Liner Notes (August 16th, 2019)

This was a fun one.

In this week’s newsletter, I offer first impressions on new albums from The Early November, Somos, Grayscale, and Refused. There are also some comments on a bunch of other music, my weekly media diet rundown, and the usual random other thoughts. And, we close out with a playlist of ten songs I loved this week. (If Somos were out on streaming services right now, I’d probably have led with “Iron Heel.”) This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Five Things

  • This week I added and buttons to our merch shop. We’ve got two sizes in various designs: Full Color Black Logo on White White Logo on Black Logo on Black Logo on White Button. I’m glad to finally have these up in the shop, since I’ve always liked how they looked (my backpack was covered with band versions back in college). I made white buttons years ago, but they were such a pain to get printed and shipped. I still have one that I turned into a magnet and have on my fridge.

  • A few members of the website are putting together a special Supporters Fantasy Football league together, and I promised them I’d link to it in this week’s newsletter. If you’re a supporting member and interested in joining, you can find all the information here.

  • I discovered a simple way to find a bunch of 5K wallpapers via Unsplash (a great stock image website) this week, and figured others might be interested. I have my desktop rotate between something like 40 different photos throughout the day, and I like to keep adding to the collection to keep things interesting.

  • Quick update on my August goal of increasing supporters on the website: we’re now 70 supporters away from hitting my goal. Thank you to everyone that has signed up! It means more to me than I can put into words.

  • Just wanted to quickly say that I am sorry for any typos that appear in this newsletter. I spend a lot of time editing it before it goes out, but it’s reached a length that something almost always inevitably slips through. It’s not the worst thing when it’s something published on the web, and I can go in and edit it. However, it drives me specifically bonkers when it’s an email that I’ve sent out, and I can’t edit it. Even when it’s something small like not italicizing an album title.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • The heartbreaking news that Somos’ guitarist Phil Haggerty passed away this week brings a solemn mood to each listen of the band’s new album, Prison on a Hill. It makes my heart heavy to think that Phil won’t ever get to hear the praise this album is sure to receive. Because this album is their best by a country mile. The band combines some of the 90’s emo sound with an almost new wave touch, all mixed with pop-punk melodies and harmonies. It crafts a real gem of an album. Almost like a catchy Joy Division mixed with The Get Up Kids. It’s an utterly infectious release that has dominated my listening this week. It’s full of songs that feel like instant classics and are sure to work their way into the heads of new and old fans alike. It’s a damn good album that reminds me of the first time I heard Transit’s Listen & Forgive and immediately knew they’d tapped into something special. It’s available right now on Bandcamp for only $5, and it’ll probably be the best five bucks you spend all week. This gets my full recommendation.

  • Grayscale’s upcoming release, Nella Vita, feels like a band mixing a variety of popular sounds and it working more often than not. There’s the obvious 1975 influence, but I also hear The Starting Line, The Maine, and even a little Yellowcard at times (specifically on “Asbury”). Some of the lyrics make my forehead crinkle, but the sound itself gives me an older pop-punk vibe with a currently popular synth Instagram-filter on top. The melodies and choruses are strong. With the album coming out in early September, this feels something you’ll spin hoping to trick your brain into thinking you have one or two extra weeks of summer. I’m not sure if it’ll have much-staying power, but I’m more interested in what these guys are doing after hearing this than I ever was before. Every now and again, a band shows up, and I think, “yeah, this woulda been something Drive-Thru Records signed back in the day.” This feels very much like one of those albums.

  • While on the subject of Drive Thru Records, I’ve spun Lilac from The Early November once so far. It opens with one of my favorite songs from the band in a long time (“Perfect Sphere (Bubble)”). It’s got this lush sound with a great rhythm section. A real groove. The songs that lean into that sound I really like, a few of the ones that move more toward a straight forward rock sound don’t quite do it for me. “Ave Maria” sounds like a surefire fan favorite and “Make My Bed” feels like classic Early November. I hope to spin this a few more times and have lengthier thoughts in the near future.

  • I feel like a 160 kbps stream is the wrong way to experience a new Refused album. The sound lacks the crystal punch a higher bitrate would give. However, that’s all I have, so that’s what I’m going with. My first impression is way more positive than my first spin of Freedom, but it didn’t quite knock me on my ass with the intensity of their most famous work. That said, I’ve had a little more time to get used to these guys being back and the kind of sound they’re playing around with these days. I was a little taken back by how catchy these songs felt on first listen. I found my foot tapping and head nodding along. Lyrically, I’ll need some more time to pick out everything because it’s a fine line to walk with self-proclaimed songs of rebellion. There’s more experimentation in the songs this time, which I appreciate. Early favorites included “Rev001” and “Death in Vännäs.” This is an album I’ll need a few more spins of (and please god in a higher quality) before I’ll know for sure how I feel about it. Some of it bleeds together on first listen, some feels a little too cliché post-rock with a touch of metal, and yet most of it just makes me want to run through a fucking wall. ’Cause I’ve still got a bone to pick with capitalism (and a few to break). Ugly mosh pit dance.

  • Marika Hackman’s new album, Any Human Friend, ebbs and flows with a pulsating rhythm and stark songwriting honesty. It’s an album where multiple times I’d pause a song to read over the lyrics and take-in the verse I just heard. I’d recommend this to fans of Lucy Dacus and Laura Marling.

