Liner Notes (December 6th, 2019)

This week’s newsletter looks at my plans for the website over the next twelve months, dives into some new music and news stories from this week (including my frustration with Blink-182), and goes through my usual media diet. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Four Things

  • As we move into the holiday season, I want to recommend the great app Deliveries to everyone. Whether you’re ordering dozens of gifts for people, or you wish to track your own Amazon orders, it’s an invaluable little app to keep track of all your packages to make sure they get where they’re supposed to go and give you a place to keep track of all of them in one place.
  • It looks like our best of the decade feature will launch on Monday. All our blurbs are now in, and we’re just doing the final edits and putting the entire thing together. Then we get to work on our best of 2019 feature. So, while the decade ends, you’ll be able to check out our favorites from the past ten years, and then we’ll aim to launch the best of 2019 feature in early January. There’s a thread up in the forums for members to share their lists if they’d like.
  • I have been working on prototyping a refresh of the Chorus main website. So far it’s coming along quite nicely, and I like the direction it’s going. The current site was designed quickly and then refined over the past few years, my goal for this new design will be to have it last at least twice as long. It uses a lot of the same elements as the current website but is built with speed and working/looking good on any device size as priorities. It also feels, at least to me, a little more tied to some of the ideas I used at AbsolutePunk. It’s a long way out from even being at a spot where I’m ready to start coding it, but the designs are exciting to me, and even just re-thinking out navigation structures has me itching to build it.
  • Given that this entire redesign is going to be a pretty big project of mine for the next year, I’ll be taking way less freelance work in 2020 in order to build it. After Hannah’s hand injury, the timing of all this isn’t ideal. But, I’m going to try and make the best of it. With that, if you haven’t yet become a supporting member, please consider doing so, and if you’d like to gift someone a supporter membership for the holidays, you can do that here. Also, our merch shop makes for great gifts for yourself or that AbsolutePunk loving friend you haven’t talked to in ages. (I promise I’ll try and keep the sales pitches to a minimum.)

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • It’s another slow new music week, such is the end of the year, but there is a topic that I felt compelled to try and get some thoughts down about. Today saw the release of the posthumous XXXTentacion album, and it features a collaboration with Blink-182. If you’re not aware of XXXTentacion’s history of abuse and violence, Pitchfork and The Washington Post go over the horrific details. It’s beyond fucked up. In my news story about the album, I linked to this post in our forums that I think does an excellent job of summing up where a lot of my frustration is coming from at the moment. Instead of being excited today to write about the new Blink-182 holiday song, I’m angry at the band and frustrated by how little we’ve been able to shift public sentiment to explain better why this is so harmful. One of my go-to lines when writing about Blink-182 has always been about how the band helped me through my childhood. They were a band that when I didn’t know who I was, or really even what to think, I could turn to and escape from reality and find comfort within their music. As silly as it is, I looked to them as role models. To some degree, following Mark and his humor on social media, I still do. And so now I’m looking at this through the lens of what this kind of collaboration would have said to the younger me. As I was finding comfort and solace in their music, as I was asking myself questions about life and my purpose, I might have seen this kind of collaboration as a sign that it’s not that big of a deal that someone gruesomely abused women and bragged about brutally beating a gay man. I might have used it as permission to dismiss those horrific things. And, then, I think about what it says now, today, to all of their women and LGTBQ+ fans.

    To me, knowing all of this, knowing all of the history, what this collaboration says is that the band does not care about the optics of what they’re doing or why it may be hurtful to many. I think the simplest answer is that Travis liked XXX, he’s worked on songs with him, shouted him out as a friend multiple times, was going to collaborate with him in various realms, and got a tattoo commemorating him live on the radio. So, he clearly wanted to work with him and didn’t care about all the other stuff, and Mark and Matt either agree with him or don’t care enough to disagree. And that’s incredibly disheartening. I’m no longer the dumb impressionable teenager I once was. I’m a dumb adult now, thank you very much. I don’t look to musicians as role models or any guide for my moral compass. But as I scroll through a few comments on their social media accounts, and I see a few people express their displeasure with this collaboration, and I see other fans calling those people horrible names, it just leaves me with a feeling of such hopelessness. Hopelessness because I don’t have an answer that feels satisfactory.

