This is the second to last Liner Notes before the end of 2018. This year has been impossibly long while flying by at a record pace. It makes absolutely no sense. I hope everyone is gearing up for a nice weekend and preparing to spend the holidays in whatever way makes you happiest. I plan to spend some time offline, reading, and enjoying the company of family. As a little holiday gift, I’m making this version of Liner Notes, which are usually exclusive to supporters, free for all.
This week’s roundup includes my ranking of All Time Low albums. After discovering these “do teens know 2000’s pop-punk” videos on YouTube (and immediately feeling old as hell), I got on a pop-punk kick and ended up listening to their catalog all week. I also share my thoughts after spending a week with Apple Music on the Amazon Echo, ten songs I loved this week, and, of course, my weekly media diet. The supporter Q&A post can be found here.
- This week I did a deep dive on the All Time Low discography, and I’m ready to do some ranking!
- Future Hearts: My re-listens solidified for me that this is my favorite album from the band. It combined a variety of aspects I think they do well, while also playing around with their sound enough to keep it fresh. From “Cinderblock Garden” to “Runaways” to “The Edge of Tonight,” this is just a giant batch of songs I enjoy from top to bottom. I think it mixes their pop-punk/rock leanings with just the right amount of a more modern pop styling. I also think Alex sounds as good as ever on this record.
- Don’t Panic: This feels like the slightly more “rock” version of Future Hearts to me. A lot of the same sounds are there, they just lean into the rock side a little bit more in the songs, and therefore it has a little more bite to it. Some great stuff here like “Backseat Serenade” and my favorite, “Outlines.” I’m surprised by how many little moments this album has that elevates it. That little clap like sound on “The Reckless and the Brave,” or the Green Day-like opening to “For Baltimore.” This is pop-punk that doesn’t feel like it’s leaning too hard on nostalgia; almost feels like what Blink-182 were trying to do on California, but didn’t quite get all the way there. (I’d be down for a Mike Green produced Blink-182 song.)
- Last Young Renegade: I’m surprised how much this album has stayed in my rotation over the past year. I knew I liked it when it came out, but I didn’t think I’d still be playing it. I’d venture a guess this moves up my ranking list as time goes on. “Dirty Laundry” and “Afterglow” really show the band’s songwriting growth. I hope they continue to play with this direction and don’t abandon it too quickly. It suits them as they move into a new stage of their career.
- Nothing Personal: What hit me the most about this album, released almost ten years ago, is how modern it sounds. The songwriting, structure, production, isn’t nearly as dated as I was expecting. The lyrics … well, they’re a little rough in places, but songs like “Lost in Stereo” and “Walls” hold up quite well.
- So Wrong, It’s Right: This album always felt to me like it was trying to be too much like the pop-punk classics that came before it. It wanted to be a Blink/NFG album. I guess, with time, it’s now become a classic of its own. It’s still not my favorite, there are too many songs that don’t work for me, but there are some certified greats on here. “Dear Maria” and “Six Feet Under the Stars” are great (although, I prefer the acoustic version of the latter).
- Dirty Work: Listening to this now, it’s … not as bad as I remembered. There are some huge sequencing issues, and if you cut some songs, and play around with the track listing, I think there’s a semblance of something better here. I still don’t think the album lives up to what came before or after, but there’s a few songs I’ll remember to come back to more frequently than I have in the past. I may even flirt around with cutting together something I could listen to front to back. I can’t get over how bad “That Girl” is.
- Put Up or Shut Up: This was a rough listen. It’s the band trying to make their best Fall Out Boy-esque impression, in lyrics, vocals, and style … and it is tough to get through.
- The Party Scene: I didn’t like it in 2005. I still don’t.
- Conclusion: This band went from one I enjoyed a few songs from, to one I saw a lot of potential in, to one I thought missed their chance, to one that’s released three incredibly solid albums (that I genuinely like) in a row. They’re a band that’s found a sound I could say is very much their own, while being influenced by all the bands I grew up loving. They have a lengthy discography, it’s full of good to great songs, and they seem only to be getting better. I hope they keep making music and I hope they keep walking down this path they started on their last two albums as songwriters. They’re a fun band that’s impressed me with their longevity and maturation into a band I’m legit excited to see where they go next.
