This week’s newsletter has my first thoughts on the upcoming album from Blink–182. I also have some opinions on other new music released recently, including MUNA, Fall Out Boy, Green Day, and Charli XCX. I also have a few brief thoughts on preparing for trips, a couple of thoughts on the Apple event, and I go through my usual media diet rundown from the week. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.
We went to a friend’s wedding last weekend out in wine country and it was the first time I’ve packed using packing cubes. There was a sale for the GoRuck cubes last year some time, and I grabbed two of them for like $40 (I wouldn’t recommend them at their ridiculous regular price). However, we haven’t traveled since I bought them, so I hadn’t used them. After using them this weekend, I must say: I’m a packing cube fan. They kept everything nice and organized in my suitcase and kept my clothes from getting all over the place. Wirecutter has an article on the cubes they recommend if you’re looking to grab some, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to pack for a trip again without them.
One other trip recommendation I have is to create three sets of templates in your task manager that you can duplicate whenever you go on a trip. The first is a basic packing list of everything you usually need to pack. Check off the items as you pack them, and then if you ever find you forgot something while on a trip, add that item to the template so you’ll never forget it again. The second is a “before leaving” template checklist for things you need to do before leaving (take out the trash, clean out the fridge, turn off appliances, schedule lights to turn on). When you schedule your trip, duplicate the templates and schedule them to show up the day before you leave (or whenever you prefer to begin packing). The last template is a “when you return” list of things you’d like to do when you get home. I like to give myself a day to recover and catch up on things, like insane amounts of emails and tasks, the day I get back, but there are also little things I need to remember to do after being gone for a few days (check mail, give the cats clean water, unpack). I schedule this to appear in my task manager the day I return home from a trip, and that way I know I won’t forget anything important or throw my suitcase in the corner and not unpack for a week. Having these easy to duplicate templates in a task manager makes sure you aren’t recreating from memory the same lists each time.
I watched the Apple iPhone event this week and woke up super early to pre-order a new iPhone 11 Pro this morning. Because I’m boring and predictable, I went with space grey and a black Apple leather case again. My main reason for upgrading now is that I want the better camera for the wedding in November. Getting a nice trade-in for my previous phone helped with the cost, but I usually upgrade my phone every two years, and these camera improvements pushed me over the edge. The ATP podcast did an excellent job going through the event, and John Gruber’s thoughts echo mine pretty closely.
In Case You Missed It
Chris Vuoncino has released the new book, Who Will Survive, inspired by the music of Murder by Death. The story of Jack, the Devil, and the small town that is forced to face their demons is now available for purchase in paperback and for the Kindle via Amazon.
There’s a little melody line in the new Blink–182 song, “Hungover You,” that goes, “It was just one time, one time, started turning into two times, a few times …” that may be my favorite musical moment in a Blink–182 song in years. It’s so deceptively simple, and delivered so perfectly, that it has become the defining moment for me in Blink–182’s new album NINE.
This album is full of little moments, little gems, that I keep discovering, and it’s these little moments that add up and collectively make this album work so well. I enjoyed the band’s previous album, California, for what it was. However, I always felt like California was a band trying to figure out what they wanted to be and what they wanted to sound like. They had just gone through a pretty significant line-up change, and I assume there was trepidation and concern over just how well they could pull off an album and how fans would receive it. It ended up being an updated version of the band’s safe spots, the things Mark and Travis have done for years and seem to be able to crank out at almost a moment’s notice. New member, Matt Skiba, was more restrained, still obviously finding his place in the band. NINE feels like a more confident group that has written a fuck-ton more songs together over the past few years and that time together, and more confidence in each other, shows.
There’s very little here I think I’ll end up skipping. It feels cohesive, fully realized, and pretty sneakily well sequenced. The back half shines for me, right after “Generational Divide” I like or love virtually every song and love how they all work together. I didn’t overplay the first singles, and that first stretch is really solid, but I’m drawn to so many little things the band played within the back half of the album. “Black Rain” sounds like the combination of Blink–182 and Crimson era Alkaline Trio that I’ve been dying to hear. “Pin the Grenade” has probably the catchiest chorus the band’s written in almost 15 years. “On Some Emo Shit” is everything I didn’t know I needed in a Blink–182 song in 2019. (“Ransom” is the one song that doesn’t quite fit for me, even if I like the drum work.)
