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


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


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)


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.”

Add It All Up To An Impossible Sum: 2020 In Review


There’s a Wonder Years lyric that keeps popping up in my running playlist at slightly too fitting moments: "I’ve been acting like I’m strong, but the truth is I’ve been losing ground to a hospital too crowded, to a summer winding down." Those lines aren’t about this pandemic, although they are about grief and loss, feelings that most of us have probably grown all too familiar with over the past nine months, even those of us who haven’t lost family members. I’ve spent more of this year sad and angry than I’ve let on to friends and family. I’ve been lamenting the things I love that may never go back to the way they were before – it’s hard to yell punk rock songs in tiny venues when those venues close for good because they got no support from the government during a crisis. I’ve been furious at Republican leaders in government, from Trump on down to state and local officials, for ignoring and then flouting the advice of scientists, turning public health into a partisan issue during a time of extraordinary polarization while this pandemic disproportionately affects people who were already marginalized. I’m furious at every single person who put "personal freedom" or whatever bullshit reason they have for not wearing a mask above the health of everyone else. We could have beaten this, and instead we had a year of needless suffering on an unprecedented scale.

This is a down way to start my annual year-in-review, but it’s been a down year.

Even in such a bad year, I know I’ve been extremely privileged. My family has stayed healthy. I have a job that has allowed me to work from home full-time and support Liesi through some big career changes. I’m alright. I’m adapting. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up about not writing a record or a novel or something.

Despite [gestures broadly] all of this, I still couldn’t end the year without making a bunch of lists. I am a creature of habit.

Music I Worked On This Year

I did actually release some music I’m really proud of this year, although most of this feels like it happened a decade ago.

  • Pelafina – Familiar Places – Guitar, keyboard
  • Pelafina – TS – Guitar, keyboard, recording, mixing, mastering
  • Jeff Schaller and the Long Way Home – "Pulse of Summer" – Guitar, recording, mixing, mastering
  • Jeff Schaller and the Long Way Home – Two Decades and Change (Deluxe Edition) – Guitar, recording (tracks 11-16, 20), mixing and mastering (tracks 11-15, 20)
  • Bosley Jr. – Appreciation Post – Recording, mixing
  • Dead Are the Gods – Dead Are the Gods – Recording, mixing, mastering
  • Apocalypse Quest – CPAC Now – Recording, mixing, mastering
  • Watch No Evil Podcast – "Theme Song" – Bass, percussion, keyboard, recording, mixing, mastering

My Favorite Albums of 2020

First, Some Honorable Mentions
  • Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  • Beach Bunny – Honeymoon
  • Bright Eyes Down In the Weeds Where the World Once Was
  • The Chicks – Gaslighter
  • Cinema Stare – Hum and the Glow
  • City Mouth – Coping Machine
  • Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Reunions
  • Ruston Kelly – Shape and Destroy
  • The Killers – Imploding the Mirage
  • Jeff Parker – Suite For Max Brown
  • Frances Quinlan – Likewise
  • Jeff Rosenstock – No Dream
  • Bartees Strange – Live Forever
  • Touché Amore – Lament
The Top Ten
  1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
    I fell in love with this album in a restaurant parking lot at sunset while waiting for a curbside pickup order. That’s 2020, I guess.
  2. Dogleg – Melee
    High on the list of things to do once a sufficient amount of the country is vaccinated and bands can safely tour again: Scream along to “Prom Hell” and “Kawasaki Backflip” in the smallest, most crowded room possible.
  3. Caspian – On Circles
    This is everything I want a post-rock album to be. Not much else to say here. Best if played very loud.
  4. The Mountain Goats – Songs For Pierre Chuvin
    One of the early pandemic projects, listening to Songs For Pierre Chuvin now takes me back to the strange time in early spring when this all felt temporary. There’s a wonderful feeling of no rules and no pressure here: We’re stuck at home for a few weeks, so why not make a lo-fi album about pagans in the late classical period?
  5. Taylor Swift – Folklore / Evermore
    It’s a bit of a cheat to combine two albums on this list, but this is my place and I make the rules. Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner tapped into some really impressive creative energy even when they were working remotely, and the surprise announcements and release days for these albums were a source of genuine joy in a year when such joys have been tough to come by.
  6. Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You
    The E Street Band sounds gloriously live and alive as Springsteen mines his early bar band days for both inspiration (“Ghosts” and “Last Man Standing”) and actual songs (“If I Was the Priest,” finally recorded and released after nearly fifty years, is a highlight). I’ll always be a sucker for a lyric about turning a Fender Twin all the way up and burning the house down.
  7. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
    Until Saint Cloud, I hadn’t loved any of Katie Crutchfield’s work since 2012’s American Weekend. This album is gem after gem, and I’m thrilled to no longer be an “old stuff is better” guy about Waxahatchee.
  8. Nana Grizol – South Somewhere Else
    I love incisive, insightful lyrics and I love emo trumpet. There’s a lot of both on South Somewhere Else. The title track, which reflects on how growing up white and liberal in a college town begets a sense of distance from racist, oppressive systems. In a year that has found me considering my own privilege more than ever, this song was always in the back of my mind.
  9. Maxwell Stern – Impossible Sum
    The new solo album from Signals Midwest vocalist Maxwell Stern came along in September, and I played it more than anything else as the weather cooled off. Somewhere between The Weakerthans, Limbeck, and later-era Promise Ring (seriously, listen to that uncanny Davey Von Bohlen impression on “Born At the End of a Year”), Impossible Sum feels like a warm hoodie in the crisp autumn air.
  10. Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
    A lot of year end features will probably mention how remarkable it is that Spanish Love Songs’ Brave Faces Everyone was recorded and released in the Before Times, pre-pandemic. “I woke up and didn’t feel better, don’t know why I act surprised,” vocalist Dylan Slocum sings on one song, and another features a call and response chorus of “It won’t be this bleak forever. Yeah, right,” a sentiment I’ve wrestled with a lot recently. But the resonance of these songs didn’t depend on a large-scale national tragedy. This is an album about the systems that keep people struggling and keep people down, systems that have been in place for years and will continue to be in place far into the future unless we work diligently to change them and look out for each other in the meantime. It’s a record about fighting those systems with empathy. The kind of radical empathy that Brave Faces Everyone imagines was necessary in February and is even more necessary now. I just wish I could have had the experience of yelling these lines in a room full of friends and strangers. The tour date I was supposed to see was canceled a day before it was scheduled. It will be all the more cathartic when we can yell together again. I can’t think of a better way to end this than to quote the lines that I’ve come back to more than any other this year: “We don’t have to fix everything at once. We were never broken. Life’s just very long. Brave faces, everyone.”

