Welcome to my weekly column “What I’ve Been Listening To,” where I publish a post every Sunday with my 5×5 collage of most-listened releases (which is sourced by my Last.fm account and made into a collage via this site). I do not intend these to be lengthy write-ups, but I like to include notes on my listening habits, discoveries, etc.
- This was another relatively light listening week, with a few days spent in the recording studio. If you want to receive sneak peaks of new music and get the early details on my upcoming release plans, be sure to sign up for my mailing list. News will be hitting the blog soon enough, but mailing subscribers will receive everything first.
- As mentioned last week, I finished two discography runs that I’ll be covering today. The first is Sum 41, and I’m sad to report that I’m not as big of a Sum 41 fan as I would’ve hoped. As most Sum 41 fans already know, they had a really strong run of albums from All Killer No Filler through Chuck, following a debut record that I also thought was a lot of fun. Chuck was when the band began taking a more serious turn, fulfilling the “punk” portion of their pop-punk genre designation; speaking out blatantly against the political institutions and political figures of both the United States and their native Canada would become more on-the-nose as their career unfolded. Sadly, even though they seem like they have a lot to say, the biggest problem with their music is that they don’t quite know how to say it; by the end of the band’s discography, frontman Deryck Whibley’s lyrics had grown so grossly repetitive, filling stanzas with the same trite cliches and easy rhymes over and over again, that I simply couldn’t take anything seriously anymore. This led to me having my least fun experience listening to 2019’s Order in Decline, an album that I really loved upon its release, so much so that I purchased the Target special edition and saw the band in concert while touring that album. But after exhausting myself through the band’s whole catalog, I grew so tired of the lyrics that I could barely enjoy the music anymore. I’m hoping I’ll come back around to that album eventually, but the weaker portion of the band’s discography (in particular Underclass Hero and Screaming Bloody Murder) soured me on the band for the time being.
- The second band I’ll be covering in-depth today will be Relient K, and for them, I’ll be providing a full ranking alongside mini-reviews for each album. My reviews and ranking for Relient K grew so extensive, however, that you can read it in a separate post. They really conquered my music listening this week, with a handful of albums that I consistently enjoyed returning to. This was especially true on Friday, when my day job became so stressful that I grew weary of listening to new releases and needed to switch gears to some comfort food.
- Speaking of new releases, there are a handful of new albums that I’d ideally like to go back and finish at a future date, especially the latest from Deafheaven and The Joy Formidable. I also heard good things about Telethon and Sturgill Simpson, so maybe next week for those. There were some albums from last week that I also caught up on this week, with Jade Bird’s take on indie rock being a definite highlight and the sophomore album from M.A.G.S. being a strong year-favorite contender.
- I’ve also surprised myself with how much I like the new Killers album. I think anyone who plans on checking that out, or anyone who is a fan of storytelling Americana à la Bruce Springsteen or Jason Isbell, should give Pressure Machine a listen — and start with the regular version. You’ll notice that streaming services include an “abridged” version, which leaves out the interviews that start each song (and sometimes finish them). The interview snippets are worth hearing at least once, but then you can move to the abridged version, which shaves off a solid six minutes and gives you just the music. Releasing this version so soon was a really good move and will keep me coming back to the album more frequently. My fandom for Pressure Machine also encouraged me to give another chance to last year’s Imploding the Mirage, a critically acclaimed album that swiftly became a fan favorite; nevertheless, I’ve never much cared for it and have trouble understanding the hype. So I attempted to give it another chance this week, and …nope, I still can’t stand that album. I couldn’t even finish it. It really soured me on the band, so I’m thankful that they were able to come back so quickly with another release that clicks for me.
- The one brand new album that I listened through and have some definitive opinions on is the latest from Switchfoot: interrobang. As a relatively newer fan of the band, I’ve seemingly been nicer toward the band’s late-career albums than most other fans. (Note: I considered myself a fan back in 2004-2005, but I had a pretty long falling out that wasn’t revived until 2019.) 2019’s Native Tongue took a few listens to grow on me, with a handful of clunkers as well as some songs that were fully electronic and lacked the distinct touch of Switchfoot-the-band. So even though I liked Native Tongue more than plenty fans do, I’d still say that the follow-up interrobang is a really good move for them: an album that is undeniably the work of a rock band. In many ways, it hearkens back to their garage rock beginnings, with simple riffs, fuzzy guitar tones, and some lo-fi aesthetics that you’d expect to hear on the band’s 90’s albums. Luckily for them, this aesthetic is also pretty “in” right now, as anyone could tell you who’s listened to Spotify’s “New Alt” playlist. But it’s a genre/aesthetic choice that works very authentically for Switchfoot and which lends itself neatly to the band’s affinity for blues rock riffs. It’s also a hyper-consistent stylistic choice for these sessions, which makes this the band’s most cohesive-sounding album since Fading West at least, perhaps even Hello Hurricane. But that’s not all a good thing. It’s admirable, for sure, but it doesn’t always benefit the quality of the songs. Such a narrow sonic framework causes many tracks to blend together, and often times, the potential dynamics of a song feel hushed by these limitations. There were multiple songs which, on a compositional level, sounded like they were dying to break out and build to bigger crescendos than the garage rock sound could allow. All in all, it’s a mood album, where if you’re down for what it has to offer from track one, you’ll be in for a pleasant ride; however, it’s a bit too one-note for my preferences and not an album I see myself returning to regularly.
- Totally out of the blue, Dirty Loops released a collaborative single with Cory Wong this week, and for an even better surprise, it’s just the sneak peak of a seven song collaborative EP that will be released in two weeks. I can’t wait to get back here in a few weeks with my thoughts on that release. But in the meantime, I was checking out Cory Wong’s discography (who’s mostly known as the guitarist for Vulfpeck), and I was shocked to see that he released a collaborative album earlier this year with my favorite smooth jazz saxophonist, Dave Koz. That album was a joy to listen to, featuring almost exclusively Wong/Koz compositions, who worked extremely well together and showed off how incredible Koz’s chops are in a context that was a little wilder and looser than his standard context. The album also included a new version of one of my longtime favorite Koz originals, “Together Again,” and the new version absolutely rocks.
- Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit were my brother’s road trip selections. They were a good time. This Is Us is probably my favorite BSB album and it’s wildly underrated.
- Out of Service’s new single “Shelter” is out now and deserves your time! For fans of emo, indie rock, and alternative.
Author’s Note: The reason I created this website and write these articles stems from my belief that artists should support other artists, in the same way that art inspires art. My debut album Unfall is available now and I’d love for you to hear it. You can click here to Spotify pre-save “I Don’t,” the first single for my upcoming sophomore album.