Welcome to my monthly column “What I’ve Been Listening To,” where I publish a post at the end of each month 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). This column was created for me to share my favorite discoveries with readers while documenting my own listening habits.
- October was a relatively light music-listening month for me, due predominantly to the amount of time that was dedicated to reviewing mixes for my new album. I would estimate that at least one to two hours were spent per song, reviewing new mixes and writing revision notes for my producer. (One album listed above, Surviving by Jimmy Eat World, earned its two listens through becoming the primary reference point my producer and I used when dialing in the final sound of the final mixes.)
- Four overarching trends connect the albums I listened to during October: 1) new releases; 2) the discography of my favorite Korean solo artist, IU; 3) revisiting old favorites, particularly of the post-hardcore genre; and 4) prepping for Jesusfreakhideout’s feature titled “Top 25 Albums from 1996 to 2020.” I’ll discuss these trends one at a time.
- The top row of my 5×5 contains four new releases that are quite dear to me. Psallos is a favorite band of my good friend Scott, and while the new album Phillipians didn’t quite click for me, it is still a crazy achievement of progressive, conceptual Christian music with a fair share of standout tracks. Starset is a favorite band of my friend Kevin, with whom I was supposed to see Starset live in May 2020 (a concert which, as you can guessed, was cancelled). One of the earliest interactions I had with Kevin was when he introduced me to Starset, and while the band’s previous album DIVISIONS was a bit of a letdown for me, the newest set HORIZONS is astounding. It’s the perfect mix of high-concept space rock and radio-ready alternative metal. Next up, Gospel Culture by Immanuel Worship is the third full-length album released by my church, and it’s stuffed full of great songs and genre-jumping instrumentation from a large group of fantastic musicians whom I know truly mean every word of the songs they’re singing/playing. And then there’s Benjamin Daniel’s Shelterheart, an amazing album that I’ve already been teasing on previous “What I’ve Been Listening To” posts thanks to an advance copy I received. It’s a lyrical masterwork of soul-crushing and soul-building-back-up proportions. We are rarely aware when we are forming the types of friendships that will go on to form us, but Benjamin Daniel takes details and keen observations some such blessed friendships and crafts them into sheer poetry. (Shout-out to other fantastic new albums from Mastodon, Every Time I Die, and Remi Wolf, which all fall slightly outside the realms of what I’m likely to regularly return to.)
- I became a fan of Korean pop in 2011, about three years after a high school friend tried getting me into Big Bang and about one year before “Gangnam Style” would become an international phenomenon. However, I struggled to enjoy the most popular artists in K-pop, resulting in me digging through YouTube in hopes of finding artists that would satisfy my picky tastes. My greatest find was IU, whose 2011 single “You and I” remains one of my favorite singles and music videos across all of music, not just the Korean variety. However, I didn’t finally buy one of IU’s full albums until Palette released in 2017, and I eagerly awaited a follow-up, which didn’t arrive until this year’s Lilac. I occasionally went backwards and listened to her second and third albums, but it wasn’t until one random day this past October that I inevitably went all the way back to hear her debut album, 2009’s Growing Up. It was…pretty bad. But everything since then has been top-notch, with IU taking increasing amounts of control over her output since that misdirected 2009 debut, which was recorded with very little creative input from her (as best as I can tell). Palette still holds a special place in my heart, but 2011’s Last Fantasy and 2013’s Modern Times are probably her strongest records. The new album, Lilac, sees the singers chasing trends and modern sounds more fervently than she usually does, with her history of classy sounds that lean into traditional genres and symphonic orchestration. I want her to stay relevant and successful, of course, but I also hope her career will eventually swing back toward the classic pop stylings that originally endeared me to her music.
- This month’s top spot went to The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi by The Receiving End of Sirens, which I’ve long referred to as my favorite rock album (and my #2 album of all time). Every now and then, I get insecure about how well the album holds up, so I will sometimes avoid listening to the album in fear that it will cease to amaze me. Alas, such was not the case, and another three listens through the hour-long epic reminded me that it’s still as cosmically massive and painfully personal as ever. I also revisited another old favorite, Soundtrack to a Headrush by Emanuel, and a bunch of my favorite heavy releases from earlier this year, including Eidola, Glowing Moses, ERRA, and Meadows.
- The website that I write and podcast for, Jesusfreakhideout, celebrated its 25th anniversary back in August, and the staff planned a handful of features to commemorate the event, including one where a handful of us duked it out to arrive at a consensus for the best Christian album released during each year of the site’s existence. There were a handful of hearty debates and tiebreakers, but we came up with a list of 25 albums we were proud of, and then we took it upon ourselves to write a blurb for each entry. The whole series is worth reading, but I’ve collected links here to read my contributions: for 2005, The Everglow by Mae; for 2008, The End is Not the End by House of Heroes; for 2013, The Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman; and for 2015, Falling Up by Falling Up.
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. If you would like to hear my music, my sophomore album Development & Compromise and my debut album Unfall are available now, wherever you stream music or for purchase on Bandcamp, where you can find both exclusive sale prices and free acoustic cover albums.