My Favorite EPs of 2020

  1. The Wonder Years – Burst and Decay (Volume II)
  2. Lemondrop – Shut Up Move On
  3. The Dangerous Summer – All That Is Left of the Blue Sky
  4. Soul Glo – Songs To Yeet At the Sun
  5. Alex Lahey – Between the Kitchen and the Living Room

My Favorite Songs of 2020

Here’s a Spotify playlist of a bunch of songs I loved this year, in no particular order. No Apple Music playlist this year because of a weird bug that prevents from adding certain songs to public playlists, but feel free to make your own.

My Favorite Live Shows of 2020

For obvious reasons, I spent very little time in music venues this year. I did manage to attend or play sixteen shows in the Before Times, as well as one drive-in show in October. These were my favorites.

  1. Origami Angel – 1/16 at Beat Kitchen
  2. Limbeck – 2/29 at HVAC Pub
  3. Telethon – 2/6 at Gman Tavern
  4. Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness – 10/3 at Boomers Stadium (drive-in show)
  5. Lemondrop – 2/15 at Loudhouse

My Favorite Movies of 2020

This part of the list always feels incomplete because so many movies aren’t easily available to watch within the calendar year. At this point in 2019, I still hadn’t seen Parasite, Little Women, or 1917, all of which I loved. That’s even more apparent this year, with so much getting delayed because of the pandemic. Regardless, here are the best movies I’ve seen so far this year.

  1. Sound of Metal
  2. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
  3. Palm Springs
  4. The Vast of Night
  5. Host
  6. American Utopia
  7. Time
  8. First Cow
  9. Da 5 Bloods
  10. Dick Johnson Is Dead
  11. Possessor
  12. Mank
  13. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  14. Tenet
  15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

My Favorite TV Shows of 2020

I watched a ton of TV this year (because what else was there to do), and nothing stood out like The Queen’s Gambit. It’s immaculately written, acted, and directed, propulsive and gripping at every moment no matter your opinion of chess as a sport.

  1. The Queen’s Gambit
  2. Mrs. America
  3. Small Axe
  4. Better Call Saul (Season 5)
  5. What We Do In the Shadows (Season 2)
  6. Devs
  7. I’ll Be Gone In the Dark
  8. Search Party (Season 3)
  9. The Mandalorian (Season 2)
  10. Lovecraft Country (Season 1)

My Favorite Books of 2020

I read 40 books this year, which is high for recent years, but again, I had a lot more time on my hands. As usual, only a couple were new releases, and both are highly recommended: Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh, the successor to her Hyperbole and a Half blog, and Alex Trebek’s wonderful autobiography, The Answer Is… which I finished shortly before he passed away. Here are the rest of my favorite reads this year, in no particular order.

