Credited with popularizing a controversial sub-genre of heavy music called “easycore” (involving a mix of pop punk and metalcore or hardcore), Florida-based band A Day To Remember have undoubtedly left their mark on the scene.
They have a lengthier discography than any band I’ve presented on this blog, making them a perfect topic of discussion for this week’s Deep Dive segment. ADTR have many fans, and lots of haters too – so, is their whole discography worth checking out?
I first became aware of ADTR in mid to late 2016, when a friend showed me one of their more well-known songs “Right Back At It Again” and I instantly fell in love. I was already into lighter pop rock music and edging into the territory of its slightly heavier cousin, pop punk. I can, without hesitation, pinpoint this track as the very first song with unclean (screamed) vocals and heavy guitar breakdowns that I liked.
I previously thought heavy music wasn’t for me (lol) because I’d never heard someone try to combine it with what I loved about poppier guitar music (catchy choruses, rousy guitars, fast percussion, and singable melodies).
Soon after, I researched the band and found out that they had recently released a brand new record, “Bad Vibrations” – and down the rabbit hole I went.
The band’s early releases are a bit confusing, due to the re-issue of their earlier material. Both “For Those Who Have Heart” and “Old Record” are listed as having come out in 2008 on streaming platforms. The band’s first record was actually called “And Their Name Was Treason” (2005) but all of its songs were re-recorded and re-released as “Old Record” – so, when I mention “Treason”, know I’m referring to “Old Record”.
This first release already hinted at what we’d see in the future from more polished projects by ADTR – it was a first attempt at meshing metalcore and pop punk. It works surprisingly well in places for a debut album (“Nineteen Fifty Eight”, “Casablance Sucked Anyways.”) but less so in others (“A 2nd Glance”, “If Looks Could Kill…”).
Overall, the production here is really poor and singer Jeremy McKinnon’s voice was super underdeveloped. Both his screaming and singing are quite weak. However, even this early on in their career, the band showed that they could write god-tier pop punk choruses, spawning some of my personal favourites within a record that overall, isn’t very solid (“Your Way With Words Is Through Silence!”, “Heart Less”).
Take a listen to the former of those two. This is by no means a perfect song. The production sucks and the vocals leave much to be desired in places, but all the potential for greatness is there. Oh, and the chorus absolutely rips.
Next up is the re-issue of “For Those Who Have Heart”, which holds up better today. A couple of the older tracks actually appear here, tweaked and much stronger (“Heartless”, “You Should’ve Killed Me When You Had the Chance”).
A notable improvement on this release is the songwriting and the choices when it comes to vocals – the placement of clean and unclean vocals as well as heavy versus lighter instrumentation on “Treason” seemed almost haphazard at times. ADTR cleaned up their act here in a big way, creating a pack of catchy, head-banging jams.
An example of what I think they fell short from accomplishing on “Treason” is the fiery “Speak of the Devil” – the verses are pure moshpit fuel, while the chorus is the perfect concert sing-along (I personally love the guitar riffs on it too). The band clearly had live shows in mind when putting it together, and the song is better for it.
This release also marked the beginning of their exploration deeper into each of the genres that inspired their fusion-type music – pop punk and metalcore/hardcore. Something like “Monument” or “Colder Than My Heart, If You Can Imagine” leans pretty heavily into the former, while the re-vamped version of “Heartless” pulls from more of the latter. This would spawn some of their awesome later work that lines up a bit better in each of these genres (particularly their pop punk-leaning material).
The main drawbacks are, again, the iffy production, along with mediocre lyrics and slightly repetitive riffs. The track most indicative of where the band would go next is definitely “The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle” where ADTR really showed what could be accomplished by taking the very best from pop punk and metalcore and combining it. There’s a reason they still play this song live to this day.
“Homesick” (2009) is where ADTR really found the sweet spot between their heavy and lighter influences. It’s been deemed by many to be the perfect easycore record, and possibly the best in this relatively short-lived sub-genre.
The difference in Jeremy’s vocals is like night and day. He sounds so strong in his cleans, and brutal in his screams. That type of versatility was impressive enough when he was mediocre at each of these vocal styles, and the combo became lethal in the best way on this album when he really upped his game.
Stand-outs include “The Downfall of Us All”, “Have Faith In Me”, “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?”, “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End”, and the album’s title track. Of course, I can’t go without pointing you to the acoustic mega-hit “If It Means a Lot to You”. While this isn’t ADTR’s first acoustic venture (“You Had Me @ Hello”, “The Price We Pay”), it’s by far their best. This love song is just so heart-wrenching and beautiful, and it alone inspired thousands of people to pick up a guitar.
Even the album’s lesser-known deep cuts rock, with “My Life for Hire” and “Holdin’ It Down for the Underground” being my personal favourites. Along with the great production and songwriting, the band’s choice to double down on emo lyrics got them hugely popular among young people, who spread these songs like wildfire.
There isn’t much more to say about this era of the band, except that it catapulted them into fame. “Homesick” set the bar extremely high, and despite the fact that parts of the album haven’t aged flawlessly, making for a slightly dated sound in places, in my opinion, it remains the gold standard for easycore music to this day.
