Liner Notes (January 17th, 2020)

Inches and Falling

This week’s newsletter looks at new music from The 1975, Green Day, and Fickle Friends. There’s also my usual media diet rundown and a playlist of ten songs that I enjoyed this week. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Three Things

  • This week I posted up all the data and information behind my attempt to re-think how we calculate all of our ranking lists on the website. I shared my reasoning behind the project, what my goals were, and then the re-rankings of all our best-of lists from 2016 up to now (and the best of the decade list). I found all of this extremely interesting to tackle and play with and a helpful distraction this week.

  • Next up on my to-do list is looking at the mobile posting in the forums. I’d like to play with a few options to make the posting box bigger and expandable on mobile devices to better accommodate longer posts and new, bigger, phones. I’ll be working on that most of next week and hope to have it done in a week or two.

  • If you have places where you need to hide, or control, various cords, I still highly recommend these cable drops from BlueLounge. I have iPhone and Apple Watch docks on the nightstand by our bed and these work great to attach behind the bed frame to keep the wires at bay, but available if they need to be detached for any reason. I think it ends up looking nice and clean. Lots of different use cases; a good company with some excellent organizational products.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • The 1975 announced some new tour dates with Phoebe Bridgers and they’re not coming anywhere near Portland. This tour is practically custom made for me, and I won’t be able to see it. I’m not angry, you’re angry. What an incredible concert. They also released a new song, and it, again, has this little breezy almost shoegaze quality to it. If anything, it reminds me of the ’90s and the kind of song that would appear alongside an episode of Friends. I know there’s going to be 22 songs on the new album, and they’re going to release probably three more before the album release, but I’m still trying not to overplay the early singles so that the entire album still feels fresh when I finally hear it. But, that’s hard, because these new tracks are great. I still have no real idea what the direction or sound of this album is going to be when it’s all said and done, but I’ve enjoyed all the singles so far (“People” being my favorite). I do wonder if they have anything on here that they’ll attempt another radio run with.

  • For the life of me, I can’t get into any of the new Green Day songs. The latest is another that falls very much into the “if this didn’t say Green Day on it I wouldn’t listen again” bucket. Something’s missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

  • Brian Fallon released another new song this week but since the album is only eight tracks long, and I’ve been told advances will be going out soon, I haven’t listened to it yet. I want to experience the whole album for the first time as a whole. Comments seem to be positive, but my thoughts will have to wait until I hear it.

  • Today sees the release of the new Anti-Flag album and if you’re looking for a great punk album full of melody and fist-pumping-anthems, this should be a must-listen. This completes a three-album run from the band that has been top-notch and comes highly recommended.

  • Fickle Friends’ new single “Pretty Great” is, oh yeah I’m gonna do it, pretty great. This band remains one of the most underrated around these days.

  • I spun the new Halsey album this morning while posting news and enjoyed it. I still haven’t had that song or album from her that’s really knocked me on my ass and made me a fan, but I also don’t dislike anything she’s done either.

  • I’ve been enjoying these remixes of various The Midnight songs this week as well. Super 80s/nostalgia-bait, but I’m here for it.

  • Next up on in my queue to check out are the new albums from Steve Moakler and AJJ.

  • This week was a Dog Problems week. [shakes magic eight ball] Outlook good.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • Wildlife was a very well acted, very well directed film. A tough watch, like a 1960’s version of Marriage Story, at times. I was really impressed with Paul Dano’s directorial style.

  • A re-watch of Bumblebee has confirmed for me that it’s my favorite Transformers movie, but a large margin.

  • I loved the new Netflix series Cheer. It’s a reality TV show more in the vein of something like QB1 than the drama-filled reality shows, and I found it engaging, touching, and very binge-watchable. It was pretty much all we watched last week.

  • I can’t get into this final season of Silicon Valley. We have two left; I’m bored.

  • I read The Outsider by Stephen King, and Hannah listened to the audiobook, so we were both extremely excited for the new HBO series. We watched the first episode last night and are totally in. I’m curious about what they’re going to do or change in this versus the book, but the first episode was great and creepy. We bailed on the third season of Mr. Mercedes, we just couldn’t get into the story, so I’m glad to have another show to take its place.

  • Speaking of Stephen King, one of my goals for the year, I guess one of my goals every year, is to read more for pleasure. So, first on my list is the The Stand. It’s a book I’ve always wanted to read, and it’s so long that it feels like something I can get immersed in and just let the world fade away. I’m only like 12% of the way through, but I’m enjoying it so far. Post-apocalyptic stories are very much in my wheelhouse.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • The start of the year always leads to a lot of anxiety for me. On the 15th of January I do a pretty length audit of everything in my financial world and the state of the website. I like to start getting things ready for tax season and doing a recap of how the website did the previous year and how I need to adjust budgets to account for changes in spending or higher prices on our regular items. It’s stressful and annoying but it needs to be done. I’m going to have to make some difficult decisions coming up that I’m not looking forward to.

  • One thought that I’ve been coming back to a lot this week is making sure to check in and that I’m doing things I want to be doing. That I’m spending my time where I want to be spending it and in service of things that I find enjoyable. Sometimes I forget that I have a choice where I divert my energy and put my attention, brain, and self. The more I focus on putting those things into things I love, the better off I feel.

Ten Songs

Here are ten songs that I listened to and loved this week. Some may be new, some may be old, but they all found their way into my life during the past seven days.

  1. Anti-Flag - The Disease

  2. Fickle Friends - Pretty Great

  3. The Naked and Famous - Bury Us

  4. The Midnight - Collateral (Kobana Remix)

  5. The Format - She Doesn’t Get It

  6. Halsey - You Should Be Mad

  7. Circa Waves - Wasted on You

  8. Beck - Die Waiting

  9. The 1975 - Me & You Together Song

  10. Alexisonfire - Season of the Flood

This playlist is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Community Watch

The trending and popular threads in our community this week include:

The most liked post in our forums last week was this one by Jason Tate in the “The 1975 - Notes on a Conditional Form (April 24, 2020)” thread.

