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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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The Podcast Worm: Halloween Unmasked

Halloween Unmasked is my kind of podcast. I’m three episodes in on it, and it feels like a new take on film podcasts. Usually, I’m listening to pop culture podcasts that are discussion-based (and mostly hosted by dudes). I listen to shows like Fatman On Batman (now branded Fatman Beyond), The Watch, and Channel 33, which has a lot of sub-shows within its feed. I listen to a lot of shows from The Ringer.

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?

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.

The Top Albums of 2018 (So Far)

I think I say this every year but fuck it – the music 2018 has blessed us with in its first six months has been extraordinary. With all the insane shit happening around us and to us in this day and age, it feels like music is the only sane thing we have. So below we have our top 20 favorite releases of the year thus far. If you can’t find something to love on this list then you just aren’t trying hard enough – this is an eclectic list that encompasses multiple genres and styles. I can’t wait to see what the next six months brings to our ears.

Note: You can share your own list in our music forum.

The Death of the Compilation CD: How the Industry Has Changed Since 1996

I’m sure all of us can remember where we were when we either purchased, or were given from a friend, one of the annual Warped Tour compilation soundtracks. It signified the beginning of the Summer concert season, and another year to look forward to the annual Warped Tour. Now that the Warped Tour is on its last legs, with its final installment coming this Summer, one has to wonder about what will happen to the compilation CD that we have been expecting ever year since 1996.

The history of the compilation CD is a complicated one, much like the changing music industry over the past three decades. During the CD “boom” of the 90’s, it seemed like a ton of music buyers were looking for inexpensive ways to find out about new bands, or to sample tracks from their favorite artists’ upcoming album. The compilation CD was a great way to not only save money by not investing fully in a ton of individual albums, but also to discover artists that you may not have ever considered checking out otherwise.

In the Spotlight: 50 Bands You Need to Hear in 2018

In the Spotlight (Part 1)

Last year we brought back, and re-branded, one of my favorite features from the AbsolutePunk days: the “Absolute 100.” And as we enter May and the weather finally starts to turn around a little bit, it’s the perfect time to once again team up with our contributors to bring you a whole bunch of new music to check out.

Just like years past we’ve compiled a list of 50 artists we think are worth your time. Some of the artists recently released their debut albums and some have been around for a while now but have flown under the radar. However, the one thing they all have in common is that we think they should be in the spotlight and are worthy of your ears. You’ll find the first group of 25, along with blurbs, recommended songs, and sounds like comparisons, below.

The Second Anniversary of Chorus.fm

Today marks the second anniversary of Chorus.fm. Sometimes it feels like the world is stuck in slow motion with so much news and chaos surrounding us and the days making the weeks feel like months. But then I also can’t figure out where the last two years went. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was saying goodbye to AbsolutePunk.net, and hoping that some readers would follow me here to Chorus. I want to thank all of you that have been reading the website the past two years. I’m finally coming to the point where I don’t feel like everything I’ve done has been defined by AP.net, and where what I’m doing now, this website, this community, can be something that at the very least fulfills me in a way that AbsolutePunk never really could. It’s like looking at pictures of what you wore in high-school and wanting to yell through time to buy clothes that fit. Chorus.fm feels like it fits me. And every day I feel lucky that it’s something that I get to do. So, thank you, all of you. Especially those that have become supporters and helped make this website everything that it is.

Here’s a run down some of the numbers from the last 12 months:

  • 4,257 new articles posted on the main site. (9,402 total.)
  • 1,420,222 words have been published on Chorus.1
  • 1,002,023 new forum posts. (1,897,160 total.)
  • 47,191 new registered accounts. (81,957 total.)
  • 1,779,477 likes given out since last April.
  • 5,106 private message sent per month (average).

I’ve got a lot of things planned for this year. The goal is to improve the website and try some new things. As always, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, email, or in the forums with thoughts, ideas, or concerns about the website. And if you like what we’re doing, please give our supporter options a look. If you can swing $3 a month to help us out, it would mean the world to me. It’s with the support of readers like you that we’re able to keep publishing and stay online.


  1. I’m using a new tool to calculate the number of words published this year. It should be more accurate going forward. 730,299 of these words were written by me.

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Most Anticipated of 2018

Most Anticipated of 2018

Following on the heels of our look at the best music released in 2017, we have compiled a list of the albums we are most looking forward to in 2018. We may not know what the year has in store for us, but at least we can be assured of some great music coming our way. A bunch of contributors have written up blurbs about the albums and artists we’re most excited about, and we’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to as well.

