Why Music Still Matters

Wonderful essay from Craig Manning at chorus.fm.

And so, to artists, I say this: don’t disappear; don’t stop the livestreams or the AMAs or the social media engagement; don’t delay your album releases, even though now might seem like the worst possible time to promote something. We need you right now. We need you to be there to help us make sense of the world, and of the lives we are living. We need your songs to offer reminders that this too shall pass, or welcoming shoulders to cry on at the end of the bad days. We need to be able to hear a lyric or verse and ask, “How did this person know that about my life?” It’s in times like these that music really saves people; reminds them that they aren’t alone; brings them together, even if it’s from afar. Someday soon, we’ll see each other again—in a bar or a club or an arena or a stadium—and we’ll all sing together, loudly. Until then, know we’re still out here, and we’re still listening.

Jeff Schaller and the Long Way Home – ‘Two Decades and Change (Deluxe Edition)’

We’ve been slowly working on the first official Long Way Home record over the past year and a half. There’s still a ways to go, but in the meantime, we decided to re-issue our last album, Two Decades and Change, along with a remastered B-sides EP, demos, and a new version of "Book of Matches." I’m still immensely proud of this one.

We can’t put this up on streaming services under our new band name because the songs were previously released, but you can find it on our Bandcamp.

We’ll Grow Stronger Making Room and Sharing Space: 2019 In Review

It’s the end of the year and the end of the decade (more on the latter in this post). It’s the time for me to reflect on the year and think too much about lists. Some things will never change.

Music I Worked On This Year

My Favorite Albums of 2019

I’ve had a one-sentence review of my number one album, Breakup Season by Future Teens, in my head for a few months: If I had heard this when I was seventeen, I might have been a better person. That sounds hyperbolic, but I haven’t been able to shake the idea. I know I could have used this album as a teenager. It’s so honest and introspective about heartbreak and sadness and dealing with those emotions in healthy ways. I’m so happy that a band like Future Teens exists. I’m jealous of the kid that hears Breakup Season this year and connects to it like I connected to The Upsides. Future Teens will be that kid’s first favorite band, the soundtrack to their formative years, their inspirations and role models. I keep likening this album to The Upsides, probably the single most influential album on my past ten years. It feels like a torch-passing at the end of the decade, and it’s all the more apt because I saw Future Teens open for the Wonder Years in October.

The rest of my list feels as varied as my year, spanning genre and scope from emo debuts to the biggest pop artist in the world. As always, I think there’s a lot to love on this list, so pick something and give it a spin.

  1. Future Teens – Breakup Season
  2. Charly Bliss – Young Enough
  3. Pedro the Lion – Phoenix
  4. The Menzingers – Hello Exile
  5. The Mountain Goats – In League With Dragons
  6. Jimmy Eat World – Surviving
  7. Taylor Swift – Lover
  8. Origami Angel – Somewhere City
  9. The Get Up Kids – Problems
  10. Telethon – Hard Pop
  11. Proper. – I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better
  12. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance
  13. Ceres – We Are a Team
  14. Oso Oso – Basking In the Glow
  15. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center
  16. The Dangerous Summer – Mother Nature
  17. Somos – Prison On a Hill
  18. Dave Hause – Kick
  19. American Football – LP3
  20. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
  21. Junius Paul – Ism
  22. The Maine – You Are OK
  23. Nervus – Tough Crowd
  24. Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows
  25. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

My Favorite EPs of 2019

  1. Better Love – All I Ever Wanted Is To Be Where You Are
  2. Mineral – One Day When We Are Young
  3. Ruston Kelly – Dirt Emo, Volume 1
  4. Rat Tally – When You Wake Up
  5. Bosley Jr – No More

My Favorite Songs of 2019

Here’s a playlist on Apple Music and Spotify of songs I loved this year. It’s vaguely in order (at least the top ten or so).

My Favorite Shows of 2019

I went to 63 shows this year, 35 of which I played. Here were my favorites. These were all great, but the John K. Samson show is a contender for my all-time favorite performance. He doesn’t tour much, so make it a priority to see him if you have the chance.

