DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL

Chris Carrabba had written over a dozen new songs when he uncovered “We Fight,” the Opening track on Crooked Shadows, Dashboard Confessional’s seventh album. The song became the launching point for each note that followed, the bar under which each track was measured. It contains a dynamic force, a surging energy, that resonates throughout the album, and reflects back on everything Dashboard Confessional has achieved in the past two decades.

At first “We Fight” was simple in its intent, written about the Florida music scene where Chris grew up. It was a place where everyone was accepted and no one was judged, a island of inclusivity worth defending. Chris and his compatriots fought for the scene and fostered it, encouraging individualism and non-judgment. But as Chris was writing it, the song transformed into something bigger. “The election happened and suddenly the song felt relevant because of this climate of intolerance and aggression and hate,” Chris says. “We regressed as a nation to this place where people embrace backwards thinking. So the fight that started in our scene still felt relevant. It seems like it’s going to last longer than we’d like, but we have to stay here to fight.”

The eight songs that follow on Crooked Shadows, Dashboard Confessional’s first release since 2009’s Alter The Ending, are connected, threaded together by the idea that it’s essential to balance hope with anger. That we can reject the place where society has recently fallen and find ways to lift ourselves back up. The album, recorded in Chris’s basement over the past two years and produced by Chris and Jonathan Clark and coproduced by Colin Brittain, feels intimate and emotionally wrought. The musicians weren’t looking for perfection during the recording process. Instead, they focused on sincere snapshots of the songs, many of which, like “Heartbeat Here,” were laid down only moments after being written. The idea was to get as close as possible to the feeling Chris had while writing the song when recording it.

“It reminds me of my first record,” Chris says. “I think there’s something people connected to with that hand-crafted nature, possibly more than the later records. This was a chance to combine the two schools of thought. It can be well done and homespun at the same time.”

The title from the album comes from “Crooked Shadows,” an intimate track Chris wrote with Dashboard Confessional’s guitarist Armon Jay Cheek and Jonathan Howard. The inspiration came to Chris during a walk around town with his wife. They weren’t getting along, possibly because Chris had been away too long on tour, and there was an unspoken feeling of upset. Suddenly the storm clouds broke and the sun filtered behind them, casting a shadow of two people holding hands on a nearby staircase.

“It was really beautiful,” Chris says. “I thought to myself, ‘Look how beautiful that is in its imperfections.’ I realized that’s why our relationships works – because it’s imperfect but beautiful and important enough that there we were holding hands anyway. It was a moment where it wasn’t easy, but where we were still together not getting along. Those crooked shadows were together in spite of it all.”

The closing track, “Just What To Say,” is the most personally revealing song Chris has ever written – which, he knows, is a bold statement. The acoustic number is quiet and reflective, looking inward in a way that feels deeply relatable. It’s about admitting and accepting flaws, but it’s also about embracing the better aspects of your own humanity. “It’s my honest assessment of who I am at my best and who I am not at my best,” the singer says. “It starts with me not at my best, but I think I explain myself well enough that by the end you get a better opinion of me.”

Crooked Shadows feels like the opening of a new chapter in Dashboard Confessional’s career, but it also revisits their past. For Chris, there were several roads the band could have walked down after the success of their first few albums. They picked one – and he’s grateful for that – but he’s always wondered what was down the other roads. Crooked Shadows is one possible answer to that question. It’s also a reminder of the band’s skill when it comes to penning deeply and unabashedly emotional songs, an aesthetic that influenced countless younger artists. Over the years, Dashboard Confessional has made it enviable to bare your soul in a song and to be unashamed of any feelings that may arrive. Chris and his fellow musicians have found a new perspective on the world in these songs, one that only comes with more life experience, but those exposed emotions remain.

“I’m searching for answers to questions I haven’t even thought of,” Chris says. “A lot of writers are trying to discover who they are and what their place is in the world – that’s part of the inquisitive nature of people who gravitate to artists expression. It’s exhilarating because not having the answers is the impetus to writing songs. When I sit down to write I’m in that place where I can attempt to describe the search for the answers – or the answers themselves. It’s hard to pinpoint which one you get in a song, even when you’ve written that song, but it’s the reason I do this.”

ALL TIME LOW

Nostalgia often lights the pathway to the future. By returning to those warm feelings of wide eyed wonder from childhood, bottling them up tight, and distilling them with years of wisdom, evolution becomes seamless. On their seventh full-length album and first for Fueled By Ramen Last Young Renegade, All Time Low take the next step on a journey they began back in their hometown of Towson, Maryland during 2003. Alight by analog synthesizers, cinematic soundscapes, and a lyrical journey lived through the eyes of a character known as the “Last Young Renegade,” the chart-topping platinum-certified quartet—Alex Gaskarth [lead vocals, rhythm guitar], Jack Barakat [lead guitar, backing vocals], Zack Merrick [bass guitar, backing vocals], and Rian Dawson [drums]—looked back in order to move forward.

