Our Favorite Albums from 2018

By Rhiannon Levengood

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M A N I A
and Lake Effect Kid by Fall Out Boy
These two records redefined Fall Out Boy’s sound entirely. The band entered 2018 by introducing a synthesized sound to their music and ultimately expanding their genre from punk rock to alternative pop/rock. In contrast to their previous albums, M A N I A has simpler lyrics, but still masterfully paints a beautiful picture of the emotions the quartet is portraying. While Lake Effect Kid is technically ten years old, the official release of the songs also brings to light FOB’s new sound by combining the vibe from frontman Patrick Stump’s solo record Soul Punk with a sound that’s bolder and louder than the band’s first six studio albums. Fall Out Boy’s musical development continues to impress their fans (even the die-hard pre-hiatus ones), so I’m excited to see what they produce in the coming years.

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Oh Jonathan
by Emily Kinney
Kinney’s third full length album was instrumentally experimental compared to her first two records, which primarily used acoustic instruments. Oh Jonathan introduced an electronic vibe to Emily’s repertoire, widening her audience to those who didn’t just know her as Beth Greene on The Walking Dead. This album tells her many stories of love, heartbreak, and her ever-growing self-confidence, and is easily her best lyrical work to date. Not only did she transform her studio sound, but she took her creative mind and a full band on tour this fall, and adapted a rock sound to Oh Jonathan, giving the sweet ballads an edgier tone. Emily Kinney balances her musical career with an active acting career, so her releases are few and far between, but always so worth the wait. To hear more from her, make sure to follow her duo band The Sweetheart Deal, too.

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Singular Act I by Sabrina Carpenter
With the release of her third studio album, Sabrina Carpenter continued her musical EVOLution by incorporating some R&B sounds to her record. For the first time, she featured another artist on one of her tracks. The addition of UHMEER on her song “Hold Tight” took her music to a whole new level and truly made Singular Act I stand out from her previous records. Carpenter experimented with different styles of mixing and synthesized production to create her own unique sound that still possesses elements of mainstream pop music. Along with her musical transformation, Sabrina is making a personal metamorphosis as she matures with her music and opens up about her desire to find love and intimacy. Singular Act II, to be released in early 2019, is sure to be just as stunning as Act I.

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Ten Years (Deluxe)
by Aly & AJ
After ten long years of waiting, fans of sister duo Aly & AJ were finally blessed with new music. The appropriately named record Ten Years features six brand new jams and two live recordings of their songs “Take Me” and “Promises”. Refreshed and rejuvenated, Aly & AJ are showcasing some drastic changes to their sound, which now not only utilizes piano synth, but some vocal effects as well. The sisters’ combined excitement over leaping back into the music scene definitely promises more iconic releases in the near future, despite these busy bees working on their separate TV shows iZombie and The Goldbergs.

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After Laughter
by Paramore
And finally, an album that still sits near and dear to me well over a year after its release is Paramore’s After Laughter. Even though lead singer Hayley Williams declared this era of Paramore officially over, this record will remain one of my favorites for years to come. It accurately portrays the many emotions that life has to offer, most namely sadness and depression, and normalizes those feelings. The lyrics connect with the fans on such a deep and personal level that they offer comfort and support when listeners are feeling lonely, scared, hopeless, and worthless. Paramore perfectly executed an instrumentally innovative and relatable record, and set themselves up for further success for their next album.

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By Paula Araujo

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Expectations
By Hayley Kiyoko
After appropriately dubbing this year as #TwentyGayteen, it was only right for Hayley Kiyoko to finally release a full length album. It’s no surprise that the album has had much success and lead her from selling out club venues to performing alongside Taylor Swift twice and scoring a VMA. Her debut record is so finely crafted and vulnerable making it easy for any listener to find each track incredibly relatable. From the catchy dance tracks like “Curious” to the big mood in “Feelings” this album definitely captures all the feels.

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Youngblood by 5 Seconds of Summer
The highly anticipated third studio album by these fellow Aussie’s did not disappoint. The record is incredibly captivating from beginning to end with an eclectic sound. This indie rock direction was the perfect move for them. The album radiates on every single level and takes risks while remaining completely authentic to both sound and lyrics The self-titled track is an anthem in itself while the rest of the album doesn’t fall far from that line either. It’s definitely work they should be proud
of.

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Living Proof  by State Champs
New York natives State Champs delivered on their latest album. This record showed a lot of growth on the band’s front musically, vocally and lyrically. Any listener becomes hooked as the record starts with these lyrics, “So what’s it mean, when every dream I haves about you now?” The sound is amplified much throughout this record and contains all the elements for a great pop punk record. It’s Living Proof that pop punk is still good.   

