This post is dedicated to the many times my friends have rolled their eyes when hearing me talk about blink-182, Angels & Airwaves, any and all Tom DeLonge/pop-punk bands and music from the late 90s/early 00s. Deservedly so – I earned it, like really, really earned it – and I still listen to blink and Tom stuff, I still follow some pop punk bands and really enjoy their contemporary stuff (often more than the older albums), but in some regards that perception has led to me carrying something of a stigma that I don’t have taste, or diverse music opinions, etc.
Basically I’m insecure, and want to emphasize that I’m not a one-note music person who has the narrowest of niches. So here’s what I’m listening to these days that’s not a pop punk or early 00s band.
80’s Prog Rock/Pop
I’ve really leaned into this over the years, and am still slowly putting tendrils out into this era to find stuff that fits my ear. I’ve mentioned on social media how much I enjoyed basking in Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, but I’ve also been slowly eking my way into Chicago’s catalog. Peter Cetera’s got one of my favorite singing voices, full stop, and while his Chicago tenure isn’t quite in line with the synthpop craze of the 1980s, his solo stuff is basically honey-dipped in it. I’m not a huge fan of Prince’s singing voice, but there’s so many layers to appreciate in many of his songs from that era. Huey Lewis and the News also has some incredible production value. Wearing headphones and throwing on Sports makes for a damned good time.
The Cars have some really fun tunes from Heartbeat City. Hall & Oates, for all intents and purposes, WERE the 1980s sound. Def Leppard’s Hysteria is the shit; Van Halen’s 1984 is a jewel; Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood is a riot. If you haven’t listened to Ratt and want to grow a mullet faster than normal, you’re doing yourself a disservice. So much fun. U2’s Joshua Tree is legendary. Ozzy’s got a few tunes from the era that are tremendous. I’m still trying to get into stuff like The Cure, The Smiths, and more. Really listening for production value, great sound, and ideally some amazing voices. I’ll gladly take all suggestions.
Retrowave, Synthwave, Mallsoft
So much of what I enjoy these days is atmospheric, ambience-driven stuff that paints a nostalgic facade that I very much enjoy. It all feels like music that was stripped out of the late 80s/early 90s, playing idly in the background while browsing through some forgettably pastel-coated JC Pennys during the first Bush administration. Dan Mason, FM-84, Lazerhawk, Kavinsky, Miami Nights 1984, and others (there’s a shitload of artists) routinely help put me in a good headspace to create or just vibe in some oversaturated neon yesteryear.
Folk, Country, Folk Country, Blues, Bluegrass
If I’m not listening to any of my 80s stuff, chances are excellent I’ve got a playlist going with a heady mix of new and old country, folk, and the like, such as: Otis Taylor, Benjamin Tod, The Stanley Brothers, The Stray Birds, Town Mountain, Willie Nelson, Billie Strings, Chris Thile, and of course Johnny Cash. I have an appreciation for a lot of staples, be it songs or artists, who cultivated the country scene over the last century, and love exploring the new artists who have spent the last 20-odd years maintaining the ever-enduring magic of singing a twangy, morose version of country blues and bluegrass. It’s an immensely comforting and ache-filled genre at times, contrasted with songs about myth, getting drunk, making mistakes, and being an incomplete figure in wild country. I can’t relate to some of the lyrics, but I connect to the sounds somewhere in my bones.
Ambient, Space Drone Chill
Unfortunately it’s been strangely difficult to listen to any of these artists lately, since my right eardrum was ruptured and seems to get agitated as hell with this music, but if my ear is having a good day, I love to throw on these simultaneously minimal and infinitely deep artists who know how to layer their atmospheres to send you into orbit with a pair of headphones. Stars of the Lid is, in my opinion, the gold standard, and I wouldn’t mind at all if my final moments alive were spent listening to one of their songs, “The Daughters of Quiet Minds” being my preferred track. Thirteen minutes and change of looking into the void, seeing the fabric of the universe, and being warmly engulfed by the starry tide that rolls through in each passing swell of the production. Other fine artists are A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Loscil, Explosions in the Sky, and Helios.
So there you have it. I obviously still listen to blink-182, Owl City, Green Day, Angels & Airwaves, New Found Glory, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Yellowcard, Metallica, Relient K, The Offspring, Jimmy Eat World, and have absolutely fallen in love with Alkaline Trio over the last few years. Other bands I’ve come to enjoy a lot are Manchester Orchestra and Marianas Trench, but finding bands I like is difficult. Anyways, there’s what I’m listening to, mostly.
JUST KIDDING. JUST BLINK-182. FOREVER.