    In situations like this, I’m often asked what I think we should do about it. And, that we carries with it such a universality that I struggle with the pressure of having an answer that feels remotely worthy of such collective action. I don’t have a flow chart to point to for what offense leads to what punishment or outcome, and I struggle, personally, with how to handle all these various scenarios with my own sense of ethics and moral philosophy. What I do know is that we often feel powerless to hold bands, celebrities, public figures, and politicians accountable for things that upset and hurt us, and that feeling of powerlessness often leads us to seek and attempt to wield power somewhere else. Not being able to find closure from the source can manifest in attacking fellow fans and trying to hold them ‘accountable’ for not feeling or handling the situation in the same way. And it’s within those cycles I feel the most depressed.

    In the end, I’m angry. I’m angry because I often listen to music to avoid being reminded of just how shitty the world can be, to escape thinking about the horrors that exist beyond my headphones. Still, if I wanted to listen to Blink-182 right now, this situation would force all of that back into my brain. I’m angry because we as a society continually send signs that we do not care about the abuse of women at the hands of those deemed “artistically gifted,” and I’m just so god damn tired of it. I really want people to think about all of this and the ramifications and consequences. In the end, the music we listen to is a choice, and we do it because of how it makes us feel. We listen for comfort, for strength, for fun, for entertainment, and I want people to think about the message we’re sending and how platitudes and wanting to do the right thing is not a substitute for actually doing the right thing. This doesn’t mean we need to storm the castles or yell at our fellow music fans about decisions they choose to make, but I do think everyone should evaluate how these sorts of things make you feel and be in tune to your emotions and let yourself be disappointed, upset, and angry if that’s how you feel.

    And now, I’m going to send a donation to RAINN and put on something that doesn’t make me feel like shit.

