Articles

Introducing Chorus 2.0

One of the best parts about running my own website again is that I can work on improvements and changes and roll them out when they’re done instead of waiting for the never ending drudge of bureaucracy. Today I’m excited to bring you a collection of changes, improvements, additions, and new features that I am calling Chorus 2.0. Basically, I’ve spent the past year or so learning about what makes this website work, what doesn’t work, what needs to be improved, and how to better organize the information we push into it each day. And of course, how you, the reader, are using it. I’ve taken what I’ve learned and combined that with an optimization obsession to get this website to load as fast and reliably as possible on virtually any device you view it on. You may not see a lot of outward changes, but there were thousands of lines of code tweaked and changed along the way. I want to quickly go through some of the bigger changes, and introduce you to some of the more headlining features.

In the Spotlight: 50 Bands You Need to Hear (Part One)

In the Spotlight (Part 1)

Back on AbsolutePunk.net we would run a feature each year called the “Absolute 100.” The basic idea was to put together a list of bands and artists that we thought needed to get a little more attention. This would range from unsigned, to under-the-radar, to underrated acts that we wanted to highlight. Over the years it ended up being one of my favorite features we compiled (I personally discovered quite a few new bands from it). And, I’ve heard from a lot for readers that you loved it as well.

Today I’m excited to bring this feature back under a new name. We’re calling it “In the Spotlight” and we’ve got the same goal: highlight a bunch of artists we think you should check out. This year we’ve got 50 for you. Over the past month our contributors have been putting together blurbs and pulling out song recommendations, and today we’ve got the first group of 25. We’ll be releasing the next set tomorrow.

It’s Been a Year

One year ago I retired AbsolutePunk.net and launched Chorus.fm into the world. I can’t believe it’s been a year. First, I want to thank everyone that’s supported the website for a full year and all of you that kept monthly payments on and re-signed up today with a new yearly subscription. Seriously, thank you. I had no idea if this entire endeavor was ever going to work, and all of the support has truly blown me away. I’ve loved getting to know so many of you over the past year and being able to share this experience with you. Again, I can’t tell you thank you enough.

One year in I figured is as good a time as ever to run down some of the numbers from the last 12 months:

  • 5,145 articles posted on the main site.
  • 1,004,735 words written in those articles.
  • 895,137 forum posts.
  • 34,766 registered forum members.
  • 891,056 likes given out.
  • 2,000 private messages sent per month (average).
  • 27 podcast episodes recorded (and 3 bonus episodes).
  • Over 160,000 podcast listens.
  • 83,035,328 pageviews.
  • A 6:40 average session time.
  • 13 “first listen” blogs in the supporter forum.
  • 365 days where I was happy with the choice I made.

Marvel’s ‘Iron Fist’ Is Ok, but Never Great

After watching the first six episodes a lot of critics were out on Netflix’s new series Iron Fist. The reviews haven’t been kind. While it’s hard to judge a whole show on just shy of half of its episodes, it’s important for a show to grab the audience from the start. Iron Fist doesn’t quite do that. While I made it through the whole thing, the start of the show was slow. The latter half is definitely better, but many people could find themselves giving up on the show before that happens.

We Need Your Help: We’re Expanding Our Supporter Packages

This April will see the one year mark of when I started Chorus. By and large it’s been the most fulfilling stretch of work in my entire career. It’s been stressful. It’s been intense. But it’s also been extremely fun, challenging, and stimulating. As we come up on this anniversary I’ve been working on the first set of changes I want to make to the website to prepare ourselves for the future. There will be some design tweaks coming shortly, but the first thing I want to focus on is tightening up our supporter program.

Our supporter program has been a resounding success. When I started this project I made the argument that I believed the future of online publishing was going to depend on dedicated readers for websites to continue development and publication. Over the last year I’ve only become more convinced of this direction. And, I’ve been blown away by the first year of support from readers of this website. However, one of the main pieces of feedback I’ve heard is: I love this website, I love what you’re doing and want to help make sure it stays around, but I don’t really want to sign up for a forum membership account, is there any way I can become a patron without needing to join the forum community? My goal was to provide that functionality in the easiest form possible and allow readers to help support our continued existence for mere pennies per day.

If that’s all you need to hear, please take a look at our membership packages and sign up, if you want to be woo’d a little bit more, I’ve a longer pitch for you below.

Most Anticipated of 2017

Most Anticipated 2017

2016 was a helluva year for music and 2017 is shaping up to be pretty damn good as well. The world may be falling apart around us, but at least we have a little something to look forward to. I talked about the albums I was most anticipating on a recent episode of Encore, but I wanted to reach out to some of our contributors and see what albums they were looking forward to most as well.

The Chorus.fm Staff’s Top Albums of 2016

The Best of 2016

Well then. That was a weird year.

In many ways, 2016 was a whirlwind—a confusing and frustrating year that will probably always be defined by its political tension and long list of celebrity deaths. For our staff and community, 2016 was also marked by the end of AbsolutePunk.net and the birth of Chorus.fm, a major transition that brought some serious nostalgia about the place where many of us grew up online.

