The Recent Year of Listening

This past year I found myself diverging further in both directions sonically. On one side I expanded my newfound appreciation for folk, country, and singer-songwriter style music through Zach Bryan and City and Colour. In the neighboring genre of indie I enjoyed getting into the Backseat Lovers, The Greeting Committee, and MisterWives. On the other hand I found myself diving deeper into harder, louder rock music than I had previously enjoyed. I was subconsciously searching for more explosive choruses and drum parts. In this I found Deftones, Against The Current, and even a few of the louder tracks by the mysterious group Sleep Token. As a musician I experience an elation when I am really digging into the part that I'm playing, physically pushing myself. I experience this on the other side of the music when I can feel the performing musicians doing the same. The vocalist tearing themselves apart. The drummer nearly breaking the kit. Stevie Ray Vaughan sounding like he's about to tear the neck off of the guitar. There's no saying that this cannot be achieved from quieter music, but it comes naturally in loud, explosive songs.

Spotify says I spent 114,647 minutes listening to music this year. That's about 80 days.

In first few months of 2023 I spent a lot of time listening to Zach Bryan's record, American Heartbreak, along with the Deftones' record, Koi No Yokan. The two distinct styles certainly contrast each other. Koi No Yokan is darker, cathartic (as with all Deftones music), and stark in its heaviness. A perfect sonic match for the cold, dark winter in Wisconsin. American Heartbreak is immensely warm and full of empathetic and honest performances that comfort the listener. It pushes against the dark nights.

Spring led me to City and Colour (I saw him live in April) and The Greeting Committee. These groups have that same hopeful and uplifting yet vulnerable feel that I hear in Gang of Youths records. The Greeting Committee track, More, has one of my favorite choruses. Perfect for spring. 

Summer returned me to one of my all-time favorite bands that needs no explanation for its place in this timeline, U2. I spent lots of time listening to War, diving into the lesser known yet excellent tracks on it such as Drowning Man and "40", along with my favorite records in their discography: Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. In the late summer I finally got into Foals and their popular record What Went Down. The title track and Mountain at my Gates are great examples of the phenomenon I describe in the first paragraph. Give it All is an exemplary tragic track with a moving vocal performance. Throughout the summer I also frequented The Police's Outlandos D'Amour, lots of David Bowie, Against the Current, and The 1975's Being Funny in a Foreign Language. 

My job as a student in the fall provided me with a consistent stream of long days spent studying. This called for a return to instrumental records and scores. Here I listened to the Patriots Day movie score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross from front to back nearly every day. I found a sort of comfort and encouragement in my work with this record on as it's an inherently uncomfortable and anxious record. The quiet yet uneasy feel of seemed to push my thinking by adding uncertainty. I also commonly listened to this record while walking through Madison at night. My favorite tracks on it are Them and Us, Long Shadows on the Street, and Resolve. I stumbled into the record Insen by alva noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto to which I enjoyed for similar reasons while working. Its has a more techno and meditative feel. Lastly, I regularly turned to the incredible Oppenheimer score by Ludwig Göransson with its exciting and dramatic orchestral string arrangements. While running in the early mornings I woke myself up with lots of Deftones and Alexisonfire. There's a certain ecstasy in running in the early morning cold and dark with loud music. A primitive feeling. 

Returning to winter in December I was lucky to find Slowdive's newest record, everything is alive. Slowdive's melodic shoegaze sonically matches the gray, dark winter. Lots of reverb, layered guitars and synths, and melancholic vocals fit the quiet, long days before the end of the semester perfectly. I really enjoyed spending time with this record. Near the end of the month I heard a few Sleep Token tracks including Hypnosis and Telomeres that blew me away with their unique mix of metal-like instrumentation and beautiful, melodic vocals. Today I found the lovely piano-based score for the Francis Ford Coppola movie The Conversation. It has a certain feeling of isolation and contemplation that fit the film perfectly. I look forward to spending time with this record in this new year.

The music we listen to influences the way we see, interact with, and experience the world around us.