“What Separates Me From You” (2011) came next, and while many saw it as a step down from their previous release, it’s hard to think of how the band could’ve outdone themselves. This record sees a slight stylistic change, with significantly stronger pop punk influences permeating a large part of the record. Obviously this didn’t mean that ADTR gave up on their heavy side (see “Sticks & Bricks”, “You Be Tails, I’ll Be Sonic”, “2nd Sucks”). However, they definitely went out of their way to try some more pop-friendly stuff, which spawned some absolute gems (“All Signs Point to Lauderdale”, “All I Want”, “This Is the House That Doubt Built”). Again, there isn’t a single bad song on here.
The band was perceptive enough to notice how well their fans responded to the lighter material, but also smart enough to see that ditching the heaviness altogether wouldn’t go over well either. Thus, “Common Courtesy” (2013) was born. While it’s overall arguably the poppiest ADTR full-length ever released, heavy elements are injected seemlessly into it to provide that grittier edge that so many people love. For example, “Right Back At It Again” is a pretty straightforward pop punk song, but the careful addition of those two breakdowns created something really different, fun, and fresh. It’s that continuous innovation within the realm of easycore (which got really stale, really fast when done by lots of other bands) that allowed ADTR to put out three nearly flawless, rock-solid easycore-type projects in a row.
Both the heavier (“Violence (Enough Is Enough)”, “Sometimes You’re The Hammer, Sometimes You’re The Nail”, “Life Lessons Learned The Hard Way”) and lighter (“I’m Already Gone”, “Life @ 11”, “End Of Me”, “I Surrender”) deep cuts are well-loved on this project too. There’s no shortage of high-energy chugging riffs or acoustic beauties.
Overall, I’d say the songs are a bit less memorable than those on “Homesick” and “What Separates Me From You”. Otherwise, though, I have no criticism of “Common Courtesy”.
In 2016, the band put out “Bad Vibrations” which received mixed reviews. I tend to agree with the complaints of fuzzy production and weaker, lacklustre songs. This project is significantly less memorable, delving into generic hard rock territory at its worst (“Paranoia”, “Forgive and Forget”, “Turn Off The Radio”). This makes the album feel less cohesive, since stronger tracks are forced to stand next to them.
However, it still spawned some well-loved songs within the fanbase (“In Florida”, “We Got This”) and some excellent riffs (“Exposed”).
Overall, “Bad Vibrations” isn’t terrible, but it’s not all that good either.
After releasing a surprisingly strong collaboration single with EDM artist Marshmello, the band dropped a few singles from their delayed upcoming album “You’re Welcome” (2020). “Degenerates” really did not go over well with me, and I still dislike it. That programmed bass is gross and the lyrics sound like a shitty knock-off of their previous work. “Resentment” was better, but the electronic elements make the band sound like one of many current generic nu-metal-ish bands.
Their most recent song “Mindreader” went over a lot better than the other two among fans. It’s the strongest of the three singles, but honestly, that’s not saying much. I don’t hate it, but let’s just say it has me concerned for the band’s future and glad that I saw them live before “You’re Welcome” songs take up room on the setlist.
Additional general thoughts
In terms of the band themselves, I really respect the fact that they chose to leave their former label so that they could do “Common Courtesy” and “Bad Vibrations” their way, in true DIY punk fashion. How can you not respect that?
Otherwise, ADTR is also excellent live. Jeremy’s versatility is insane and the power he has in both his cleans and screams is ridiculous, and somehow it has only increased over the years. Here they are playing “Sticks & Bricks” live last year (sadly I couldn’t use one of my own videos) (song starts at 1:35):
I do worry for the future of the band though. The direction as of late hasn’t been strong, and I do believe that signing with Fueled By Ramen was a faux pas. The label is notorious for watering down music, particularly that of pop punk bands (see All Time Low, Fall Out Boy, The Cab). Personally, while FBR has lost a lot of respect in my eyes over the years, I’ll give ADTR a chance, because obviously not everything on this label sucks and I enjoy a huge part of this band’s discography.
So, after all that, is it worth checking out ADTR’s lengthy discography in full?
I say: yes, for sure! All of the songs I name-dropped on here don’t even cover half of the sort of variety you will hear on any given ADTR record. The hundreds of different combinations they manage to create within songs using their signature blend of pop punk and metalcore/hardcore is truly something to behold. They’re also one of very few bands who never get the complaint of “everything they put out sounds the same” which is odd, because they do really stick to that pop punk + metalcore formula. I suppose this serves as a testament to their significant amount of talent.
I recommend you start with the holy trinity: “Homesick”, “What Separates Me From You”, and “Common Courtesy”. Try not to be too put off at the way one song might start with an acoustic guitar, and the one after it begins with blistering drums and screaming, because there’s still a cohesive vibe to the whole thing, I promise.
If you immediately dislike the entirety of any one of these records, then don’t bother with the rest. However, if you, say, like the pop punk-leaning songs but not the heavier ones (which is pretty common), I’d say it’s still worth it to listen to the rest of ADTR’s material to pick those out, because even their poppiest tracks are better than those of the average band whose entire discography is comprised of this genre of music.
Then, listen to “Bad Vibrations” and “Heart”. I would argue that “Treason” is the only ADTR record that is really not worth the listen unless by then you’ve turned into a mega-fan (which is entirely probable) (do check out “Your Way With Words Is Through Silence!” though). It can also be kind of funny to compare the versions of “Heart” songs with their significantly poorer “Treason” predecessors to see how far the band has come.
Oh, and I guess you can listen to the new singles. I’m not smitten with them, but maybe you will be, especially if you like electronic-infused heavy music.
What do you think of A Day To Remember? Let me know in the comments!