Liner Notes (October 12th, 2018)

Bring on the weekend! We’re moving into “pumpkin-spice-everything” territory, and I’m getting excited to start watching some of my favorite Halloween movies, breaking out the festive beers, and making all kinds of warm foods in the ‘ol Crock Pot.

This week I rank albums from Andrew McMahon, give the first impression on the new Laura Jane Grace album, share a playlist of ten songs I loved this week, share what I’ve been working on behind-the-scenes, and go through my weekly media diet. Some outstanding albums out this week you shouldn’t sleep on. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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First Impression: Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises

Pale Waves

Debut albums are tricky. On the one hand, they’re the first real look most people will take at your band. Sure, you’ve released a bunch of singles, maybe even a few EPs, but the actual debut album still seems to end up being where you take all the momentum you’ve had, and make a push to build a fan base around your music. So far, Pale Waves have been doing everything right. They’ve released a variety of songs, they’ve been building some buzz, and they have locked down the style they’re going for. On the other hand, getting a debut album right means finding a collection of songs that can keep those early adopters happy (since they’ve probably overplayed a good portion of your record already) while also building around it a cohesive feeling. My first impressions of Pale Waves’, My Mind Makes Noises, is that they have a lot of really good songs, but I’m not sure they have a really good album.

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Review: The Night Game – The Night Game

The Night Game

Do you remember your first kiss?

A few weeks ago my mom stopped by for dinner and brought with her a shoebox she had found in the basement. The box, now flimsy and tattered, contained love letters and notes from elementary school up through college. I laughed when she gave them to me. Over the years she’s dropped off countless things from my childhood whenever she decides it is time to redistribute the stuff neither of us knows what to do with any longer. When she left, I almost just tossed them aside. However, on top of the pile, I caught a glimpse of something that caused sensory memories to start flooding back. I took a sip of beer, mumbled “fuck it” under my breath, and pulled a few folded pieces of paper from the box.

I recognized handwriting. I recalled the way specific notes were folded. Ink colors. Inside jokes. Faded pencil sketches of pen-names and scribbled between class “I love you’s.” I started to feel long-buried memories of when these little pieces of paper, pre-cell phone and instant messaging, meant everything to me. When each letter represented possibilities and of being so in love that these possibilities, these fleeting ideas of a future, all felt inevitable. And each, now, clearly also representing a moment of heartbreak; of unfulfilled youthful promises.

The Beautiful, Ugly, and Possessive Hearts of Star Wars

Film Crit Hulk:

I don’t care if you liked or didn’t like something. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion. But the opinion is not what matters. The point is that when you say something is “bad writing” or “bad direction,” I want to understand what you actually mean by that, and why you think that. And if you can only stammer out a few confusing words that add up to “that’s how I felt,” then I can’t understand you. And the simple truth is that applying the right words and backing them up with clarity, while showcasing an understanding of the nuance behind them, is literally what criticism is. Which is precisely why I take so much issue with critical culture trying assign a specific kind of value judgement, just because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do.

Amen.

Friday Thoughts (August 31st, 2018)

I thought the new format for these “Friday Thoughts” worked really well last week, so I’m going to use it again this week. They’ve slowly been becoming longer and more fleshed out. Not quite a weekly newsletter yet, but almost.

This week looks at new music from Alkaline Trio, Pale Waves, Young the Giant, The Night Game, and more.

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First Impression: Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?

Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed?

This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on August 29th, 2018. I’ve decided to make it free to all users of the website. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.

I figured with the album coming out on Friday this was really the last time I had to try and get some early thoughts down on this album for everyone before you’ll be able to hear it. Hell, there’s always the chance this leaks while I’m typing this up. Then everyone can join in with me.

At a high-level, this album works for me more than any of their albums have since Crimson. I’ve liked the stuff that followed, but it never really captured that same magic as their earlier work. I would find myself listening to them for a few weeks (with the exception of This Addiction, which never really grabbed me), but after that, when I wanted an Alkaline Trio fix, I’d go back to Crimson or something before it. That’s just how it played out for me. I can’t predict with certainty that this is going to be an album I come back to in the future, but there’s something about it that hits me just right and gives me that feeling. There’s an energy here, a feeling of immediacy that they touched on with My Shame is True, but one that feels much more rolled into a “classic” Alkaline Trio-sounding album. This urgency to the songs is really resonating with me at the moment.