- I liked this write-up from Craig Manning about Bruce Springsteen. I’ve never loved Bruce to the level that Craig (and Thomas Nassiff) love Bruce, but I will always love reading about artists someone is passionate about.
- The post about the glitter bomb vs. package thief was exceptionally popular on the website this week. In an otherwise slow news week, I found that funny. Also what an incredible contraption.
- We are finalizing our contributor end of the year list, and we’ll begin writing blurbs and putting the entire feature together over the next two weeks. I really like my final list; some years I’m more tepid, but this year, this year feels good. I like how everything is shaking out, and I can’t wait to read everyone else’s picks and find stuff I slept on.
- I spent the week playing around with Apple Music on the Amazon Echo. It’s nice. I enjoy being able to play most songs by just yelling them out into the air. I’ve used it to play my Best of 2018 and Holiday Music playlists, and it works great. The big missing feature is adding iCloud Music Library to the collection. Right now I can’t play songs that aren’t in the Apple Music library but are in my personal collection. So, for example, I can’t ask it to play the new Copeland album even though the files are in my library and I can play them on the Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, and my computer. Hopefully, that feature gets added in the future. The other flaw I’ve found is that the shuffle kind of sucks. My “paired down to favorites” Holiday Playlist has 150 songs on it. I’ve played it three or four times this week. Put it on shuffle each time. And I heard mostly the same batch of songs. Something’s not quite right there. (Some Googling showed this being an issue for Amazon Music and Spotify listeners as well.)
- Beside doing a full All Time Low discography deep dive, I didn’t listen to much else this week. I spun my playlist of favorites from 2018 a few times, to see if I wanted to tweak any ranking of albums, and also played quite a bit of holiday music around the house. I tried to get caught up on some podcasts, but that’s sort of failing.
- The A Very Spidey Christmas EP that was released today is quite a bit of fun.
- I also really like the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse original score. (I also found this tweet thread about it fascinating.)
- I enjoyed The Myth of the American Sleepover. In some respects, it’s a lesser Dazed and Confused, but it’s still the kind of movie I enjoy watching and have always had a thing for. A little slice of life in a group of teenagers lives, when done well, is one of my favorite genres.
- First Man was quite good. It’s probably my least favorite Damien Chazelle movie at the same time. I thought it was well shot, well acted, well scored, and the sound design was fantastic. It wasn’t as gripping as I expected, it didn’t quite get as deep into what drove Armstrong as I would have liked, and even though the movie was long, I would have loved some more history/story. Even with all that, this was a great watch, and I’ll see it again.
- Dumplin’ on Netflix was endearing. A great little film to watch during the holidays when you just want your heart to grow three sizes and enjoy a nice night of entertainment.
- It’s been a long time since I’ve watched Home Alone front to back. It was everything I wanted it to be. I remembered the entire movie and loved every second of it. I still remember my cousin seeing this movie before me and telling me in detail every single beat. I begged my parents to take me to see it the next day and laughed and laughed. It then became a tradition to watch it every Christmas. I’m going to have to make sure to bring it back out and get it into the rotation with A Christmas Story and other holiday classics. And never forget: Fuller not only wets the bed, HE LIKES WETTING THE BED, that little monster is excited about the opportunity.
- I was pleasantly surprised with Bad Times at the El Royale. It’s a little too long, wears the influences a little too much on the sleeves, but it was very entertaining. I’d say I was pleasantly surprised and came away enjoying it way more than expected. Now, I must know: Is there a clause in Chris Hemsworth’s contract that says he has to be shirtless in each movie? Because that’s just genius. That dude’s body is ridiculous. Either way, this was a good way to spend an evening, and it kept me guessing through most of the movie. And those god damn abs … seriously.