Well, there we have it, another week in the books. I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend. Thank you for subscribing and reading.

Thank you for subscribing to the Liner Notes email newsletter. If you’re not a supporting member, please consider becoming one. For just $3 a month or $25 a year, you can help keep this newsletter, website, and community running. It’s only because of the support of members like you that we can continue to exist. If you like the newsletter, please feel free to tell others about it, share portions on social media, or forward it along.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

Liner Notes (January 10th, 2020)

Let's Make This Moment a Crime

This week’s newsletter goes navel-gazing at our best of 2019 lists, looks at some new music I enjoyed this week and goes through my regular media diet rundown. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I liked, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Six Things

  • This week was the first “real” week of 2020 for the website, and it often feels like the world as a whole. All the holiday decorations get put away, everyone is back from vacation, and things start happening again. As such, we released our big “Top 25 Albums of 2019” feature this week highlighting the website contributors’ favorite albums of 2019 and including little write-ups about each one. This feature always takes a lot of hard work to put together, and I enjoyed seeing Jimmy Eat World at the top of the list once again. I wrote about Jimmy Eat World, Blink–182, Noah Gundersen, Copeland, and Sigrid. If you’re looking to see where the staff tastes were this year, this is a great snapshot, plus, maybe you’ll find something new to love.

  • To make it easier to listen to all the music on our best-of list, I put together a playlist featuring one song from each of the albums on our top 25. That’s available on Spotify and Apple Music.

  • I also published my personal best of 2019 list on my blog and it covers my favorite albums of the year, my favorite movies, tv shows, apps, books, and even a bunch of honorable mentions and EPs that didn’t make my main list. I like putting these together each year as a little snapshot in time. I’ve meant to go back through a few of the past years and do a re-ranking/evaluation of how I feel now about the albums. Maybe in a future newsletter?

  • And, of course, I tossed my favorite songs from my favorite albums in a playlist as well. You can listen to that on Apple Music or Spotify as well.

  • And, finally, you can also check out the individual lists from Craig ManningMary VarvarisAdam GrundyTrevor Graham, and Drew Beringer on the website as well and indulge in more music than you can handle.

  • Getting this feature out always leads me to reminisce a little on the past year. It’s now been about eight months since I started sending out this newsletter as a free email and not just a write-up for supporters. Since then, it’s surpassed a thousand subscribers, and I’ve continued my goal of getting it out every single week; this will be issue 78. It’s a lot of work to put together each week, but it’s become one of my favorite things about the website and something I look forward to writing each Friday. It brings me back to the early days of blogging where I felt a connection and freedom to explore different things with the readers, and, well, thank you all for subscribing, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.


Albums is an album-focused music player for iOS. It is the perfect companion for music nerds who use Apple Music (or have a local library) and love to listen to albums as a whole. They just launched version 2.0, and it’s available as free download.

The app is built for those that want to listen, specifically, to albums as a whole and be able to find them and easily consume them. In addition to offering features like album shuffle, the app also hooks into MusicBrainz and Discogs to pull in production credits, release dates, and record label. It also makes the most of the latest iOS features, like Siri Shortcuts, Dark Mode, and context menus. And, the latest update has an in-app purchase to use built-in scrobbling.

Check it out now on the App Store.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • This was the first Friday in a while with a big release. The new album from Selena Gomez, Rare, dropped this morning and I listened to it while posting up news on the website. First impressions are very positive. It’s got quite a few bang…, you know what, I still can’t use that word with a straight face and not feel like I’ve gone full “fellow kids.” It’s full of big pop songs, some great choruses, and it feels a little more laid back and breezy than I was maybe expecting. Early favorites included “Dance Again” and “Vulnerable.” This feels like it will be in my rotation for at least a few weeks.

  • As someone that has a little bit of a music obsession paired with needing to share said music obsession, I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to get people around me to utter one simple phrase. Be it at home with family, in the car with friends, or back in the dorm-room days of college, I lived for that moment when someone would ask, “Hey, what is this?” That feeling of being able to share something I loved and introduce someone to a new band is a high I’ve been chasing with, well, my entire chosen career. I remember the specific car trips when the entire backseat got introduced to Motion City Soundtrack, or Yellowcard, or Fall Out Boy, and I knew those bands were going to have great careers. There’s no real point to this story, except to say that I had on The Format’s classic, Interventions + Lullabies, a few days ago and Hannah texted me from the other room, “Hey, what are we listening to, I like this.” Not only is this pretty rare from my classical-music-loving-wife, but godddamn, an album from 2003 still with the ability to perk up ears. Helluva album and worth revisiting if you haven’t in a while, or discovering for the first time if you’ve never been graced with its perfection. Why was I in a Format mood this week? [shakes magic eight ball] Ask again later.

  • Nightly released another nice, moody, synth-rock track called “The Movies.” These guys feel like they’re working on their sound with each of these new singles, and figuring out what they want to to be. There’s a whole lot of potential here, and they’d be one of the first artists I’d reach out to if I worked at a record label.

  • I heard from the label that advances for Brian Fallon’s new album should go out early next week, so I hope to have spent some time with that by next Friday so I can share my first impressions.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • I adored The Farewell. It was just one of those movies that hit me at just the right time and made my heart swell. Great performances, charming, and a joy of a film.

  • I’ve always had a thing for survival movies. I think it goes back to reading The Hatchet as a kid. If you like that genre, I’d recommend Arctic. It was compelling, well shot, very well-acted, and the perfect length for something like this.

  • I saw The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil on quite a few end of the year lists, and deservedly so. I’ll always be down for a well done cat-and-mouse serial killer movie, and this had just enough freshness to make it feel new. (It also made me want to see Last Train to Busan again.)