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Thank You For Today by Death Cab for Cutie
With the release of lead single “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” it was clear that this record was going to be filled with the essence that old school fans have always loved while also sounding refreshing.  To maintain their essence after all these years is truly impressive. Overall, the album has the classic mellow sound they’re known for while also containing a beautiful calming cinematic vibe. There is growth, warmth, and nostalgia all over this. Seth Cohen would love this record.

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Pray for the Wicked
by Panic! at the Disco
Just when you thought things couldn’t get better after the epic album that was Death of A Bachelor, Brendon Urie knocked it out of the park with this one. After his stint on Broadway in Kinky Boots, this album is filled with theatrical elements and each note is jam packed. This record thrives on catchy tunes, cheeky lyrics and powerhouse vocals. You’re filthy as charged, Urie.

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Lovely Little Lonely
by The Maine
A year late on this train and I’m glad I finally found it, or better yet, it found me. This is a brilliantly cohesive record. It’s beautiful, honest, and vivid. It hits you in the feels and you easily get ‘Lost in Nostalgia’ while also somehow accurately capturing ‘The Sound of Reverie.’ I don’t know how they did it so damn well, but they hit the bullseye with this entire record. 

lovelytheband’s “finding it hard to smile”: unedited review

By Rhiannon Levengood

Lovelytheband has a very explicit way of using their music and lyrics to portray the day-to-day struggles of battling depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, and how that can affect relationships and everyday life. The trio’s debut album finding it hard to smile as a whole embodies the hold that mental disorders have on your life, your social interactions, and your productivity. So, in the spirit of having no energy to get out of bed, combating anxiety-induced writer’s block, and tackling a complete lack of motivation to create something beautiful enough to do this record justice, I present you with my unedited notes.

finding it hard to smile – lovelytheband

finding it hard to smile (prelude):
The vibe is mystical and serene. Almost hypnotizing in how meditative it is. I’m really enjoying it already. The build toward the end of this prelude transitions well into the first song.

pity party:
The guitar riff in the beginning is so mellow and feels like it doesn’t completely reach my ears. The vocals remind me of a song that’s popular on the radio but idk what it is yet, so I’ll figure it out. The vibe is really…upbeat and feel good, even when the lyrics aren’t entirely the same way. the song explains depression and anxiety, and how it affects someone’s social life. The first verse talks about how hard it is to find the energy to get out of bed and go out when you’re overcome with anxiety. The chorus itself reminds me of “Fake Happy” by Paramore in that they put on a fake smile when out partying with friends. Verse 2 goes on to explain how this person copes with their mental illness by treating themselves to things that make them happy. They even explain how being on their phone, connected to a world outside their own, makes them feel less lonely. This song is 100% relatable. Definitely sounds like a song that would be played on the radio.

make you feel pretty:
This song is SO FUCKING CATCHY. So basically, it’s telling the story of a girl who’s trying to make it famous in LA. She’s part of the drug scene and this guy is head over heels, trying to make her feel pretty and make her feel worthy, then the guy falls into the scene by becoming addicted to the lady, and alcohol maybe?? This song is so good. I wanna dance to it and scream it with the windows rolled down. The instrumentals are so feel good. I love this song so much.

broken:
Oh. I just figured out they sound like their own band that I’ve heard on the radio. LMFAO okay so we all know this song. It’s super catchy and overplayed on the radio, but it’s a good song that’s overplayed. Like, you don’t get pissed off and change the station. You’re like yes, this song is good let me turn it up. The song is about meeting a chick at a party and comparing battle scars. They’re both broken and both lonely, and life’s fucking them up, but they have each other. The bridge sorta makes us all seem like puzzle pieces waiting to become whole with someone else. The song has a hopeful spirit to it and the synth is always good to dance to.

alone time:
Much slower than the first few songs. There’s a driving beat that’s nice. Another song about mental illness probably. So basically, they’re feeling lonely, and in a quiet, lonely world, depression tends to kick into overdrive. They want to spend this alone time with someone else because maybe depression won’t be so loud, then. There’s a little guitar solo that’s nice. It reminds me of the beach, like I wanna hear this on the shore, margarita in hand, seagulls begging for fries.