  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Update 12/23: Over the past couple days, I read Charles Yu’s new novel, Interior Chinatown, and I’m immediately ready to say it’s best thing I’ve read this year. Using a screenplay format to display one’s life as a series of roles and performances, Yu examines the Asian American experience across the twentieth century. I want to take this back in time (a la Yu’s debut novel) and discuss it in my avant garde fiction class.

Next Year

It’s still pretty hard to know how excited to be about next year, even with a vaccine on the way. Plans still feel tenuous, but I have tickets to shows. I have demos for a Pelafina album. I have a Long Way Home record in progress. We still have a long, tough few months ahead of us, but I think we can do it.

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.


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.


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.

My Best Years May Still Be Ahead of Me: My Favorite Albums of the 2010s

An Introduction

The Upsides leaked on Christmas Eve, 2009.

Wonder Years vocalist Dan Campbell was panicking in an Outback Steakhouse bathroom (seriously, he wrote a song about it), and I was sitting at my parents’ desktop computer downloading the album that would have an immeasurable influence on the next ten years of my life. I don’t know Dan personally, but I would guess that was as much a turning point in his life as it was in mine.

The Wonder Years would go on to tour the world, release four more albums, and become my favorite band in the process. In the meantime, I was playing in bands, writing songs, and occasionally touring. I was briefly a critic, writing reviews for two music blogs. I recorded and mixed records for myself and my friends. But first and last, I was a fan. All these years later, I still love the feeling of hearing a great album for the first time and letting it wash over me, of a lyric that cuts to my emotional core, of singing along with a room full of people or by myself in my car, of feeling seen and understood, feeling like I was a small part of something important.

A decade-spanning list like this is fraught with complications, biases, and tough questions. How important is a decade anyway? How do you weigh an album with five or eight or ten years of influence against one that came out six months ago? Can I cheat and list two EPs as one album? How do you reckon with the personal significance of art whose work is tainted by the artist’s problematic behavior?

I don’t have good answers to those questions. I just have a list of albums that were important to me over the past decade. These are the albums that soundtracked every significant moment of my life since senior year of high school. They’re in some semblance of an order, although that order gets messier the further down the list you go. I hope you listen and find something you love.

I was eighteen years old, still in high school at the start of this decade. I was still buying every album I liked on CD. I had yet to discover vinyl collecting (and Vinyl Collective). I didn’t know DIY bands were releasing their albums for free on Bandcamp and dubbing their own cassette tapes. Spotify hadn’t launched in the US. The entire musical landscape is so much different now than it was back then, and I’ve certainly grown a lot in the intervening years as well, but it’s still possible for music to move me like it did a decade ago, by the light of a desktop computer, the first time I heard The Upsides.

