Liner Notes (September 6th, 2019)

I’m currently headed out to a friend’s wedding, but I love you all so much that I wrote throughout the week to bring you this week’s newsletter on time and full of goodies. This week’s newsletter includes my first impressions on the new album from The Menzingers, some thoughts on the new Blink–182 single, as well as my usual rundown of other music and entertainment habits from the last week. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Three Things

  • With Labor Day on Monday, this ended up being an oddly slow week around the website and in the music industry in general. Not a whole lot was going on, not a whole lot of news. I spent the week trying to get caught up on some website maintenance tasks I had, as well as catch up on some longer-form reading I had been saving for when I had more time.

  • ripped Taylor Swift’s Live Lounge performance, and cut it up into individual tracks (including the talking portions as separate tracks), if anyone would like that for their collection. I’m a big fan of that rendition of “Holy Ground.”

  • The month-long supporter drive was a success. In the last four weeks, 60 new members signed up. That’s incredible, and I can’t thank you all enough. Thank you to everyone that told a friend about the website, or spread this newsletter around, and thank you to everyone that became a supporting member for the first time. (I hope you’re enjoying an ad-free experience and Dark Mode, but mostly, I hope you know that it’s because of you that I can keep publishing the website every day and writing this newsletter every week.) Basically, I’m 30 supporting members short for what I had made my 2019 goal, but I am a whole lot closer to reaching complete independence and stability. Thank you so very much.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • I’ve had time to listen to The Menzingers’ new album, Hello Exile, in full about four times now. The album is a showcase in everything the band is known for: introspective while cutting into the emotional-femur-bone lyrics, gruff vocals, and all of that wrapped in an Americana-tinged rock and roll. The album plays a little softer than I was expecting. There are a few tracks that pick up the pace, but as a whole, I get a much more relaxed vibe to the album. The album feels very Menzingers-ish, with not a whole lot of surprises thrown into the songs; instead, you get a band more concerned with creating a mood and connection within each track. There’s the wistful nostalgia in songs like “Anna” and “High School Friend,” the latter containing one of my favorite lyrics from the album: “I was getting fucked up with a high school friend, wondering where all the good times went.” And it’s in songs like this that call to mind The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten. To me, that was the album where it felt like the band had taken everything they learned on their previous albums and went all-in. It, therefore, didn’t contain the same youthful energy of making a record like The ’59 Sound, but it had a wisdom of song-craft about it.

    You find this in a song like “Hello Exile,” which I don’t think the band would have been able to pull off in the same way just a few years ago. It’s an anchor of the first half of the album, and it has a driving melody that reminds me a little of The Hold Steady while pulling you entirely into the story. The opening strums, the guitar moment building and breathing before adding drums, all culminate with precise intentionality. It’s just an exceptionally well written, well structured, song.

    This is the first album from the band I’ve been pretty cognizant of the two singers on my first few listens, and I don’t know if I’m getting more used to the group and able to pick it out better, or if they do sound more distinct on this record. I, for the most part, prefer Greg’s lyrical style; however, songs like “Last to Know” prove that Tom’s no slouch. I love the roughness to the guitar-line, and any song that opens with, “Jesus Christ, I held a dagger in my hand, I killed, another man…” is going to perk my ears. There are other songs, and this unfortunately includes the song titled “Portland,” (as well as “London Drugs”) that don’t quite do it for me in the same way. The chorus feels drowned and lacking the explosive crunch I think it deserves. But, that’s contrasted against songs like “Strangers Forever” that have the exact kick I’m looking for.

    I’ve written enough about Will Yip’s production in my life that I’m not going to go over it again here. I’ll instead say that it doesn’t negate my enjoyment of the album and that while I notice it, I’ve come to terms with it.

    Other highlights include the strain and expressiveness in the chorus of “Strain Your Memory,” and the emotional weight of a song like “I Can’t Stop Drinking.” Here, the lyrics walk through various relationships with alcohol and the impact on personal relationships. Songs like “Strawberry Mansion” feel like classic Menzingers’ songs, but are outshined by other cuts.

    The closer, “Farewell Youth,” is my favorite on the album. “Farewell youth, I’m afraid I hardly got to know you.” I’d venture this will resonate a lot with others hitting their mid-thirties and feeling like maybe we did grow up just a little too fast.

    With a few exceptions, the album is remarkably consistent. The only complaints I find are when I start thinking about how it compares to the band’s past work and how to stack it up against an impressive catalog. It doesn’t have the immediacy that After the Party had, but it has a matureness about it that I think will be rewarding on repeated listens. I again return to my Handwritten comparison as I wonder if this might not, in time, have songsthat are considered some of the band’s best, but with fans still considering a previous album worthy of that title-belt. I often think we spend too much time ranking things, and I find myself falling into the same trap time and time again. But there’s always a little nagging voice in my head asking the questions. Is it better than that? How does it compare? And I think part of that is just human nature to some degree. I’ll undoubtedly be asked multiple times how it compares to their other albums over the next few weeks, but at this moment I’m just not ready to answer that question. I want to live with these songs a little more; I want to let them become a part of my daily life and see how they fit. Then, after I’ve worn them in a little bit, maybe I’ll be able to offer an answer to that question.