these are my friends:
This song is kind of really cute. I think it’s talking about the voices of people who have given you advice your entire life, and taught you as you’ve grown up, and now you’re remembering those little mantras from them as you navigate life, find love and company, meet people and lose people. In the second verse, I think the friends are drugs/alcohol, though. So first it’s your conscience, then it’s what you drown your conscience out with, but both coping mechanisms work for you, they are your friends.

coachella:
This song is starting really mellow. Instrumentally, it sounds like a song that would be on a car commercial. Okay, so this song has a free spirit like morale. “We were young, we were beautiful” just reminds me of having the time of your life and laughing and living without thinking about tomorrow or the consequences. It reminds me of those drug/party scenes from Skins. In fact, the instrumentals remind me of the Skins theme song. I’ve never been to Coachella, but I like to think that’s how people feel during the festival. Carefree. This is such a relaxing jam. I might learn it on uke.

filling a void (interlude):
So, I listened to the entirety of this song before I typed up notes for it. It reminds me, again, of Paramore’s “Fake Happy”, but the intro verse of it. The lyrics alone are really beautiful, and describe an unrequited love. I really love how the vocals sound like they’re being played on a synthesizer, it kind of gives the message an automated vibe. Almost as if it hurts too much to sing the words yourself, you have to let a machine do it.

your whatever:
Ooh, it fades right into this song. At first, this sounds like a love song, but I think it’s a lost love song. It’s like a post breakup song. The lyrics are describing an unconditional love, telling this girl that he’ll be her whatever so long as they’re together, you know? Even if she smokes cigarettes, which he hates, he still loves her and her free spirit and the way she idolizes the 70s. The instrumentals are really simple sounding, but it complements the story really well. I love this song a lot. I think it’s my favorite so far.

maybe, i’m afraid:
This song is a little aggressive, but not in a bad way. It gives me this like…panicky feeling, like when you’re arguing with someone and you know it’s going to end badly and you don’t want it to ruin your relationship, so you’re trying to say anything that’ll make it all stop. I really love that I can truly envision the scene, a couple drunk on champagne, dancing around their living room maybe just getting home from a party. She’s singing Frank Sinatra out of tune and he’s pulling her closer because right now, all they have is love. I feel like they’re on the verge of a breakup, but nights like these happen and remind them why they’re still fighting for one another. It’s a really pretty ballad.

emotion:
The instrumentals are super mellow, but also kinda funky during the verses. It’s about wanting to receive more out of a relationship that’s sort of tanking slowly. It kind of feels like a friendship more than a romantic relationship, honestly. But basically, the other person isn’t really showing interest in the relationship anymore and our singer wants more from them. I really like the guitar riffs in this song.

walk from here:
Ahh! I love this song. I love the lyrics, “I might be no good/Sweetie you’re no better/We used to be sugar/And now all I taste is bitter” just because it’s so so so relatable. When arguments happen, each side always thinks they’re better than the other, but in all honestly, we’re all horrible to one another at some point. I also really love the lines, “There’s no need to drive me crazy/Honey, I can walk from here” because it’s clever in a self-sabotaging way.

stupid mistakes:
I really enjoy the synth and beat feel of this song. I think everyone can relate to the lyrics because it tells a story of a guy who’s still in love with an ex significant other and even though they don’t want to talk to him, he calls/texts them from time to time when he’s drunk or lonely. “My brain holds too many poisons/They helped me make the wrong choices” is one of my favorite lyrics from this song just because I understand battling demons and doing the wrong thing because of them. I also really love the death imagery with the lines, “And it’s my fault that I live my life/Running away from ghosts/Too many skeletons/Too hard to keep them in the closet where they’ve been.” I love songs that have CLAP CLAP parts because they’re the most fun to sing while driving, and “stupid mistakes” has that.

make believe:
Oh oh ohohohohohoh I love this song just because it’s savage af. He’s dragging this girl he likes because she lives with her parents and doesn’t have to pay rent, and hosts pity parties for herself, and never follows through with plans. She’s basically this toxic sort of person that’s hard to love because she won’t open up. There’s a call back to the song “filling a void.” The guitar part is really dancey, giving the song a nice groovy vibe.

i like the way:
“You seem cool/I seem anxious” is a mood. This song is so catchy and feels like it should be on the radio. I’d love to see this song live, standing in a crowd that’s jumping to the beat and screaming the lyrics. It’s about having a love that is far from perfect, and hurts a lot sometimes, but is truly the best thing you’ve ever had. The two people are complete opposites, but they work so well together.

everything I could never say…to you:
This song is so serene and so sincere. It’s heartwarming in a way, too, because there’s just all this love pouring out for someone who isn’t ready for it. It hurts to lose this person, but there’s also an element of understanding, too. Again, the vocals have an echoey, synthesized sound to them, which is relaxing. This song honestly brings the record to such a wonderful and hopeful end, really.