Here we are in 2019, and I’m not only excited about a new Blink–182 album, but I’m also downright impressed. This album feels fresh, creative in places, and bold. It’s not asking you to remember why you liked Blink–182 in high-school, it’s telling you to come meet them on their level, here, in the present. I like the diversity in sound, and that the album feels distinctly Blink–182 but with a new bag of tricks. Whereas with California it felt like there were times the band would resort to a writing style, technique, melody, or cliche they’d used before, this album shies away from that and forces the listener to become reacquainted with the band and what this iteration is capable of.
The Matt/Mark combo is used so much better in these songs. There’s a distinct and healthy usage of both vocalists, but whether it’s complimenting, countering, or supporting the other, it feels natural and well thought out. There are moments where Matt will sing a different backing melody before having it come back in to match up with Mark, and it feels so more like a group, with intertwined parts, versus “you go, now I go.”
I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised that I like this album as much as I do, but I think I’m surprised by how much I believe other people are going to like it. I enjoyed all the singles released, but the online reaction, from my reading of it, felt overly negative. However, I think it’s going to be hard for fans of the band to deny this record. It’s a record that makes me actively excited about the band and their potential going forward, and it’s a collection of songs that fully realize the unique talents of all three members. I can quibble about a few lyrical moments that don’t quite work for me, and maybe in time I’ll find other complaints, but right now, I can’t get these damn songs out of my head. Well done, Blink.
The only other thought I have at the moment is that I hope there’s someone out there that finds this album when they need it most and it helps them through a dark period. I believe in the healing power of music, and it was finding this band at just the right moment that changed the entire trajectory of my life. While listening to this album tonight I’m thinking about how I think this band still has that kind of potential, and this album could be that kind of album to someone new. We live in a pretty twisted world, and the musical landscape is so different than when I was a teenager, but I think there are a universality and timelessness to music like this. Yes, I’m making the argument that pop-punk music has a timelessness to it, and yes, I realize that’s probably not commonly thought. But there’s something to a catchy song, with a little bit of an edge, but not too much!, that tells you that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. That others have gone through the same sadness or heartbreak and you, too, can make it through. Blink–182 have always represented a spotlight on those feelings while also offering an escape between headphones. Have fun? Sing along? Why, yes, I think I will.
I put on MUNA’s new album, Saves the World, for our road-trip to a friend’s wedding last weekend and it makes for a great driving record. It’s a nice blend of bob-the-head catchy and emotionally heavy. Songs like “Stayaway” and “Pink Light” were early favorites, and the closer, “It’s Gonna be Okay, Baby” is something special. There have been a few albums this year that have made me want to dance around my condo, and a few that have made me choke-up to the verge of tears, but this hits both reactions in the span of 45 minutes.
That other album at the top of this list took up a lot of my time this week, but I did have time to listen to The Menzingers a couple more times, and I think more than anything it’s just solidified what I wrote about last week. It’s an excellent, mid-career album.
I’ve only had time to listen to the new Charli XCX album, Charli, once this morning while posting news on the website, but I enjoyed it. It felt a little more cohesive as an album than her previous to me, but I’m not sure if it has the same highs. She’s one of the best making interesting pop music these days. I’m looking forward to giving it another listen later today.
Fall Out Boy released the new song “Dear Future Self (Hands Up)” and I get a little bit of a “Uma Thurman” vibe from the music; however, it does have that mid-cycle b-side sort of feel to it. The chorus lyrics are a little silly, but not distractingly so. I’ve had that little melody stuck in my head most of the day. I see that they’ve now completed their contract with Island Records, and I hope this band keeps releasing music for years to come. I am always interested to hear what Patrick and the rest of the band can come up with and their spin on the current sounds in pop-music. Their transition and continued relevance has been fascinating to watch. I think they have been getting better with age; I adored MANIA.
Green Day released their new song “Father of All Mother Fuckers” this week and I don’t like it at all. I’ve followed Green Day for over 20 years and if you put this song on for me, didn’t tell me the artist name, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you it’s them. It sounds like a mediocre Black Keys song that’s somehow made worse by their ridiculous Instagram post announcing the new album. There’s a pretty obvious Butch Walker influence here, and there are very few people that love Butch as much as I do, but this just isn’t doing it for me.
Weezer released their new song “The End of the Game,” and it was co-written with Tim Pagnotta. He’s had his hands all over all kinds of stuff lately. It’s a nice little Weezer song. This band seems to be throwing out material at a record clip these days, and it’s been very hit or miss for me, with none of their recent albums grabbing me as a whole. Of course, I’m also this guy, so take my Weezer takes with a grain of salt.
