I returned to Watch No Evil this week to talk about my favorite horror movie, Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. Give it a listen here, and subscribe because I’ll be back on again before long.
Jeff Schaller and the Long Way Home – For Keeps and a Single Day
Been working on this album for a long time, and it’s finally out February 17th.
Release shows in Chicago (2/17 at Gman Tavern) and Bloomington (3/4 at Cometogetherspace).
Pre-order the album, get tickets to the show, and stream the single here.
A Blind Contour Drawing of the Future: 2022 In Review
What does it mean to grow when the world around you is falling apart? I think that’s the central question of Dent, the fifth album from Signals Midwest and my most-played album of the year by a wide margin. It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot over the past couple years, years that have been largely soundtracked by the last two Signals Midwest releases (Dent and their 2019 EP Pin) and vocalist Maxwell Stern’s 2020 masterpiece, Impossible Sum. To me, at least, Dent is an album about processing all the distance and unrest and darkness of the pandemic years and starting come out on the other side with a sense of clear-eyed optimism.
This year didn’t start with a lot of optimism. The first few months were spent in the throes of the biggest Covid wave yet, and capped by getting Covid myself in March and missing a tour I had planned to go on and yet another chance to see Converge. Thankfully, things were mostly up from there. Liesi and I went on a couple of wonderful vacations, to New York and Europe. I played shows with Pelafina, The Long Way Home, Better Love, and Thomas Nicholas, and I went to tons more. I caught another Yankees game (although not in New York).
For me, the most striking moments of Dent are when joy bursts through the darkness. Sometimes that’s right in the lyrics, on “Gold In the Grey” or in the bridge of “It Left a Dent” (my favorite track on the album):
So if there is a light, turn towards it
I want to get a better look at you
I’ve been digging through a dead year’s worth of darkness just to find it
Finding all the good inside it
And sometimes it’s in the harmonized guitar leads in “Tommy Took a Picture” or the layered backing vocals of “All Good Things.” And sometimes it’s just in the memory of screaming the ending of “Love and Commerce” at Subterranean over the summer.
The pandemic is still going, there were political setbacks that I don’t need to recount, and I spent far too much time thinking about a dumb billionaire, but this was a year of trying to find those moments of joy in my own life, even though I know they always exist against background of world that isn’t doing great. That’s the essence of Dent for me. I’m so glad it was the soundtrack to this year.
Looking forward to 2023, there’s a new Long Way Home album coming (I promise for real this time, he says for the third year running). I spent most of my creative time and effort this year recording and mixing it, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
And, of course, some very exciting personal news.
Stuff I Made This Year
- Pelafina – “Your Ripped Jeans” – Guitar, recording, mixing, mastering
- Set List – “Episode 6: Troy Sennett” – Podcast appearance
- City Mouth – Locomotion Sessions – Guitar
- Watch No Evil – “Red Dead Revenge-tion” (background music) – Guitar, recording
Music – Albums
I got back into using Last.fm this year. Unfortunately I couldn’t get all my old data back, but here are my stats from 2022. I’m less attached to the ranking of this list than I have been in the past. After the top four, the rest of these could be in pretty much any order, and I think they’re all really great.
- Signals Midwest – Dent
- The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes On Forever
- Gang of Youths – Angel In Realtime
- Arm’s Length – Never Before Seen, Never Again Found
- The 1975 – Being Funny In a Foreign Language
- Death Cab For Cutie – Asphalt Meadows
- Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind
- The Tisburys – Exile On Main Street
- Timeshares – Limb
- Spoon – Lucifer On the Sofa
- Pool Kids – Pool Kids
- Caracara – New Preoccupations
- Gregor Barnett – Don’t Go Throwing Roses In My Grave
- Mt. Oriander – Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again
- Dan Andriano and the Bygones – Dear Darkness
- The Mountain Goats – Bleed Out
- Pale Waves – Unwanted
- LS Dunes – Past Lives
- Future Teens – Self Help
- Craig Finn – A Legacy of Rentals
Music – EPs
- Rise Against – Nowhere Generation II
- Bright Eyes – Companion EPs
- Better Love – I Wasn’t Ready Then, But I Think I Am Now
- Bottom Bracket – A Figure In Armor
- Tigers Jaw – Old Clothes
I went to or played 41 shows this year. These were my favorites, sometimes for the setlist or the sound, sometimes for the people I went with, but always for the joy I still find in a room or a field full of music.