GoRuck to Raise Prices in September

GoRuck, who make the best backpack you can buy (the GR1), are increasing prices in September. If you are on the fence about picking one up, I wouldn’t wait:

So instead of surprising our community, and that means you, about a price increase on all pieces of GORUCK gear and apparel, we wanted to give you fair warning. So here it is: September 1 at midnight, prices across the board on GORUCK built Rucksacks and Apparel are going up, on average 20-30%. This will be GR1‘s first ever price increase.

Friday Thoughts (August 24th, 2018)

Another Friday is here. I hope everyone has a good week as we move toward the end of summer. I’m not ready for it to end. I’m ready for it to be less hot though. The temperature finally dropped here the past week. That coordinated nicely with the smoke coming in from all the fires. Been pretty gross air-quality-wise lately. I’ll take a few days in the 70s for a while. I’m looking forward to fall. Fall’s my favorite season. I love the weather, the crisp feeling in the air, and I like wearing fall clothes. I feel too hot all the time in summer. I like being able to put on long sleeves, and jeans, and wear shoes. Bring on the sweaters I say.

I’m going to try something a little different today and attempt to organize this round-up a little more.

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Where’s the Hype?

A conversation in the Thrice album thread got me thinking this morning. Does hype around an album even matter anymore? In the past, the idea of a hyped release meant that a lot of people would be anticipating, talking about, and building “buzz” for the release. The thinking went that the more hype around a release, the better it’d sell, then there’d be more people out on tours, you’d get bigger and better tours, and then you’re on your way. The time between announcing an album and releasing it into the world seemed to, in theory, be built around coordinating and focusing this hype as you built toward release week and getting those first week sales. But here, in 2018, does this hype really mean anything and can we measure its success?

Over the past few months I can’t think of many rock bands that had more buzz, or “hype,” than the most recent Foxing release. All the right publications were talking about it. All the right “taste makers” liked it. Premieres on all the right websites. Features were written. Cool, unique, campaigns. Awesome podcasts. And it was all backed by, in my opinion, one of the best albums so far released this year. It came, it was released into the world, and it sold just fine in the first week. (Around 3,500 copies.) So, by quite a few of the metrics we’ve always used to define what a good album rollout looks like, this one had it all. It had the buzz. It had the “hype.” It had our forums anticipating the album from announcement all the way up to the day it was released into the world. The question I started asking myself this morning was centered on if this was actually effectively better than the Thrice album rollout — which seems to have die-hard fans upset because there isn’t enough to keep them interested. And, furthermore, how do we adequately measure “hype” and if it matters in the rock or alternative music world today?

First Impression: Thrice – Palms

Thrice - Palms

This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on July 19th, 2018. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.

This new album from Thrice is a tricky one to pin down. I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out the best way to put into words what I think about it and, specifically, what it sounds like. I think going broadly I would describe the album has having a nice groove to it. A groove that reminds me most of Beggars, and one that doesn’t wholly eschew the rock sound they had on their last album, but instead leans into many aspects of that sound in new ways.

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Friday Thoughts (August 10th, 2018)

I hope everyone had a good week. I spent most of my week working on this stupid posting bug where the posting box goes behind the keyboard, but everything I’ve done to fix it ends up causing a headache in a different and new way. It’s driving me fucking insane. So, I’ve decided to pause that until next Monday and do some other maintenance things today. Take a step back for a bit and see if that helps.

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Friday Thoughts (August 3rd, 2018)

This post is made weekly in the supporter only Q&A thread on our forums. I share thoughts about new music out and various other things going on in my life.

This week went by insanely fast. I feel like I was just getting into a groove, and now it’s already Friday. Damn. Bring on the weekend.

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Mike Herrera of MxPx (Encore Episode 158)

MxPx

As some of you may know, I started AbsolutePunk.net over 15 years ago as an MxPx and Blink-182 fan-page. Those were the first two bands I truly loved. They shaped my entire music taste and starting that website changed my life. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for those bands and those albums. Listening to “Doing Time” as a teenager gave me hope. Discovering pop-punk music and the community around it made me feel like I belonged to something special. Small, right outside of the mainstream, but undeniably special. The music was unlike anything I was listening to at the time and hit me right when I needed it most.