- Office Christmas Party is a very bad movie that for some reason we put on while wrapping Christmas presents last night. It’s totally not good, and yet it’s oddly perfect to watch, and chuckle at while doing something else. I think that comes down to the likability of Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn.
- The Good Place is still one of my favorite shows. Episode nine of season three, “Janet(s),” was just incredible.
- I am unreasonably excited for Titans tonight. Ok, the preview shows Batman, so it’s not unreasonable, it’s just tickling the Batman part of my brain, and that means I don’t want to do anything else — I just want this damn show to download so I can watch it. Without having seen the final episode, I’d say this season ended up being quite good. I enjoyed it for what it was more than I expected and like all the characters and can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Dick Grayson has been played so well I actually would love to see him in movies. He’s been great.
- We’re two episodes into Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season two. It’s everything I wanted it to be. Can’t wait to get back into this world and really have the season settle in. I hope to binge more of this over the weekend and early next week.
- We don’t talk enough about how Ross has a monkey in Friends. Seriously, that’s the pet … that’s the storyline for multiple episodes … his monkey. And he’s the one everyone I knew wanted to be like; dress like; act like. The nineties were wild.
- I’m up to issue #797 of Amazing Spider-Man. I hope to crank through the rest of Dan Slott’s run over the weekend. After that, I’m going to get caught up on Spider-Gwen and as much Scarlet Spider as possible (who stars as my current iPad lock-screen wallpaper).
Random and Personal Stuff
- My weight dropped more than I would like this week, so I’m adding a few more calories. I’ve sort of slipped into the bad habit of being ok with going over my set limit by 100 or so each day because my weight was right where I wanted it to be, if not a bit lower, and I need to be better about figuring out the right calorie goal instead. It is nice to not stress as much about these things, however. Last night I had some gummy candies, and an extra beer, and woke up this morning being .8 lbs under my goal weight. That’s a welcome change. The holiday week will be a test to make sure I don’t get carried away. Lots of family meals out which are hard to track correctly.
- For the past three years Hannah and I have had a tradition where we get each other a Christmas ornament. We write the date on it and add it to the tree. It’s a fun little way of remembering our life together. This year she got me a Batman and Spider-Man set. Because of course. I bought a few glass bulbs on Amazon and then printed out the little write-up/speech I used when I asked her to marry me. I cut the speech up into long slices, curled them up, and put those in the bulbs with some red and green ribbons, along with some printouts of the date we got engaged. I thought they came out pretty well. That’s an idea you can steal.
- I’ve been keeping the Q&A thread updated with my thoughts as I build out the new “thread ignore” system on the website. I should have that completed right after the holidays wrap up. It’s a good, useful, feature, but I’m most excited about fixing up some of the design stuff and using the new thread view tweaks to add even more new features in the future. Like, I get why this is needed, but adding features to the website that everyone will be able to use and get value from, versus one that’s built around hiding things from the site, are always more fun. I think some optimization/bug fixes will be what I work on right after finishing this up. I’ve noticed some stuff, while coding this, that I want to go back and clean up a little.
- Holiday get together with my dad tonight, holiday happy-hour/visiting The Grotto over the weekend with Hannah’s parents. And then we plan to order Chinese food and play board games on Christmas Eve before spending the day with Hannah’s family, and the evening with mine, on Christmas itself. That … that’s going to be a day. (Hannah read last week’s Liner Notes and didn’t believe me about how awkward some parts of my family can be. Then she went to the event. Now she knows.)
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.
- King Neptune – Terrify Me
- All Time Low – Outlines
- Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
- Daniel Pemberton – Security Guard
- Shameik Moore – Joy to the World
- William Ryan Key – Downtown (Up North)
- All Time Low – Dirty Laundry
- John Mayer – Home Life
- Cat Stevens – Father and Son
- The Blue Nile – From a Late Night Train
Well, that became a whole lot longer than I expected. I wrote so much after breakfast that now I need to get lunch. I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and happy holidays as well. I hope the next week is filled with only good things, and if there are any struggles, that you can find the strength to push through. And, with that, I leave you with some Calvin and Hobbes:
Previous editions of this roundup can be found here.