- The Wonder Years – 3/5 at Concord Music Hall (The Upsides / Suburbia Tour)
- Signals Midwest – 7/21 at Subterranean
- The 1975 – 12/9 at Aragon Ballroom
- My Chemical Romance / Bleachers / The Wonder Years – 9/16 at Riot Fest
- The Get Up Kids – 9/17 at Riot Fest
According to my Letterboxd, I watched 61 movies released this year, and there are still a handful I want to see, so I might stealthily edit this part over the next couple weeks.
- The Fabelmans
- Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Glass Onion
- The Banshees of Inisherin
- Top Gun: Maverick
- Avatar: The Way of Water
- The Menu
My Trakt Year In Review. This was such a good TV year that, maybe for the first time, this top ten list was the hardest one to make.
- Station Eleven
- The Bear (Season 1)
- We Own This City
- Andor (Season 1)
- Severance (Season 1)
- Atlanta (Seasons 3 and 4)
- For All Mankind (Season 3)
- Slow Horses (Seasons 1 and 2)
- Better Call Saul (Season 6)
- House of the Dragon (Season 1)
I read 35 books this year, and these were my favorites. As usual, I only read a couple 2022 releases, so this includes anything I read for the first time in the past year.
- Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
- Devil House by John Darnielle
- All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
- Sellout by Dan Ozzi
- The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
That’s all for now. See you next year.
“Make me a blind contour drawing of the future, capturing the form in all its grace, flaws, ritual, and promise.”
Locomotion Sessions: City Mouth
I joined City Mouth over the weekend for this fun little acoustic session. Me and Matt and an acoustic guitar, like it’s 2013 again.
Set List Episode 6: Troy Sennett
I joined my friend Jeff Mills on this week’s episode of Set List to talk about our time playing together in City Mouth, the Bloomington-Normal music scene, and my dream live setlist, featuring Bruce Springsteen, The Wonder Years, and more.
The Getting By That Gets Right Underneath You: 2021 In Review
This year may as well have started on March 30th when I drove to Pontiac to get my first vaccine dose. Everything before that (and, to be honest, a lot after that) just feels like endless extra innings of 2020. The year also kind of feels like it ended after Thanksgiving with the spread of the Omicron variant and another round of uncertainty, caution, and fear. I’m trying hard to push back against the tidal wave of “everything is terrible” and focus on the best moments. I felt utterly alive and in the moment on stage at Nightshop in July when Pelafina played our first show back. I went to Riot Fest in September and hugged friends I hadn’t seen in two years. I turned 30 in October. I was able to celebrate the holidays with families that are happy and healthy.
Music I Worked On This Year
It’s been tough getting back into the rhythm of writing, recording, and releasing new music, so this section is pretty short this time. Lots more in the works for 2022 though, including a new Pelafina single very early in the year.
- Jeff Schaller and the Long Way Home – Reckless Life – guitar, recording, mixing, mastering
- Apocalypse Quest – Journal of the Plague Years – Mixing, mastering
My Favorite Albums of 2021
I had a harder time than usual making this list. There was no runaway favorite album, no artist that completely dominated my listening (besides maybe Taylor Swift, but I’m deeming Red (Taylor’s Version) ineligible for this list), but what I ended up with actually feels like a good summary of my listening habits this year.
I did less digging and discovering than usual. There are only a few debut albums on this list, and one of them was of course the most ubiquitous and inescapable release of the year. I was delighted to see some left turns and exciting, vibrant work from established band eight or nine albums deep in their careers.