The Chorus.fm Staff’s Top Albums of 2017

Best of 2017

2017 was a frustrating, infuriating, and often heartbreaking year. From the politics to the abuses and scandals that trickled all the way down to our little music scene, it felt like every day had some scrap of bad news to serve up. It was a year where we really needed something to lean on and keep us resilient and resolute, and the artists featured on this list responded to that call of duty admirably.

The 25 records featured below are eclectic and far-reaching. Some are achingly personal reckonings with personal demons and mental illness. Others are scathing indictments of the political status quo. Some explore the cycle of getting older and losing your youth, while others revel in the excitement and confusion of being young. Some are pop records, while others are hip-hop or folk, country or post-hardcore, emo or classic-tinged rock ‘n’ roll. They are all distinctly different, but they all had at least one thing in common: for 30 or 40 or 50 minutes at a time, they all made 2017 feel a little more bearable.

So, without further ado, I give you Chorus.fm’s Top 25 Albums of 2017. In the words of one of the artists featured below, I hope you find something to love.

Niall in the Time of Styles

Niall Horan

When “Sign of the Times” dropped last spring, the internet seemed to lose its collective mind. Was it because the highly anticipated previous solo offering from former One Directioner Zayn met with such a lukewarm critical reception last year? Was it because we were, in fact, living in the first days of our descent into an outdated political hellscape, not unlike the dystopian fiction that’s dominated the pop culture cycles for the past several years? Was it simply because Harry Styles is an undeniable force? Was it because it was just a great song? That answer to the “why” depends on whom one asks, but one thing is undeniable: the album that followed has peppered EOTY lists in a way other former Directioner offerings have not. Despite this, fellow former-Directioner Niall Horan quietly released an album in 2017, a largely acoustic, unexpected effort titled Flicker. And so followed the inevitable question – which was the better album?

It would be very easy to say the Styles record was superior and call it a day – after all, it’s flashy. It’s interesting. It was well written, well performed, and well produced – and it is inescapable. That makes it the easy answer. But as with so many things in life, I’m not convinced that the easy answer is necessarily the right one.

Join the Dark Side: Bringing Dark Mode to the Main Website

It’s fitting that on release week for Star Wars: The Last Jedi I can bring the Dark Side to the main website. One of my favorite supporter perks in the forum has been Dark Mode — a dark slate colored theme — and I’m excited to be able to bring this color palette to the main website as well. I love our white, grey, and blue color scheme, but at night I almost always switch over to the dark theme while browsing the website on my phone. However, I’d often move over to the main site to read an article and the white contrast would be a rude awakening for my eyes. No more! Supporters can now activate Dark Mode on the main website via their supporter options page or in the forum preferences. If you’re not a supporter yet, join now to get Dark Mode.

I’ve included some screen shots below of what the website and forums look like in Dark Mode, for those curious. I think it maintains my main design goals: simple, clean, and focused on readability, while adding a new flavor to the overall feel of the website.

Triple Crown Records 20th Anniversary Show

Triple Crown Records has been putting out some of the scene’s most essential records for twenty years now, so it makes sense that their anniversary show ended up being one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. The four-band show had a mix of styles that spoke to the variance in sound the label has always had; a fan of almost any kind of music could’ve found a set to like. I ran through some of my favorites below.

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

I can’t believe it’s already December, but here we are. Like last year, I wanted to steal an idea I’ve seen on other websites and put together a few gift ideas that I think are worthy of your time. I have also updated my recommendations posts for movies, tv shows, books, software, podcasts, headphones, and miscellaneous stuff around the house, so the things on this list will be more focused on stuff not included in those posts and more geared toward things I’ve come across in the past year or so and 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.

If you’d like to get me a gift, becoming a supporting member or gifting another user a supporting membership for a year would mean the world to me.

Bridging the Forum and the Website’s Supporter Systems

Today I’m excited to announce I’ve completed the work on bridging our community and the main website’s supporter systems. Now, if you’re a supporting member of the forum community you can use your username and password to login on the content side of the website to view supporter only content (like my first impressions), manage your payment options, turn off advertisements site-wide, and soon gain access a special Dark Mode for the main website that matches perfectly with the Dark Mode of the forums.

And don’t forget: you don’t have to be a community member to be a supporter of the website! You can join right now for only $3 a month and help support this website and independent publishing. It’s because of readers like you that I can keep running this website. I can’t thank each and every one of you enough for your support over the past two years.

