As of today my newsletter, this thing you're reading right now, is officially one year old! It feels like I've been doing it for an eternity so saying that is strange. One year isn't that long, but it's one of the few things in my life that has stayed consistent over that time and is probably my only accomplishment so I will be talking about it.
I know I sort of beat a dead horse about how I quit law school so I won't make you suffer through more of my thoughts on that. At the end of the day, my life is better for it. Uncertainty doesn't feel as scary as it did a couple years ago and I'm just trying to be okay with being in a place where I'm figuring it out. I'm grateful to have moved to Philly for school because I love living here, but just about every other positive shift in my life has happened because of this silly thing I write just about every week.
Seems like a drastic overstatement, but I think it's true. I used to pretty much just make zines and never really considered myself a "writer" in any significant sense because so often the writing was the thing that took no time compared to printing and design aspects. I also never made a, like, serialized zine in the traditional fanzine style. I was always a lot more inspired by photo zines and mini comics I'd buy at Chicago Zine Fest in the way they can be just individual works. The big punk fanzine structure always felt too daunting, but maybe if I really committed to that format I would have felt more confident calling myself a "writer."
I'm glad I spent several years just writing and making zines, though. I think doing things just for myself (and the 50 people in Chicago and England who bought my stuff) really shaped my sense of voice. The things I think people like about my writing now are products of writing individually in a space that felt pretty insulated and– importantly– offline. I just wrote what I wanted to talk about and believed that people would probably buy it if it looked nice. That usually proved true.
But then the pandemic started. I didn't want to go to the post office after selling a bunch of photo zines about Chicago venues (that are back in stock baby!) and having a stressful experience mailing them all. I also didn't have a job to fill my time so I needed something. Digital zines didn't fill the same void and I liked Dan Ozzi's newsletter (please give me money so I can buy Dan's book even though I am unemployed and approaching broke) so I just made an account with the service he used and wrote about listening to Shed by Title Fight for the first time. I also wrote about the new Charmpit album, which is still very good.
Last summer was full of obnoxious newsletter/journalism discourse (the first time I went on Endless Scroll was about that!) and I had plenty of thoughts about that as someone who has always read a lot of music and culture journalism, but my newsletter was always just a cool outlet for me. Whether that was about albums or grappling with harm done by musicians whose work I love or talking about internet fan communities or whatever, it was always just what I was thinking at any given moment. It was something of a lifeline while I was really struggling over the fall and winter. It's also gotten me Real Life Paid Work from different places which, frankly, rocks.
I'm not delusional about how many people are reading. It's not that many in the grand scheme. I'm also aware that probably a third of anyone seeing this is here because one time Steven Hyden said he liked my newsletter on his podcast, but it's something I'm severely defensive of and proud of. It feels really special and I'm so uncomfortable with the idea of writing for bigger music sites despite knowing that's an option. In fact, I sent an extremely embarrassing email sort of panicking about agreeing to do an interview for Stereogum because I feel so uncomfortable with the idea of writing in another context like that. (The recipient of that email told me it wasn't worth worrying about, which was true. Most of the comments on that piece I was worried about are people saying they like my newsletter and are happy to see me there which feels good.)
Most everyone I know in Philly are people that started as internet acquaintances because of my newsletter. I do a podcast every week now that I wouldn't be a part of if not for my newsletter. More than that, I speak to Eric and Eli and Michael everyday. I have so many friends because of this thing. On an interpersonal level it's something so valuable to me and I'm glad I kept doing.
Anyway, since I bet most of you aren't here to listen to me wax poetic about all the reasons I'm glad I write an email newsletter I'm gonna talk about music that's been most prevalent and important in my life month by month over the last 365 days.
Top Track: 12 Steps by Japanese Breakfast (282 plays)
Top Album: Romance is Boring by Los Campesinos! (365 plays)
Japanese Breakfast is a band I really like, but not one where I listen to the records in full a whole lot. Soft Sounds from Another Planet is not an album I've always been able to connect with on the whole, but it is my eleventh most played album of the last year fully based on how much I love 12 Steps. It's also my third most played song of all time. At any given moment the line "he's the one that you wanted singing scenes from a restaurant" is playing through my brain. Every time I hear the song it sucks me in. It's the perfect combination of the rock side of the Japanese Breakfast sound with her cinematic, vivid storytelling. It's beautiful.
In July, I was packing and preparing to move (like I should be doing right now!) and listening to this J-Brekkie song and a lot of Los Campesinos! At the end of the month there's a lot of Death Cab and Trace Mountains and Phoebe Bridgers because my dad drove me to Philly and let me play music in the U-Haul.