Be sure to follow lovelytheband on Instagram and Twitter, and if you like what you hear, you can catch them on tour now!


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My writing process is usually very strategic. When I sit down to write a review on a full-length album, I open Spotify, Genius.com, and a word document. I read the lyrics as I listen to the record and take notes on each song. The notes are usually sporadic and pieces of thoughts, but they are my initial reactions to each song on the record. After a much needed food break, I’ll come back to my notes, pull out common themes, and build an article that translates my impressions from a verbose mess to a cohesive, readable piece.

It sounds very easy, but sometimes I struggle to find the motivation to take that final step. I have the words in my head, I know what I want to express, but I can’t form sentences that will make sense to our readers while giving the band the well-versed recognition they deserve. My own insecurities tie into my writer’s block and create anxiety as I write a review. Sometimes, I wish I could just keyboard smash my way through a piece, using CAPS to emphasize my love for a certain lyric, and !!! when I don’t have real words to convey my excitement over a key change. Sometimes, being formal is mentally draining on an already exhausted mind, so I’ve tried something different this time. I’m publishing those chaotic notes; the unedited, uncensored, and completely raw reviews. Maybe I’m just being lazy, or maybe it’s actually creative art.

Overexpose Yourself to Sleep On It

By Rhiannon Levengood

Discovering new bands has always been something I’m not very good at. I tend to find a new love in groups that have been around for more than a decade, resulting in my attempt to learn an entire discography of music in a week. And I’ll let you know, I’m really good at doing that.

However, finding a band that’s only five years old is like a breath of fresh air; and finding a band that’s only five years in the making and is actually good is like dying and going to Heaven. A sanctuary full of emo kids, punk rock grooves, and tasteful screamo. I’ve discovered Sleep On It.

Straight out of the heart of Chicago, Illinois hails quintet rock band Sleep On It. The group formed in 2012 and released a debut EP Everything, All At Once (2014) and a sophomore EP Safe Again (2015) before their original vocalist parted from the band. With the addition of new frontman Zech Pluister, Sleep On It released a third EP Lost Along the Way in 2016.

Now in 2017, Sleep On It has finally released a debut, full length album entitled Overexposed. With 12 brand new songs, the group gives us a refined sound that only proves their growth as a band. As a whole, the record is cohesive with a well-rounded sound. The instrumentals don’t clash together and while there is a contrast of vocals, they work really well together for a great track-to-track flow. Overexposed has influences from Fall Out Boy, Paramore, All Time Low, and Green Day. I can even hear hints of Blink-182 and Simple Plan at times. When all of these different ingredients come together, they form a straight-up delicious and unique combination not unlike a Crunchwrap Supreme™.

Fast food plugs aside, Overexposed has the very potential to become an iconic debut album the same way that Fall Out Boy’s Take This To Your Grave and Paramore’s All We Know Is Falling has. We’ll just have to wait and see.

My favorite tracks:

‘Window’
A lyric that sticks out the most to me is:
“And I’m stuck here forever floating on a reel that you’ll never pull in”

‘Distant’
This song gives me immediate Paramore vibes instrumentally. The vocals are almost aggressive, which gives the song the emotion it’s trying to convey. It’s a song I can see a crowd of people bouncing to at Emo Night.

‘Always Crashing The Same Car’
The title pays homage to David Bowie, which is so great. Lyrically, this is my favorite song from the album. I personally find it very relatable, especially the chorus:

“Finding roads I crossed on my own
Tearing from these roots I’ve outgrown
I’ve been looking for the right answers
But you tell me I’m a disaster
Climbing walls I built on my own
To find my unknown”

‘What We Stay Alive For’
This song reminds me of All Time Low, and I think it’s because of the lead guitar and lyrics that have a staccato beat. There’s a key change in this song that gave me an out-of-body experience.

‘A Brighter Shade of Blue’
This is the most stripped-down, acoustic song on the album, but it’s incredibly beautiful and vulnerable. Overall, this is my favorite song. Lyrics that literally made me cry are from the bridge:
“Now I’m shaking, you’re drying in the breeze. I’ve been trying to wash the memories out of our sheets.”

Sleep On It is on tour now with Waterparks, so don’t miss them! Buy your tickets here and keep up with them by checking out the links below.

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