Liner Notes (May 22nd, 2020)

It’s a 1975 album release day, so let’s talk about that. In this week’s newsletter, you’ll find my thoughts on their new album and some random thoughts on other music and entertainment I consumed this week. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I loved this week, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Five Things

  • This was a week where there were many “me” things to plug. Weird. I was interviewed for the Music Journalism Insider newsletter about writing online, my thoughts on the state of music journalism, and various things like that. I thought it turned out pretty well; I only sound like a moron a few times. You can read the full interview here.

  • I was also a guest on the Rounding Down podcast where the topic was Saves the Day and Yankee pitching great Mariano Rivera. Two topics right in my wheelhouse. There’s a lot of talk about early Saves the Day, how I got into that band, and why I think I connected with them when I was younger and how their albums hold up. It got me to re-listen to Stay What You Are recently, and that album remains incredible. (Overcast link.)

  • On Wednesday, I shared a bunch of early sketches and drawings from the process of designing the new version of the website. Now that this part of the project is done, it was fun to look back at where it all started and the different directions it took to get to its completed state.

  • saw the news about Joe Rogan’s podcast going exclusive with Spotify and just had to shake my head. I hate the idea of exclusive podcasts and losing the open nature of the platform. That said, if Spotify or Apple want to throw buckets of money at me, I’d lock myself into their little garden too, I suppose. Sidebar: I have never understood the appeal of Joe Rogan, but the most “old” I felt all week was discovering what the number one podcast in the world is. Every single sentence of this article had me realizing I might as well be a boomer. Anything cool makes no sense to me anymore.

  • I’ve been playing around with some new things on the Chorus Instagram this past week. That account has been dormant, and I figured I might as well goof around and see if there’s a way to use it and have a little more fun with it. Or maybe I’ll lose all the followers—only one way to find out.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • I continue to believe that The 1975 are one of the most interesting bands making music today. Their ability to combine creativity with accessibility while pushing their influence, sound, and style forward is a thing of beauty. Even when they miss, they miss in big, bold, spectacular ways. They’ve found a way to perfectly embody and capture this moment in musical amber. A band for a generation that is completely comfortable letting you know that they know it. A band that seems to sit within the space of calculated and chaotic. After a week with Notes on a Conditional Form, is that it is the first time I walked away from a first listen of a The 1975 album not being completely in love. I loved parts of it, but I was only in like with others. It’s impossible to talk about this album without talking about its length. Like The Irishman, the length is a decision, a reality, and you can’t remove that from the totality of the art as a whole. And like The Irishman, this fucker is long. Really long. And you feel it. And because of this decision, the album flows in awkward ways. You begin with a call for rebellion, a mission statement, before blasting into a Refused like banger in “People.” But this momentum is immediately thwarted by a melody-lacking orchestral arrangement, and these early themes are rarely returned to again. They sit a little awkwardly, like a pre-gap track from another era. Whereas on their past work the interludes or electronic and instrumental pieces helped tie the piece of art together, I find them distracting and misplaced in the sequencing here. It chops up the album in a way where it’s not until the back-half that I feel like things start to flow more naturally together. The album as a whole is far more subdued than the openers would have led you to believe. It’s an album that vibes with less immediacy and more groove. Morphing between influences and sounds with genius comfortability. When it works, you get incredible songs like “I Think There’s Something You Should Know.” You get takes on an almost country shoegaze in “Roadkill” with poignant lyrical gems. But what I often find myself searching for is something that is more willing to take these positions to their extreme, instead of dabbling within them. It never wholly commits to being as weird as it wants to be, never quite commits to being as creative-poppy as it could be, never quite finds a solid ground for what its sound is. There have been better straight-up pop albums released this year already, and better and more interesting electronic experimentation music as well, the band has usually been at their best when they mirror these two sides of themselves into something creative and new. This spins its wheels a little too much. This gives it a vibe that is more akin to hitting shuffle on a playlist of great songs. But that leaves me feeling that I have a collection of great songs, not necessarily a great album. And I think a lot of that comes down to a lack of editor, or someone being willing to shelve a great idea that’s not quite ready, or doesn’t quite fit. But, in the end, I can only laugh to myself when I think about how this album is undoubtedly one of my favorites of the year, already, and that even when I think there’s big misses (some of the vocal pitch shifting, like in “Nothing Revealed,” and some lyrical clunkers), it still ends up achieving more than most. And I’m sitting here trying to decide if it can be a masterpiece without it being their masterpiece. If it can be a little sloppy, a little unfocused, a little meandering, and still shockingly impressive for what it does manage over 81 minutes. It’s been seven years since the debut LP and that we’ve gone from “Girls” to “Bagsy Not in Net” is entirely wild and, at the same time, perfectly fitting. The amount, and quality, of output from this band is nothing short of impressive. When I look at the band’s last two albums as a whole, I see an almost impossible amount of great music that occasionally doesn’t work. I see connective tissue stretched ever so thin, but a core as salient as ever. A self-aware band of a generation, a generation increasingly unaware of bands. The perfect 2020 couple. I’m sure I’ll have much more to write about this soon as I continue to work out my thoughts on it.

