album. The aptly titled Everything Will Be Alright In the End is the band’s answer to years of criticism regarding their constantly evolving sound. The new album sounds like a lovechild between Blue, Green, and Maladroit, blending the respective sounds of fuzzed guitars, catchy pop songs and thrashing rock. Rivers Cuomo tagged the album as a ‘classic’ in the press leading up to its release, and he couldn’t have been more correct. It’s the first release from the band that doesn’t necessarily break new ground for their sound, but it recaptures the magic that made the band an international mainstay. – KS

against_me4Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Gender confusion and transgender identity are topics that have been at the front of people’s minds this year, which makes it all the more appropriate that Transgender Dysphoria Blues arrived just a couple weeks into the New Year. Not only is it Against Me!’s best rock album, it’s one of the most daring in that it follows the story of a transgender prostitute that mimics Tom Gabel’s transformation into Laura Jane Grace. The album is a tight series of fist-pumping songs that are just as heartbreaking as they are catchy. In the opening title track, Grace sings, “Your tells are so obvious / Shoulders too broad for a girl / Helps you remember where you come from / You want them to notice the ragged ends of your summer dress / You want them to see you like they see any other girl / They just see a faggot”. The album is a powerful and ferociously angry statement about transgender issues in this country, as well as the struggle for people dealing with them. – KS

yellowcard3Yellowcard – Lift a Sail

Born from a tragic skiing accident that left vocalist/guitarist Ryan Key’s fiancé paralyzed from the waist down, Lift a Sail is a painful song of triumph. The band drops what was left of their pop punk roots and forges ahead with powerful, anthemic rock tracks and explosive piano ballads. Violinist Sean Mackin has never sounded better, adding texture and layers to the songs that don’t overpower, but instead compliment the entirety of the band’s new sound. Lift a Sail is encouraging as it is aching, as determined as it is vulnerable. Just when you thought it couldn’t be done, Yellowcard has topped themselves once again. – KH

aaron_west2Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other

Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties is more than just another side project. It’s one of the few concept albums to not only have a tangible story, but a character that garners genuine sympathy. The acoustic songs mix enough new elements to sound unique, and enough of The Wonder Years’ brash style to show the versatility of their music. Dan Campbell weaves a vibrantly real, dark and heartbreaking story that never feels cliché or forced. As Aaron cracks more and more with each song, Campbell’s vocals are pushed to their limit as he jumps from soft whispers, to screams, and then singing the words of a conversation, sounding as though he’s on the brink of tears. The range of themes and universal fears crammed into the album are absolutely awe-inspiring. It’s easily one of the most emotional pieces I’ve heard in years and is unlike most anything else out there. There is little doubt that he is on a level of lyricism his peers can only hope to achieve. – KS

architects1Architects – Lost Forever // Lost Together

How did a modern metalcore album land our number one spot for 2014? By rattling the well-worn conventions of the genre and spitting at the notion that the music is beyond redemption. Lost Forever // Lost Together is the best album Architects have crafted, surpassing even 2009’s mammoth of a record, Hollow Crown. Vocalist Sam Carter is full of fire from the outset, roaring across tracks of technical guitar riffs and skull-rattling breakdowns. The album is angry, sure, but you can hear the band searching for something more – something deeper. Lost Forever // Lost Together is a metalcore album that makes you think, challenges the scene’s apathy, and forges a new path for any heavy band that dare follow. When Carter bellows, “You said we’ll never make a difference / Maybe this battle is to fight indifference” on “Naysayer”, you feel the sentiment pouring from every fiber of his being. – KH

Honorable Mention:

PVRIS – White Noise

Merriment – Sway

I Can Make a Mess – Growing In

Anberlin – Lowborn

Taylor Swift – 1989

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

Review: Yellowcard – Lift a Sail

yellowcard_2014

The old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” certainly holds water in many situations, perhaps most notably amongst music fans who grow to love the signature sound of their favorite band. Yet for every band that has switched their style to disastrous consequences, there exist a few outliers – bands with the natural talent to pull off a sonic overhaul without losing their identity or dividing their fan base. You know it when you hear it.