  • We’re now going through the final season of Silicon Valley and are up through episode five. It’s been an alright season, but I wouldn’t say it’s been at its best. I dunno, but for some reason, I haven’t been finding it as funny and think the constant failures and inability for the main characters to get anything right has played itself out. Still enjoyable enough, but I don’t think the series as a whole will be something I ever go back to once we’ve finished it.

  • The third season of Mr. Mercedes is not near as good as the first two. I’m still curious about where the story is going, but it lacks the edge, the suspense, and the mystery of the first two seasons. I’m in the “ok I just want to know how this ends” mindset and not the “holy shit I can’t wait to watch this and see what happens” mood. We’re only on episode four, so maybe it’s a slow-burn, and it’ll grab me as we make the halfway turn in the season.

  • Our power-through of Doctor Who continues. Up to episode nine of season nine. Same thoughts as always on this season, and this iteration of the Doctor: some hits, some misses. I don’t have strong feelings either way for it.

  • Our reality TV brains saw Cheer on Netflix, and of course, we had to give it a try. We ended up watching multiple episodes in a night because we just eat this shit up. There’s no way we don’t watch this entire thing by the end of the weekend.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • After releasing our best-of lists earlier in the week, I spent most of this week pouring over spreadsheets, math, and data, as I started a project to come up with a better ranking formula for how we calculate the ranking on these lists. I’ve been posting about my journey in the supporter Q&A thread, starting here, and the different algorithms I’ve tried and how difficult it’s been to find something that I think best balances consensus and takes into account how high something is ranked on individual lists. It’s an interesting problem, and it’s got me diving way deeper back into math than I ever expected I’d be. I’ll write up a whole lot more about this when I finally crack it, but it’s been fascinating to watch the different iterations and how minor tweaks can shift where albums fall in our top thirty. Once I get it all complete, I’ll share more of my findings.

  • Our current evening game has continued to be Nerts and I think my body is finally forgiving me for everything I put in it during the holiday rush. This week had me rediscovering my love for Portland Pesto, which is easily my favorite store-purchased pesto, and trying out a new cast iron chicken breast cooking technique that worked surprisingly well. I’d never cooked with a cast iron before, but being able to sear the chicken and then transfer it into the oven gave it a nice flavor and kept the smoke in the condo to a minimum.

  • Hannah posted a story on Instagram with a screenshot of the app Streaks and had multiple people asking her about it. If you are trying to build habits, I highly recommend it. It’s been a fantastic app that both Hannah and I use to remind us to do certain things every day/week, and it has worked quite well. When I started using it as motivation to drink more water, I went from maybe 16oz a day to over 50.

Ten Songs

Here are ten songs that I listened to and loved this week. Some may be new, some may be old, but they all found their way into my life during the past seven days.

  1. Selena Gomez - Dance Again

  2. Nightly - The Movies

  3. PVRIS - Hallucinations (Acoustic)

  4. Picture This - Winona Ryder

  5. Manchester Orchestra - The Gold

  6. The Format - The First Single

  7. Greet Death - Do you feel nothing?

  8. Caroline Rose - Cry!

  9. The Faim - Infamous

  10. Worriers - Pwr Cple

This playlist is available on Spotify and Apple Music. Also, don’t forget to check out the playlist from our best of 2019 list, and my personal favorites of the year.

Community Watch

The trending and popular threads in our community this week include:

The most liked post in our forums last week was this one by personalmaps in the “Accountability in Music” thread.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Thank you for subscribing to the Liner Notes email newsletter. If you’re not a supporting member, please consider becoming one. For just $3 a month or $25 a year, you can help keep this newsletter, website, and community running. It’s only because of the support of members like you that we can continue to exist. If you like the newsletter, please feel free to tell others about it, share portions on social media, or forward it along.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

Liner Notes (January 3rd, 2020)

Jet Black New Year

Welcome to the first newsletter of 2020. In this week’s newsletter, I share my start of the year routines and resolutions, share some fun party games we played on New Year’s Eve, talk about what music I’m anticipating this year, and go through my usual music and media diet rundown. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Five Things

  • Well, 2020 is here. At the start of each year, I like to do a variety of reviews/audits of things in my life to see how they’re working and if anything could be changed or improved. This involves things like going over financial records, health, exercise, and diet goals, and various things around the house. That means doing a pretty deep “tech audit” dive as well. This year I decided it was time to upgrade our router. The router we had before (TP-Link Archer C7) was having some WI-FI issues, and it was the first version of that router so it didn’t have the feature where you could have one SSID for the network using both frequencies, and it would automatically switch between them. After doing some research and deciding that our home isn’t big enough to need something like a mesh network, I picked up the TP-Link AC5400 to try out. It is ungodly ugly, but it’s hidden away in the living room and not seen, so I’ll deal. The beautiful thing about this router is that it’s tri-band, so it has two 5ghz and one 2.5ghz “networks” going at the same time. This allows you to better distribute what devices are on what and theoretically everything should run a little smoother. So far, I’m delighted with it. I ran some basic speed tests before and after installing, and there’s around a 10%–15% speed increase, so that’s an additional benefit. Range seems to no longer be a problem at all. The website and app for managing the network are a nice improvement, and I like being able to see everything that’s on our network for troubleshooting purposes and security. So far, I’m happy with the upgrade. I also decided to re-think my Time Machine backup solution as well. Previously, I had a very old Apple Time Capsule that was my router from years ago that I had repurposed as a simple network attached Time Machine backup. It was slow and very big. I purchased a new 1TB Samsung SSD and connected it directly to my iMac. I cannot believe how small and relatively cheap large SSDs have become. I posted a photo on Instagram comparing the before and after. It’s an incredible difference. And, lastly, I decided to take the plunge and upgrade the iMac to Catalina. So far, no significant issues beside way too many annoying dialog boxes. I’ll have more thoughts on the new Apple Music app in the future, but by and large, I think it’s an improvement. I also took this time to clean out and archive old files and give myself a bunch of new daily wallpapers. I like to have a collection of wallpapers that automatically rotate each day to a new image. I was using space and landscape images for the past year, and now I’ve switched it up to a bunch of these abstract ink/water/smoke images from Unsplash. Everything feels new and fresh and organized, and it’s a great way to start the year.

