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.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.