No matter where you were or what you were going through in 2016, though, you probably at least had a great soundtrack to keep you company. By almost every metric, 2016 was a remarkable year for albums. If you are a fan of pop music and superstar acts, there was certainly no shortage of marquee releases for you to sink your teeth into. Even beyond the blockbuster surprises and capital-I “Important” albums, though, the year was a goldmine. Rock music was vibrant, highlighting both new bands and longtime veterans. Country music continued a resurgence that even self-described country haters could get behind. Hell, even the movie musical came back in a big way.

In virtually every genre or category, 2016 provided a wealth of new musical treasures. It’s no wonder that our contributors placed votes for 267 different albums while compiling this list. Ultimately, though, it was the 30 records listed below that rose to the top.

Jimmy Eat World – Live in Indianapolis (12/01/2016)

I’ve been listening to Jimmy Eat World for over half my lifetime. Crazy enough, the last (and only) time I attended a Jimmy Eat World show was in 2005 when they were opening for Green Day on the American Idiot tour. That’s pretty sad! Fortunately, I made some sort of amends this past Thursday when the Arizona quartet made their way through Indianapolis. Headlining one of those radio station holiday shows, the band played a 20+ song set that included a well balanced mixture of hits, deep cuts, fan favorites, and new songs.

2016 Holiday Gift Guide

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I wanted to steal an idea I’ve seen on other websites and put together a few gift ideas that I think are pretty great to give and receive. Since I already have recommendation posts for albums, movies, tv shows, books, software, podcasts, blogs, audio-equipment, and random miscellaneous tech and around the house items, this list is focused mostly on things not included in those posts and more geared toward things I’ve come across in the past year or so that I think are worth checking out and that I think would make good gifts. As always, I only recommend things I’ve personally used and loved.

I used my Amazon affiliate link when the product showed up there, which gives our website a slight percentage back if you make a purchase, and therefore helps fund our continued existence. I hope you’ll find something cool, and feel free to drop your own recommendations in the comments.

Sponsor

The Killers’ ‘Sam’s Town’ and The Hold Steady’s ‘Boys and Girls in America,’ 10 Years Later

Between 2002 and 2009, Bruce Springsteen released five studio albums. Rather remarkably, that statistic made the aughts Springsteen’s most prolific decade ever. The Boss fired off four straight classics in the 1970s (Greetings from Asbury Park, The Wild, The Innocent, The E Street Shuffle, Born to Run, and Darkness on the Edge of Town) and put out four more in the 1980s (The River, Nebraska, Born in the U.S.A. and Tunnel of Love) before faltering in both quality and output in the 1990s. (The last decade of the millennium only saw Human Touch, Lucky Town, and The Ghost of Tom Joad, all of which are among Springsteen’s weakest LPs.)

The 2000s, though, brought the man back to life. Suddenly, Springsteen albums (and good ones) were a regular occurrence again. During the seven years that elapsed between 2002 and 2009, we got three E Street Band records (The Rising, Magic, and Working on a Dream), one acoustic album (Devils & Dust), and one tribute record (The Seeger Sessions). Four of those five records are worthwhile (Working on a Dream is the dud), and two are genuine classics (The Rising and Magic both recapture the…well, “magic” of the E Street Band’s golden age). However, there’s still an argument to be made that the three best Springsteen albums of the 2000s weren’t even written by Bruce, but by guys named Brandon, Craig, and Brian.

Always Summer: A Farewell to Yellowcard

Yellowcard

The first time I heard Yellowcard was sometime in the summer of 2004. I think my sister and I were packing for our annual trip to visit my grandparents in New Hampshire and I had the radio on. (This event is notable because I can legitimately not remember the last time I had the radio on of my own accord.) I had my radio tuned to the local “modern rock” station, which played about 50% Staind and 50% everything else. They also had this feature called “the Buzzcut,” where they’d play an up-and-coming song from an up-and-coming band and ask listeners to call in with feedback. If listeners liked the song, it got added to the playlist. If they didn’t, it never got played again.

The Buzzcut song on this particular morning was “Ocean Avenue,” Yellowcard’s breakout hit single. At this point in time, the song was almost a year old, because it inexplicably wasn’t the lead single from the album of the same name. (More inexplicably, Capitol Records officially released “Ocean Avenue” as a single in February, the least appropriate month of entire year to be listening to “Ocean Avenue.”)

The Top Albums of 2016 (So Far)

Best of 2016

As we pass the midway mark of 2016, it’s nice to sit back and reflect on the great albums that have come out so far this year. Below you’ll find a compiled list that looks at the selected albums from contributors and moderators to this website, as well as all of the broken down individual lists. Maybe there will be some albums you’ve heard of, hopefully there will be quite a few you haven’t checked out yet, and maybe there will be a few you’ll want to give a second look. I think it’s been a pretty damn good year for music so far and there’s quite a bit to still look forward to as well.

