December 23, 2020 EP Ranking: An H-Bomb Show Response

I didn't actually mean to write this one, but last night on my way home from work, I listened to the most recent episode of The H-Bomb Show. In this episode, host Nick and guest Nev work to rank each member EP in order from best to worst. I found myself agreeing with a lot, disagreeing with some, and inadvertently forming my own list in my head as the drive went on. About halfway through, I caught myself really engrossed in the conversation and couldn't help but grin thinking how nerdy and niche it is to be so invested in music that most of the world doesn't even know exists. Being a big fan of something can be a lonely thing if you don't know anyone who understands, so it's really nice to know people who "get it" while also realizing that it's totally foreign to someone from the outside. So thanks, Nick, for helping bring a voice to this little niche I call home.

If this sounds like your idea of a good music conversation and you haven't listened yet, I'd encourage you to 1) make your own list ranking your favorite EPs, and then 2) listen to the podcast and see how they match up. You can check out the most recent episode of the H-Bomb Show HERE if you haven't already.

Here's my own attempt at ranking the EPs from favorite to least favorite. I won't say best to worst because there is something I like about all of them, and even some of my overall favorites have a skip song or two. I also have to say that it is REALLY hard for me to refer to these with titles that didn't exist until this year when I've spent a solid decade referring to some of these by the year they were created.

1. Watershed (2007)

I didn't realize how hard it would be to order my top four picks. All of my top choices have some songs I feel really strongly about, and some of my favorite songs do not come from Watershed. I ultimately gave it the number one spot, though, because it has the most songs I love all in one place. I'd categorize even the "worst" songs on this EP as better than some of the best from other years. "I've Been Down," "Got A Hold On Me," "I Am," AND "In A Way" are all really strong songs to me. I love "On The Rocks" slightly less, but I do still love it, and "Take Our Chances" feels like a snapshot in time that I'm still happy to look at. There might be a little nostalgia at play here too since this was my first year as a fan club member, but you can see why I kept renewing when this was my first taste of what a membership would get me.

2. Loud (2016)

Loud wins the number two spot for being a home to "No Rest For The Weary," which I would argue might be the best fan club song of all time. It's not my own personal favorite (which I will get to later), but it's close, and I think it might be the best song overall. I didn't fully appreciate "Siren Call" until I heard it on String Theory, but I'm definitely a fan of it now. "Oh La La La" is probably the closest thing to a skip song for me, but I do enjoy it live.

3. Facing The Blank Page (2011)

This one ranks third for having two really solid songs that I love- "Sunny Day" and "Sonny Get Your Gun." One of the first live streams Hanson ever did was an actual live stream of them writing "Sonny Get Your Gun." There were technical difficulties and it was never saved or recorded, so you either saw it live, or you didn't see it. I got lucky and watched it and absolutely loved hearing them discuss word choice and finalizing lyrics. I remember Taylor argued not to use the word "peephole" and Zac argued to keep it (you can see who won that one in the final product). That should probably not factor into ranking these, but it helped me to love the songs on it even more. Also, "Sunny Day" is forgotten way too often by both fans and Hanson.

4. Sound of Light (2013)

There was a time when this was my number one pick, but looking back, it drops a bit because I don't find myself still listening to "Call Out My Name", "Best of Times," or "Roller Coaster Love" unless they get played live. "Sound of Light" is a really good song, and I know plenty of people would call "On and On" overplayed at this point, but it was and still is one of my favorite EP songs, so I'll fight for it.

5. In Color (2017)

"I Don't Want To Go Home" is another song that could compete for best fan club song period, and I don't think anyone will argue against me saying that "Somebody That Wants To Love You" is also particularly good. My unpopular opinion that bumps this EP up a bit higher for me is that I will go to bat for "I Lift You Up." Do I want to listen to it on a regular basis? Not even a little bit. It's one of the saddest, most emotional Hanson songs I think they've ever written, and I mostly keep it wrapped up in a little box I don't open. I still think it's really good and a totally unique song that's underrated.

6. Music Made For Humans (2014)

This is where I start getting more into skip song territory. I could take or leave "Show Me The Way" and "What's Your Name" (though I do appreciate how different this song is with Isaac's falsetto), but the other three songs on this EP are good. Sorry Nick, I love "White Collar Crime" even if it feels like a "best of" Digital Pants song. I also like "Panic in the Streets," though I often forget it's not on No Sleep For Banditos because something about the image of riding through town on a horse just fits that theme. "On The Road" is the best one of this bunch, hands down, and could've held its own on a studio album.

