Future Hearts review by All Time Low

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  • Released: Apr 3, 2015
  • Sound: 5
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 5
  • Reviewer's score: 5.7 Decent
  • Users' score: 7.2 (48 votes)
All Time Low: Future Hearts
4

Sound — 5
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but even at the time of their humble beginnings, All Time Low seemed destined for the top - maybe it was the way their pop punk significantly plugged the hole where Blink-182 used to be; maybe it was the way frontman Alex Gaskarth's voice gave Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump a run for his money; hell, even the band's name was the perfect amount of self-deprecation for the emo scene they sprouted in. And as the history shows, All Time Low would shoot up from high school hopefuls to the next big thing in pop punk with flying colors: from getting signed with Hopeless Records before graduating high school and hitting #1 in the Billboard Rock charts with their third album, "Nothing Personal," a few years later, to parlaying that success into signing with major label Interscope Records. 

But it was at this point when All Time Low began to, inevitably, grow out of their early sound. This branching out had been foreshadowed in "Nothing Personal," but All Time Low's following album, "Dirty Work," would have the band putting more of their eggs into the pop basket and less into the punk basket, which resulted in the age-old divide: those that embraced the band's change in sound, and those that reviled it. In light of this, All Time Low would be more attentive to the latter group - they left Interscope and signed back with Hopeless, and promptly released their fifth album a year later, entitled "Don't Panic." All Time Low framed the goal of that album as being an amalgam of their best qualities throughout their catalogue, but as its title heavily suggests, this album was meant to quell anyone fretting over the possibility of the band completely turning their backs on pop punk.

Like putting an antibiotic in a spoonful of ice cream to get a child to take it, the idea of All Time Low mixing their poppier endeavors within a giant spoonful of tried-and-true pop punk succeeded in winning back most of those upset fans. But now, All Time Low seem unsure in how to continue from there, and with their sixth album, "Future Hearts," they recycle the same approach they took with "Don't Panic," but with less punk ice cream and more pop antibiotic this time around.

With expected shrewdness, they start off strong with the pop punk aspect to ease into things - the uplifting crescendo of the opening song "Satellites" drops into the uncut, fit-to-form pop punker "Kicking & Screaming." After that, the pop flavors start to come in stronger, like the stomp-clap reprise in "Something's Gotta Give" and the added synth parts in "Kids in the Dark," though they're still cut with decent pop-punk choruses and instrumental energy (the variations in Zack Merrick's basslines and the pep in Rian Dawson's drumlines stay strong throughout the album). And while "Runaways" is the first song to invest too much in production value, it's promptly counterweighted with "Missing You," a rich acoustic folk tune that nearly refreshes the organic factor on the album (though the addition of synths and canned strings feels unnecessary), and is then followed by another down-to-earth pop punker, "Cinderblock Garden."

As one can put together, this ebb and flow between pop and pop punk continues throughout the rest of the album: "Tidal Waves" is a pop rock ballad, with a formidable guest verse from Mark Hoppus; and then All Time Low switch back into the pop punk gear with the straightforward "Don't You Go." But eventually, this game of genre pong between pop and punk eventually has to end, and it ends with the point going to pop, only growing more grandiose in the final stretch: "Bail Me Out" featuring Good Charlotte's Joel Madden is another acoustic-driven tune but gets criminally overdressed in production tricks; "Dancing With a Wolf" has the heavy synth augmentations eclipsing the band's instrument elements; and the same goes for the shameless, lighter-waving arena rocker "The Edge of Tonight." The moderately-produced pop punk closer "Old Scars / Future Hearts" brings things back to All Time Low's middle ground of wanting to be both pop rock and pop punk, but after the previous stretch of heavily pop-oriented songs, it almost feels disingenuous to believe that they still want to be punk.

Lyrics — 7
Though Gaskarth's diaries of love and loss have always provided All Time Low with equal amounts of heartwarming and cruel portrayals of relationships, Gaskarth's lyrics have been considerably more negative in the band's last couple of albums. But whether or not it's to balance out that lyrical pH level, the lyrics in "Future Hearts" are generally more positive (with the exception of the spiteful "Dancing With a Wolf" and the poisonous relationship of "Tidal Waves"). Along with the heartwarming scenarios of love Gaskarth offers - like the growing relationship from a one-night stand in "Don't You Go," the lust to abandon the world together in "Runaways," the mutual progression from past troubles in "Cinderblock Garden," and the reverence of emotional support in "Bail Me Out" and "The Edge of Tonight" - Gaskarth also serves up a substantial depression/anti-suicide message in "Missing You" that stands out the tallest and resonates the strongest on the album.