It’s funny how a project like this, which doesn’t end up having many outward facing changes, can be a massive undertaking behind the scenes. But now that it’s done, the foundation is better set for a bunch of cool things we can do in the future and the system is much more robust for handling payments and login credentials for our growing community.

If you are already a supporter, you don’t have to make any changes if you don’t want to, everything will just keep working as it has been. If you’d like to move away from PayPal and to the new credit card based system, you can do that here. Again, it’s totally optional to make that change if you want.

If anyone has any questions at all, feel free to drop me an email or message me in the forums.

How Tom Petty Taught the World to Fly

Tom Petty is the sound of summertime. “American Girl.” “Learning to Fly.” “Wildflowers.” “Free Fallin’.” Losing him is like losing summer, forever.

That was one of the first thoughts I tweeted out yesterday afternoon, following the deluge of bad news about Petty. It was already a hard day. Between waking up to news of the Las Vegas tragedy and spending the entire day thinking about my grandfather, who passed away on October 2, 2014, it was a lot to handle. Losing Petty out of nowhere, less than two weeks after he wrapped another summer-conquering tour, felt like the devil playing a trick. When news broke that Petty was not in fact dead and was “clinging to life,” I dared to hope that he might pull through—even as the sounds of Southern Accents and Into the Great Wide Open filled my living room.

Alas, those hopes were for naught. Last night, at 8:40 PST, Tom Petty passed on, surrounded by his family, friends, and bandmates.

You’d think that after 2016, we’d be used to losing legendary rock stars. After a year that took Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and a slew of others, we’d be a little more prepared to say goodbye to our heroes. That’s not the case. Losing Petty hurts especially for me, not just because I adored his art, but also because without him, so much of the music I love wouldn’t exist.

Taking One Discography to a Desert Island

Last night, while listening to some music and having a beer, I tossed out a question on Twitter that I’ve always found fascinating:

Desert island game, but you have one band’s full discography only, who do you go with? I’m thinking I’d have to pick Jimmy Eat World.

What I’ve always liked about this question is that it forces you to make decisions beyond just thinking about a favorite band. If your favorite band doesn’t have a large catalog then you’re stuck for a while with only three albums. And if you are looking for diversity in music styles, or strength in numbers, then there’s another way you can go. The idea of a band’s entire body of work, and looking at it as a whole, has been a long running theme of mine. After asking the question, and getting promptly dunked on by none other than Mark Hoppus,1 the answers started coming in.

At first it was a bunch of what I expected from our little music scene. Lots of Brand New, Blink-182, Yellowcard, and Thrice. And then all of sudden the answers started to change. I’m not sure how or where it started,2 but the tweet ended up going a little viral and spreading way further than the small group of followers that know me and the kind of music I have written about on a daily basis for years. The replies started coming faster and it was way more Billie Joel, Rush, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, and Barbra Streisand. It was funny to watch the conversation completely change from the kind of music I’ve been listening to and writing about over the course of a few hours. And, because it’s the damn internet, that also meant I now had quite a few people that really didn’t like my pick (or some of the early replies).

Those that have read my writing for years know how much I like Jimmy Eat World. I’ve talked before about how I think they have one of the best catalogs in our little scene and they just keep putting out great music. My thought process is that I love the band, there’s a lot of music in that catalog, and there’s enough style changes so I’d have something for every mood while I’m sitting on island. Now, after getting a few snarky tweets about how could I not pick The Beatles or The Rolling Stones,3 I kinda wish I went with something even more out there: A Wilhelm Scream, Propagandhi, Strung Out? Might as well earn the snark.

All-in-all it was a pretty hilarious evening, and I’m curious to see how our community would answer this question. So, if you wanna hit the comments I’d love to see what the prevailing artist and catalog in our forums ends up being.


  1. I need to make this tweet a mug so I can drink tea out of it.

  2. I think somehow it got passed around a few sports writer circles.

  3. Definitely sports circle.

The Top Albums of 2017 (So Far)

Best of 2017

The first six months of 2017 have probably brought more than enough albums to fill a year-end list. Alas, it’s only mid-year, which leaves us with the task of distilling everything we’ve heard so far into quick, concise top 10 lists. Rather than try to define the overarching themes of the year, we’d rather just let the albums we love speak for themselves. Below, you will find both our combined staff top 10, as well as individual lists from our contributors and moderators. Here’s hoping you find something new to love.

Note: You can share your own list in our music forum.