The List

  1. The Wonder Years – Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
  2. The Hotelier – Home, Like NoPlace Is There
  3. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
  4. Fun. – Some Nights
  5. Jason Isbell – Southeastern
  6. Bleachers – Strange Desire
  7. Beach Slang – Broken Thrills
  8. John K. Samson – Provincial
  9. Laura Stevenson – Wheel
  10. Jimmy Eat World – Damage
  11. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
  12. The Menzingers – After the Party
  13. Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz
  14. John K. Samson – Winter Wheat
  15. The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
  16. Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life
  17. Thursday – No Devolucion
  18. Joie de Vivre – We’re All Better Than This
  19. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful and So Unaware of It
  20. Fake Problems – Real Ghosts Caught On Tape
  21. Ruston Kelly – Dying Star
  22. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers
  23. Paramore – After Laughter
  24. Into It. Over It. – Intersections
  25. The Graduate – Only Every Time
  26. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
  27. The Wonder Years – The Upsides
  28. The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
  29. Jimmy Eat World – Invented
  30. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  31. The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk
  32. Bleachers – Gone Now
  33. The Hotelier – Goodness
  34. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
  35. You, Me, and Everyone We Know – A Great Big Hole / I Wish More People Gave a Shit
  36. Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?
  37. Hellogoodbye – Would It Kill You?
  38. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other
  39. The Tower and the Fool – How Long
  40. The Hotelier – It Never Goes Out
  41. Waxahatchee – American Weekend
  42. Modern Baseball – Sports
  43. Desaparecidos – Payola
  44. Copeland – Ixora
  45. The Sidekicks – Happiness Hours
  46. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities
  47. Taylor Swift – Red
  48. The Menzingers – Rented World
  49. The 1975 – The 1975
  50. Future Teens – Breakup Season
  51. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In the Alps
  52. Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness – Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness
  53. The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever
  54. Charly Bliss – Young Enough
  55. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  56. The Swellers – The Light Under Closed Doors
  57. The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
  58. mewithoutYou – Pale Horses
  59. You, Me, and Everyone We Know – Some Things Don’t Wash Out
  60. Joie de Vivre – The North End
  61. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
  62. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart
  63. State Lines – Hoffman Manor
  64. Into It. Over It. – Proper
  65. Pedro the Lion – Phoenix
  66. Fireworks – Oh, Common Life
  67. Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
  68. Broadway Calls – Comfort/Distraction
  69. Transit – Keep This To Yourself
  70. Polar Bear Club – Clash Battle Guilt Pride
  71. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
  72. Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
  73. The Dangerous Summer – War Paint
  74. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
  75. Real Friends – Everyone That Dragged You Here
  76. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
  77. Guster – Easy Wonderful
  78. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
  79. Better Love – We Were Younger and Less Put Together
  80. I Am the Avalanche – Avalanche United
  81. Brian Fallon – Painkillers
  82. Bomb the Music Industry! – Adults!!!
  83. Smallpools – Smallpools
  84. The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven
  85. Jason Isbell – The Nashville Sound
  86. Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring
  87. The Swellers – Good For Me
  88. Braid – No Coast
  89. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All
  90. Converge – All You Love You Leave Behind
  91. Touché Amore – Is Survived By
  92. All Get Out – Nobody Likes a Quitter
  93. Fireworks – Gospel
  94. Joyce Manor – Million Dollars To Kill Me
  95. Hostage Calm – Please Remain Calm
  96. Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence
  97. Daytrader – Demo
  98. Aficionado – Aficionado
  99. Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland
  100. The Appreciation Post – Work/Sleep

Like a Rock Stuck Skipping On a Great Lake: 2018 In Review

I never know how to sum up a year in a paragraph. I don’t think it’s really possible, when a year is so big and somehow goes by so fast, to capture everything that was significant in my little corner of the world. But I’ll always try.

Before the traditional lists, I want to highlight one very important moment from 2018. Liesi and I got married and it was the happiest day of my life. To every friend and family member who helped out in any way, thanks for making it so special. I appreciate it more than I can ever say.

And it turns out I’ll actually dance if I’m making the playlist.

Music I Worked On This Year

My Favorite Albums of 2018

  1. Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz
  2. The Sidekicks – Happiness Hours
  3. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities
  4. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers
  5. Ruston Kelly – Dying Star
  6. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
  7. Death Cab For Cutie – Thank You For Today
  8. Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness – Upside Down Flowers
  9. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
  10. Lucy Dacus – Historian
  11. Joyce Manor – Million Dollars To Kill Me
  12. Fall Out Boy – Mania
  13. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]
  14. Foxing – Nearer My God
  15. Camp Cope – How To Socialize and Make Friends
  16. Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
  17. Jeff Rosenstock – Post
  18. Retirement Party – Somewhat Literate
  19. All Get Out – No Bouquet
  20. Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures

My Favorite EPs of 2018

  1. Better Love – We Were Younger and Less Put Together
  2. Clear Eyes Fanzine – Season One, Episodes 1-6
  3. The Flips – Exactly Where I Should Be
  4. Boygenius – Boygenius
  5. mewithoutYou – [untitled]

My Favorite Songs of 2018

Playlist on Apple Music and Spotify

The playlist only includes 49 of my 50 favorite songs because “Coming Up For Air” by Clear Eyes Fanzine isn’t on streaming services, but it is on Bandcamp.

My Favorite Shows of 2018

  1. The Bad Plus – Nightshop – 12/6
  2. All Get Out – The House Cafe – 5/17
  3. Spanish Love Songs – Subterranean (Downstairs) – 4/14
  4. Counting Crows – Hollywood Casino Amphitheater – 9/8
  5. Lorde – Rosemont Arena – 3/27
  6. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities Pop Up Shop – 3/30

My Favorite Movies of 2018

  1. Annihilation
  2. Hereditary
  3. Minding the Gap
  4. Roma
  5. A Quiet Place
  6. Game Night
  7. Black Panther
  8. The Incredibles 2
  9. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

My Favorite TV Shows of 2018

  1. Killing Eve
  2. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  3. GLOW
  4. Atlanta
  5. The Little Drummer Girl
  6. Castle Rock
  7. The Good Place
  8. The Haunting of Hill House
  9. Counterpart
  10. Patriot

Other Highlights

The best book I read this year was They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib.

