In the ever-expanding sea of pop punk bands, All Time Low have been one of the most consistent. All of their albums since 2009’s Nothing Personal have reached the top 10 on the Billboard charts, and they’ve released an album every two years between 2005 and 2011. Adding the consistent quality of their albums on top of this, they have shown that they’re good at what they do. But as with many other bands in 2015, it seems like this is a year of change for All Time Low.
It’s not a radical change though. Compared to their previous album Don’t Panic, Future Hearts does a few things differently. The pop punk style still runs through the album, and while nothing really stands out when it comes to these songs, none of it comes off as terrible either. What’s interesting about Future Hearts is the songs that lean more towards other genres. Album opener Satellite sounds less punk and more rock, featuring a sparse mid-tempo production consisting of drums, guitar and vocals for most of the song, only really picking up steam towards the end. It’s not amazing, but it’s different.
Two songs later, Something’s Gotta Give follows a similar road, but sounds punchier than either of the songs before it, and picks up the energy and features more in its backing track to make it interesting. The album’s best songs fall into this category as well, rather than being in the pop rock spectrum. Bail Me Out enters pop rock territory, ditching any punk production or vocal techniques to make something that just sounds catchy and stands out in a good way. The Edge of Tonight is similar, but uses atmospheric reverb and effects to make something that almost sounds beautiful, which sounds even more out of place on this album, yet still works in context.
The album’s eclectic moods aren’t always to its benefit though. The songs trying out new styles often fall flat or just aren’t that interesting, particularly in the case of the bouncy pop track Missing You that trades the electric guitars in for acoustic ones and sounds too cute to be on an album like this. It’s so bouncy and opposite from everything else on the album that it breaks the flow. Mixed with a few other less successful experiments and the complete middle ground that the pop punk songs occupy, moments like these tend to keep the album from reaching greatness.
But even though it’s not an amazing album, Future Hearts isn’t a bad one either. The pop punk songs and the rock/pop ones tend to clash due to their position on the album, and the album feels disconnected in a way that is only exacerbated by the inclusion of Missing You. They would have been better off choosing one side and sticking to it, and since either choice would have made for a much stronger album, it’s a shame Future Hearts turned out to be so mediocre.