Liner Notes (March 27th, 2020)

The Vast Spoils of America

At this point, the only way I know a week has passed is because I’m writing this newsletter. In this week’s edition, I share some articles, podcasts, and other things that have gotten me through the week, as well as do a rundown on music and entertainment I’ve consumed. Not sure what we’d do without streaming services right now. Dua Lipa’s pop-goodness and the absurd Harley Quinn cartoon are powering me through. Oh, and there’s a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Four Things

  • Well, another week is in the books, and another newsletter is coming your way from the era of social distancing. At another time, “Social Distancing” would actually make a pretty good newsletter name. This week has been shockingly productive here. I’ve been working nonstop of the new version of the website because there’s nothing else I can be doing right now. My mindset is: this is the time to build it and go all in, and then when all the dust settles after the virus and the economic ramifications, I can sit back and look at everything. But, right now, what I can do is use my time as productively as possible and work my ass off while I’m stuck in this situation. It is what it is, but I’m pleased with the results so far. I think the new website is a culmination of everything I’ve ever wanted my website to be. The best parts of AbsolutePunk with my current thoughts on design, usability, and style. I’m a fan, and it’s keeping me busy, so that’s good at least. The best two things I read about the virus this week include:

    • fantastic interview with Larry Brilliant, who helped fight smallpox. This is practically a must-read.

    • A breakdown of what we know about how COVID–19 impacts different age groups.

  • In non-virus related reading, I enjoyed this comic series on creativity from The Oatmeal, and this essay on fear and uncertainty.

  • Two podcast episode recommendations this week: First, the episode of Reply All about the “Case of the Missing Hit” was fantastic and comes highly recommended. Second, the latest episode of Connected is an excellent conversation about the new iPads and, specifically, cursor support in iOS 13.4. But it also includes a shoutout to this very newsletter at the end. I wasn’t expecting it and heard it while cooking dinner and, look, this sounds corny, but it was exactly what I needed to hear right at the moment. It made me oddly emotional, and then I started smiling just knowing Myke is going to listen to that Lauv album. It was a tiny moment of happiness and joy that came when I needed it most. So, yeah, great podcast, definitely worth your time.

  • I got desperate in my need to do some kind of workout from home and purchased some resistance bands on Amazon (which now look to be sold out, so I guess I wasn’t the only one). Going from a daily gym routine to nothing was just not working for me, I needed some kind of physical activity and release. I’m making fun of myself for being that guy now, so it just is what it is. So far, after a week with them, they’ll do fine for the time being. FitBod works well to come up with daily workouts using various bands to target muscle groups, and combining that with bodyweight workouts works well enough. The first time I was doing tricep dips off the side of a stepladder, I realized, for the billionth time over the past few weeks, that things are really fucking weird right now. This doesn’t even feel real.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • Dua Lipa moved her album release up to today, and we should all be thankful. It’s pretty much all I’ve been listening to for the past week and a much needed boost of pop energy in these weird-as-fuck times we’re currently living in. I think the album’s a massive leap forward, and coming in at just under 40 minutes, it wastes no time packing infectious melodies into every nook and cranny it can find. From the intoxicating rubbery beat in “Don’t Start Now” to the pulled from the 80’s “Physical” to whatever you wanna call it when my feet just start moving around out of my control while working in “Love Again” – this is a great pop album that should jump right to the top of your summer playlist.

  • I was impressed with the last 5 Seconds of Summer album and thought it showed impressive growth in the pop-rock realm. And when they dropped “Teeth,” I started paying attention to this new album, CALM. Unfortunately, it’s just not quite all there. There are some excellent songs on here, but it also suffers from sequencing problems and too many tracks falling into the same routine and predictable rut. The highs are high, and “Teeth,” “Easier,” “Old Me,” and “No Shame” show what the band can do, but the middle section of the album is all over the place while middling through too many ideas with lackluster execution. I’ll keep giving this a few more spins to see how it settles for me, but I’ve heard too many stronger pop and pop-rock albums already this year for it to turn my head.

  • It was all the way back at the end of January when I first wrote about the new album from Brian Fallon. That feels like an actual lifetime ago at this point. Well, it’s out today, and I stand by basically everything I wrote there. It’s an album that feels perfect for a night when you just want to get lost in something and are looking to pull yourself back from the day. It’s a snapshot in time from an exceptionally talented songwriter.

  • I never got an advance, so I don’t have thoughts on Half Waif’s new album yet, but that’s the first thing I’m going to listen to when I finish up this newsletter.

  • All Time Low released another new song this week and the activity in the band’s thread in our forums it looks like the album leaked early and is getting rave reviews from fans. That doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s been one of my most played albums of the year and is an absolute home run from the band. Catchy, fun, sunny, and just enough uniqueness to keep it fresh and interesting. It virtually defines “the album I needed to hear right now” for me.

