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

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.

  1. Signals Midwest – Dent
  2. The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes On Forever
  3. Gang of Youths – Angel In Realtime
  4. Arm’s Length – Never Before Seen, Never Again Found
  5. The 1975 – Being Funny In a Foreign Language
  6. Death Cab For Cutie – Asphalt Meadows
  7. Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind
  8. The Tisburys – Exile On Main Street
  9. Timeshares – Limb
  10. Spoon – Lucifer On the Sofa
  11. Pool Kids – Pool Kids
  12. Caracara – New Preoccupations
  13. Gregor Barnett – Don’t Go Throwing Roses In My Grave
  14. Mt. Oriander – Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again
  15. Dan Andriano and the Bygones – Dear Darkness
  16. The Mountain Goats – Bleed Out
  17. Pale Waves – Unwanted
  18. LS Dunes – Past Lives
  19. Future Teens – Self Help
  20. Craig Finn – A Legacy of Rentals

Music – EPs

  1. Rise Against – Nowhere Generation II
  2. Bright Eyes – Companion EPs
  3. Better Love – I Wasn’t Ready Then, But I Think I Am Now
  4. Bottom Bracket – A Figure In Armor
  5. Tigers Jaw – Old Clothes

Live Shows

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.

  1. The Wonder Years – 3/5 at Concord Music Hall (The Upsides / Suburbia Tour)
  2. Signals Midwest – 7/21 at Subterranean
  3. The 1975 – 12/9 at Aragon Ballroom
  4. My Chemical Romance / Bleachers / The Wonder Years – 9/16 at Riot Fest
  5. The Get Up Kids – 9/17 at Riot Fest

Movies

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.

  1. The Fabelmans
  2. Everything Everywhere All At Once
  3. Glass Onion
  4. Nope
  5. The Banshees of Inisherin
  6. Top Gun: Maverick
  7. Avatar: The Way of Water
  8. The Menu
  9. Barbarian
  10. Prey

TV

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.

  1. Station Eleven
  2. The Bear (Season 1)
  3. We Own This City
  4. Andor (Season 1)
  5. Severance (Season 1)
  6. Atlanta (Seasons 3 and 4)
  7. For All Mankind (Season 3)
  8. Slow Horses (Seasons 1 and 2)
  9. Better Call Saul (Season 6)
  10. House of the Dragon (Season 1)

Books

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.

  1. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
  2. Devil House by John Darnielle
  3. All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  4. Sellout by Dan Ozzi
  5. 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.”

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