  • I’m still getting a lot of milage out of Bon Iver’s i,i, Strung Out’s latest, and Clairo’s Immunity won’t be leaving my rotation any time soon. I enjoyed my listen of Tyler Childer’s latest album, Country Squire, but I feel like I need to be in a specific mood to reach for that one again.

  • Frank Turner’s new album, No Man’s Land, is out today, but I can’t recommend it as I haven’t returned to it since my first listen. Craig Manning described it “like homework” and that’s just about right.

  • Colleen Green’s Blink–182 cover album got a nice write-up over at The Ringer and, as I wrote about last week, I find these reinterpretations fascinating.

  • Oso Oso’s new album, Basking in the Glow, is out today. I wrote about this album a month or so ago, but now that it’s available on streaming services, everyone should go check it out. I think it’s one of those albums a whole lot of people will enjoy. Mia Hughes wrote a review of the album for our website, Ian Cohen wrote about it over at Pitchfork (where it got the coveted Best New Music tag), and it’s deserving of all the praise.

  • I plan to give the new Red Hearse album a listen when I’m done here. I like virtually everything Jack Antonoff’s ever been associated with, so I expect to enjoy this as well.

  • I like the new PVRIS song and the direction they’re taking these songs. I said it with the last one, but they feel poised for a break out album.

  • Every listen I take of Noah Gundersen’s new album leads me closer to calling it his masterpiece. I’m not quite there yet, but … I’m inching closer and closer. He released the third song from it today.

  • The new Taylor Swift song “Lover” seems to have received the most universal praise I’ve seen from her new songs so far. I think I agree with conventional wisdom; this is my favorite so far.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • Brightburn might have been an interesting mini-series or TV show, but as a movie, it didn’t work. I didn’t care about creepy-bad-Superman at all. I think for a story like this, you need to care about the characters and the journey. Or at the very least, explore the “what went wrong.” (I think Looper handles this well.) A super-powered-being going around murdering people isn’t a movie, it’s a thing you talk about around the campfire with old friends. This needed a whole lot more work in the script stage.

  • We re-watched Thor: Ragnorok, and it’s easily the best Thor movie and one of the best MCU movies. A perfect mix of action and humor.

  • We re-watched (and for me I must be on at least my fifth viewing), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this week as well. It’s solidified itself as my favorite Spider-Man movie ever, in my top three super-hero films, and it’s climbing my favorite movies of all time list as well. I love this film and everything about it. Each re-watch has me once again falling in love with the story, the characters, and the animation.

  • If My Blind Brother was a random Netflix Original movie we stumbled upon, I would have been pleasantly surprised. I like all the actors involved, and it was an utterly passable comedy mixed with some family drama. Oh, and when Adam Scott wants to act like a complete dick, he’s one of the best there is.

  • We’re finally finishing up VEEP. We’re on episode four of the final season, and I was laughing my ass off last night at some of the stuff they get Jonah to say on this show. They’re in the middle of the primary election right now and, uh, some of it’s way to close to reality. Still extremely dark and funny though.

  • Godzilla: King of Monsters was a collection of cool scenes held together by weak ass Scotch Tape. The central premise was full of holes, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to feel for the human characters, but at least the monsters looked cool I guess. I don’t think I’d watch this again.

  • I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t love the John Wick 3 movies as much as everyone else seems to. I get death fatigue and end up feeling like I’m just watching the same thing over and over again. This movie felt like one giant trailer for the next movie in the same way sometimes Marvel spends too much time setting up their universe instead of just focusing on making a good singular movie. There were some great action scenes, and some cool fight scenes, but others went on way too long. There were also moments where the fights felt way too choreographed, and the actors didn’t feel fluid in them. (I set the high water mark with movies like The Raid, or the fluidity of Donnie Yen in Ip Man.) One fun little factoid: One of the characters in this movie is portrayed by Mark Dacascos. Mark is the son of Al Dacascos, who was the teacher of my martial arts instructor when I was younger. Seeing that made me want to break-out a heavy bag and throw some punches. Anyway, I’ll keep watching these movies, and I do enjoy them for the most part, but I don’t hold them in the same high regard as I feel like most people do.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • We’re starting to get wedding RSVP cards back in the mail! And that’s pretty exciting. We’re finalizing our florist this weekend, and on Sunday we’ll be celebrating the first anniversary of our engagement. Feels like we have exactly one time to celebrate that date, so I think we’re planning to get some pizza and beer.

  • I guess there’s some shitty Alt-Right march or something downtown this weekend and it’s usually counter-protested by Anti-Fascists. So, we’ll be staying far away from that part of the city this weekend. I’d love for these neo-Nazi assholes to just stop being a thing in 2019.

  • Long-time community member BTDandFeelingThis’s precious cat needed to be put down this week, and I just wanted to say RIP to Demon the kitty. Our two cats are hanging out next to me as I type this, so I know how important little fur friends can be in one’s life. RIP.

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. (If Somos were out on streaming services right now, I’d probably have led with “Iron Heel.”)

  1. Oso Oso - Dig

  2. PVRIS - Hallucinations

  3. Press Club - Dead or Dying

  4. Clairo - Closer to You

  5. Noah Gundersen - Lose You

  6. Grayscale - Old Friends

  7. Strung Out - Hammer Down

  8. Tyler Childers - House Fire

  9. Off With Their Heads - No Love

  10. Shura - Side Effects

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 “Accountability in Music” thread.

I am patting myself on the back for once again having the most liked post of the week. I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.