  • While on the topic of the new year, I’ve been thinking about if I have any “resolutions” for the year, or maybe a “theme” that I want to focus on for the year. I think more than individual goals or specifics, I’m more interested in working on being more present and engaged with my friends and family. I find I often get caught up in the day to day dredges of the news cycle, and I’d like to spend more time removed from all of that and instead doing things with family and friends that keep my brain away from all the toxicity.

  • There’s going to be some great albums coming out this year and I think I’m most looking forward to new music from The 1975, Hayley Williams, All Time Low, Brian Fallon, and Butch Walker. And that’s just stuff I know is coming, there are possibilities of so much more. Regardless of everything else going on, it is shaping up to be an excellent year for music.

  • We spent New Years Eve at home with some friends hosting a little game night. (After a very drunk driver caused us to get into a car accident a few years back we’ve sworn off going anywhere we’d have to be in a car.) We played Telestrations, which was was harder than expected but very funny. And then quite a few rounds of Anomia, which has become my favorite party game recently and comes highly recommended. I’ve also decided that we need more friends that are into strategy games. And then we rung in the new year with some classic Catch Phrase. I ate more chips and guac than I should have, but had a lot of fun.

  • We’ll be launching our best of 2019 list this coming week. If all goes as planned and we get all the blurbs in on time it should go up sometime on Monday. I’ll of course link to it and include my list in next week’s newsletter.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • I’ve been giving a shocking amount of time to All Time Low’s new version of Nothing Personal lately. There’s just something about how much fun it is that I’ve been drawn to and find myself craving.

  • I revisited Fall Out Boy’s MANIA at the gym this week and think it holds up exceptionally well. There are some great songs on this album, and it’s still remarkably re-playable.

  • I enjoyed the new single from Great Good Fine Ok called “2020.” I’d love to see more from this group this year.

  • I liked the new Set It Off b-side better than the first one they released, but both of these songs still feel like b-sides that were left off the previous album for good reasons. They’re just not as strong.

  • I don’t have many thoughts about the Coachella lineup besides that it looks like a lot of fun for people that like music festivals. I’m not a festival kinda guy. I was surprised that My Chemical Romance were not on the bill because I’d heard from pretty reliable sources that they would be. I’d also heard they’re playing Riot Fest from similar sources, and that was how I knew about the reunion before it was announced. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if that information comes true.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • The Kitchen was all over the place tonally. I couldn’t tell what the movie wanted to be, and at times it felt like the three main actresses all thought they were in different movies. Ended up feeling like a mediocre mini-series that I wouldn’t recommend.

  • Ok, I’ve finally seen Joker. My take is that this is a movie trying to be other, better, movies. And it ends up being a performance way more than a film, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what it’s trying to say. The theme and message end up being trash. The direction is nothing special. The writing is sophomoric at best. The ties to the mythos and legend of Batman are hamfisted and the idea of making Joker some kind of anti-hero and inspiration against greed and capitalism is fucking stupid. I suppose the performance is good, I guess, but I think Joaquin Phoenix has been better in much better films. I pretty much hated everything about it and wish I could Eternal Sunshine it from my brain.

  • After watching two meh to bad movies early in the week, we wanted to watch something we knew was going to be good. So, we decided to finally sit down and watch The Favourite. It was nice to see a competently made film. It ended up being funnier than I expected.

  • We are up to episode eight of season nine of Doctor Who. It’s been hit or miss with the episodes in this season so far. Some are slogs to get through, but the last two were pretty good. I’m looking forward to finishing up this Doctor’s run and getting into the new stuff; I think a change of pace and fresh take are needed.

  • This season of Below Deck has been madness. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to throw more guests off the boat. I can’t even count how many times Hannah and I have had some version of a conversation that starts with, “How the fuck do people act like this, ever, let alone when they know they’re being filmed and will be on TV?”

Random and Personal Stuff

  • We printed up a bunch of our engagement and wedding photos to hang on our wall. The photos that used to be there had been up for over six years, and it’s nice to see a new fresh batch adorning the condo.

  • Apparently we are a thousand years old now because Hannah and I have started playing random card games at night. So far we’ve tackled Gin Rummy and Nerts. If anyone has any recommendations for other card games that can be played with two people, I’d love to hear them.

  • I read the news last night and this morning about everything going on in the Middle East and I can’t help but think that I’ve seen this movie before. The parallels to when I was in high school and watching the build-up to the disastrous Iraq war are uncanny. To have another grossly incompetent President leading our nation to war is almost too depressing to think about. Now, more than ever, I wish we had an actual anti-war party in this country. Too much from the democrats is all about throat clearing and posturing to not get called weak. Not very many of them are actually against war, they’re against Trump doing a war. Bernie Sanders’s response has, so far, been the best I’ve seen from the current candidates running for office. But, because we’re apparently running all the hits from the past over again, it’ll probably end up being Biden doing his best Kerry impersonation as he gets beat by a clown with mashed potatoes for brains. The more I think about it the more angry and depressed I get. Virtually my entire adult life, we have been at war in the middle east; it’s so normalized we barely even think about the destruction and perpetual violence anymore. And yet that cost is hardly ever brought up in debates or on editorial pages. Instead everyone clutches pearls about how to pay for healthcare (my premiums for my shitty plan went up again this year; rejoice!) or making sure everyone have a place to live and things to eat. It’s pathetic. Sorry for ending the newsletter on a rant, but I’m angry and frustrated. I do, however, hold out a little hope that things can get better.

Ten Songs

Here are ten songs that I listened to and loved this week. Some may be new, some may be old, but they all found their way into my life during the past seven days.

