I remember listening to “Dear Maria, Count Me In” on the bus in middle school, I remember asking the DJ to play “Lost In Stereo” with my best friend at freshman homecoming, I remember hosting “Straight To DVD” viewing parties at my house, and I remember seeing All Time Low for my 16th birthday at the House of Blues in Orlando. After following me through those formative years, the radio-ready, pop-punk quartet have recently resurfaced on my Spotify playlist with the release of their well-received sixth album “Future Hearts.”
Debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, “Future Hearts” sold 80,000 albums in its first week, also nabbing the band their third number one rock album. Even with a limited amount of airplay, All Time Low recently played to a sold out Wembley Arena in England. At 13,000 seats, the show was their biggest to date after more than 10 years together.
“Future Hearts” definitely possesses a smoother vibe than previous releases, with songs like “Runaways,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” and the refreshing opening track “Satellites” displaying a more relaxed All Time Low sound. Lead singer Alex Gaskarth’s vocals are at their strongest, and the lyrics, often not about relationships, express a reflective quality, almost as if the band is using past experiences to give advice to their fans. Highlights such as “Dancing with a Wolf” and “Kids in the Dark,” both showcading a faster tempo, anchor “Future Hearts” and prevent it from completely straying from All Time Low’s punkier roots. Worried about getting stuck in the black hole of scene culture, All Time Low seems to be aiming for a more adult alternative genre with this album, allowing them to become accessible to a larger audience, expand their fan base, and simultaneously allay the demands of orthodox fans. Even though not a huge leap forward, the record is definitely a step in that direction.
However, from the perspective of a longtime fan, “Future Hearts” unfortunately does not hold up in comparison to All Time Low’s previous release. With more memorable tracks, stronger lyrics, and even better album art, “Don’t Panic” has the energy of a band that just left a major label and decided to create music from scratch by on its own. That energy is missing from “Future Hearts,” oftentimes causing the record to fall flat in places and leaving listeners wanting just a bit more.
In general, “Future Hearts” is a solid release from a band that could have easily faded away years ago. Instead of disappearing, All Time Low have topped the charts, amassed new generations of fans, and managed to stay relevant. Great study music, “Future Hearts” is a nice addition to that finals week shuffle to help power through exams.