Last week MxPx released their new, self-titled, album. It’s their first album since 2012. Today, I’m excited to debut a new episode of Encore featuring lead singer Mike Herrera. This episode is a joint episode with Mike’s podcast, “The Mike Herrera Podcast,” which I also recommend subscribing to and checking out. In this episode we go deep on the new album. We talk about the recording process, the inspiration behind the songs, and then I walk through each song with Mike and get his thoughts on different aspects. I share some thoughts too, but mostly I was trying to get at what made this album feel so fresh, and yet so wholly MxPx, here in 2018.

We also recorded the FaceTime conversation we had doing this podcast and the video is available on the MxPx YouTube channel. I look ridiculous and my cat walks into the office to have lunch a few minutes in, but we thought being able to see each other and read and react to facial expressions would bring a fun vibe to this episode. I think it worked. This is one of my favorite episodes of the podcast I’ve ever done.

Show notes are below, the band’s new album is available on all streaming platforms, and physical copies are available at MxPx.com right now.

Friday Thoughts (July 27th, 2018)

This post is made weekly in the supporter only Q&A thread on our forums. I share thoughts about new music out and various other things going on in my life.

Oh Friday! I am so glad you’re here. Been a long week, but a good week all-in-all.

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July 22nd, 2003

This weekend marked the 15th anniversary of one of my favorite album release dates in my lifetime. On July 22nd, 2003 both Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue and Thrice’s The Artist in the Ambulance were released. I was home between my sophomore and junior year of college and both albums imprinted on me like few ever have. Driving around my hometown, seeing old friends, reigniting old flames, these two albums became a part of my summer. AbsolutePunk.net was just becoming something I thought I wanted to do with my life and much of what that website would become was created with these two albums as the soundtrack. I was still very much trying to figure out who I was as a person, and these albums felt like a foothold of hope on the future. Watching Yellowcard’s meteoric rise, a bunch of kids that felt almost like peers, gave me a boost of confidence during a time I needed to think things could get better. The world was changing, my world was changing.

15 years later that summer remains one of the best of my life. The friendships made, the hearts broken, the speakers blown out, it all feels like a moment frozen in time. An idealized summer that probably wasn’t nearly what I’ve made up in my mind all these years later. But I hold it dear nonetheless. And when I put on Ocean Avenue, and hear “Back Home,” I’m transported back 15 years ago when that song meant everything to me. A rallying call for what my life was and a romanticized version for what I wanted it to be. And that feeling of home intersplices with the intensity of Thrice’s The Artist in the Ambulance, an album I used as an outlet for my anger at the world, at the war, at myself and all the chaos that felt just beyond the borders of my hometown. Two sides of me dueling it out through two albums released on the same day, during the same summer.

So, here’s to you July 22nd, 2003. I’ll always remember you fondly.

Friday Thoughts (July 20th, 2018)

This post is made weekly in the supporter only Q&A thread on our forums. I share thoughts about new music out and various other things going on in my life.

This article is available exclusively to supporters of our website. Join now for as little as $3 per month and get access to exclusive content and a variety of perks. Plus, you'll be helping an independent publisher. Learn more here.

The Republic of Wolves – “Colored Out” (Video Premiere)

The Republic of Wolves recently filmed a video for an acoustic/alternate version of “Colored Out.” Today, we’re happy to bring it to you. The song comes from the band’s recent album, Shrine, which recently made it onto our top albums of 2018 (so far) list.

The band has been working on some new acoustic/alternative versions of other songs from the album that may see a release in the future, and, if you haven’t checked out their new album yet — you should.

Friday Thoughts (July 13th, 2018)

This post is made weekly in the supporter only Q&A thread on our forums. I share thoughts about new music out and various other things going on in my life.

This article is available exclusively to supporters of our website. Join now for as little as $3 per month and get access to exclusive content and a variety of perks. Plus, you'll be helping an independent publisher. Learn more here.