I spent a stupid amount of time playing The Binding of Isaac on Nintendo Switch.

My favorite podcast episode of the year is a tie between Roderick On the Line, Ep. 315: “The Slow Desctruction of Bueno” and Do By Friday, Ep. 109: “Bee. Wasp. Hornet.”

As always, thanks for reading. See you next year.

Souvenirs of Happiness In the Moment: Reflections On 2017

Some milestones and accomplishments from this year:

Movies About Animals released our first full-length album, Two Decades and Change, in January. I tend to be pretty critical of my own work even after it’s finished, but I wouldn’t change anything about this album. I’ve only grown more proud of it in the last eleven months. We also released a companion EP called Spare Change, with some B-sides and acoustic songs as a bit of a cap on the Two Decades era.

Pelafina had a very busy year. We played 29 shows, including two out-of-state weekends, and released a split with The Flips, a re-recorded and re-mixed version of Pelafina 64, and a single called “Skin.” These songs are particularly special because in addition to writing, I also recorded and mixed all of them myself. The rest of band has been more supportive and encouraging than I could have hoped for while I use our songs to learn the ropes of music production and engineering.

City Mouth played a handful of shows in 2017, but much of the year was spent writing and recording a new EP called Hollows, which will be out early next year. It will be my last release as a member of the band, which still feels strange to say after four years writing and touring with Matt and the rest of the gang, but I’m so excited to see where the new lineup goes (I’ve heard some demos and of course they’re great).

On a more general note, 2017 marked a decade of playing live music. Years To Come played our first official show in September of 2007 at the Coffeehouse in Normal, following a test run in my parents’ basement over the summer, and I’ve played over 300 shows with at least a dozen groups since. If you’ve been there from the beginning, or if you saw me play for the first time this month, thank you.

Outside of music, there were two big personal events I wanted to mention in this year-end wrap up.

On a chilly February night at the Logan Square monument, I asked Liesi to marry me. I was nervous and shaking and probably cried a little bit. I was convinced that the ring was somehow defective and that the diamond would fall off as we walked around the neighborhood afterwards. But mostly I was just happy.

Later, in the summer, my grandma Childers passed away. Her funeral was the first I’d ever been to. My mom asked me to read a poem. I was definitely nervous and definitely cried a lot, caught up in the memories of driving four hours to her old house, of the shag carpet and Beanie Babies, the smell of home-cooked food in a kitchen with a floor so sloped I could race my Matchbox cars, the first time I watched the Star Wars. And later, moving her up to Bloomington after her eyes and ears started to fail her, visiting her often (but never often enough) at her assisted living apartment, watching my mom give so much time and effort and love to make sure grandma was comfortable and healthy and always knew when the Cubs were on. I’ll always aspire to be as loving and generous and kind as she was. I hope I can be.

And now, some lists:

My Favorite Albums of 2017

  1. The Menzingers – After the Party
  2. Bleachers – Gone Now
  3. Sincere Engineer – Rhombithian
  4. Paramore – After Laughter
  5. Alex Lahey – I Love You Like a Brother
  6. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
  7. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In the Alps
  8. Day At the Fair – The Epilogue
  9. Nervous Dater – Don’t Be a Stranger
  10. Lorde – Melodrama
  11. Waxahatchee – Out In the Storm
  12. Converge – The Dusk In Us
  13. Forfeit – Perennial
  14. Emperor X – Oversleepers International
  15. Gang of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness
  16. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
  17. Oso Oso – The Yunahon Mixtape
  18. The Mountain Goats – Goths
  19. Sundressed – A Little Less Put Together
  20. Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes

My Favorite EPs of 2017

  1. The Wonder Years – Burst and Decay
  2. Retirement Party – Strictly Speaking
  3. Jetty Bones – Old Women
  4. Lincoln – A Constant State of Ohio
  5. Baggage – The Good That Never Comes

My Favorite Movies of 2017

  1. Get Out
  2. Coco
  3. Baby Driver
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Lady Bird
  6. A Ghost Story
  7. Columbus
  8. The Big Sick
  9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  10. Logan Lucky

My Favorite TV Series of 2017

  1. The Leftovers
  2. Fargo
  3. Mr. Robot
  4. The Good Place
  5. Stranger Things

That list is specifically about TV that aired for the first time this year. If I was including back catalog, my favorite TV experience this year was watching all of Gilmore Girls with Liesi.

