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.
- In my big 2021 Retrospective piece, I wrote about my top ten most-listened-to new releases of the year. Clocking in at #5 was the debut album blurred visions by Tooth & Nail Records’ idle threat, with 72 track listens during the calendar year. More recently, those numbers have doubled, and blurred visions has entered my top five albums of the past fifteen months, rising in rank to my #2 most-listened-to release of 2021. As I wrote in the retrospective, it’s an album that truly continues to get better with every listen. I highly recommend anyone check this album out, which will be all the better if you read along to the lyrics while listening. The band also has a live session concert that will be streaming later in April, with tickets available for only $10 here: https://idlethreat.bigcartel.com/ Lastly, I had the pleasure of interviewing the band’s guitarist/screamer/songwriter for a recent episode of the JFH Podcast, which can be heard here.
- Three discographies reigned supreme in March, although across the 50+ albums that I listened to over the course of the month, many of the albums can’t be seen above. Those three discographies were Wolves at the Gate, Brand New, and Copeland. Wolves at the Gate started, plainly enough, with the release of their fifth full-length, Eulogies. Most of my listens came as I wrote my album review for JesusFreakHideout (which can be viewed here as the second review on the page). When reviewing a new album, I usually make an effort to refresh myself on the band’s discography. Since Wolves at the Gate is already a favorite band of mine, this was not a hard sell, and while I had a fantastic time barreling through their albums for the umpteenth time, it also solidified my original impression: that Eulogies is my least favorite of the band’s five full-lengths. That said, it’s a very fun album that I still enjoy quite a bit. The album is stylistically inconsistent, but this inconsistency gives it a sprawling nature, sounding less like a great rock album and more like listening to a great rock radio station.
- Also falling just outside of my top 25 albums is Burden by Out of Service, the most recent full-length from the up-and-coming emo band. As they gear up to release their third full-length later this year, they’ve released two excellent singles in the past month: “A Moment Trapped in Time” featuring Emery and “What You See” featuring John Nolan (of Taking Back Sunday and Straylight Run). The rock unit’s third LP isn’t stuffed with features by any means, but I think it was a savvy business move to front-load the marketing and single rollout with these guest features — and so far, it’s been paying off wonderful dividends. The Emery-assisted track has become far and away their biggest success to date, increasing the band’s reach by thousands.
- Out of Service often gets compared to Brand New (and fairly so, seeing how Brand New has been a longtime inspiration of the band’s members, not to mention how similar the lead singers’ voices sound), so after spending some time with OOS, I switched over to Brand New for the first time in a few years. I started with the band’s breakout sophomore effort Deja Entendu. And then I kept going and finished the rest of the band’s albums. I didn’t get my fill, so I wrapped back around and re-started the whole discography. Two or three whole days became consumed with listening to Brand New, and it was a refreshing reminder of why this band became so cult-famous that they were able to announce an album out of the blue in 2017 and debut at #1 on the Billboard 200. Ever since the release of 2017’s Science Fiction, there’s been a three-way competition for my personal favorite album from the group: Science, Deja, or the infamous and highly-regarded The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. From these few days of listening, it’s Deja Entendu that takes my top spot.
- That uhhhhhhh that Lucky Daye album. Really sticks out like a sore thumb, huh? That new release from the Grammy-winning R&B artist is one of few new releases that really caught my attention during March, with another one being Lunar Reflection by Glacier Veins, a fairly straightforward but extremely enjoyable alt-rock-meets-emo-pop sophomore album. But the big winner of the month (to no one’s surprise) is the new Weezer EP, SZNZ: Spring, which is the first of four EPs that will be released by the band this year, which each season’s release aligning with the respective solstice/equinox. I became a Weezer die-hard in 2020, which became a bit disappointing when I didn’t really jive with either of the two full-lengths the band released in 2021. From the look of it, Weezer will be redeeming that for me in 2022 with these four sets of seven songs, each exploring different musical styles and philosophical ideas.
- Singularity by Mae is still an underrated masterpiece. It was one of the first albums that my wife and I listened to after finally getting our record player and speakers set up at our new house, alongside Fading West by Switchfoot and If You Could Only Keep Me Alive by The Dangerous Summer.
- I gave Off Road Minivan’s debut album Swan Dive another shot, after finding myself baffled by the love it received when it released in 2020. Having loved the band’s 2019 EP Spiral Gaze, this debut ranked fairly highly as one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. It fell extremely short of my expectations, despite receiving glowing reviews from many outlets (including my co-staffers at JFH). In late March, I saw a Twitter thread where the band’s frontman, Tuck from Fit For a King, covertly referred to Swan Dive as “the most underrated album of all time.” I called him out on this wild claim, and he quickly turned on me with a series of ad hominem attacks, repeatedly calling me a “ho” and a “clown,” even as I attempted to redirect the conversation in a positive direction, complimenting the band’s EP and telling Tuck that I was excited to hear a second album. As other Twitter users joined in to agree with me that Off Road Minivan’s LP was a step down from their EP, Tuck doubled-down on his middle school insults, attacking not only me and other fans, but large swaths of people in the process (including all homeschoolers). His band lost at least one fan that day, and I would strongly encourage any of my readers to avoid supporting his band(s) in the future.
- I can’t finish without talking about the other discography that I spent two weeks of the month listening to, that from soft-rock/emo-pop stalwarts Copeland. I was a pretty massive fan of Copeland from 2005 through their original break-up in 2010. (I even wrote about the band twice for my high school paper: an album review of Eat, Sleep, Repeat and a concert review of their farewell tour.) The prospect of the band reuniting in 2014 was extremely enticing at the time (such that I even purchased a large pre-order bundle), but I never really connected with the band’s post-hiatus output (2014’s Ixora and 2019’s Blushing). I’ve remained a big fan of the band’s second and third albums (the upbeat piano-rock of 2005’s In Motion and the somber jazz-rock of 2006’s Eat, Sleep, Repeat), which consistently receive at least one listen from me per year. However, I hadn’t listened to Ixora in many years, I hadn’t heard Blushing since it first released, and I don’t believe I’d listened to 2008’s electronic-leaning You Are My Sunshine in at least a whole decade (despite adoring the album when it first released). The big disappointment of this discography run was realizing that I don’t like You Are My Sunshine in 2022 nearly as much as I did in 2008. The first half of the album is nearly perfect, but the quality dips off so hard in the second half — especially on the record’s ten-plus minute long closing track — that I felt the need to dock my personal rating of the album from 4.5 stars (out of 5) down to 3.5 stars. The pleasant surprise of the discography run, on the other hand, was enjoying Ixora far more than I ever have in the past. This came primarily in thanks to a special version of the album that, as far as I can tell, many Copeland fans have not heard. Copeland released two versions of the album, (the second version referred to as Twin), with intentions that these two versions could be listened to separately or simultaneously. The simultaneous version was never officially released, but fans have created mixes of it on YouTube, and I highly recommend that Copeland fans (or fans of soft, contemplative rock music) give it a listen. Overall, though, my love for In Motion and ESR far trumps my enjoyment of the other four albums, and I suspect this will largely remain the case for the foreseeable future.
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.