I thought this Billboard profile of the three bands and how they ended up touring together was pretty interesting. Basically, Green Day wanted to play stadiums again, and they all share the same management company. This seems like it’ll be an entertaining show, the kind that almost anyone could have a blast at. Unfortunately, it’s not coming to Oregon.
Tiger Army’s new album, Retrofuture, is out today. I’ve written quite a bit about it in past newsletters, but if you’re looking for a great ’60s throwback sound mixed with some rockabilly punk, this is absolutely worth a listen.
The Faim’s new album, State of Mind, was also released today. This is for music fans looking for something in the vein of Fall Out Boy or Panic! at the Disco. It’s highlighted by the honey-soaked vocals, but it’s quite catchy, and there are a few sleeper hits in there. You’ll know pretty soon after the opener, “Tongue Tied,” gets going if it’s your kind of thing or not.
I’ve got the new Tegan and Sara and Sturgill Simpson albums here to listen to next, and I hope to give them a listen throughout the next week. And I know I promised Third Eye Blind thoughts soon, but I haven’t spun the album yet! Hopefully I’ll get to that next week as well, and there won’t be a massively anticipated album to write about.
I didn’t have time to check out the new album from Microwave yet, but I’ve seen some nice buzz about the album around the forums, so I’ll probably try and find a time to give that a listen soon.
Blinded by the Light tells the story of a young man discovering Bruce Springsteen for the first time and how that changes his life. It’s a relatable story, and I felt genuinely moved at times. It’s a feel-good movie that never really goes beyond. I didn’t love some of the directorial choices (like overlaying Bruce lyrics on the screen), but it was an enjoyable watch about a subject I think almost anyone reading this newsletter could relate with.
Late Night felt like a slightly heightened made for TV movie, but a pretty good made for TV movie. There’s some good jokes, Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson are good in the film, but the movie never really gave me a reason to like Emma Thompson’s character at all. I think I’m biased because I absolutely love the “boss” character in Bold Type, and the portrayal of a driven, hard but fair, female boss character that actually cares and mentors those under her I find more compelling then the “asshole boss” cliche I’ve seen so many times.
I don’t understand why the live version of Aladdin exists. The movie itself was a walk through nostalgia land, but not in a way that made me feel anything other than trying to figure out how the movie justified its making or existence. I think remakes and live-action versions of films can be really good and have a reason for existing outside of their cartoon counterpart; however, this never seemed to do anything to reach that level. It lacked personality and charm.
Yesterday ’s premise was interesting, but the execution didn’t quite work out. I don’t understand the hatred I’ve seen from some about the movie because it felt just fine. The best part is the songs and trying to see how the movie works with its “no one remembers The Beatles” premise. I’m willing to give sci-fi a lot of leeway in explaining their rules and how things work, and this just hand-waved it away. Not a bad movie to see, but nothing essential.
The first episode of the second season of Titans felt a little disjointed. Apparently, it was supposed to be the final episode of the first season, but they decided to end on a cliffhanger instead. It felt a little weird because it made the entire storyline feel like it got wrapped up way too quickly and I would have preferred them to have started the new season with the last third of this episode. All the setup now for the rest of this season looks great. Only other complaint: I don’t buy Iain Glena as Bruce Wayne at all. The accent? The age? The acting? None of it worked. Which is weird because the casting for virtually every other character so far has been great. This is one of the only shows I watch week to week, so I’m looking forward to the new episode tonight.
Random and Personal Stuff
We met with our florist this week and have flowers and decorations pretty much all finalized. At this point, we’re pretty close to having all of the central planning for the wedding complete. I’ll need to finalize our “day of” document, do some cleaning up of the ceremony wording, and I have to finish writing my vows, but I’m feeling pretty good about where we are in the planning process a little under two months out from the big date. This weekend we’re going to look at rings for me. I’m not sure what I want to go with quite yet, but I’ve been looking at a billion options online, so all of my internet ads are now bespoke men rings. And no, I don’t need a tiger print on the inside of my wedding ring.
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.
MUNA - Stayaway
Fall Out Boy - Dear Future Self (Hands Up)
Shedders - Suburban Base
Charli XCX - Gone
Tiger Army - Valentina
This Wild Life - You Changed Everything
Weezer - The End of the Game
Shura - Princess Leia
Perfume Genius - Slip Away
MUNA - It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby
The trending and popular threads in our community this week include:
The most liked post this week was someone offering to share leaked music to anyone that “liked” their post. I find that pretty annoying and don’t want to promote that kind of thing in my newsletter, so I’m not including it this week. I hope everyone has a beautiful weekend.
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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.