Overall Impression — 5
Whereas "Don't Panic" had its main priority in winning back the band's older pop punk fans while also trying to slowly wean them onto the band's newer style ever so slightly, "Future Hearts" tries upping the pop dosage while still wielding pop punk, which results in a more polarizing album as a whole, with a very interesting but paradoxical dynamic. The pairing of straightforward pop punk songs that All Time Low have mastered with songs that are draped in pop music clichés only make the former type of songs stand out more on the album, and though this helps out the pop punk songs from coming off as stale (since the band have been making that stuff for a decade, now), it in no way convinces listeners that All Time Low is better off moving into bona fide pop music (which is what their growing pop characteristics indicate). Whereas Fall Out Boy just ripped the bandage right off and went full-on pop rock, All Time Low are still struggling to make the full transition. It's not an easy situation to come out of unscathed, but "Future Hearts" only continues to toe the line of compromise between the band's old style and new style, and wishy-washiness will never beckon a satisfying result.

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Oborth
    A 6? Come on ,it's not their best album but this is obviously not a 6.You guys always underrate pop punk and post-hardcore bands in reviews.
    JackMills
    I agree with you about reviewers underrating pop punk and post-hardcore, but in this instance, I'd say this album is about a 6
    azrael667
    That's because anything that has pop or post in its name deserves to die a miserable death. Don't get me wrong, I listen to post-hardcore myself but the name is just as pretentious as the ending of Lost. Shoegaze is another one. At least find a name that is descriptive of the genre.
    brendan_mcbri
    lol no one wanted to be called shoegaze or post-hardcore back when those "genres" were made up. it's just that if you mention those genres now, most music listeners know what you're talking about. post-hardcore is incredibly vague though, since dance gavin dance and fugazi are both in the genre i guess.
    bradd101
    "At least find a name that is descriptive of the genre." When you look at it, "metal" and "punk" are terms that are just as initially undescriptive as "shoegaze", but they are ALL descriptive because of the meaning that the music world has interred into them. Also, bit of an overrection bro
    Collyn
    Not a bad album, it has a lot of moments that are exciting. It just isnt a good album for ATL, especially when they have put out so much better work in the past.
    Collyn
    The singles just bored me this time around! Somethings Gotta Give grew on me, but i really did not like Kids In The Dark.
    vppark2
    I've tried and tried and tried to like what these guys have been doing recently but just can't. The review basically summed up my feelings for them.
    aries0490
    Those singles are tasteless.. Although this band only got worse after their Put Up or Shut Up EP. That was good ol pop punk. This is just pop music now.
    Inglig909
    Never once liked this group. Something about them just bugs me. All good musicians but never seen the appeal/ hype
    Nuclearcrayon
    They always have something cool and catchy to offer but I think this album contains and a bit too much filler, Although maybe I'll change my mind as I listen to it more.
    siobhani
    The people that write these reviews are such biased *******s. The only bands that get good reviews are bands that sing about hating the world or have been around for a long time. Not saying that side of things is bad, but pop punk isn't bad either. I'll admit, of their more recent albums, Don't Panic was really great because it took a more punk turn, but Future Hearts isn't bad either, it's just more pop. Is pop a bad thing? No, a lot of people enjoy it. So write your reviews based off of open-minded quality, not how the music caters to your individual taste.
    taytay8b
    Been a fan forever but this album kind of sucks. I even preferred Dirty Work to be honest. Let's hope it grows on me..
    1diots
    kinda dissapointed for this album. i've been fan since put up or shut up, but this album is just something new for all time low. can't say that they're growing up in music and age of power pop. anyway, longlive all time low! hustlers will always supporting u guys!
    MusicMan24
    I was pretty disappointed with this album after Don't Panic. The singles are the best songs on the album, and that's usually never the case. Everything aside from Something's Gotta Give, Kids In The Dark, and Runaways is very bland and just average at best.
    2012aalmond
    This album just kind of blows. Aside from some catchy guitarwork and vocals on Kicking and Screaming and similar appeal from Cinderblock Garden, I just don't like this album. Hated Something's Gotta Give and Kids In The Dark. I really liked Don't Panic (normal edition, deluxe bonus tracks were pretty meh, like this album) and I was a big fan of their past work. The Party Scene through Nothing Personal was all awesome material to me. Dirty Work sucked accept Guts and Heroes, but once they came back with Don't Panic, I wrote it off as a phase. But now we have this album. And while a step up from some of Dirty Work (I guess) it's not a big enough step to be satisfying. Lyrics are less than stellar, music is weak and bland. All Time Low can be good, but this is just bad.
    siobhani
    I just don't understand how a band can get worse if their STYLE changes. Like how does that determine anything?
    lanebennett123
    I like this album but it has a heavier pop influence than their previous works. I personally enjoyed this album a lot but I can also see how people would dislike this album. It's edging towards a more mainstream sound.