I also put together a Spotify playlist with my favorite songs from each of these releases, as well as a bunch of singles and tracks from other albums that didn’t quite make a the cut.
- The Killers – Pressure Machine
- Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
- You, Me, and Everyone We Know – Something Heavy
- Adjy – The Idyll Opus (I-VI)
- The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Illusory Walls
- Noah Gundersen – A Pillar of Salt
- Telethon – Swim Out Past the Breakers
- Dan Campbell – Other People’s Lives
- Every Time I Die – Radical
- Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
- Dave Hause – Blood Harmony
- Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
- Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
- Origami Angel – Gami Gang
- The Wallflowers – Exit Wounds
- The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy
- Porter Robinson – Nurture
- Monobody – Comma
- The Dirty Nil – Fuck Art
- Parting – Unmake Me
A few EPs I loved:
- Future Teens – Deliberately Alive
- Counting Crows – Butter Miracle: Suite One
- Camp Trash – Downtiming
- Brett Conlin and the Midnight Miles – Brett Conlin and the Midnight Miles
My Favorite Live Shows of 2021
I played or went to 31 shows this year, and nearly every one felt like a celebration of live music, of how lucky we are be able to share art and community again after the past two years. It may have been a short-lived celebration, with case numbers rising again and tours for next year already getting canceled, but I’m hoping for the best.
- Titus Andronicus – 11/12 at Subterranean
- Spanish Love Songs – 9/3 at Beat Kitchen
- The Mountain Goats – 8/24 at Space
- The Killers – 12/7 at Aragon Ballroom
- Signals Midwest – 12/17 at Burlington
My Favorite Movies of 2021
All the usual caveats about not yet having the chance to see all of the new releases aside, I don’t see anything topping Dune as my favorite movie of the year. It’s a true accomplishment of science fiction filmmaking.
- The Last Duel
- The Power of the Dog
- King Richard
- Judas and the Black Messiah
- No Time To Die
- No Sudden Move
- Summer of Soul
My Favorite TV Shows of 2021
It sure feels like I watched less TV this year than I have in the decade and change since I discovered Dexter (and binge-watching) during finals week of my freshman year of college. Maybe it was a slight shift in entertainment priorities. Maybe it was due to most of my reliable favorites taking the year off. Regardless, what I did watch was really great.
- Midnight Mass
- Succession (Season 3)
- Squid Game (Season 1)
- What We Do In the Shadows (Season 3)
- Loki (Season 1)
Honorable Mention (only because the entire season hasn’t aired yet): Station Eleven
My Favorite Books of 2021
I hardly ever end up with new releases among my favorite books list at the end of a year. My book backlog is so long that only new releases from my favorite authors jump to the top. However, I set a goal in 2021 to read more non-fiction and ended up reading more new books than usual as a result. These were my favorite reads of the year, in no particular order and not limited to new releases.
- Punks In Peoria: Making a Scene In the American Heartland by Jonathan Wright and Dawson Barrett
- Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner
- The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross
- Killers of the Flower Moon: Listening To the Twentieth Century by David Grann
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
- A new Long Way Home album (I swear it’s actually happening this time)
- A new Pelafina song in January and hopefully another release later in the year
November and December Shows
I’ve got a bunch of cool shows coming up in the next two months! I’m playing with Thomas Nicholas again on 11/11 and 11/13, then Pelafina returns for our first Chicago show in nearly two years on 12/12 at Beat Kitchen.
Jeff Schaller and the Long Way Home – Cometogetherspace Sessions
Earlier this year, we got together with our friends at Nap House Studios for a live session featuring two songs from the new album that we’re working on.
September Tour with Thomas Nicholas
Mini Tour with Thomas Nicholas
In a couple weeks, I’ll be gigging around Illinois and Indiana with the Thomas Nicholas Band. These shows are always a good time, so come and hang out.