Best of 2016 Playlist

June 20, 2015

All Time Low - "Future Hearts" Review

Two months later and All Time Low have had plenty of time to enjoy the success of their new album. But was it as successful as they had hoped? Were fans disappointed or greeted with an album that surpassed their wildest dream?  Here's a link to buy this album on iTunes (Future Hearts)

"Don't Panic" and its reissue wowed critics and fans alike after the train wreck that was "Dirty Work". Three years later and the band has put forth another album, with the same producer they worked with on "Dirty Work". That very same man is also behind "Madness" by Sleeping with Sirens, and the debut from 5 Seconds of Summer. Neither of those album were met with particularly positive reception, and let's face it; 5sos is like the Jonas Brothers, a boy band with instruments. So would the new ATL album be another attempt at a mainstream crossover, or would they prove that they were still the kings of modern pop punk? Thankfully it was the latter.

The lead single dropped in January, and was met with a great response from fans and critics. It's a classic ATL piece. The band does what they do best. Mix catchy lyrics, simple power chords, and the charisma of frontman Alex Gaskarth, into one hell of a single. "Something's Gotta Give" encompasses everything the band is, and has grown to be over the past decade. 
A change of pace from previous singles, this song has a slower tempo, and is less energetic than say "Damned If i Do Ya", but that doesn't make it any less danceable. The main hook gets the listener swaying, and Gaskarth's vocals are simple but instantly get you humming along. Fast forward to the chorus, and everything burst to life. Drums sets the pace, bass sets the rhythm and the guitar sets the tone. A well balanced mix of every member's part. 

Now we move on to their second single, "Kids in the Dark". At first glance, you'd think they're just covering a Fall Out Boy number, but you'd be very wrong. It starts out with an orchestral bit, backed by toned down guitars. Gaskarth's chanting of  "The kids in the dark" doesn't hurt the intro either. Verses are melodic and get you ready for an anthem. Which is what this song is. A powerful arena anthem meant to get you pumping your fists, and belting out the song. The lyrics succeed in every way, as do the instrumentals. Like I said, it echoes Fall Out Boy numbers "My Songs Know..." and "Centuries", but better. Unlike FOB, ATL manages to sneak in their signature without the song coming off as a forced crossover piece. 

"Future Hearts" is by far their most experimental album, but don't let that word turn you off. Bands like Paramore, blink-182and Bring Me The Horizon have alienated fans by using that word to describe their most recent albums. 
Experimenting is excepted from artists, so before you go and judge an album based on comments that a band is "experimenting" just listen. I went in skeptical that I'd like Paramore's "Self Titledalbum as much as with previous releases, and ended up loving it.  

With that in mind, let's move on to some of the other noteworthy tracks. "Something's Gotta Give" finds a pop punk buddy in the very
 "Don't Panic" esc "Cinderblock Garden" (it reminds we of "If These Sheets Were States")The only other notable song is the in your face "Kicking and Screaming", a sure setlist staple. 

Now for the negatives, and boy are there a lot. The order of the songs is one problem with this album. "Satellite" is the most misplaced track. It's a great song, but it doesn't seem to belong in the "Track 1" slot. As a listener, you expect the opening track to blow you away, and be something that will make you want to listen to the rest of the album. Putting a more ballad like, arena track in the top spot? Bad marketing decision. "Kicking and Screaming" should have been the opener. It's everything the opening track should be; loud, attention grabbing, catchy, and something that makes you want to listen to the rest of the album. 

The acoustic collabs with Mark Hoppus ("Tidal Waves"), and Joel Madden ("Bail Me Out") are what really kill this record. The collaborations themselves are pretty decent, but the vibe doesn't fit in with the other powerhouse rock songs. 
The same goes for the middle track "Missing You". It has a very, "you'd play this song during a beach montage in a teen movie" vibe. In fact it's so acoustic and lovey dovey, it's almost too cheesy even for ATL. It's got a certain country edge to it that makes me wonder if Rian's girlfriend, Cassadee Pope, had a hand in writing. Again, alone these tracks are solid work for the band, but belong on a separate acoustic EP, not this anthemic arena album. 

The acoustics aren't to blame alone though. Some of the other songs can come off as the unwanted demos from FOB's latest album (which isn't all that good either)Not trying to knock the producer, but the band was clearly better off without him. "Dancing with Wolves", is a rhythm driven alternative piece, and the title track "Old Scars/Future Hearts", sounds like it was taken directly from a FOB album. Bands can branch out and try new things, but in this case ATL have branched out and started nudging their buddies in FOB for ideas. Not cool guys, not cool.

You have to wonder how much of a hand producer John Feldman had in the acoustic tracks. As with the new SWS album, the mixture of stripped acoustic tracks and energetic alternative rock pieces doesn't meld. Is this a decision on the band's part, or is the producer driving the band to record something. So far he has produced two of the most divided albums of the year, from bands whose albums are typically very cohesive.   

Summary - 
After all is said and done, this is still an solid collection of songs, but they would appear as though meant for a debut or EP, not for All Time Low. The positives: The lyrical content is serious enough to know the band is slowly growing up, but if you see these guys live, you'll know they're still the same goof balls everyone loves. The negatives: The creativity and catchy songs that came from their previous release couldn't be duplicated here, save for a few tracks. But 
considering how many other bands flunk out by their 6th release, and after 10+ years in the music business, you have to give the ATL guys a pat on the back. 

Favorite Tracks -
Hands down, "Cinderblock Garden" and "Something's Gotta Give"

Rating - 6.5 to 7/10