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.
- Excuse me for continuing to promote the same article over and over again, but if you haven’t yet, I would really love for you to read (or even skim through) my massive-scope retrospective of last year, which I spent the whole month of January writing: 2021: My Favorite Music, Biggest Disappointments, and Craziest Obsessions The events and favorites of last year still hover above these early months of 2022, as testified by the fact that my #1 album from 2021, Kaitei by cinema staff, was yet again my most-listened-to album during February.
- As mentioned in the January round-up, I ended the month with a podcast episode about the best Christian albums released twenty years ago (in 2002), and two stand-out albums for me from that discussion were Silence by Blindside and Divine Discontent by Sixpence None the Richer. I continued listening to these albums during early February, and they’ve endeared themselves to me considerably. It was also announced that Blindside would be performing Silence in its entirety at the 2022 Furnace Fest, which is exciting news! Even more exciting for me was the more recent announcement that my favorite band, Thrice, would be performing their sophomore album The Illusion of Safety at Furnace Fest, as well. The Illusion of Safety enjoyed its twentieth anniversary on February 5, so naturally, I gave it a listen that day; to my ears, it’s a masterpiece that will never grow old. (If you want to hear more about 2002 albums, you can listen to the episode here or by searching for “JFH” on your preferred podcast app.)
- Two artists whose short discographies share an inordinate influence over my taste and songwriting are Forever Changed and Gatsbys American Dream. Thanks to Facebook Memories, it was brought to my attention that, about a decade ago, I discovered that the lead singers of these two bands share the same birthday. For two or three years in a row, I used that day to publicly commemorate their music and thank them for the influence they’d had on me. This year, I used their birthday as a reason to revisit their music: the only two albums from Forever Changed (The Need to Feel Alive and Chapters) and the main three albums from Gatsbys American Dream (Ribbons & Sugar, Volcano, and s/t). These pieces of art continue to hold up just as they continue to inspire me. One go around of each album wasn’t enough for me, so I listened through these albums for a second time on a road trip that my wife and I took to St. Louis during the final weekend of the month.
- I don’t have many notes by way of new music for the month. fthc by Frank Turner was probably my favorite release, and on the heavier side of the rock spectrum, I generally enjoyed THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND by Bad Omens, Requiem by KORN, and Cardinal by In Angles. I have been shocked to see so much love thrown toward the latest release from Dashboard Confessional, which I found to be one of the most embarrassingly bad albums I’ve heard in ages, filled with annoying vocal performances, redundant lyrics, and age-old cliches. That said, Dashboard’s music has never been something that I had much of a taste for, so there’s surely some disconnect here between what thousands of people find to be emotional moving versus what I found to be audibly laughable.
- Two artist discographies dominated my music-listening habits for the month of February, although one of those two artists won’t be readily apparent by looking at the 5×5 graphic above. The more obvious artist is House of Heroes, a band that I used to consider one of my top five rock bands of all time. For no good reason, I had a falling out for a few years, where I ceased to listen to them frequently and where their albums fell slightly from the high regard I’d held them in. And what I fool I was for thinking so! It turns out, a speedy run through their discography was all I needed to rekindle a passionate love for their amazing output. I’m hoping, if time affords, to compose a “Ranking and Reviews” post about their albums sometime in March or April.
- The second artist discography is teased in the final two spots of the 5×5 above because, despite listening to more than a dozen of their albums over the course of February, there wasn’t a single album that I listened to twice. That band is Stryper, an infamous if not legendary Christian metal band that I had genuinely never listened to before. And I mean that: I’m fairly certain I had never heard a single Stryper song prior to binge-ing all of their albums throughout the first three weeks of the month. And boy howdy, was it an exhausting binge. It’s no secret that I have zero good will towards glam rock, hair metal, or most varieties of 80’s hard rock, which made the band’s first five albums (spanning 1984-1990) a bit of a chore to endure. Granted, I was able to respect a good deal of it, and I surely saw the value in the band’s most famous album ever, 1986’s To Hell with the Devil, even though I didn’t personally find much enjoyment within it. After 1990 came the massive break/hiatus, where the band didn’t release another album for fifteen years. 2005’s Reborn sounds like a completely different band; fittingly, this was the first time that their music was likable to my sensibilities, but it was also a stilted, bland release that saw the band casting aside most of their defining characteristics and original style. After that, however, we reach the three Stryper albums that, to my surprise, I quite enjoyed. If we ignore a 2011 album of covers and a 2013 collection of re-recordings, then what comes next are the following back-to-back LPs: 2009’s Murder by Pride, 2013’s No More Hell to Pay, and 2015’s Fallen. As much as it shocks me to admit this, I can imagine myself desirably returning to all three of those albums. The strengths of No More Hell and Fallen come primarily from the band expertly transporting their 80’s metal into the new millennium, tweaking the old style with grandly improved recording quality, virtuoso-level guitar playing, and tasteful additions of modern metal elements, culled from thrash, prog, hardcore, metalcore, etc. My favorite Stryper album, Murder by Pride, is a different story. This is the one Stryper album where straying from the old style and old formulas really worked for the band, coalescing in some of their strongest songwriting ever, with guitar work and lyrics that truly sound fresh and invigorated. It’s also one of the only Stryper releases where frontman Michael Sweet keeps things grounded and serious, whereas most other Stryper albums see him playing around with puns, Christian-ish “cussing,” and other weird Bible-belt-y jokes that have a strong tendency of rubbing me wrong if not straight-up offending me. If you want to hear more about my thoughts on Stryper (alongside the thoughts of a few people who know the band’s output and enjoy the band’s music far more than I do), then you can listen to our JFH podcast episode on the topic here.
- If you’re crazy and want to see more of what I listened to during February 2022, here’s the 10×10:
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.