This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on May 19th, 2017. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.
Oh yes, it is that time again … first listen time.
Tonight I’m excited to share a live-blog-first-listen thread all about the new All Time Low album.
My history with All Time Low is interesting. I remember seeing a lot of hype for the band around The Party Scene era and giving the songs a listen, I thought it was pretty run of the mill stuff, nothing really stood out to me. Then they released PUOSP and I was like, eh, ok, this is better, there’s some stuff here that I like, but as a whole, nothing really grabbing me. That was a three or so year long period of seeing the band, thinking they had potential, but nothing stood out to me as a “hit.”
And then the band sent me some demos for SWIR.
I heard “Dear Maria.”
I remember thinking, “yep, that’s the one.”
As a whole that was the first album I thought really nailed a pop-punk vibe and they had multiple tracks on that album I really, really liked. “Six Feet,” “Remembering Sunday,” “Stay Awake” … I felt like I finally got the band, even if I wasn’t really feeling the albums. That continued with Nothing Personal, an album where I really enjoyed a variety of songs, even more than the previous album, and this was the first time where I felt the band had put together a full album of songs. Something I felt like I would come back to time and time again and be able to listen to front and back.
And then Dirty Work came out. I like to pretend it didn’t. I never liked it, thought it missed the mark and more than anything just felt like a return to their previous albums for me … a picking and choosing of a few songs I liked and a bunch I didn’t. The album came, went, and it just felt like a missed chance. A missed opportunity to go to the next level as a band. I just kinda thought, maybe they won’t go to the next level … be that kind of band … get to that level. As a pop/pop-rock fan, it just didn’t do anything for me. I think maybe three songs on there I’d choose to listen to.
But we got a bounce back with Don’t Panic. An album that saw the band embrace the more rock and pop-punk side of themselves and put together one of my favorite collections of songs from the band. theThe momentum felt like it was building again, and the album felt more self-assured than most bands after a relative “flop.” The way they came back with that album always impressed me. I think it’s around this time I sort of realized how many songs by the band I liked now, even if they’d never been a band I considered “a favorite.” They always were that band that felt like they weren’t quite the bands they looked up to, always a step away, and that kept them from hitting the highest of highs for me … until this era of Don’t Panic and Future Hearts. It was here that the band really came into their own and embraced their strengths and songwriters. Great vocals, catchy music, and it felt like it came from a place of purpose and strength. For me, Future Hearts was the band truly embracing the best parts of who they are … and with their new album, Last Young Renegade, they have fully actualized that path. They’ve embraced a musical direction that is undeniably poppy, while also branching out from the straight forward-ness that I think plagued their earlier work. They’re more willing to take some chances, more willing to explore, and walk within the realm of pop and pop-rock. It ends up with what I think may be their best collection of songs, top-to-bottom, and one of the stronger first impressions I’ve had for an album like this in a long time. Catching me right at the perfect time in my taste wheelhouse — while I’m looking for and loving good summer pop-music and wanting to hear something catchy that gets my toes tapping and head bobbing.
Ok, so … here we go….
Tonight’s beer of choice: Widmer Brother’s Drifter Pale “Summer Time” Ale
As always, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future, this isn’t really a review as much as it is just me listening to the album, writing some thoughts down, and speaking off the cuff about what I like, don’t like, and the over all impression the album gives me.
Feel free to jump in either now or later with questions or anything you’d like to know more on, I can always expand and offer more thoughts and such.
Last Young Renegade
7:48pmWe start with the title track, and a song that most people have heard. I went out of my way to not listen to it too many times before I got the album, because I enjoy listening to an album front-to-back. And, well, I think this is a great way to start this one. It’s one of the “faster” tracks on the album, and I do think it’s a really great example of the album as a whole … but also gets things going.
7:49pmI’ve never loved Alex’s lyrics, but this song (and album), grab me more than any have in the past. They’re relatable and capture the mood.
I think this a great chorus, and I also really like the bridge.
7:49pm(Always hard to start one of these when people have heard the song. Hahah.)
That little “niiiiigggght” part is a great choice.
Drugs & Candy
7:52pmStrange song title. The kind where you’re like, uh, what? But after multiple listens now this song has gone from me thinking it wouldn’t be a highlight, to being stuck in my head at the weirdest times. The damn hook is catchy as hell.
“Can’t take another hollow point conversation…”
7:54pmThe chorus is literally “you and me are like drugs and candy” … and then a little repeating of “drugs in candy” as the harmony, and I swear it sounds like it shouldn’t work … until you’re walking around your apartment and the damn melody starts sitting in your head like an ice-cream headache.
The track is mid-tempo, and it almost has an Andrew McMahon vibe to the verses … the way it’s paced.
7:55pmI really like the drums.
“The sweetness of you on my tongue, I breathed you in, you filled my lungs.”
7:59pmI said it before, but this album really gives me the same feeling I had when I first heard BLG’s Love Drunk, where I couldn’t believe how many hooks felt packed into each song. Where every track felt like it was filled with a catchier chorus than the last, and it propelled itself forward. I get that same feeling here. Where each song feels … right. Purposeful, catchy, and like a mixture of NFG’s Coming Home and MCS’s Even if It Kills Me — a combination of catchy summer night music (specifically different than summer day music).
8:01pmAnother track that’s been released already. I think it’s one of the band’s best songs yet, and after hearing it within the context of the album that continues. The lyrics aren’t my favorite, but the vibe, the feel of the song I think is just right.
8:02pmThe chorus where Alex finally opens up really is a highlight. I think this is the best he’s ever sounded on an album.
8:04pmSlow build, percussion starts pounding into … “on a fault line, late night, underneath the stars we came alive, and singing to the sky just felt right … I won’t forget the good times.”
