Liner Notes (January 31st, 2020)

Wherefore Art Though, Elvis?

This week’s newsletter has my first impressions of the new album from Brian Fallon, the results of trying some new apps and rearranging my home screen, and my regular media diet rundown. Plus, there’s a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Last week I wrote about how listening to an episode of the Cortex podcast introduced me to the app FitBod and how I had started using it during my workouts and found it revelatory. I also posted a link to Federico Viticci’s fantastic round-up of his favorite apps in 2019. All of this happening at once had my stupid brain just itching to do an audit of all of my most used apps and to see if there was anything else I wanted to try out in my workflow and day-to-day life. After a week of playing around with things, here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • FitBod remains my favorite new app find. I have enjoyed working out because of this app. It turned something I would do, but while constantly checking my watch to know when my thirty minutes were finished, into something I’m now actively planning to be an hour-long portion of my day. I no longer wait for the notification that says I got my move and exercise goal and then head home; instead, I feel like there’s far more intentionality in each workout.

  • After re-reviewing all of the calorie-tracking apps on the market, I’ve changed from MyFitnessPal to MyNetDiary. MyFitnessPal was an app that helped re-shape and change my life. Looking at what I was eating helped make me healthier, and I credit it with the biggest health increase in my life. However, despite that, there were parts of the app that drove me insane. I hated the inflexibility of it, hated the lack of dark mode, hated there being no Siri Shortcut support, and I always felt like I was fighting against the app to do what I wanted and to get the information into, and out of it, that was important to me. It worked great when I was just starting this journey because of its massive database and the ability to share foods and goals back and forth with Hannah, but as I’ve learned how I want to track what I eat, and learned what I eat the most, I needed something better customized to me. And for me, as someone that works from home and eats a lot of the same meals regularly, I was dying to automate some of this process. MyNetDiary having a clean, modern, dark mode ready, extremely customizable dashboard interface, coupled with Siri Shortcut support, ended up being why I picked it. Now, I can have a shortcut on my iPhone that gives me a list of Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks, and tapping one of the options takes me right to the page to log a food item. Also, in that menu are very common meals that can be automatically logged without ever opening the app. For example, I have the same coffee every single morning. Now, with one tap, I can log my coffee, log the caffeine content in the Health app, and it only took one tap of a list item. I’m unsure if this app would have been as great to start this journey with, but it’s exactly what I need now that I know what I want out of an app like this and have my entire process down. The food database isn’t as large, but it’s passable, and I rarely have to go searching other sources for the information. And I was able to add the custom foods I eat most into it for easy entry. The widget is flawed, but that’s not a deal-breaker. The customizable dashboard interface more than makes up for it.

  • After looking spending more time than I want to admit playing around with Raindrop.io, I’ve decided to move to it as my bookmarking tool of choice. What it came down to for me was wanting great iOS apps for storing and searching my bookmarks, better organization, and an archival feature for each bookmark I store. After a few days of organizing, I’m pleased with the outcome. Being able to create a collection called “Honeymoon” where I can start saving links for places we may want to take our, duh, honeymoon, helps me keep track of where I put what in a nice organized fashion instead of relying only on tags and outdated Pinboard apps. I added a Mac icon into my Github collection of various app icons. And after some fiddling around with things, I got everything to pretty much work with Alfred so I can easily search all of my bookmarks and find what I’m looking for from my Mac. Hopefully, the app will have an API I can use shortly to get around the hacky way I’m doing this. At that point, I’ll build a proper workflow for it, but at the moment, this has worked for me. Being able to have a nice place for all my bookmarks on iOS has been something I’ve been craving for a long time. When we were trying to decide where we wanted to go out to eat earlier this week, being able to just pull up my menu collection of various restaurants around us was worth all the time it took to organize my 500+ bookmarks into new collections. Fingers crossed this sticks around.

  • Fantastical released a new version of their app this week (great review here) and even with a move to a subscription model, this is still the calendar app for me. I’ve fallen in love with their calendar sets and being able to quickly at a glance see my calendar, or just Hannah’s calendars, or our calendars combined, or just my set of all the sports teams games I follow, is a killer feature for me and one worth paying for. Plus, I use the keyboard shortcut to show my calendar from the menu bar probably hundreds of times a week. I am getting a little subscription fatigue (I know the irony given that I run a business built virtually entirely on subscriptions), but this is one of the apps I don’t think I could do without and don’t see many replacements that check all the boxes I need.