  • I continue to adore this Lauv album. It’ll make a play at a high spot on my end of the year list, that’s virtually guaranteed with how much I’ve played it the past few weeks.

  • I liked the Kelsea Ballerini album well enough, but it felt far more like something that I’ll listen to a few times in passing and then never come back to. Strong singles, not so strong an album.

  • Abby Gundersen (Noah’s sister) released an instrumental album this week that comes just when I’m looking for more music in this vein to pop into the headphones while adjusting to working from home with another person in the house. This is getting added to my regular rotation for my mid-day coding sessions.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • The Invisible Man was shockingly good. I didn’t expect to like it nearly as much as I did, but thought the twist on the story was clever, the creepiness factor was great, and it walked the line between scary and entertaining in just the right way. God damn did I hate the villain in this.

  • I’m not a Pete Davidson fan, and yet I adored Big Time Adolescence. I found the movie charming, heartfelt, and a new take on the coming of age story (which you all know I am a sucker for). Hannah and I looked at each other after the movie ended almost slack-jawed in our “Woah, that was good, right?” reactions. This is worth your time if you’re looking for something to watch while stuck inside.

  • Onward is the first Pixar movie I can remember being outright bored by while watching. The last ten minutes are pretty good, but the rest of it I found at best to be sequel quality from a worse studio.

  • So, um, this is weird to write, but Birds of Prey was … really fun. This is another thing I absolutely did not see coming. Suicide Squad was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, and it was morbid curiosity alone that convinced Hannah to give this a try. And she ended up liking it more than me! Entertaining, funny, good action scenes, and just the right amount of camp and over the top. We ended up liking it so much that afterward, Hannah asked if there were any other Harley media out there we could consume, so we flipped over to DC Universe and started watching …

  • … the Harley Quinn cartoon. It’s very R-rated, it’s extremely over the top, and I kinda love it. It helps that one of my favorite Twitter follows, TheDweck, is involved in some of the writing, but the show is way better than it has any right being. It’s absurd, offensive, bloody, and yet kind of exactly what I want to waste time with right now at the end of the night. We’ve watched a couple of episodes every night this week, and I’ve been cracking up at all the inside Batman-related jokes they throw into the show, and Hannah said it’s one of the first times she’s actually “gotten” comic book characters and my enjoyment of them and how they work for escapism and fantasy. So, yeah, this is yet another show from DC Universe that I’ve liked. They’re batting an absurd percentage at this point. Oh, and Kite Man! Hell yeah.

  • We’ve been making our way through Star Trek Picard, and I’m enjoying it. Not as much as Discovery, but still to the point where I’m excited to finish it up this weekend. I made Hannah re-watch Star Trek: First Contact with me over the weekend. It … uh … kind of holds up. In that “oh god, this is such a 90’s movie” kind of way.

  • We finally watched the Netflix documentary on Taylor Swift, Miss Americana, and I thought it was well done. I think it did an outstanding job of explaining who and what motivates Taylor, and I liked seeing these glimpses behind the scenes of her writing her last album. Now she just needs to let me in the studio right at the end to trim up the sequencing and tighten up the album. I don’t come back to Lover very often these days, and I think a big part of that is because it flows so awkwardly. Still a damn good documentary, however.

  • I have a thing for sports movies, I have a thing for basketball movies, and I miss sports and basketball right now. The Way Back was a pretty decent to ok sports movie. It’s a pretty paint by numbers version, with a good Ben Affleck performance, and my desperation for anything sports-related probably let its tricks work on me more than they usually would.

  • Sword of Trust has one great scene with all four characters in the back of a van talking. The rest was take it or leave it, and it dragged on too long.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • Life at home has been interesting. We’re getting more used to the swing of things. We’ve been inside virtually the entire week besides a half-hour run to the grocery store this morning. All of this is extremely weird, and I’m ready for it to be over.

  • Seeing “Opening Day” in my calendar yesterday made me really sad.

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. Ben Gibbard - Life in Quarantine

  2. Dua Lipa - Don’t Start Now

  3. All Time Low - Melancholy Kaleidoscope

  4. 5 Seconds of Summer - No Shame

  5. Fake Names - Brick

  6. Glacier Veins - Everything Glows

  7. Butch Walker - Pretty Crazy

  8. Bright Eyes - Persona Non Grata

  9. Abby Gundersen - Surfacing

  10. Brian Fallon - Vincent

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 popdisaster00 in the “General Politics Discussion VII” thread.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy out there. Thanks for taking a brief moment during the weirdness that is our lives right now to share a little time with me.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.