7. In Real Life (2019)

This is where my personal opinion overshadows fan logic. I LOVE "The Ballad of Seymour Better Times" and would probably put it in my top five favorite Hanson songs period. Since "My Favorite Christmas Sweater" is also on that list, I suspect I have a way-too-soft spot for punchlines in songs, but I can't help it. Okay fine, "Compromise" is pretty good, too.

8. Continental Breakfast in Bed (2020)

Time will really tell where this one falls since it's so new, but this EP has two standout songs on it for me: "Miss You Like Crazy" and "All I Know." The opening to "Miss You Like Crazy" is close to "No Rest For The Weary" level of catchy and upbeat. "All I Know" now lives in the box with "I Lift You Up." I think that box may actually be a box of tissues.

9. Watch me Bleed (2003)

Don't hate me for ranking this one so low. I know "Down" is great, "End of the Line" is really fun, and "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade" is a fan favorite live. In my defense, I joined the fan club years after this one existed, so I don't have the same connection to it that a lot of people do. 

10. Leave The Light On (2008)

This one might have ranked higher if it had more than three new songs on it. All three are good, but "Coming Back For More" is the best.

11. Inside the Box (2015)

"Grace Unknown" is obviously the best song on this one. I do love the harmonies on "Don't Hide Your Tears" and think it's pretty underrated. The rest...kind of skippable for me. Honorable mention for the awful greatness of "Have it sauteed, grilled or filleted, we're cooking up a backbeat so pick up a plate," though.

12. No Sleep For Banditos (2012)

Fight me on this, but I love "Be My Own." I don't even usually appreciate sappy love songs, but I really like this one. "Heartbreaker" can be fun in small doses, and there was a time I was tired of the title song, but it's been so long since I heard it that I think I'm back to having potentially falsely fond memories.

13. Animal Instincts (2018)

"Young and Dumb" is absolute lyric gold to me. Unfortunately, I don't love the more techno/dance sounding beat of it. The piano and energy of "Working" is a highlight, but even Hanson seems to have forgotten it, so I'm not all that inclined to fight for it.

14. Fool's Gold (2009)

This is another one routinely forgotten by Hanson, and I think it is the least played live EP of all. Three of its five tracks have never been played. "Wait Here For You" has been played once, and "Devil's Nachos" has been played twice. I was there for all three of those and I still have to check hansonstage to see if it's "Wait Here For You" or "All I Have To Give" that I've heard. That's not a great sign for either song's memorability, especially when they're not even sung by the same brother. I will say I would be happy to hear "Take My Time" live one day, though. Maybe at BTTI.

15. Never Let Go (2005)

Again, you can maybe blame me joining the fan club in 2007 for why this one doesn't rank higher, but even so, I've never been a big fan of the song "Never Let Go." I also don't care much for "Call Me," and both have made me sob live. "So Lovely" is the song I like out of this bunch, and I mostly forget it exists.

16.  Time and Trouble (2010)

I'm gonna have to side with Nick and Nev on this. It might be partly their fault for planting that idea in my head before I wrote this, but even so, it's a cop-out answer I'm willing to run with. I had high-ish hopes of "This is the Jam" being kind of fan anthem-y live with lots of fist pumping and excitement, if only it would ever be played. Then Zac played it at his first solo show in Jamaica, and everybody just looked bored and totally killed my excitement for it. I think "Too Young To Kill" is fun in an experimental "what is happening" sort of way, and "Live Forever" can live forever in that tissue box I was talking about.

I'm not going to go back and ask myself if I'm sure about any of these picks because I could probably talk myself into rearranging several for way longer than would ever be necessary. Overall there are definitely some similarities and agreements about what's top and bottom EP material across my list, Nick's list, and the collaborated list between Nick and Nev. Here they are side by side. What does your list look like? Which EPs would you fight for?

You can follow The H-Bomb Show on Twitter at @HBombShow and subscribe to the podcast at

December 17, 2020

Sequins, Sweaters, And String Lights: The Christmas Ball

Every year around this time, I see fan stories about how Snowed In has been a staple in their Christmas traditions for decades. Some decorate their trees with family while playing the album, some remember playing it while baking cookies and wrapping presents, and plenty have now made it part of the next generation’s traditions. For me, Snowed In is a reminder of family road trips where one person being happy with the music selection inevitably meant that two others were not. It never stopped me from begging and insisting that we listen to Snowed In at least once per four hour drive to visit my grandparents. Every trip, I would “sneak” my Snowed In and A Chipmunk Christmas cassette tapes into the car. Mom would ask if it was over yet, Dad would tell me to “take those chipmunks out already” (even when the three brothers singing weren’t Alvin, Simon, and Theodore), but they always let me listen to it anyway. It’s been more than 20 years, and now there are only two of us in the car. These days the destination is a nursing home instead of my parents’ childhood homes. Mom still lets me listen to all of Finally It’s Christmas and complains every few songs. Sometimes I wonder if she thinks about my Dad when she does, even though Hanson doesn’t sound like chipmunks anymore. It’s a bittersweet feeling, and I’m thankful to share it with her and to have music that reminds me of all the great Christmases that came before.