“I’ll hate the goodbye, but I won’t forget the good times.”
8:06pmIt’s simple, but I think it works.
“I never wanna leave this sunset town … but one day the time may come….”
8:08pmThe song feels very anthemic, I mean, you could call it Coldplay-esque, but with a youthful exuberance.
8:10pmThe song was released today, and I think it’s perfectly placed here in the track listing. It’s got a nice little driving tempo, pushes forward and definitely has one of the more “rock” beats.
Love the doubling of “nice to, nice to know you.”
8:11pmFeel like this could end up being a live staple. Probably speed it up a tad.
Yeah, I’d call this one a highlight.
Life of the Party
8:12pmI didn’t read the comments on this one before I heard it, I didn’t even listen to it when it was released. I wanted to wait and hear it with the full album.
I really like it. I am all about that chorus. It’s layered, it’s paced so well, it’s got an All-American Rejects or Matt Thiessen-esque melody. Where it feels so simple, so obvious, but the way it’s used ends up emoting so much.
8:15pmSeriously a great chorus.
8:16pmSounds fantastic with headphones.
8:17pmEarly contender for favorite song on the album.
“There’s a little house, on a perfect little hill, just short of a fairy tale…”
8:18pmI think this may have Alex’s best vocal and lyrical-outing. He kills it.
8:18pmMusic change …. pulls back … and he just god damn slays the chorus. It’s my favorite vocal moment on the album.
Now there’s a ghost in the back of this room, and I don’t like it.
I fall asleep with my covers pulled up, and try to fight it.
I gotta say, it’s hard to be brave when you’re alone in the dark,
I told myself I wouldn’t be scared …
but I’m stillllllll having nightmares.
8:20pmNice guitar part. Nice use of acoustics.
8:20pmProduction on point. Big. Compressed. Tight. But the layers swirl and you can pull them out with subsequent listens.
Dark Side of Your Room
8:22pmIt’s taken me a few listens to get into this one, and it was on first listen the only one I wasn’t sure about. I’ve come to like it, but I think it may be my least favorite?
8:23pmI mean, I say that as the pure Bon Jovi chant chorus starts … and it’s like, yeah, my least favorite is still going to be a hit and is fucking catchy as hell.
Ohhhhhhh, ooohhhhhhh, we use these better than Blink-182 now.
“With nights like these, who needs the days, I shut my eyes and sleep them away, I’m on the dark side of your room with the notches on your bedpost.”
8:24pmNice “spacey” bridge.
8:25pmIf you liked “Dirty Laundry”, you’ll love this one.
Pre-chorus is stupid good.
8:26pmOh hai Tegan and Sara grabbing the hook.
“Checking in, three hundred years with no reply now … I think I’ve lost my mind, there’s nothing keeping me from going outside … ”
8:27pm… love the call and return with Alex and Tegan/Sara in the story.
8:28pmI never thought All Time Low had this kind of song in them. I just didn’t think it existed. It’s sounds almost like an entirely different band …
“When you’re out in space, don’t you be afraid … if you start floating away.”
8:30pmDamn, this listen has gone by fast!
This song actually reminds me of Boys Like Girls … it’s poppy, catchy, with like just a hint of Nashville country on it.
8:31pmAnother Alex-is-good song too by the way.
Just take it easy, hold onto this feeling … our friends are leaving, but we got no where to go, caught up in the afterglow…”
8:32pmNice little guitar line.
I mean, that pre-chorus is almost … what … 70’ish? Like Crosby Stills and Nash? I don’t know what it is, but someone will tell me when it comes out and I’ll go “oh yeah, that’s it.”
8:33pmBig build into a bunch of vocals and chants and awesomeness.
8:33pmGuys this album is good.
8:35pmFading out … “when the lights go out come find me in the afterglow” … doesn’t sound like Alex doing the vocals.
8:38pmTo me this album feels like they took “Kids in the Dark” and “Cinderblock Garden” and maybe mixed it with some “Tidal Waves” to get the vibe of this album. It’s an album that I immediately was taken in by, and that after … 9 listens in? I still find something more to enjoy every single time … I like the album more now than I did on first listen.
I can’t say for certain, but I think in time this will be my favorite All Time Low album.
8:40pmI don’t know if fans will feel the same, because if they want more NFG sounding pop-punk this isn’t it. But from a pure song writing and song perspective, I think this is the best they’ve ever been. It’s like Paramore’s latest album … it’s the band at the top of their game writing the album they want to write and being really, really fucking good at it.
I wrote up top about how I never really felt like the band put it all together at the start of their career.
That it felt like they had the pieces. Glimpses. Like a young athlete full of potential.
This album is them putting it all together. Them reaching deep and finding all the raw-talent we saw, and them being unafraid to display it. It’s the culmination of a career, and of earning their confidence. It shows. I think it works. I have no idea what the response is to this album … people don’t like pop-music sometimes, so, well, whatever … but this is the kind of album, like the new Paramore, like BLG’s Love Drunk, that I think I’ll always end up defending because something about it just hits me right.
8:50pmIt’s just … good. I’m drawn to it like a damn firefly … and it’s the kind of album that will end up dominating this upcoming summer in way that it may even sneak into my EOTY list. It’s the progression, the pushing forward …. that I wish other bands attempted. It’s the full embracing of pop that Yellowcard never did, but I think they could have … and that Blink hasn’t even attempted and why I think it feels so stunted.
I mean, hats off to the band. They’ve full on won me over. I’m riding with this album. It’s good. It’s actually really good. It’s the album you have on at a late night beach party, and when you’re picking up embers in the morning, brushing sand off beer bottles … the melodies are still playing in your head.