My Favorite Books Read In 2017 (any release year applicable)

  1. Wolf In White Van – John Darnielle
  2. Kanye West Owes Me $300 – Jensen Karp
  3. The Familiar Volume 5: Redwood – Mark Z. Danielewski
  4. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  5. The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

My Favorite Live Shows of 2017

  1. Regina Spektor – Chicago Theater – 3/24
  2. John K. Samson – City Winery – 10/23
  3. Paramore – Riot Fest – 9/17
  4. The Wonder Years / Laura Stevenson / Jetty Bones – Bottom Lounge – 9/25
  5. The 1975 / Jimmy Eat World / Bleachers – 5/20

Video Games

Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 dominated my gaming time this year. In fact, I hardly played anything else. But my favorite game of 2017 was not a big Nintendo franchise – it was a small, reflective, narrative game called What Remains of Edith Finch. I played it in one sitting a couple months ago and have thought about it nearly every day since. Don’t read too much about it beforehand, just download it an immerse yourself.


By far my favorite podcast episode this year: Roderick On the Line, Ep. 269: “Yelling At the Radio”


I don’t expect you listen to or watch everything on these lists (although I do recommend all of it). I don’t even expect you to read this far. But if you did, thank you. I hope you had a good year. See you in 2018.

Finally, here’s my favorite song of the year.

All In Our File, My Fellow Traveler: 2016 In Review

I started 2016 in a recording studio and I’ll end it on a stage (specifically, Double Door in Wicker Park). Those are fitting bookends for my busiest and most productive music year yet, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, however, the biggest change in my life this year: After two years in the city, I moved out to the suburbs. Liesi and I got a place together in Villa Park and adopted the best little cat named Jazz. It has been a great seven months so far, and I look forward to many, many more.

The Cubs won the World Series this year. While I’m not a Cubs fan myself and I don’t follow the sport closely anymore, these were the most exciting games I’ve ever watched, and I’m so happy that my friends and family, especially my grandmother, got to see their favorite team on top.

A couple more non-music things:

  • Favorite book I read this year (including non-2016 releases because I don’t keep up with new books outside of my favorite authors): Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
  • Favorite movie of the year (with the caveat that I haven’t seen many of the big late fall/early winter releases): Arrival

I went to 90 shows in 2016, the most of any year yet. My favorite was a seated Conor Oberst performance at the beautiful Thalia Hall in Chicago. His setlist included all ten songs on his raw, sparsely arranged new album, Ruminations. True to the recordings, Oberst switched between acoustic guitar and piano and had a baritone guitarist as the sole backing musician.

My Favorite Shows I Attended In 2016

  1. Conor Oberst – Thalia Hall – 11/27
  2. Thursday – Double Door – 9/17
  3. Copeland – Double Door – 12/1
  4. The Junior Varsity – Castle Theater – 9/1
  5. LCD Soundsystem – Lollapalooza – 7/31
  6. Julien Baker – Lincoln Hall – 4/14
  7. Bruce Springsteen – Bradley Center – 3/3
  8. Against Me! – The Metro – 6/19
  9. Ben Folds – Summerfest – 7/9
  10. The Sidekicks – Wicker Park Fest – 7/23

Of the 90 shows I attended, I played at 55 of those, also a record for me. All of my bands got great opportunities this year, but the highlight was Movies About Animals opening for The Junior Varsity at the Castle Theater in Bloomington. The Junior Varsity was a cornerstone of my early interest in music, and I usually cite Wide Eyed as the first album that made me care more about guitar playing than lyrics.

In April, I went on my third tour with City Mouth. We hit new cities around the midwest, got to hang out with Whale Bones again, and made some great friends in our tourmates, Old Fox Road. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more of that in the near future.

My newest band, Pelafina, played our first shows and released our debut EP, Pelafina 64. It was my first experience recording and mixing on my own, and I can’t wait to do more of that with Pelafina and eventually others as well.

I’m not sure how many new albums I listened to in 2016 (maybe I should keep track of that next year), but it felt like there was something new and interesting coming out every week. From the smallest indie bands to the biggest pop stars, every scene and genre seemed to have standout releases, and my own lists are just a miniscule sample of what’s out there.

My pick for album of the year isn’t much of a surprise. John K. Samson has been my favorite songwriter since I discovered the Weakerthans in high school. Like Springsteen writing about New Jersey, Samson is a master at giving his songs a sense of place. The settings on Winter Wheat range from bustling cities to rural dive bars, TV studios to recovery centers, all the forgotten corners of Samson’s native Canada. He even ventures across the Atlantic Ocean for "Fellow Traveler," which takes place in England. In relatively few lines, Samson manages to make each location feel lived in and loved by an ensemble of characters as vividly realized as that of any novel or film. On Winter Wheat the spotlight turns to struggling grad students, eccentric outsiders, beautifully personified trees, of course, a cat named Virtute. It’s a deep and rewarding listen for both fans of the Weakerthans and newcomers to Samson’s work.

