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.
- I am acutely aware of the fact that I haven’t published this “monthly” column since the May edition, and it’s hard for me to believe just how quickly the summer blew by. I intentionally skipped June’s column because of how little music-listening occurred that month, but I have no good excuses for missing the July and August editions. So here I am, at the end of September, and it occurred to me that it would be so much easier for me (and for you) to simply lump these past few months together and call it the “Summer Edition.” If this post goes over nicely, I might transform this monthly column into a seasonal column; but for now, my plan is to return in four or five weeks with the October edition. (Meanwhile, there’s another monthly commitment which I haven’t yet abandoned or thwarted, which is my monthly newsletter, where I share music recommendations, life updates, and you-heard-it-first news and updates about my music. If you haven’t signed up already, you can do so here.)
- You may have already noticed that the first entry in my Summer 5×5 is a black square for an album titled Accidental Days. As was recently announced, Accidental Days is the official title for my third studio album, but in the proper sense, this is an album that doesn’t exist yet. Some of the songs aren’t finishing being recorded, while seldom few are fully mixed. The stats appearing above, thanks to the data that the Last.fm app pulls from my iTunes collection, are reflective of how often I’ve been listening to the early mixes of the album’s ten songs, as my producer and I continue the post-production/revision process. That being said, one song has been completed and released: the first single, “Middle of My Words.” Thank you so much to everyone who’s listened to the song thus far (which just surpassed the 1k milestone on Spotify), and if you haven’t heard it yet, you can click here to read about the song and be redirected to your streaming service of choice. More is on the way very soon, as I’m hoping to release the next single in late October or early November.
- The next three entries in the 5×5 are new albums that released over the summer and have swiftly become some of my favorites of the year. Two of them are no-brainers and one was quite the pleasant surprise. That surprise came in the form of Jackpot Juicer by Dance Gavin Dance, a band that I’ve never really enjoyed in the past, through its various iterations and lineup changes. The band’s noodling riffs, goofy lyrics, wild screams, and fast-paced jaunts through different flavors of post-hardcore and metalcore… It was always just off-putting to me — that is, until now. Jackpot Juicer is, for my money, the perfect distillation of all DGD’s strengths, with more tolerable lyrics, more memorable choruses, and more ear-pleasing music than ever before. Even at an alarming 18 tracks, it’s a top-to-bottom good time that rarely grows old. For the uninitiated, I would recommend starting with my personal favorite track from the album, “For the Jeers.”
- The less-surprising favorites come by way of new albums from two of my longstanding favorite bands, The Dear Hunter and Norma Jean. Neither band is guaranteed to release music that will leave me itching to hear it over and over again, but this time around, they both showed up with guns blazing. Ironically, both bands make multiple appearances in my summer 5×5. For Norma Jean, I listened through their whole discography in the lead-up to the release of Deathrattle, Sing For Me; yet as great as the new album is, it’s their slightly older albums that have really been hitting for me. Meridional (2010) is possibly my favorite album from the band, but the coolest thing that happened in August was revisiting 2016’s Polar Similar (an album that I have historically hated) and finally falling in love with it. I don’t know why it took so long to click after giving the album multiple chances over the years, but listening now, I had the strange sensation that I missed the album since the last time hearing it. I immediately couldn’t wait to spend more time with it, and it has flip-flopped from being one of my least favorite NJ albums to one of my favorites. As a fun side note, we also got to see Norma Jean play at this year’s Furnace Fest, and they were amazing. Some of my new faves from Polar Similar were performed, along with some new songs from Deathrattle, and it was thrilling.
- The Dear Hunter has, quite unexpectedly, risen to the ranks of my top 5 most-listened-to artists on my Last.fm account, despite never hitting the ranks of my “top ten all-time bands” or whatever. But maybe they deserve that designation. They have such a wide variety of albums and EPs that there’s something out there for almost any mood I’m in, any craving I have. There was one day recently where Act III and Act III alone hit the spot. But the most important news from this summer was the way that the band further expanded their stylistic repertoire in a shocking way: 80’s-inspired jazz-funk fusion. The Dear Hunter is currently on a similar trajectory as the more famous “concept band,” Coheed & Cambria: each band wrapped up the album releases for their original “concept” series, spent some time releasing music unrelated to that concept, and are now back on track with a brand new multi-album concept series. (Ironically, C&C also released an excellent album this summer for their new story, titled Vaxis II.) The Dear Hunter technically kicked off their new story with the predominantly instrumental 2021 EP The Indigo Child, but things are really getting going now with Antimai, a wild eight-song trip of worldbuilding, establishing the setting where the new story will take place. Rumor has it that the band will be back in early 2023 with yet another album (one that introduces the main character and the real narrative), but for now, we have this expansive romp that somehow sounds like Huey Lewis & the News for one second, The Reign of Kindo for another, perhaps even moments of Christopher Cross or Pink Floyd, yet never sounds exactly like The Dear Hunter as we’ve come to know them thus far. All told, Antimai comes highly recommended.