  • I revisited The Maine’s You Are Ok this week, and it grows on me with every listen. This is definitely one of my favorite albums of the year.
  • I am in awe of how frequently Scott Sellers (former frontman for Rufio) is cranking out pop-punk jams. His latest, Power Hungry, is another pop-punk riff-heavy album full of songs that bring me back to my college years in California. I have a soft spot for this kind of music and while, yes, after a while it gets a little repetitive, I still find myself wanting to bust out the air guitar anyway. Scott’s lowkey released some of the best pop-punk music of the past few years, and it seems that hardly anyone knows about it.
  • I returned to Pale Waves’ debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, this week. While I still find it a little disjointed and a little unfocused, there’s a whole lot that I like here. It’s the kind of album that if I don’t expect too much from I enjoy even more. I think my expectations were too high going in, and without those, I can sit back and enjoy the music a little more.
  • The new Taylor Swift Christmas song is pretty good. The video is pretty adorable, and the song itself seems like something I’ll enjoy having on a holiday playlist.
  • I like the new Niall Horan single way more than I was expecting. Anna Acosta convinced me over two years ago to give his solo album a shot, and it looks like his next might be even better.
  • The new Allie X single featuring Troye Sivan goes in a very different direction than I was expecting, but I’m still into it. I’m interested in what direction this new album is going to take; it seems like it’s going to be far moodier and maybe less in your face dance-pop than the previous releases.
  • There’s lots of smoke that Hayley Williams is working on new music but that it won’t be under the Paramore name. I am unreasonably excited for whatever it may be.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • We watched Ad Astra last night, and I enjoyed it. I’m always down for a little sci-fi and throw in Brad Pitt, and it’s an instant watch. The movie itself was a little slow, a little predictable, but well shot. It didn’t quite get up to the upper tier of films like this for me, but I did enjoy it.
  • This week was mostly spent watching the entire first season of Carnival Row. Hannah and I were both in the mood for something different than all the other shows and movies we’d been watching lately, and this fantasy meets victorian era murder mystery type thing ended up being just what we were looking for. It’s not a perfect show by any means, but I was utterly invested in the story and characters. It tried a little too hard to be edgy a few times, and it telegraphed its ending, but I enjoyed watching it and am looking forward to a second season.
  • We’ve been keeping up with season 14 of It’s Always Sunny…, and I thought it ended up being a pretty good season overall. It felt like it went by extremely fast, and I’m not sure if there were any episodes I’d consider classics, but it’s still a fun late-night watch.
  • I finished Doom Patrol and can now say: wow, this was great. It’s wonderfully weird, completely bonkers at times, but I loved every second. I cared about the characters and can’t believe they pulled this off. This could have been horrible, and yet somehow it worked. You have to be in the mood for something that goes in a wild direction, but damn, I should have watched this way sooner.
  • We are all caught up on the most recent season of Below Deck. Because of course we were going to binge through nine episodes the moment we started watching this again. It’s so addicting. I still maintain that what elevates it above other “reality tv” shows is watching the evolution of management skills, styles, and those personal interactions. Add in the class dynamics on the boat and the guests, and it’s riveting TV. All of that “drama” is more interesting to me than any of the extra relationship stuff that happens amongst the crew. It’s the only reality TV show I’ve ever watched where I’ve thought, “you know what, I may go back and re-watch this again in the future.”
  • Titans gave me a moment I’ve wanted to see on the screen since I was a kid: Nightwing in action. And, it was everything I wanted it to be and more. The suit was perfect. The action scene with Nightwing vs. Deathstroke was perfect. Getting that moment allows me to overlook some of the more hacky parts of this season and the unevenness. As a whole, I enjoyed most of it and will keep watching. The sections that didn’t work were very obvious, but the underlying bones still work for this show, and if they can put it all together, I think it could reach new levels. I like seeing all of the team together, and I’m just assuming they’ll figure out a way to undo part of the ending of this season (they better, or it ends up being a whole lot worse).
  • Episode four of The Mandalorian gave us the most meme-worthy moment with Baby Yoda yet. I still love this show and it’s western/samurai feel. I am consistently entertained and while it doesn’t ever make me think “wow, I’m watching prestigious tv right now,” it often has me thinking, “I can’t believe I get to watch something like this every single week.” I leave each week excited to watch more and spend more time in a galaxy far, far away.
  • Watchmen may just be the best thing on television right now. Episode seven was off the rails and gave me multiple jaw-dropping-what-the-fuck moments. This shouldn’t be as good as it is and shouldn’t work as well as it does, but right now it’s must-watch TV.
  • I got back into reading some Batman comics this week. I had stopped on issue 33 and am now up to issue 49 … right before the big wedding issue. I gotta say, I really love Tom King’s writing style. Yes, it can be a little wordy at times, but it’s so damn good I don’t care. I specifically loved issue 36 and 37 and the double date with Superman/Lois Lane. The page where Batman is talking to Catwoman about Superman, while Superman is talking to Lois about Batman, was fantastic. There have been a few clunker issues here and there, but I’ve loved this run so far.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • The holidays are coming fast. Trying to organize everything with family and friends and still have time to do things with Hannah has been a fun little exercise. As is paying for a wedding and then trying to figure out what kinds of gifts to get people. A lot of people are getting IOUs for wedding photos, that’s just how it’s gotta be.

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. Niall Horan – Put a Little Love on Me
  2. Taylor Swift – Christmas Tree Farm
  3. The Maine – Heaven, We’re Already Here
  4. Scott Sellers – Power Hungry
  5. Super American – Commitment Issues
  6. Young the Giant – You + I
  7. Pale Waves – There’s a Honey
  8. Angel Olsen – Shut Up and Kiss Me
  9. Meg & Dia – Lights Blown Out
  10. Anti-Flag – Unbreakable

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 web250 in the “Accountability in Music” thread.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and I’d just like to take a brief moment to wish my mother a Happy Birthday today. It was her goal to spend her 60th birthday waking up in Hawaii; however, with the whole cancer thing that happened last year, she was doing treatment in December. But, this year, with all of that behind her, she woke up in Maui this morning to a beach and sunshine.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.