But this isn’t a nostalgic blog post about Snowed In or about holiday memories. It’s about an exciting new event that gave me something to look forward to this holiday season instead of looking back. It’s about feeling festive, enjoying good music, and looking for the silver lining. Or in this case, the sparkly, shiny, dripping-with-sequins-and-disco-balls silver lining.

As soon as we found out about the themed streams, I was hopeful that December would be all about Christmas. I’ll be spending a quiet Christmas at home with just my mom, and a Christmas theme for these shows gave me something positive to look forward to during a season where I’ll be skipping all the best extended family traditions that I'm used to. I’m grateful for the opportunity and truly enjoyed getting to hear these songs and see all of the festive outfits and decorations. From ballgowns to onesies, Christmas trees to train sets (tiny fireplace ftw), and from living room selfies to front row tables—everyone really brought the cheer I've been missing.

Of course, I can't write about The Christmas Ball without first mentioning its namesake. The song "The Christmas Ball" is a truly deep cut in the Hanson catalog that had never been played live prior to these shows. It was released on a fan club EP called "Super Digital Pants" back in 2016, and I'm pretty sure I listened to it once and never looked back. Some songs take time to grow on me and need a very specific moment to reveal their potential. This was definitely one of those moments, and two weeks later I'm still catching myself singing "ho ho ho, mistletoe, now we're on a roll," which tbh is about a 250% increase in the number of lyrics I knew to this song prior to these shows. Consider me impressed that Zac knew them all, too.

"Joy To The Mountain" was every glorious note I remembered it being from the Finally It's Christmas Tour in 2017, and I'm giving extreme bonus points for the lack of catcalling. I can't wait for the moment it's safe to have regular concerts back, but on the bright side, a 10% venue capacity where most people are fan club members sure helps keep things respectfully quiet for acapella performances. "Wonderful Christmastime" with Hanson's "Come on It's Christmas" addition will also always be a favorite of mine; it's fully danceable no matter where you are and demands you to move even if it's awkward car dancing at a red light while the people next to you probably envision Mariah Carey on your radio. They don't know what they're missing. 

My absolute favorite, though, was "My Favorite Christmas Sweater." It's in my top five favorite Hanson songs of all time, maybe even top three material. I love it that much. It checks all my favorite boxes- it's catchy, it's sentimental, and it's one giant pun. I tried to tell Hanson that it’s one of my all-time favorites once and they seemed mildly confused, but I stand by it and wish it had made it onto the Finally It's Christmas album instead of remaining one of Hanson's best kept secrets. I’ll just be over here spilling it to anyone who will listen.

The setlists for these shows were very similar, but that's to be expected when they only have two full-length Christmas albums to pull from. During the first show I kept wondering if they were going to play any "regular" songs from non-Christmas albums since previous newsletters suggested it would be a heavy mix of Christmas with some other Hanson hits sprinkled in, but it never happened. Every last song was a Christmas song. I was thrilled, and I think stopping a wall of Christmas cheer to play "Where's the Love" wouldn't have felt like the right flow for the atmosphere they were creating. I also genuinely love their Christmas albums and haven't had the privilege of hearing live performances of them very often, so I was pleased with the song choices. 

The shows weren't error free. There were lyric flubs, keyboard malfunctions, a few guitar chord mishaps, and one moment they abandoned a song entirely and didn't play it until the following show. Taylor has since revealed on Instagram that he had a minor surgery not long before these shows and welcomed his 7th child the day after the last one. It’s probably a Christmas miracle that things went as smoothly as they did with all of that going on behind the scenes. If we were grading them on performance accuracy, they wouldn't get a perfect score on this one. But I'm not here to grade them, and while I might be literally here to review a performance, I'd rather do it holding a cup of hot chocolate than a sharp red pen. I'm not looking for perfection; I'm looking for a good time, and that’s exactly what I got.

"Everything is different, but nothing's changed" feels like a pretty accurate statement for how I feel about The Christmas Ball event. It can probably be applied and interpreted in many ways, but for me, it means being grateful for good music and for all the usual warm fuzzy feelings it gave me when so many things aren’t usual at all right now. I've made plenty of cheesy past references to feeling at home at Hanson shows (I might be just shy of a "home is where the hanson show is" doormat), and I think it's so true for many of us. So for everyone who might be missing out on in person shows or missing out on family gatherings this holiday season, I think it's fair to say-- "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my streams." Thanks, Hanson, for bringing us your brand of Christmas cheer. 💗