    In the meantime, I’ll close by saying the album does not disappoint. I see little reason for fans of the band not to have another record to add into their rotation for a night of beers, a little whiskey, and a whole lot of wistful yearning.

  • Blink–182 released their new song “I Really Wish I Hated You” today. I’m enjoying the diversity the band is showing with their single choices and how they’re showcasing an overall feel to the album’s soundscape. I like this chorus, the vocal mix there is excellent, and the little outro part with Matt’s vocals is excellent. The verse cadence is catchy, but I’m not sure how I feel about the lyrics at first blush. Overall, this is probably my second favorite of the songs released so far, behind only “Darkside.” I think that song’s energy is what draws me to it, and this one sits in that nice mid-tempo. It is doing some interesting things, and I appreciate that it’s not just California songs part two, but I kept waiting for it to pick up just a little more. This album is shaping up to be quite interesting. I think I’m most excited to discover how all of these little tidbits we’ve been given work together in the album’s overall structure. It already feels grander in scope than their previous record (and the deluxe album), and I am drawn more to the melodic qualities of these songs than the Neighborhoods flavor. I find myself more curious, optimistically curious to be precise, than I have been in a long time as Blink fan.

  • I forgot to write about the new Shredders album, Great Hits, last week. It’s a project from P.O.S., Lazerbeak, Sims, and Paper Tiger of Doomtree, and it’s an energetic hip-hop album. If you’re looking for something to throw on as we enter into the last bits of sunny weather, this is perfect for it.

  • I’ve been writing about the new Grayscale album for quite a few weeks now, and today it sees its release. Trevor Graham wrote a great review for the album that I think captures what it is people will love about this band, and release. I believe Trevor likes the album a little more than me, but I’ve been surprised by the replayability this record has had for me, and it’s a very solid entry into the pop-punk pantheon. For the sound and genre, this feels like an album that carries the torch well. It’s worth a look, at the very least.

  • Unfortunately, I never got an advance for the new MUNA album that’s out today, so I haven’t heard it yet. I plan to spin that in the car on the way to a friend’s wedding this afternoon. I’m sure I’ll have some thoughts come next week.

  • Death Cab for Cutie’s new EP, The Blue, continues the nice streak this band has been on for a while now. I was a little surprised just how much I connected with their last album and this expands on the band’s classic sound in nice ways.

  • Senses Fail re-recorded their debut EP, and it’s an out of body experience for me to listen to these songs. I remember the first time I heard that EP, and who I was at the time. And yet as memorable as the songs are, they sound different, and it just makes me feel a little weird inside.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • After looking at the reviews for The Dead Don’t Die, many of which panned the film, and the user reviews that contain a whole lot of “walked out” or “worst film I’ve ever seen,” I can’t say I don’t understand. I do. I get why a lot of people hated this movie. It’s slow and weird. And yet, it worked for me. I enjoyed the jokes, the absurdity of it, breaking the fourth wall in the oddest moments, and all set with a zombie apocalypse backdrop. The ending message felt a little ham-fisted, but the movie got quite a few laughs out of me. I’ll be making the Sturgill Simpson joke every time I put on his music from now until the end of time.

  • We finished up season two of Derry Girls and I adored it. Afterward, I spent a couple of days researching Ireland in the 1990s and trying to learn a little more about the history of when and where the show took place. I already am looking forward to whenever season three airs.

  • This week’s entertainment diet was mostly going back and watching some fun movies that we had enjoyed in the past. Each night Hannah and I looked at each other, looked at some of the heavier “new” movies we have in our queue, and instead decided we wanted something a little more light and fun. We re-watched Booksmart (one of my favorite movies of the year and it only gets better the more you see it), Neighbors 2 (this series makes me laugh, and who can say no to Zach Efron’s abs?), The Shallows (a pretty decent shark flick with Blake Lively), and Game Night (if they’d make a comedy like this every 6 months or so, I’d see them all). Sometimes you need a little comfort-food-entertainment, and that’s what this week ended up being.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • This week I spent some time working on initial drafts of the wedding dinner seating chart, as well as my first draft of the wedding day “hour-by-hour” playbook. It’s coming along well enough, and I feel pretty prepared at the moment. We had dinner and drinks with Hannah’s parents last night, and at some point, they asked Hannah how her to-do list was coming, and offhandedly asked if I had a wedding to-do list. (Apparently, they’re not newsletter readers.) I showed them my list by scrolling through it on my phone, and then they asked to read it closer. The first item on the list said, “Vows! Write that shit.” 🤷‍♂️

  • We’re heading out to a friend’s wedding this weekend. It’s out in wine country, so it should be a lovely little weekend. I enjoy doing some wedding related stuff that’s not tied to our wedding, and it’ll be fun to see how someone else has planned one.

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. Death Cab for Cutie - Before the Bombs

  2. Blink–182 - I Really Wish I Hated You

  3. Grayscale - What’s On Your Mind

  4. John Mayer - Carry Me Away

  5. The Early November - Ave Maria

  6. Ruston Kelly - Screaming Infidelities

  7. Take That - The Flood

  8. Press Club - Obsessing

  9. Lagwagon - Surviving California

  10. Jay Som - Nighttime Drive

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

Somehow my post sharing The Menzingers’ first impressions early in the Q&A thread ended up being the most liked post of the week. That’s pretty funny. I hope everyone has a great weekend.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.