  1. Great Good Fine OK - 2020

  2. Fall Out Boy - The Last of the Real Ones

  3. Set it Off - So Predictable

  4. Now, Now - Can’t Help Myself

  5. All Time Low - Walls

  6. La Bouquet - Anxiety, My Best Friend

  7. Pennywise - American Lies

  8. Press Club - Same Mistakes

  9. Hailee Steinfeld - Wrong Direction

  10. Small Talks - Bed

This playlist is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Community Watch

The trending and popular threads in our community this week include:

The most liked post in our forums last week was this one by Zilla in the “Accountability in Music” thread.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. It’ll be nice for the music industry to wake up from hibernation next week. There’s been a real lack of significant news the past month.

Thank you for subscribing to the Liner Notes email newsletter. If you’re not a supporting member, please consider becoming one. For just $3 a month or $25 a year, you can help keep this newsletter, website, and community running. It’s only because of the support of members like you that we can continue to exist. If you like the newsletter, please feel free to tell others about it, share portions on social media, or forward it along.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

Liner Notes (December 27th, 2019)

Ad Astra Per Aspera

The last few weeks of the year are always a little strange in the music industry and online, everyone is basically in hibernation. This week’s newsletter is a recap of my holiday week so far and has some recommendations, a few brief music thoughts, and my weekly media diet rundown. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Six Things

  • I hope everyone had a great holiday and at the very least it was somewhat relaxing and included some great food and drinks, maybe some good conversations and laughs, and hopefully not too much drama. Ours ended up being only slightly stressful trying to juggle two Christmases with two families as newly-weds, but I think we succeeded about as well as we could.

  • My favorite gift to give this year was probably helping Hannah purchase a new computer. Her old MacBook was on its last legs a few years ago, but I prolonged its life by putting in an SSD drive. But, that can only help for so long. So, with the help of the incredible Drew Beringer, who let us use his friends and family discount as a wedding gift, we ordered her a brand new 16“ MacBook Pro. It’s an incredible machine. I spent yesterday starting to get it set up for her and move all her files over, and at the moment, we’re doing some iCloud Photo Library gymnastics to get all of that setup and synced correctly. The computer itself has an incredible screen (her first Retina Mac), feels good weight-wise compared to her very old 15”, and from using it yesterday, I thought the keyboard was a marked improvement from my old 11" MacBook. I’m just glad there’s finally a Mac laptop worth buying again, the keyboard debacle had us sitting in limbo for too long. Of course, a new computer means new computer sleeves, which means looking for new computer travel bags as well. That’s how they get you.

  • My other favorite gift to give this year was a custom wood sign that we had made for my dad. It included a little part of his speech at our rehearsal dinner, where he combined songs from John Denver, Elvis, and others into a little refrain of wishes for us. I thought it turned out well, and artist/seller on Etsy was great to work with.

  • Everyone was super generous this year, but some of my favorite gifts I received included this really greatratchet screwdriver. If you’ve never used a ratchet screwdriver before, it’s a game-changer. I was able to fix our shower door handle from rattling because I could finally get good leverage on that dumbass Torx screw. I also got a new 10 TB external hard drive to add to our home server, and now we’ve got even more space for movies and TV shows and backups, which is awesome. Some other little gifts that will improve everyday life include a new little valet tray where I keep my wallet and extra “things” in my desk drawer and a gift card for Anson Belts, who make nice hole-less belts. I’m very much looking forward to reading Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, and getting another Anker Wireless Charger to put in the office for easily charging the AirPods Pro is a nice addition to my desk. I’m excited to try some of the recipes from Emily: The Cookbook, and, of course, multiple vinyl records were added to the collection. (Jimmy Eat World’s Damageand Stay On My Side Tonight and Paramore’s Brand New Eyes.)

  • One of the best “gifts” we received for Christmas, however, was the surprise delivery of our wedding photos. We had been dying to see these for the past month, and getting to relive the day in photographs was an incredibly fun pre-Christmas moment. I’ve been posting quite a few on Instagram (and therefore lost some followers that clearly do not give a shit about my wedding photos), and I tossed up about 1/3 of the entire batch in a Facebook Album if anyone is curious. Everyone that reads this newsletter basically lived the last year of planning with me, so I feel like we’re in this together. I figured that once the families had the photos, they’d be sharing them everywhere anyway, and this way, I can at least pick the ones I like the best to share for everyone. Getting a batch of over 900 photos was a tad overwhelming. Still, we’re having an absolute blast looking through them, picking ones to print to put around the house, and trying to figure out how to narrow them down to some reasonable number to make a wedding album. I loved how they turned out, and they make me happy, so that’s why I share them. My Instagram can’t only be music, beer, and cats. (Sidebar: I haven’t “used” Facebook in years, I took it off my phone and never check it, but it was the easiest way to share an album with everyone that was at the wedding and could see the photos/tag themselves/share with friends. I was overwhelmed by how many people are still on Facebook and how often they check it.)

  • The rest of the year will be spent getting ready for 2020. We have finalized our contributor best of 2020 list, and now we’re going to write blurbs and get that out to everyone the week of January 6th. I’ve finalized my best-of list and written all the commentary for my favorite albums, movies, TV shows, and stuff like that and will post that up at the same time. I’ll link everything in the newsletter that will come out on January 10th so you won’t miss anything. 2020 will hopefully be the year I finalize and roll out a new design for the main website, and I’ll be tracking that process and sharing thoughts and feelings in this newsletter each week as I work on it.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • It’s been super slow with new music over the past few weeks. My current rotation includes the new one from Harry Styles, the latest from MUNA, some singles from Olivver the Kid, and Caligula by Lingua Ignota. And then, I’ve been listening to my “Best of 2019” playlist to try and finalize the two songs from every artist on my list I want to include. I’ve been feeling more of the pop and groove vibe lately, but that usually starts to turn into a more rock/punk phase as the new year comes into focus. I see a lot of Anti-Flag in my future, especially with their excellent new album coming out in just a few weeks.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • Noelle was a perfectly fine G-rated holiday movie with Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader. It’s not great, but it’s fun enough, and it’s heartfelt and totally worth throwing on during the holidays. Also, this proves I will watch literally anything with Anna Kendrick in it.