  1. John K. Samson and Christine Fellows – 11/23 at Beat Kitchen
  2. The Wonder Years, Future Teens – 10/20 at Metro
  3. Ruston Kelly – 11/1 at Thalia Hall
  4. Mineral – 1/24 at Lincoln Hall
  5. Pedro the Lion – 5/18 at The Castle Theater
  6. Jacob Sigman, Jetty Bones – 3/29 at Beat Kitchen
  7. The Sidekicks, Adult Mom – 7/7 at Subterranean
  8. Spanish Love Songs – 5/19 at Cobra Lounge
  9. Los Campesinos! – 7/6 at West Fest
  10. We Were Promised Jetpacks – 7/13 at Bottom Lounge

My Favorite Podcasts of 2019

Two Headed Girl is the best new podcast I listened to this year. It’s a chronicle of gender dysphoria, transitioning, and marriage. Hosts Alex and Matthew Cox are unflinching in their honesty with each other about their lives, health, and feelings. It’s kind of amazing that they recorded all of this and are willing to share such a personal journey with the world.

Elsewhere in the podcast world, two of my favorite long-running podcasts hit new highs in 2019. On episode 102 of Reconcilable Differences, “Preparing the Way,” John Siracusa buys a refrigerator. The two-hour chronicle of this harrowing adventure is everything I love about the podcast format. And The Watch, Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald’s twice weekly talk about movies and TV, transitioned from purely critique to a behind the scenes look at making a TV show as Andy called in from the set and editing room of his upcoming show, Briarpatch.

Finally, I’ll recommend Michael Lewis’s Against the Rules, a meticulously researched exploration of societal rules and the people who make and enforce them. Unlike the long-running conversational shows I typically like, the tight format and high production value make Against the Rules feel more like an audio book.

My Favorite Books of 2019

As usual, I read very few new releases this year, but the few I did read were fantastic: Hanif Abdurraqib’s latest poetry collection, A Fortune For Your Disaster, Mark Z. Danielewski’s children’s book for all ages, The Little Blue Kite, and Mischa Pearlman’s One Day When We Are Young, a retrospective on the emo band Mineral and a companion piece to their first new music in over twenty years.

The best book I read this year, regardless of release date, was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

My Favorite Television of 2019

I started 2019 with the vague goal of “keeping up” with TV, but I quickly realized that’s impossible. There’s just too much great TV. With that in mind, I just want to highlight a few of my favorite shows of the year, all remarkable for very different reasons, which also happen to be short and digestible.

Fleabag – Season 2

A tour de force of emotion and energy, every episode left me thinking that writer / producer / star Phoebe Waller-Bridge might be the most talented person alive.

Watchmen

Every frame of this show is immaculate. I’m a longtime defender of the endings of Lost and The Leftovers so I had confidence in Damon Lindelof and his team to pull this sequel/remix, and my expectations were still far exceeded.

When They See Us

Ava Duvernay’s docu-drama about the Central Park Five is a heart-wrenching examination of injustice. The opening sequence alone is worth the price of a Netflix subscription.

Chernobyl

A different kind of bleak docu-drama, set on the opposite side of the world as When They See Us, Chernobyl is equal parts moving, gruesome, frustrating, and deeply sad.

And I can’t leave the TV section without giving a shout to Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian, constant cause of delighted squeals (both Liesi’s and mine) every time he’s on screen.

My Favorite Movies of 2019

As always, I’m very behind on movies at the end of year, but Knives Out is a masterpiece.

  1. Knives Out
  2. Marriage Story
  3. The Irishman
  4. Booksmart
  5. Midsommar
  6. The Report
  7. Toy Story 4
  8. Us
  9. Dolemite Is My Name
  10. High Life

Next Year

I haven’t made a formal new year’s resolution in quite a few years, but I do have some plans for 2020.

  • Pelafina will be releasing a new EP in the next couple months. More on that very soon.

  • The Long Way Home are deep in the process of recording our next album. That will hopefully be out later in the spring.

  • I didn’t make a single blog post this year, and I want to change that. I don’t have a clear structure in mind, but I just want to write more.

  • I’m going to listen to more jazz.