  • Of course, these app changes led to me deciding to re-think my home screens. I started by knowing I wanted my main screen to remain simple, with most of the apps in the same places to help with muscle memory. But I also wanted to add things I use more often (food logging) and remove things I use far more sparingly these days (Slack). After lots of iterations, here’s my new homescreen, and here’s the second screen. The priority is on keeping the things I use the most often the most accessible. The new row on my home screen of four shortcuts allows me to quickly log food, log water, access and quickly turn on various settings, and I’ve written before about the custom “Hannah shortcut” of quick actions to message, call, send my ETA, and find out when she’s on her way home. It’s taken a little getting used to, but so far, I’m pretty happy with the outcome, and it’s far more efficient for how I use my phone each day. The second screen is built around various folders and then the other apps that get used often, but not as much as everything on the first screen. (The wallpaper is a custom waveform of Jimmy Eat World’s “Night Drive” that I made using this website.) This also led to me re-doing my iPad home screen, and at the moment, it looks like this. All in all, this process felt good, and maybe it’s just my desire to find optimizations and efficiencies in my life when the world feels most chaotic, but it did the trick. Now I just need a few months to re-train my brain to remember where that Twitter app is on my phone. Or maybe it’s better that I don’t.

So those are my significant changes. My main takeaway is just how much I love Shortcuts and what they add to my life in terms of making little things just a tad easier. Maybe it’s silly, but I find it rewarding and fun. There will always be a part of me that likes solving little ‘problems’ like this through technology. It’s what first drew me to computers all those years ago, and I still get a rush from playing with a new great app or discovering a fresh new way to do something. As I get older, those things I’m doing are way less cool, but they’re still just as interesting to me.

Two Things

Sponsor

Following 13 years of playing guitar, bass, and drums for assorted pop, rock, punk, and hardcore bands, Chase Tremaine released his debut solo album, Unfall, on January 24th. The album is streaming everywhere now (and also available on CD, following a successful Kickstarter thanks in part to Chorus.fm users), featuring ten songs of emo lyrics, math-rock guitar riffs, boy band harmonies, and indie-pop textures. 

Working with producer Empty Isles (Tooth & Nail Records), Chase sought after the balance of emo-pop and modern rock perfected by artists like Jimmy Eat World, Paramore, and The Academy Is…, resulting in tracks ranging from the Copeland-like “Worth the Wait” to the Thrice-influenced new single “Honest Tree.” With hopes that this album will not just spotlight himself but also contribute to the growth of his local emo/pop-punk scene, Chase would love to hear from fellow lovers and makers of modern emo music. Email music@chasetremaine.com to discuss collaborating, writing about your music on his website, or purchasing a physical copy of Unfall.

Listen to the album now on all streaming platforms.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been over a decade that I’ve been listening to Brian Fallon music. I’ve watched his career and growth as a songwriter with intense passion and would consider him one of my top five favorite songwriters living today. He’s written some of my favorite albums of all time, even as my tastes have drifted away from rock music. His new album, Local Honey, is due out on March 27th, and I’ve spent the entire week listening to it. My first impression is that it’s almost a spiritual successor, or sibling, to his work with The Horrible Crowes. It’s a slow, moody, album that showcases a different side of his songwriting talents while still feeling decidedly Brian Fallon. It clocks in at eight songs and just a tad over a half an hour, but it uses its time well to deliver songs of love, pain, parenthood, and life in the here and now. I felt an immediate taking to the songs during my first late-night play, but it has been through the week, as these songs have spent more time around me, that I’ve fallen in love with them.

    The album opens with “When You’re Ready,” and it’s immediately apparent that this is going to be an album unlike Brian’s previous two solo outings. It’s slower. It’s more about the songs opening up, and there’s a real Americana storytellers vibe running throughout. This song about parenthood and hoping your child finds a love “half as much” as a parent’s love seems like it’ll resonate with a bunch of mid-thirty former punks as they move further into adulthood. It’s touching and a good introduction to the album’s mood. “21 Days” is an early favorite of mine, and it harkens back to The Horrible Crowes with its vocal layering and somber tone. “Vincent” opens with one of my favorite lines from the album, “My name is Jolene, but I hate that song. Baptized in a river when I was young/and Jesus forgives me for all of my sins/except maybe that one when we were kids.” And the story weaved here feels like what Frank Turner wanted to do on his last album, but Brian actually pulls off. Elsewhere we have “I Don’t Mind (If I’m With You),” a ballad about returning to love even in times of rejection or misunderstanding. And “Hard Feelings” gives me strong Tom Petty vibes. The closer, which I did well not to overplay, is about as strong of a pure love song as you can do.

    The album as a whole has this throwback timelessness to it that Brian Fallon at his best always does. It’s more laid back, sitting on the front porch as the sun goes down kind of music, compared to driving down the highway with the windows down. Yet it plays in that same space of purpose. There’s something comforting to these songs. They’re never trying to do too much, never trying to get outside of themselves. To me, these songs feel like snapshots of life, being in love, and yet still searching for one’s place in the world. It’s an album that feels very present in the now. In recording life as he sees it today and putting it down for posterity. In some ways, these songs remind me of early Sunday mornings reading the comics page while my dad had on a Van Morrison or John Denver album. 