  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby this was horrific. Why does this exist? The first movie was stupid but sweet in a silly romantic comedy kind of way. This is dreck and needs to be stopped.

  • Marriage Story was as well acted as everyone said, but I wasn’t as enthralled with the story and relationship as I think most of the critics have been. It’s a well-done film with an incredible Adam Driver performance, but it never quite hit me as much as I think I expected it too. Some rough moments for sure, and an emotional ending, but something felt off for me.

  • Abominable was adorable. I don’t think it’s in my top tier of animated movies, but it was a great holiday watch with good characters, good animation, and some genuinely funny moments. A story of family tied with magic and music combines for a movie that just about anyone can get on board with. Three stars; four whopping snakes.

  • Mike Birbiglia: The New One was a very solid and funny comedy special. I like Mike’s comedy; I laughed; it did its job.

  • I am not quite sure what they were going for with The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. It’s weird to take iconic music, and then only use parts of it, in a weird order, and supplement it with clearly not as good music, all over a story that’s kinda like The Nutcracker, but not really, and Keira Knightley going in on her performance. It was a lot for a movie that felt twice as long as its runtime was.

  • I sat slack-jawed through most of John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch simply because I can’t believe it actually exists. It’s very funny, very weird, and absolutely reminds me of TV shows I watched on public access as a child. So many of the kids were damn good singers, and the Jake Gyllenhaal bit at the end is worth watching by itself. What an odd, joyful, show.

  • Zombieland: Double Tap was about as serviceable a sequel as you can do. It’s not as good as the original, but it was entertaining, funny, and I enjoyed seeing all the actors return and do weird shit in a zombie world. I’ll watch this again when I’m in the mood for some zombie-tainment.

  • We’ve been watching Doctor Who again the past few evenings. We’re now up through the fourth episode of season nine. I still haven’t completely come around on this Doctor, but I enjoy the show a whole lot, and it makes me happy to watch.

  • The more I think about The Rise of Skywalker, the more disappointed I feel. I’ve been talking in the official thread about it with others, and I just can’t shake my annoyances. Oh well. However, I’m extremely excited to watch the season finale of The Mandalorian tonight.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • The wedding into Thanksgiving, into the holidays, has been a trying time for the ’ol eating healthy and better thing. But, now, with Christmas behind, it’s time to get back into the swing of things and try and do better. What I’d love to do in 2020 is put a higher focus on the kinds of food I’m eating and trying to limit processed foods and eat more real foods with less extra stuff thrown in. I’m a sucker for convenience, and I want to try and be better there. That, and I want to find three or four new “meals” that I can cook for dinner regularly that aren’t too intense but can be easily reproduced on nights where I’m in charge of cooking.

Ten Songs

Here are ten songs that I listened to and loved this week. Some may be new, some may be old, but they all found their way into my life during the past seven days.

  1. Tonight Alive - Temple

  2. MUNA - Navy Blue

  3. Now, Now - Can’t Help Myself

  4. Catholic Action - People Don’t Protest Enough

  5. Weyes Blood - Movies

  6. The Faim - Words Apart

  7. Olivver the Kid - Not in Love

  8. Violet - Pure Blue

  9. LANY - Pancakes

  10. Lewis Capaldi - Before You Go

This playlist is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Community Watch

The trending and popular threads in our community this week include:

The most liked post in our forums last week was this one by Fucking Dustin in the “My Chemical Romance” thread.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thank you for subscribing to the Liner Notes email newsletter. If you’re not a supporting member, please consider becoming one. For just $3 a month or $25 a year, you can help keep this newsletter, website, and community running. It’s only because of the support of members like you that we can continue to exist. If you like the newsletter, please feel free to tell others about it, share portions on social media, or forward it along.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

Liner Notes (December 20th, 2019)

Do or Do Not, There is No Try

In this week’s newsletter I share my first impressions on The Rise of Skywalker; I guess this is a Star Wars newsletter now. I also share a few things around the internet I found interesting this week and go through my usual weekly media diet rundown. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Five Things

  • I stumbled across this Flickr page of a bunch of high-resolution photos of LEGO figurines in Star Wars poses. I’ve been using a few of them as backgrounds on my devices, and they’re pretty fun.

  • This issue of Liner Notes is the first that I’m writing while using Brett Terpstra’s SearchLinks service. You can read about the basics here, but the idea is that by using a little shorthand in my Markdown while writing, I can then auto-populate quite a few of the links in the article at the end, instead of having to constantly switch between a browser and this document. We’ll see how this experiment goes and if I can start working this more into my writing workflow.

  • Federico Viticci shared his new MusicBot Shortcut this week for iOS and it’s an awe-inspiring showcase of pushing the boundaries of what an iOS Shortcut can be. On that note, I also updated my very simple ShareThis shortcut. This is the one that if you run from an Apple Music share sheet it will create and open up one of the Chorus share pages I use in this newsletter for linking to various music streaming platforms.

  • I’ve spent the week playing with layouts for the new website redesign I’ve been working on, and it’s coming along pretty well. At the moment, the one page that’s stumping me is the new “tag” page (example). I want something that can aggregate quite a bit of information in one place, looks good and is easy to use, and can pull out some relevant extra information from our database to be even more useful. I haven’t quite cracked it yet; this is always the most frustrating part of designing. I’m thrilled with the new homepage look, as well as the mobile versions, and I think most of the rest of the site’s prototyped out now.

  • This is the last newsletter I’ll send out before Christmas and the holidays next week. I hope everyone has a wonderful time celebrating with friends, family, or just doing whatever it is that makes you happy. I always try and remember that this time of the year can be hard for some, so I try and reach out to old friends and say hi and check-in.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • It remains the slow period in the music industry. Not a whole lot of new music coming out, so I like to use this calm before the new year to dive into some albums I may have missed that are showing up on end of the year lists and/or I see recommended. I have most of my best of 2019 list completed at this point; it’s just about finalizing a few placements and getting all the extra stuff written up. We’re still on track for that to run, like usual, the second week of the new year.