There’s a thread in our music forum where we’d love to see your lists.

Singles Club: Taking Back Sunday – “Tidal Wave”

To say that Taking Back Sunday is a polarizing band is an understatement. For nearly 15 years now the Long Island-based band have gone through it all – inter-band drama, outer-band drama, more member changes than they’d like to admit, and the transition from emo darlings to bonafide rock stars. And while not every fan has always enjoyed every change the band has gone through musically and professionally, Taking Back Sunday has always stuck to their vision. And the same can be said about the band’s latest song, “Tidal Wave,” the first single from the band’s upcoming seventh LP of the same name.

Singles Club: Touché Amoré – “Palm Dreams”

I’m lucky. I’ve never lost anyone close to me during my adult life. My grandfather died when I was very young and my six-year-old brain really didn’t understand what was going on. I’ve never gone through what Jeremy Bolm has. The Touché Amoré frontman lost his mother to cancer in the fall of 2014 and much, if not all of his band’s upcoming new album, Stage Four, revolves around processing her death and remembering their life together. The album’s first single, “Palm Dreams,” is a soaring piece of post-hardcore that showcases the continual growth of the band’s songwriting while Bolm attempts to learn even more about his mother even after her passing. In the song premiere’s accompanying article, Bolm tells NPR that “’Palm Dreams’ was written around the realization that I never had a full understanding why my mother moved from Nebraska to California in the ‘70s.”

Steven Hyden’s ‘Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me’

If you’ve ever told someone they’re a fucking moron for liking band X more than band Y, or for otherwise disagreeing with your obviously superior musical opinion, then Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me is the book for you. Written by Steven Hyden, a former contributor for Pitchfork, the AV Club, and Grantland (RIP), Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me is a thoroughly entertaining excavation of artist-versus-artist pissing contests. The subtitle says the book will teach us What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life. Hyden’s thesis is that, depending on which side you take in any given pop music war, your choice says something about you. Something like Oasis vs. Blur might seem pretty trivial for anyone who wasn’t actively paying attention to Britpop in the 1990s, but in the pages of Hyden’s book, these battles mean everything.

Ten Best Things We Saw At Shaky Knees Festival

A few weekends ago, I was able to attend Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to being held in one of the best cities I have visited on the East Coast thus far, Shaky Knees also had the added benefit of putting on the most killer festival lineup this side of Riot Fest. With fantastic sets across all of the days and stages from the earliest Sunday doldrums (more on that later) to the main stage headlining acts. Below you’ll find my 10 favorite things from the festival along with some photos I took over the weekend.

Defend Girls, Not Pop Punk

Over the past 12 months, as one of its primary proponents, I have spent a lot of time thinking about call-out culture. Or, as some industry heavyweights have phrased it, the trend of “witch hunts” that has been plaguing our scene as of late. I have spent a lot of time frustrated by the perpetuation of the idea that says the call-outs are the problem, instead of the abuses that said call-outs address. I’ve been upset because we know that statistically when an accusation is finally made, they are are overwhelmingly true; however, the opposite manages to live on in the minds of so many. It’s a problem, because as long as the focus is on whether or not call-out culture ought to exist, the real problems and abuses plaguing our scene fail to get properly addressed. As such, it’s a problem I want to solve.

The New Chorus.fm Logo

When I drew the AbsolutePunk.net logo all those years ago, I never imagined how many places it would end up. I can’t tell you how many times we needed to shrink it down, or blow it up, or put it on a colored background, and I’d end up laughing at the little red splatters while having no real idea what to do with them. When I started building Chorus I had a color scheme I loved, but I was never able to settle on a logo that felt right. I tried a few different things before deciding to punt and launch with the word mark while using a blue and white “C.FM” placeholder. I wanted to make sure that this time I thought through everything. That if we had a logo, it was something I felt could stand the test of time and was a true representation of this new website.

I had a few goals in mind: I wanted something that represented the website, was easy to recognize, could be used in very large or very small sizes and still be distinguishable, could be used in virtually any color, or even monochrome if needed, and I was looking for something that had a familiar relationship with both our word mark and the Encore podcast logo. And more than anything, I was looking for that feeling of joy when I saw it — that feeling of, “yep, that’s it.” After working with the same designer that helped birth the Encore logo, I know that we found exactly what I was looking for.

Noah Gundersen Live in Grand Rapids

Noah Gundersen

Last Friday night I saw Noah Gundersen do something I’ve seen very few artists do: walk out onstage alone, with no backing band and no opening act, sit down in a chair, pick up an acoustic guitar, and start playing. He’d interact with the audience more—and make a surprising number of jokes—later in the show, but for now, he wanted to get right to the point: the music.

There’s something to be said for a concert with high production values. There’s something to be said for light shows and setlists where every moment has been meticulously planned — right down to the dialogue between songs. But there’s also something to be said for a show where an artist just comes out and acts like he’s playing songs in his living room. As someone who just made an entire album in his living room, that was something I appreciated about Noah’s show on Friday.