“There’s a very nostalgic quality to this record,” Alex affirms. “There are a lot of strings that tie each song together, which had to do with what we were going through at the time. All of these things were quietly affecting where my head was at creatively. The deaths of Prince, David Bowie, and George Michael and watching shows like Stranger Things brought me back to being a little kid. There are touches of those inspirations creeping across. It’s those emotions of sitting in front of the TV cross-legged at six-years-old watching Ghostbusters for the first time. That was a guiding force for how we wrote and approached this.”

“It wasn’t about recreating anything directly, but trying to simply reflect those emotions,” Jack agrees.

Alex adds, “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we not only get that feeling, but give it to people?’

In order to transfer that sensation to audiences, they flipped the script. While touring behind 2015’s Future Hearts, which bowed at #2 on the Billboard Top 200, the band began secretly working on song ideas without letting a soul outside of their inner circle know. With no schedule or expectations looming, the boys experimented and pushed the envelope both thematically and musically.

“It really felt like we had the freedom to explore,” Alex remarks. “We wrote outside the box. I think that creative liberty led us down the road of where this ended up. We went towards those sonic textures and synths. At the end of the day, our core is drums, bass, and two guitars, but I don’t think that’s the be-all end-all of what we are.”

“It’s a bit of a darker direction,” Jack exclaims. That’s something we’ve never touched on lyrically and emotionally throughout a whole tracklisting. It’s dark, but palatable. We’re not 18 anymore. It’s almost fifteen years later. We’ve seen a lot. We’ve lost friends and family members. We’ve found our voice, and we approached this new territory from a perspective that makes sense for us.”

Closing a landmark chapter with Hopeless Records, the boys signed to Fueled By Ramen in 2016. Throughout the year, they continued to assemble those ideas, primarily self-producing for the first time with co-production from Colin Brittain [5 Seconds of Summer, Avicii] and Blake Harnage [PVRIS]. Alex took a writing trip to a ranch in Palm Springs, CA that proved pivotal as the musicians tinkered each and every song to perfection. The title represented the collective mindset as the Last Young Renegade stepped into focus.

“The Last Young Renegade became this character who could encapsulate all of these feelings throughout each song,” Alex elaborates. “It was easier to approach personal experiences from an outside perspective as if I was talking about someone else or describing a movie I just watched. It enabled me to go places I wouldn’t have been comfortable going otherwise. It let me sit down with my demons and talk to them without facing them directly. Anybody can be this character.”

An echo of ethereal guitar, airy keys, and a confessional and catchy chorus come clean on the first single “Dirty Laundry.” Upon its February release, the song quickly clocked over 2 million Spotify streams in under a week, showcasing the group’s progression.

“The older you get, the more you realize everybody has a dark side and a past,” the frontman goes on. “You come to terms with those scars. They’re what make us who we are, define us, and give us character. That’s what the song is about. It was the right one to put out first, because it felt fresh. We actively want to shake things up and place aspects of All Time Low into the light that keep everyone guessing.”

The title track gallops ahead on a powerful chorus fueled by lush and lively instrumentation. “It’s a song about young love,” he continues. “When you fall in love at a young age, reality often sets in. With the waves that life throws at you, the current can be too strong to handle, and it falls apart. This one kicks off the story.”

Elsewhere, they collaborate with Tegan and Sara on “Ground Control” a spacey and soaring nod to Bowie that culminates on the assurance, “Don’t be afraid if you start floating away.With its uplifting and undeniable chant, the closer “Afterglow” shines long after the final note. Think Phil Collins crooning over Starboy-style production, and you’re halfway there…

It’s as if All Time Low has been speeding towards this body of work since their inception.

Throughout the course of six albums, the band has earned four Top 10 debuts on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at #2. Their catalog of anthems includes the platinum-certified “Dear Maria, Count Me In” and gold-certified “Weightless” and “A Love Like War [feat. Vic Fuentes],” which received the highest honor of “Song of the Year” at the 2014 Alternative Press Music Awards. To date, they’ve garnered five Alternative Press Music Awards, five KERRANG! Awards, and been crowned “Best Pop Punk Band” at the Top In Rock Awards. Along the way, they’ve appeared in Rolling Stone and Billboard and graced the covers of Alternative Press and KERRANG! multiple times in addition to performing on The Tonight Show, Conan, and Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! Known for unforgettable shows around the globe, they’ve also ignited stages everywhere from Voodoo Music Experience to Warped Tour and on the road with blink-182, Fall Out Boy, Green Day and more.

Last Young Renegade sees them confidently turn the page on their next chapter. “To be honest, I really want people to come out of this simply feeling something,” Jack leaves off. “It’s different than anything we’ve done in the past, but it’s still who we are. We’re really proud of that.”

Alex concludes, The biggest thing for me was to make music that allows the band to grow with the fans who have been with us since day one and open the door to new people who aren’t that familiar with All Time Low. The themes we explore are very relatable. I hope this is an emotional ride. That’s what all of my favorite records were for me.”

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