  • This week did have me diving back into MUNA’s latest, Saves the World, and it keeps growing on me. I liked it when it first came out, but it’s been climbing its way up my favorites list these past few months.

  • The Ataris re-recording of “Boys of Summer” feels like it was done entirely for royalty payments on streams. It’s the exact same song but recorded and mixed … worse.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • This week was a very Star Wars heavy entertainment week. As I wrote about last week, we were doing a re-watch of a bunch of the movies to prepare for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. We started with Solo: A Star Wars Story, and while this isn’t a great movie by any means, I enjoyed it for what it was a whole lot more on my second watch. It’s better than it gets credit for, and I find it entertaining and as good as most of the Marvel movies. It’s there to be entertaining, and I think it succeeds at that. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story contains some of my favorite cinematic shots in the entire series. It’s a gorgeous movie. It has some pacing and structural issues, but I still enjoyed it. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will forever hold a spot in my heart as it reinvigorated my love for these characters and world. Sure, it’s got quite a few flaws, but it also makes me feel like a kid again and captures a feeling of excitement, adventure, and wonder. And, lastly, we finished up with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’m now more than ever willing to die on the hill that says this movie is incredible and unlocks Star Wars in a way that no other has. It’s brilliant. There’s a few campy and corny moments that don’t quite work (because no films are perfect), but what this movie has to say about legacy, hope, and what it means to be great is all a home run. I love this movie. Reevaluating what I wrote over a year ago in my rankings of the movies, I think I’d now move The Last Jedi above Return of the Jedi, and might even toss it above Force Awakens. I’m not positive, but that feels right to me. The rest I think I’d keep where I have them.

  • This week’s episode of The Mandalorian (Chapter 7) was the best yet. They’ve been setting up the world, introducing us to these characters, and now it all feels like it’s coming together. I’ve enjoyed every week of this show, but this episode felt like a turn into something even bigger, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

  • Welp, Watchmen, knocked it out of the park. I’m unsure if I’ve ever been so wowed by the first season of a television show. I am almost at a loss for how well they pulled this off. Easily one of the best shows I’ve watched in years and one I expect I’ll return to again in the near future to re-watch knowing everything I now do.

  • OK, now it’s time for my Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker thoughts. I’ve put them here at the end because I want to preface by saying I am going to include spoilers in my first impressions. If you do not want to be spoiled, just skip right over this section and come back after you’ve seen the movie. This is your warning.

    The movie as a whole is a giant spectacle of nostalgia and action. It barely has time to breathe as it clips along in sprinting fashion, edited in a way that almost immediately gave me whiplash. Do not slow down; do not stop explosions or exposition, ever. It ends up being a movie that is enjoyable on the surface alone if you don’t think about it too much, and all you’re looking for from Star Wars are the lasers and the superpowers. If you want to look beyond that, to the idea of good versus evil, to the role of legacy and legend, to teachers and students, to what it means to be a good person and live a good life, or to following a plot that makes a lick of sense and actually carries with it consequence of action … look elsewhere. In The Force Awakens we are asked to mine nostalgia in a way that opens up a new world, that introduces to us characters and action and a continued story, so I often look the other way when the flaws in the execution or similarities to A New Hope are pointed out. However, at the end of the trilogy I am no longer as titillated by just seeing things I liked in the past and letting the memory of the past be enough. I’m looking for actual stakes, a genuine statement, but instead, this film has no stakes, makes a statement I dislike, and has one of the dumbest big bad galaxy domination strategies ever. But it also has enough that I do like and moments that do elevate it to being at least entertaining. Those are the moments where I shut off the part of my brain that’s screaming. 

    I knew we were in trouble the moment the crawl began and we learn of a galaxy-wide collect call from the Emperor. The dead speaks! And we go from there through a caustically edited mishmash of Kylo action scenes to get the Emperor being back, he’s been behind everything the whole time, he was manipulating Snoke (don’t think about it too much). And then we’re off and running in a film that spent more time telling me what just happened, or was happening in the moment, or was about to happen than maybe any movie I’ve ever seen. Often with the characters running across the screen as this exposition occurred. But all of that aside, my biggest issue with the movie is that it never felt like it had actual stakes, gave me a version of a hero that feels antithetical to many of the lessons learned in Return of the Jedi, and replaced it with storytelling that rivaled every middle-school sleepover version of creating your own Star Wars fanfic. We all sat around making these up. And then what if this happens, and then what if that happens, and when this happens, and ohmygod it’d be so cool if they did this. I remember doing this, and we should all be thankful our adolescent brains weren’t given a few hundred million to go make a movie. 

    Let’s start with consequences. Rey is extremely powerful, and also seen to be impulsive. (Some callbacks to early Luke.) She is full of arrogance (and anger). (Another callback to early Luke.) With Luke, these traits become things he needs to learn to control, and when he doesn’t, very bad things happen. With Rey, her impulsiveness and arrogance gets Chewie (to her and the audience’s eyes) killed. This could have been a massive moment with real consequence and learning. But no, it barely lasts three minutes, no consequence, he’s fine, just go on. She doesn’t need to learn from that instead go run off and jump in the ocean next, it’ll be fine. Get angry. Fight with anger. The moment you can kill Kylo Ren, do it. Stab him. Are we supposed to ignore that this moment should be one that is textbook Darkside behavior? The lesson from Luke in ROTJ learned not? Consequence? Nah, heal him, you’re good, again: no worries, no stakes, no consequence. Time and time again the movie felt like it was telling me: Look, we can’t actually do anything here, it’s a billion-dollar franchise and we’re terrified people won’t be happy, so we’re just gonna feed you all the junk food you like, sorry, it has to be this way. Remember the character that the racist sexist trolls ran off the internet after the last movie? Don’t worry we’ll barely use her here. You know the big message from ROTJ? We’ll hint at it in the end after the Big Bad has given his speech, but we’re not quite sure what the rules on this will be. Palpatine wants Rey to kill him. Doing so in anger means she’ll be the Sith. OK. But billions are about to die. Still Sith. Can she calm herself and then save them? No. Still gonna be the Sith. What if we wait a while, people die, he shoots electricity at me and I fry his ass with all the Jedi in me? Sure, that’s cool, get him. Wait what? Is it because of sacrifice? What are the rules and circumstances to when we can murder a stormtrooper or Sith Lord and when we can’t, I’m confused. Don’t think about it, just watch the fireworks.

