Review Summary: The album that Dirty Work could have been; Future Hearts is nothing ground breaking, but it's still a fun time.
The evolution of All Time Low has been an interesting one since their conception back in 2004. With each release since “So Wrong, It’s Right,” the band seemed to dilute their sound while still managing to remain as catchy as a pop punk band can get. 2011 brought their weakest album to date, “Dirty Work,” which was criticized for being bland and stripped of all emotion. The band then did a complete overhaul in just a year and released “Don’t Panic,” which saw the band return with a heavier sound. Don’t Panic was given high praise by the fans, but there were some who wondered if the band would stick with this winning formula or try something different once again.
The answer to that question is both a yes and a no. In Future Hearts, we see the band keep the heavier sound that populated Don’t Panic mixed with some of the poppy elements that dominated Dirty Work. There are plenty of catchy tunes to be had, such as “Runaways,” “Cinderblock Garden,” and “Don’t You Go.” Instrumentation keeps a similar sound to their previous release, to the point where it sounds like many of the songs could have been placed among the tracks from Don’t Panic. Lyrically, there’s nothing incredibly special to be had in the songs, which is the case for most pop punk bands on the scene today. What is weird though is that one would think that a band that’s been on the scene for so long would be able to write something that’s better than just “on par” with the other bands of the genre. Regardless, songs are catchy, and while some tracks leave more to be desired, most songs are as good as the work they've done before, depicting stories of teen love and teen life.
One of the other things that distinguishes Future Hearts from their last release is the presence of slower songs on the album. “Missing You” is a semi-acoustic tune with a stomping beat that even implements the use of a mandolin. Then there is the ballad “Tidal Wave” which features a guest vocal spot by Mark Hoppus, whose voice is mixed well in a harmony with Alex. The song itself is a little lackluster in the regard that it doesn't seem to go anywhere, but the chorus is memorable and infectious as Alex sings “You don’t know me at all” over the strings and piano that accompany the song.
The album is not without its missteps, such as “Bail Me Out,” that comes across as bland filler despite the use of Joel Madden (Good Charlotte, Madden Brothers) as a guest vocal spot. “Edge of Tonight” is a dull attempt at an arena rock-type ballad whose chorus comes across as uninspired and devoid of emotion. The second half of the album is certainly weaker than the first, but the album redeems itself at the end with the closer “Old Scars/Future Hearts,” which is full of energy all the way through to the final bars of the song.
At the end of the day, Future Hearts is the middle ground between Dirty Work and Don’t Panic. The band has seemed to settle on a consistent sound and can pump out catchy tunes, but a lack of emotion in some of the songs keeps the album from achieving more. Regardless, there is a lot of fun to be had in this album, and if you go into this album with the right frame of mind, you’ll have a good time.