Top Track: Seeds by Yours Are The Only Ears (138 plays)
Top Album: The Dream is Over by PUP (253 plays)
What a mismatch. I was really into that Yours Are The Only Ears song for a while. Extremely twee folky stuff. PUP is one of my favorite bands so their inclusion is not surprising. I don't remember anything about August 2020 because August is my least favorite month. It's also my birthday month. Let's see what I was listening to on my birthday.
I listened to Can't Win by PUP 8 times and Trepidation by Camp Cope 6 times. My best friend also made me a playlist that was just Woke Up Older and What's My Age Again. That all tracks.
This month I started my ongoing endeavor to enjoy Titus Andronicus, too! What a month.
Top Track: Prom Queen by Beach Bunny (175 plays)
Top Album: Vacation by Bomb the Music Industry! (185 plays)
I was pretty unfairly biased against Beach Bunny for a while. Not in an internalized misogyny way, more in an anti-Depaul University way. But I think in September that band just made a lot of sense to me! The weather was nice, I relate to the content of that song a lot and find it pretty infinitely repeatable. Their album from last year ended up as one of my favorites, too.
Vacation is one of few albums I'd count among my ranks of "perfect albums" and certainly contains one of my very favorite songs of all time, Campaign For Better Next Weekend. I'll talk more Jeff later.
I also had multiple days where I listened to the stripped down version of I Can't Stop Drinking by The Menzingers more than 10 times in a row. That, to me, is mental illness.
I also wrote about Anthony Fantano and youtube culture which was, for a long time, my most read newsletter post. It's kind of bitchy but I think it's still cool.
Top Track: I Love Creedence by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (272 Plays)
Top Album: Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (291 Plays)
I cannot express to you how obsessed with I Love Creedence I was. That song had a hold on me I cannot explain. Casiotone is probably my favorite band I've only really spent a ton of time with this past year. The storytelling and the sort of simple, lo-fi instrumentation really just envelopes my brain in a perfect way. I listened to Creedence on repeat for a long time. I always really liked Advance Base but didn't dive into CftPA until this last year and I'm so glad I did.
In October, I wrote about the Trace Mountains album that I think is my favorite of 2020. It's sort of an album review and sort of an exploration into why I feel more comfortable writing about stuff I find challenging or have complex thoughts on over stuff I love. My favorite way to write about music is in relation to something greater either in the world or in my own personal life and getting to explore the way I engage with music through this post was cool. I'm proud of that one and will happily point anybody to it whenever I'm accused of only writing about stuff I don't like!
Top Track: Nothing Changes by PUP (113 Plays)
Top Album: This Place Sucks Ass by PUP (121 Plays)
I just like PUP dude. I don't know. PUP sounds like being miserable in class which is how I spent much of November preparing for law school finals. Nothing Changes is a really great song. No notes.
This month I set a paid tier for my newsletter which was cool. I also wrote this newsletter about music I associate with specific places focused on The National, Charly Bliss, Remember Sports, and Paul by Big Thief. This is one of my personal favorite posts and I think captures the way music lives in my real life in a beautiful way.
Top Track: No Good Al Joad by Hop Along (258 Plays)
Top Album: Get Disowned by Hop Along (463 Plays)
As I looked this up I was listening to this very song. True serendipity. Hop Along is a band that took me a long time to really get. I think it's because I remember the last 2 albums being released and not the first. It was probably November or December last year I first listened to Get Disowned in full and I only did that because I watched a live video that got me excited.
No Good Al Joad is a song that tears me apart. The heart-wrenching desperation of "you are my favorite because you're a long shot / you are my enemy because you forgot" against the soft vulnerability of "generous people they fill me with doubt / but that's something I'd rather not talk about" then ramped back up is maybe my favorite moment in music ever. The guitars feel as frayed at the seams as Frances Quinlan's voice. I could listen to it forever.
This month I read the newest Cometbus book on a flight to Chicago and wrote about the book and how DIY implodes and being kind to each other? It's kind of a weird piece as far as actual vision but I like the writing here I think and it reflects the way Cometbus has impacted me since then. I only got really into buying his zines after this because I'm a bullshit person who just bristles against anything that's aligned with older punk until I actually give it a shot.
Top Track: Cut Me Out by Trust Fund (297 Plays)
Top Album: No-One's Coming For Us by Trust Fund (303 Plays)
Kind of silly to keep putting top album if it's just the album the song I was fixated on was on but #2 was still Get Disowned. Trust Fund is my favorite kind of lo-fi twee pop stuff. I also read Ellis Jones' book about DIY in the social media age that month that's really informative and thought provoking. Makes sense why I'd be really into his band at this time.
I wrote about having a hard time with social media in January and about Frankie Cosmos and how some places online feel warm. I think tying so much of myself in with my social media presence can easily lead to a negative place so remembering that my experience online is dictated by me and not anything else was helpful.