    And I’m just going to say: if you spent thirty years being the this master manipulator to build a giant fleet, pull all the strings, create thousands of little Death Stars, but put them all on one planet, can’t get them into space, and have them all be sorta controlled by one unprotected antenna or only one ship that can be destroyed and fuck your entire plan up, you’re a fucking idiot that deserves to stay dead this time. Too much of this movie relied on me having to turn my brain off. From the master plan that someone playing RISK for the first time would have thought out better, to the dagger lining up with the Death Star ruins to it also being the dagger that killed Rey’s parents, to wait slow down no quick yell a characters name emotionally again an explosion is about to happen. 

    And then there’s the whole Grandpa Palpatine thing. I’ve written so much about how I loved what The Last Jedi did because it decoupled greatness from genetics. It said you do not need to be born into this bloodline to be powerful, to be a legend, to be great in this world. You can make your own path and be great no matter who your parents were. That’s a powerful message, especially right now in a world of wealthy aristocrats passing down power and privilege while so many suffer. Deciding instead to go in the opposite direction and doubling down on a bloodline being one of the most important predictors of your power, kinda fucking sucked to see. It’s been written about better and in more depth than I can go into here and here, so I’ll just leave it there. That disappointed me as much as anything.

    I have always wondered what a movie that was built as a vehicle for pure fan service would look like, and it’s this. Story and consequence are second, giving everyone a dopamine hit of what they want to see is paramount. And on that level, it works. It’s a whole lot of fun to see characters I love doing stuff. Rey is a goddamn superhero, and it’s fucking awesome. There’s laughs. There’s jokes. There’s callbacks galore. It’s big, loud, and you get sad when Leia dies, and Chewie reacts. You feel for C3PO for the few minutes before the movie-of-no-consequences undoes his memory wipe. You get to see Han! There’s Bendemption! There’s new Force powers, and lightsabers, and clever new ways to combine all of it. There’s even a kiss! And with all of that, I’m sitting there in my X-Wing t-shirt as “Red Five” is right there on the screen, and I’m smiling and emotional! And the entire time, I know I’m being so much better manipulated than anything Grand Palpy could have ever come up with. And so I enjoy it despite its flaws. I see the strings, I see the massive story flaws, the ridiculous script problems, but I also realize it could have been so much worse. We get a moment at the end of Rey choosing to continue the legacy of Skywalker, and we, the audience, can blank out thinking about the utter destruction across the galaxy, the plot holes, and instead relish in hearing the voices of Jedi that have come before, living in Rey now, and be happy with the story we’ve been given. I’m frustrated and happy, managed expectations and content, have the need to rant, and the need to reminisce. It’s my least favorite of the new trilogy by a good margin, and yet I hope I can come to terms with choices made. My love for Rebels and The Mandalorian (and the books) show me there are so many stories in the Star Wars universe to tell, so many things to say, and I’ll always be there to watch in wonder. But I now know, for this fan, creating a film that feels like fan service incarnate is going to leave me feeling a little hollow. And I’ll think back on the final scene of The Last Jedi, a child looking to the sky, holding his broomstick and dreaming of his part in the story, legacy, and place in the fight, and would have traded all the big-whizz-bang-spectacle, for just a little more of that magic. 

    The final verdict from my first impressions? Least favorite of the new trilogy. Probably would rank it right below Rogue One at the moment. I expect it to be very popular with the masses, though. It’s literally everything they could want. I’m sure I’ll have a whole lot more to say the more I think about the film and dive into some of the reviews and podcasts from people I’m interested in hearing from. As always, my thoughts and impressions often change over time, so I reserve the right to change my mind as time passes. And, lastly, I think this piece by FilmCrit Hulk does a great job laying out a bunch of the story issues I have and says it better than I could.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • This week we finished writing and got all of our wedding thank you cards in the mail. It feels terrific to be able to cross that off the to-do list and, I think, that’s pretty much the final thing from the wedding project. I can’t believe it all happened and is over, and we did it. Sometimes it still feels surreal. Now we’re in full-on “wait for video and photos” mode, and I’m not being very patient.

  • Lots of family stuff planned for the next few days. I’m going to need a vacation from this holiday vacation.

Ten Songs

Here are ten songs that I listened to and loved this week. Some may be new, some may be old, but they all found their way into my life during the past seven days.

  1. Mutemath - Pixie Oaks

  2. Harry Styles - Watermelon Sugar

  3. Tiger Army - Valentina

  4. Now, Now - Knowme

  5. Olivver the Kid - This Guitar’s Gonna Kill Me

  6. All Time Low - Sick Little Games

  7. Boygenius - Stay Down

  8. Ruston Kelly - All Too Well

  9. The Maine - 12.25

  10. Relient K - In Like a Lion (Always Winter)

This playlist is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Community Watch

The trending and popular threads in our community this week include:

The most liked post in our forums last week was this one by Fucking Dustin in the “My Chemical Romance” thread.

May the force be with you.

Thank you for subscribing to the Liner Notes email newsletter. If you’re not a supporting member, please consider becoming one. For just $3 a month or $25 a year, you can help keep this newsletter, website, and community running. It’s only because of the support of members like you that we can continue to exist. If you like the newsletter, please feel free to tell others about it, share portions on social media, or forward it along.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

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