    Brian Fallon has been one of my favorite songwriters since I first heard The ’59 Sound. I’m continually enthralled by his lyrics, his choices, and his musical journey. Local Honey is an album that sounds distinctly unlike his past two solo albums while also sounding precisely like Brian Fallon at the same time. In a world that keeps asking me to speed up. To get news faster. To make decisions quicker. To do this, go here, finish that. I’m comforted in music that lets me slow down. I’m wrapped in the warmth of the music that allows me breathe. And I’m grateful for the songs that let me reflect on my own life while being reminded to stay present in it. This is great; it’s exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

  • I didn’t expect Hayley Williams to release another new song so soon after the first, but maybe she’s making up for all the garbage going on elsewhere in the world. The song is a little more subdued. I like the string arrangements (and props for using real strings and musicians) and the bass work on this one. It’s got a really nice vibe and points to an album that’s going to have a very distinct mood. The accompanying video and aesthetic for the album so far is also really piquing my interest. I didn’t connect to this song as strongly as I did the first, but damn, those are some powerfully strong lyrics. I’ve been thinking about that line in the second verse, “You don’t remember my name somedays, or that we’re related. It triggers my worry, who else am I gonna lose before I am ready?” quite a bit since I heard it.

  • There were a whole bunch of responses about that Meet Me @ the Altar EP I recommended last week. I’ve written about a lot of bands over my career. A lot a lot. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen such a positive and genuinely excited reaction to a band I’ve shared. I even got a text message from Thomas Nassiff about it. It brought me back to the early days of AbsolutePunk and finding a pop-punk band that I loved, and writing about them, and seeing comments start to come in. Anyway, yeah, that EP is great, you should check it out, there’s something special here.

  • I’m really into these new Dua Lipa songs. That new song “Physical” is excellent. This is shaping up to be one helluva pop release.

  • Next up to listen to today will be the new Nathan Gray album, the new Dropkick Murphy’s song, and I’ll probably give the new Kesha album a spin as well.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • I enjoyed the Fortune Feimster: Sweet & Salty comedy special on Netflix. It’s funny and just the right length.

  • We’ve decided to re-start Mr. Robot. We never watched season three, even though we loved the first two seasons. I think we just never quite felt in the right mood for it. However, we’ve now watched the first two episodes and only needed to head to Wikipedia a few times to remember just what the hell was going on. Still a great show, and I’m immediately back in on this.

  • I enjoyed the first episode of Star Trek: Picard. It was entertaining, fun, and I’m immediately in on the characters. I know a lot of Star Trek fans that haven’t liked the two new series, but I’ve enjoyed the hell out of both seasons of Discovery, and I like this so far as well. Maybe I’m a bad Trek fan or something, but I view these through the same lens as The Mandalorian: does it make me happy to watch? And the answer is yes.

  • We finished The Morning Show. It was fine. It’s not great; it’s not horrible, it’s fine. I have no idea where they’re going to take it next year, but I hope it finds its footing a little more and decides what it wants to be.

  • The Outsider is still good, still creepy, still doing the book justice so far.

  • We made it one and a half episodes into Lost in Space before turning it off. Danger! Danger! Bad show is bad. We watched a few episodes of Medical Police and enjoyed them. Now that The Good Place has finished we’re planning to binge-watch all of those next week, and finally, we watched the first three episodes of Spinning Out, and while I wouldn’t say this is a good show, it has been entertaining.

  • I’m about 40% of the way through The Stand now. It’s still good. It’s still long. I’m still not sure how I feel about most of the characters. But I am enjoying it and have been enjoying sitting down to get lost in that world for a few hours each night.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • Hannah is heading to the coast with her parents to celebrate her Grandmother’s birthday this weekend, so I have the place to myself. It’s been a while since it’s just been the cats and me. I plan to get a bunch of horrible-for-me food and probably watch all the TV shows only I like.

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. Brian Fallon - 21 Days

  2. Hayley Williams - Leave it Alone

  3. The Frights - Leave Me Alone

  4. Meet Me @ The Altar - Beyond My Control

  5. Dua Lipa - Physical

  6. Tame Impala - Lost in Yesterday

  7. Taylor Swift - Only the Young

  8. Caroline Rose - Soul No. 5

  9. Echo and the Bunnyman - The Killing Moon

  10. Gregory Alan Isakov - She Always Takes it Black

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 Drew Beringer in the “2019–2020 NBA Season Thread” thread.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.