Top Track: Home is the Gift by Into It. Over It. (74 Plays)
Top Album: Get Disowned by Hop Along (85 Plays)
Into It. Over It. is a long time favorite band of mine. Really an all time favorite band. I find it hard to explain what it is about the band that is so special to me. They're the first real "emo revival" band I ever got into and have soundtracked a great deal of my personal relationships. Maybe it's just that I like his voice or that there's a lot of Chicago in it. I've often said IIOI sounds like riding the CTA Brown Line or it sounds like when I used to ride the Armitage bus across town and read the Reader music section on my way to and from my therapist's office. There's warmth there that isn't objective.
Most of my favorite IIOI songs are non-album tracks. Wicker Park is an outlier in his discography, I think, and it's my very favorite. Augusta, GA, Local Language, A Song About Your Party. All songs that mean a great deal to me. Home is the Gift is on a 2 song Christmas single that's pretty simple and stripped back. It reminds me of a song like the demo version of A Curse Worth Believing. Just full, clear focus on Evan's voice.
The line "You know I used to always plan for dying right here in Chicago / But I'm not sure which path to choose" makes something inside me swell.
This month I had a bunch of my friends write about music reviews that had a big impact on them. Music journalism is a super weird thing so it was fun to read about their relationships to it. I talk about how I feel about Ian Cohen's writing as someone who has never cared too much about reviews other than his. Dudes rock.
Top Track: Pot Kettle Black by Wilco (147 Plays)
Top Albums: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco (165 Plays)
I wrote about Wilco this month and have received tons of emails requesting I watch the Wilco documentary and also taking issue with my assessment of Kamera. I have no watched and I will not reassess. This is one of my more popular posts which is pretty funny. It's also an album I really love now! Pot Kettle Black is a song I listen to all the time. You don't need me to discuss Wilco here!
My actual favorite thing I wrote about in March was about cryptoart and how everything online is at the behest of a corporation that doesn't care about you. I'm pretty into the idea of archiving outside the context of institutions or sites and protecting digital scenes for posterity and this is a pretty good outline of how I feel about it!
Top Track: I'm Serious I'm Sorry by Jeff Rosenstock (282 Plays)
Top Album: Vs. Children by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (330 Plays)
I'm Serious I'm Sorry is my favorite Jeff solo song. It is upsetting to listen to. You can feel the regret and devastation dripping off every word. It's just visceral and sort of gross the way the scene is described "Meghan held your body / While you were sobbing at the party" and I have listened to it more than any other song in the last year (538 plays).
I think I've landed on liking Vs. Children better than Etiquette as a whole piece, but both records are constants for me. No notes on CftPA.
I wrote about the music that shaped me more than anything else in April. I love emo and looking back on the way we talk about waves and the development of the genre. This is my most popular newsletter post and I'm pleased with that.
Top Track: Unlicensed Guidance Counselor by Drug Church (186 Plays)
Top Album: Cheer by Drug Church (225 Plays)
I love Drug Church so that's that. I officially got all my papers signed to drop out of law school in May. I spent a bunch of time walking around Center City in May just listening to Drug Church not sure how to move forward. I watched two teenagers break up in front of City Hall listening to Unlicensed Guidance Counselor on repeat, though, so I was doing better than them that day. A win I'll take.
Wrote about Orgcore in May as one of two posts I made that month. The other post was an actual sort of track review of this Drug Church song / rambling thing about careers in general.
Top Track: Selfstarter A.E. by Telethon (250 Plays)
Top Album: We Cool? by Jeff Rosenstock (145 Plays)
Finally I obsessively listen to something new! I love Selfstarter A.E. so much. Just a great, kind of sardonic power pop track. I reviewed it for the Endless Scroll newsletter! Go sign up for that! I do lil track reviews every week over there with my sweet pals who I also do a podcast with. Have I mentioned I do a podcast? If you give us $5 a month you can hear even more of my over emotional feelings toward Jeff Rosenstock and Frankie Cosmos and all kinds of stuff. For free I also say good things "about music and technology and where those two things intersect" or that's what our podcast is allegedly about at least. It's linked at the top of this page check it out.
This is long I guess I'll wrap it up! I love writing about music and myself very much. Thank you for reading it. Please sign up for emails if you've not done so already! Please give me money if you can and like my work! If you are an editor who would like to commission work from me / wealthy benefactor who wants to sponsor this newsletter so I do not become destitute (or if you just wanna chat about something I wrote about) my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I know much about emo and the internet and I am very cool and funny.
Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, and law school drop out based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter to hear more about music and uninformed basketball opinions: @mirandareinert. I also have a paid tier of this newsletter for $5 a month or $45 a year! If you do that I'll give you at least one free zine if you email me an address! Wow! Might want to get in on that! You may also just send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo if you want. But as always, thanks for reading!