- Fittingly, another high entry on my summer 5×5 is the new summer-inspired EP from Weezer. SZNZ: Summer follows SZNZ: Spring and has since been followed by SZSN: Autumn. The quality has fluctuated a bit from season to season, but I’ve greatly enjoyed these EPs and cannot wait for Winter to finish things up this December. Two years in a row of Weezer releasing more than 20 new songs is a fever dream come true, and I’m all here for it. Overall, I think Spring is still my favorite of the EPs, but Summer injects some big guitars, crazy ideas, and hair-raising riffs into the equation, making it a heated, sweaty fun time.
- One potentially unexpected artist to make multiple appearances above is the rapper JID. Popular YouTube critic Anthony Fantano released a rave review of JID’s latest, The Forevery Story, and it piqued my curiosity enough that I listened through JID’s whole discography multiple times (including his collaboration project, Spilligion). I’m still needing to spend more time with the new album, but I connected very quickly and fervently with JID’s older albums, The Never Story and DiCaprio II. He is a serious talent who gives me just about everything I could look for in modern hip-hop (backing music that is dynamic, evolving, and interesting, with vocal flow and variety that never seems like he’s repeating himself or wasting time, stellar guest spots from talented singers and musicians, etc.).
- Other summer highlights include Drift by Pianos Become the Teeth, The Rain Museum (best album art of the year, perhaps?) by Armor for Sleep, and Coming Home by The Dangerous Summer. I never really listened to The Dangerous Summer before meeting my wife Paige, as they’re one of her favorite bands. Neither of us expected to like this newest album, though, as we strongly disliked the band’s previous EP and were underwhelmed by all of this album’s singles. Yet in its final form, we were pleasantly surprised. Most of the singles clicked into place, and I like those songs much more in the context of the full album. It has one or two misfires, but on the whole, Coming Home is a strong return to form for TDS, bridging the gap between their punk roots and their more recent adult-alternative leanings.
- There are strong appearances in my 5×5 from my favorite album of last year, Kaitei by Cinema Staff, and my favorite rock album of all time, The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi by The Receiving End of Sirens. Right behind those, however, is a less common entry: Danger Days by My Chemical Romance. MCR was another discography I ventured through recently, and I’m going to stay tight-lipped on my thoughts for now. I’m working on an extensive piece about their music, which I’m very excited about and will hopefully publish later this year.
- The 5×5 graphic is obviously missing a lot of the story, as I listened to far more than 25 albums over the past three months. If you’re curious to see what else has been in rotation for me, I present to you my 10×10 down below, alongside a few quick notes and observations about this fuller list of 100 albums:
- A few more great new releases include No Oblivion by No Devotion, Weary Hymns Along the Way by Wild Earth, To Only a Few at First by Royal Coda, and Emotional Creature by Beach Bunny.
- I was considerably disappointed by the latest from The Devil Wears Prada, Color Decay, which is an album that attempts to go radio-rock without a single memorable hook or creative melody to speak of. And the latest from Panic! at the Disco, Viva La Vengeance, is unbelievably, laughably bad to a degree that continues to shock me whenever I think about it.
- Continuing on the negative train, I had fairly mixed-to-negative thoughts on the comeback album from Canadian post-hardcore act Alexisonfire, a band that’s perhaps mostly famous for being the original project of City & Colour’s Dallas Green. The band’s latest, Otherness, has received rave responses in many circles, but it doesn’t work for me at all. They’re another band that I got to see perform at this year’s Furnace Fest, and that performance definitely clarified for me that I’m simply not a fan.
- I didn’t “officially” listen to Korean pop singer IU’s discography, but I basically listened to all of IU’s releases (including a few EPs and singles I’d never heard before), and she continues to cement herself as one of my favorite artists ever, mostly thanks to her albums Last Fantasy and Palette, both of which I adore to a nonsensical degree.
- Jimmy Eat World’s 2022 single “Something Loud” continues to rake in an absurd amount of streams, and I would be confounded if anything else manages to dethrone it as my runaway favorite song of the year.
- My most eagle-eyed readers may catch that there are three other discographies represented below which I haven’t mentioned yet: Mumford & Sons, Amy Grant, and Side Walk Slam/Run Kid Run. I haven’t said anything yet because I have quite little to say. Each artist had albums that I enjoyed more than I expected to, but I didn’t walk away from any of them considering myself to be a fan. My album highlights were: Babel by Mumford & Sons, Patterns by Run Kid Run, …And We Drive by Side Walk Slam, and two big winners from Amy Grant’s extensive discography: Lead Me On and Behind the Eyes.
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 streaming every or available for free/pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp. To be the first to receive news and previews of unreleased music, sign up for my monthly newsletter.