Unlike last year, I did decide to rank this list, but the numbering feels arbitrary after the top three, and I can wholeheartedly recommend everything on these lists to just about anyone.

My Favorite Albums of 2016

  1. John K. Samson – Winter Wheat
  2. The Hotelier – Goodness
  3. Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
  4. Pinegrove – Cardinal
  5. Jeff Rosenstock – Worry
  6. Camp Cope – Camp Cope
  7. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
  8. Conor Oberst – Ruminations
  9. Touche Amore – Stage Four
  10. All Get Out – Nobody Likes a Quitter
  11. Brian Fallon – Painkillers
  12. Joyce Manor – Cody
  13. Butch Walker – Stay Gold
  14. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  15. Empty Houses – Daydream
  16. Anthony Jay Sanders – I Will Be the One Who Goes
  17. Drive-by Truckers – American Band
  18. Balance and Composure – Light We Made
  19. Mitski – Puberty 2
  20. Yellowcard – Yellowcard

A few bands who released really solid EPs this year deserve honorable mentions. These are all midwest bands, some local and some from a little further out, who are making this a really exciting time and place to be involved in the music scene.

  • Hot Mulligan – Opportunities
  • Kayak Jones – Memoir
  • Classic Schmosby – Part 1: Makeshift Happiness
  • Everyone Leaves – The Lonely End
  • Short Handed – Peace of Mind

My Favorite Songs of 2016

  1. Mitski – "Your Best American Girl"
  2. The Menzingers – "Lookers"
  3. John K. Sampson – "Virtute At Rest"
  4. The 1975 – "Paris"
  5. Pinegrove – "Old Friends"
  6. Chance the Rapper – "Same Drugs"
  7. The Hotelier – "Two Deliverances"
  8. Butch Walker – "Wilder In the Heart"
  9. Brian Fallon – "Red Lights"
  10. Conor Oberst – "Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out"
  11. Touche Amore – "Flowers and You"
  12. David Bowie – "I Can’t Give Everything Away"
  13. Jimmy Eat World – "You Are Free"
  14. Joyce Manor – "Fake ID"
  15. Modern Baseball – "Just Another Face"

"Challenge" by Anthony Sanders gets an honorable mention since he still hasn’t released a studio version, but I listened to the live recordings more than anything else this year. Rarely, if ever, have I heard a song that speaks so strongly to my own experiences and emotions about choosing not to drink.

So what’s to come in 2017? As I write this, I’m listening to the masters of the full-length album that Movies About Animals spent all year recording. It’s my favorite record that I’ve ever been a part of, and it will be out in January. Pelafina’s EP will be getting a reissue in January as well, with some of the recording touched up and a new mixing and mastering job. City Mouth is almost done writing a new EP that should be out in the first half of the year. Between all of my bands, I’m playing fifteen shows in the first two months of 2017 (hopefully this winter is a mild one). As always, keep an eye on this page for upcoming dates.

As always, if you come to my shows, listen to my records, support anything I do in any way, including just reading what I write here, there’s no way I can thank you enough.

See you next year.

I Blur All This Hurt Into Sound: My Favorite Albums of 2015

I almost decided not to make a list this year. It would be the first time in a decade of considering myself a serious music fan and occasional amateur critic that I didn’t cap the year with a retrospective post about my favorite albums, songs, and more. Every time I opened up my “All 2015” playlist in iTunes, I felt hopelessly behind on new music. There was too much there, and at the same time there wasn’t enough. I was more conscious than ever of what I wasn’t listening to. There’s just no way to give every critically and culturally significant album a fair shake in one year, but that’s okay (and if I’m being honest, I can’t complain – I spent a precious half hour of my life listening to the Lil Bub album). In the end, I decided that it was still worth it to take a little time at the end of the year to collect my thoughts on a few of my favorite releases. I’m not going to pretend this is a definitive best-of list. It’s just ten records I loved this year, and I hope you love them too.

My Favorite Albums of 2015

Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us

I like to call Beach Slang “the best band in the world.” I know it’s a ridiculous statement, but when I’m immersed in this album, I genuinely believe it. It’s an urgent, electrifying ode to the present tense, to the importance of being alive right now.

mewithoutYou – Pale Horses

While the band is in top form as always, Aaron Weiss’s lyrics are the true highlight – a beautiful tapestry of religious philosophy, literary allusions, and personal anecdotes in which the intimate and the apocalyptic are addressed in equal measure.