  • I’ve heard the new Phoebe Bridgers album. This week is all about The 1975, however, and so I’m going to save my first impressions on this album for next week. I will say this: Phoebe is a phenomenally talented storytelling songwriter. Her ability to pull you into her world, experiences, and paint a picture that makes you feel it in every fiber of your being is virtually unmatched. It’s good. It’s really good.

  • Carly Rae Jepsen surprise dropping a b-side album yesterday was exactly what the world needed. My first reaction is that it makes sense that a lot of these are b-sides. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all good songs, but I can also see why they were left off the album. The highlights for me were “Stay Away” and “Fake Mona Lisa,” but I enjoyed basically all of these and can’t wait to listen to them regularly for the next few weeks.

  • The new Dagny EP has some excellent stuff on it, but I kinda miss the alternative tinge from her first EP. This leans hard into the pop elements. “Coulda Woulda Shoulda” was an early standout for me.

  • The new Nightly song is good, but not their best work.

  • The Spill Canvas released a new song today, but I’m not a fan of the pitch correction on the vocals. The straightforward and honest lyrics are interesting, however.

  • I’ll probably give that new Anchor & Braille album a spin next, and then try out the Airborne Toxic Event release as well.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • I finished Normal People and loved it. It captures that age about as well as anything I’ve seen in recent memory. Life is full of all these moments that you don’t realize you’re in until they’re over. This portrayal of growing up, young love, and early-adult miscommunication, was very affecting.

  • With Hannah back this week, we finished all of season two of The Leftovers. After this re-watch, I feel confident in saying it’s one of my favorite seasons of television. The right amount of weird and mystery and all of the work pays off in those last three episodes.

  • We began watching season two of Harley Quinn, and I’m happy to report it’s just as amazing as the first. This show makes me happy.

  • I read One of Us is Lying and think the pitch of Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars is just about right. Fun, easy to read, novel. After that, I read Now You See Me, a pretty decent thriller set in London. It wasn’t as smart as it thought it was, and some of the characters drove me insane, but I’ve read worse. I don’t feel compelled to read anything else in the series, however.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • Out of the blue multiple people this week sent in beer money just to say “thank you” for running the website. It was one of those completely unexpected things that blew me away. (Insert Arrested Development gif here.)

  • We are definitely continuing the quarantine tradition of Pizza Fridays™ tonight.

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. The 1975 - I Think There’s Something You Should Know

  2. Carly Rae Jepsen - Stay Away

  3. Jeff Rosenstock - Nikes (Alt)

  4. Dagny - Coulda Woulda Shoulda

  5. Phoebe Bridgers - I See You

  6. Andrew McMahon - Slow Burn

  7. Scandroid - Nighttime

  8. Nightly - You Should Probably Just Hang Up

  9. Green Day - Dreaming

  10. The 1975 - Shiny Collarbone

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 pbueddi in the “Q&A and Chat With Jason Tate” thread.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend and is staying safe out there.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.