Following 2012’s pop-punk revival, Southern Air, and on the heels of last year’s tenth anniversary tour of the classic Ocean Avenue, no one would have blamed Yellowcard for riding the wind of nostalgia and releasing something somewhat predictable. Instead, the Florida rock act flipped the script on everyone and, in the process, have the released the bravest album of their career.

Lift a Sail is not a pop punk album, but it is 100 percent Yellowcard at heart. Born from a tragic snowboarding accident that left lead singer Ryan Key’s fiancé paralyzed from the waist down over a year ago, the album is as painful as it is hopeful; as troubled as it is triumphant. It’s the soundtrack of a band that has paid tribute to its past and is ready to turn the page to something greater.

The album is an emotional rock record with pop sensibilities and a flair for ballads. While the shift may initially strike a nerve with some fans, it’s hard to imagine many walking away unsatisfied – the aftertaste is quite sweet here. Furthermore, the band’s long heralded ability to capture a feeling in their songs and display it with powerful sincerity is at an all time high on Lift a Sail.

The album opens with a gorgeous and somber violin introduction, courtesy of Sean Mackin. While one would never claim Mackin hamstrung by the band’s genre of choice in the past, Lift a Sail truly allows him the opportunity to explore sounds like he never has before. He relies much less on fast-paced intros and bridges, instead favoring often delicate and passionate moments that fill out the song and capture its emotion in the way only a violin can.

The tracks on Lift a Sail transition frequently between loud and anthemic to soft and delicate. “Transmission Home” is marked by brash guitars and pounding drums that lead into the best chorus Angels and Airwaves never wrote. “Crash the Gates” follows suit with fuzzy guitars and a spacey chorus, giving room for Key to push the track over the top.

Anyone who expected a lack of intensity after the departure of drummer Longineu Parsons III – fear not. Anberlin drummer Nate Young more than holds his own on these songs, adding elements of restraint and power not found on much of the band’s past catalogue. Young’s presence can be felt mightily on the electronic-heavy/80s-influenced “Fragile and Dear”, a song that finds Key utilizing a vocoder for added effect while Mackin makes his presence felt with an uplifting violin solo.

On the other end of the spectrum are tracks like “Madrid” and “MSK”, the former being a slow, sad acoustic love song while the latter is a building piano number, carried by Mackin’s violin and pushed over the top by Key’s massive chorus. Perhaps sounding more powerful and determined than ever before, he pleads, “As these mornings turn into brand new days / Everything still hurts, you’re so far away / I would dig a hole through the earth and crawl / To get to you”.

What holds the album together, though, are the in between moments that capture the best of both of these worlds. On lead single “One Bedroom”, the band puts on song-writing a clinic with a track as fresh as it is familiar and as earnest as it is poppy. Lift a Sail hits its highest point on the title track, a song so full of emotion and determination that it’s hard not get choked up when listening.

This is what Yellowcard do best – convey those small quiet moments that are so difficult to express. Here, Key declares his intention to move past his pain and through his difficult trial, singing, “If a cold wind starts to rise / I am ready now, I am ready now / With the last sail lifted high / I am ready now, I am ready now”. A song of hope that almost sounds as if it were sung through tears, “Lift a Sail” captures the feeling that threads its way throughout the entire record.

The album fittingly comes to a close on “California”, a quiet piano ballad that dreams of a day when two lovers can once again enjoy the state’s sunlight after the current state of pain has passed. It stands in stark contrast to Ocean Avenue closer “Back Home”, where a bitter Key wished nothing more than to run away from the west coast. It’s a beautiful and poetic finish in more ways than one.

After the release of Southern Air in 2012, I claimed it to “not only the best album of the band’s career, but an album that very well may shape the future of the genre, influencing an entirely new generation of bands just as they did nearly a decade ago.” I still hold firm to the back half of that statement, but it’s clear that Yellowcard has become much, much more than just a great pop punk band.

Yellowcard is telling a story, with each piece serving a different purpose and conveying a different sentiment. Lift a Sail called for something more – and the band delivered. Always willing to remember the past but never content to live in it, Yellowcard have become an example of what it means for a band to grow and evolve in all the right ways.

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 online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.