Desaparecidos – Payola

Political firebrand has always been my favorite of Conor Oberst’s many modes, and his biting indictments of Wall Street executives, racist cops, and more on Payola are an ideal match for the band’s raucous guitar work.

Laura Stevenson – Cocksure

Wheel is a tough record to follow. Cocksure lacks the gravitas of Stevenson’s 2013 masterpiece, but it charts new territory as her most rock and roll album yet while maintaining the wordplay that makes her songwriting so great.

The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven

I have more negative things to say about No Closer To Heaven than any other album on this list. The muddy mix buries the vocals in a wash of guitars and cymbals. The three-act structure makes for strong theme building, but the divisions between the acts are so sharp that I wish it had been a series of three EPs. And I won’t even start on Jason Butler’s guest spot. Despite all that, I still listened to this album more than anything else this year. The guitar and drum work is great, and Dan Campbell remains the best vocalist and lyricist in the scene.

The Island of Misfit Toys – I Made You Something

I recently watched The Island of Misfit Toys play this album in full for the release show at Lincoln Hall. I’ve never seen a band more visibly proud and triumphant on stage. It was a joyful experience.

The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmlessness

Harmlessness is sprawling in the best way, expanding outward from emo in all directions and taking cues from post-rock, folk, and elsewhere. It also has the best drum sound I’ve heard all year.

Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?

Jeff Rosenstock may have retired the Bomb the Music Industry! name, but We Cool?“ still feels like a natural successor to Adults! and Vacation.

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

My growing interest in country music is almost entirely due to Jason Isbell’s Southeastern. The same vivid storytelling that drew me into that album returns on Something More Than Free, and Isbell’s stellar backing band takes a more prominent role without upstaging the songwriting.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is the only artist on my list that I hadn’t listened to before 2015. I think it was the title that initially caught my attention, but her clever lyrics and crunchy guitar riffs kept the album in rotation throughout the year.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some of my favorite songs from albums that almost made this list.

  • Noah Gundersen – “Topless Dancer”
  • Dawes – “All Your Favorite Bands”
  • Butch Walker – “21+”
  • Sorority Noise – “Using”
  • Tobias Jesso Jr. – “Hollywood”
  • Speedy Ortiz – “The Graduates”

Happiness Is In the Doing, In the Making: My Favorite Albums of 2014

I’ve had a hard time boiling my year in music down to a couple paragraphs. It’s not because I don’t feel as strongly about the albums on this list as I have in years past – the opposite, in fact. I think this year saw some of the most powerful pieces of art to come out of the punk/emo world in years. And it’s not because I didn’t have awesome musical experiences in 2014. I went on my first tour, released my first full-length album, and I saw Jimmy Eat World play “23” on my twenty-third birthday. It really doesn’t get better than that.

What I realized in the process of making this list was that my 2014 was defined less by what I was listening to and more by what I did. This was a better year than the one before it because I made it that way. I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone, to take chances, to have new experiences. Some of those were small, like eating new kinds of food that I wouldn’t have touched in the past, and others were much, much bigger, like the aforementioned first tour, a nine day trek around the midwest with City Mouth and Mighty Ships. Most importantly, 2014 was the year I finally left my hometown. Moving to Chicago has been the biggest step I’ve taken in adult life so far and huge source of personal growth. Compared to this time last year, I’m more confident, I’m happier, and I’m downright excited about what’s to come.


  1. The Hotelier – Home, Like NoPlace Is There
  2. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other
  3. Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland
  4. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  5. Copeland – Ixora
  6. Fireworks – Oh, Common Life
  7. Bleachers – Strange Desire
  8. Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
  9. Hostage Calm – Die On Stage
  10. La Dispute – Rooms of the House
  11. Antarctigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff
  12. The Menzingers – Rented World
  13. Seahaven – Reverie Lagoon (Music For Escapism Only)
  14. Braid – No Coast
  15. Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness – Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness
  16. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
  17. You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing
  18. Restorations – LP3
  19. Noah Gundersen – Ledges
  20. Chris Farren – Like a Gift From God Or Whatever


  1. Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?
  2. AM Taxi – King of the Pond
  3. Beach Slang – Cheap Thrills On a Dead End Street
  4. The Appreciation Post – Slip Away
  5. Hailey, It Happens – Under the Brilliant Lights


  1. Mineral – Double Door – 9/13
  2. The Wonder Years – Castle Theatre – 10/1
  3. Beach Slang – Township – 10/10
  4. Guster – World’s Largest Block Party – 9/13
  5. Jimmy Eat World – Castle Theatre – 10/11