Liner Notes (February 13th, 2021)

Snow Fox

It’s a snow day here in Portland.

This week’s newsletter has my thoughts on Big Sur, thoughts on Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity performance, thoughts on music I listened to this week, a few articles I found interesting this week and have been on my mind, and some random thoughts on entertainment and other musings. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Five Things

  • This week, we published our Most Anticipated of 2021 feature. I wrote about Meet Me @ the Altar, William Ryan Key, and My Chemical Romance. I thought this year’s feature turned out well, even though it was harder to put together because so much of it is just guessing at albums that will be out this year without really knowing much. The pandemic made it much more challenging to know when/what/if anything will be released.
  • I finally pulled the trigger and upgraded the iMac to Big Sur. I’d been waiting until I felt like the consensus was that it was worth the upgrade and stable enough with all the software I use on a regular basis. My impressions are mixed. By and large, there’s some good stuff here. However, I have some aesthetic annoyances that bug me every day. The alert and dialog boxes are horrible. Notifications are way worse. Hiding functionality under multiple clicks makes them objectively harder to use. Take the basic new message notification. The old version had two options: Mark as Read, Reply. If you click Reply, you could quickly type in a response. I had a little script in Keyboard Maestro that let me hit a hotkey, and it would automatically click that Reply button so I could respond without opening Messages. That’s no longer possible. You have to click multiple buttons to get the notification to expand and give you a place to type. That’s degraded functionality. I am not sure how I feel about the new border-radius on the windows; I think I’m mostly indifferent about it. The lack of depth on the toolbars, I believe, is a net negative. The buttons feel oddly placed, and it feels more crowded to me than the previous versions. The new Control Center is very welcome. I also really appreciate how Big Sur handles AirPods and connecting to them; it’s much better. And the Now Playing menubar item is very cool. And Bartender 4 has been, as always, a lifesaver. I’m quite annoyed that you can no longer change system icons. That’s a huge step back. Changing icons has been something I’ve done for decades now, and I like having a custom system, so that sucks. It doesn’t help that I don’t love the default icon look with all the shadows and shading. I customized my own set of icons that use the squircle and the more flat style that I prefer. It makes Messages stand out like a sore thumb on my Dock, which will frustrate me. Making it easier to customize iOS while taking this step back on macOS is a dirty trick. I feel like I’ll get used to most of the rest of the changes, so I think I consider the upgrade as a whole, a positive. But I feel like it’s less of a win than other years.
  • I read two articles this week talking about versions of work and productivity and work. The first was about the diminishing returns of productivity, and this passage stood out:

This is the dystopian reality of productivity culture. Its mandate is never “You figured out how to do my tasks more efficiently, so you get to spend less time working.” It is always: “You figured out how to do your tasks more efficiency, so you must now do more tasks.” Sometimes, if you’re a Wall Street investment banker, you can complete infinitely more tasks until you have so much money that you don’t even need it anymore — you’re productive for the thrill of it, but also because you don’t know how else to gauge your own self-worth.

But the people who help that banker in his quest, whether his explicit support staff (assistants) or his implicit one (office cleaners, house cleaners, food delivery people) often have a very different relationship to productivity. It’s not pleasurable or addictive. It’s just denying the most human parts of yourself in order to survive the economic moment.

  • The second was this piece on burn out, which I think is something everyone should be thinking about. From managers to employees:

We’ve put the burden of solving the problem squarely on the shoulders of individual employees. “Let’s just recommend more yoga, wellness tech, meditation apps, and subsidized gym memberships — that’ll fix it,” we say. But those are tools for improving well-being. When it comes to preventing burnout specifically, they won’t be effective. We desperately need upstream interventions, not downstream tactics. In this article I’ll describe tactics companies can use to address some of the organizational roots of burnout.

  • And lastly, I can officially say that the Apple Braided Loop is my favorite watch band. I find it more comfortable than the Silicon Solo Loop, and really like how it looks. I am actually surprised how much I’ve been enjoying the Series 6, and watch unlock for the phone while wearing a mask can’t come soon enough.

Sponsor

Cadigan, from San Francisco, California, just released their debut album, Be Present, Want Nothing, on Bandcamp. The album is ten tracks about adjusting. Making the transition from “kid” to “adult.” Trying to become the person you want to be. Friendships that come and go. Learning the difference between love and chemical fleeting moments. Taking inventory and appreciating the good things. Navigating the uncertainty of our current reality.

Along with the digital release, the band has also released a limited run of vinyl.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • Last night, I watched Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity performance, and once again, it just confirmed for me that this is my favorite band, and I adore everything they do. They sounded incredible, and the album holds up perfectly. It pulls me back to such a specific time in my life. Last year of high school, early college, and laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling painted with little glow in the dark plastic stars, just getting lost in these songs. They continue to mean so much to me, and after a year like we just had, it was a memorable evening getting to experience them in this new way now. I adored the new version of “Blister” and, of course, “Goodbye Sky Harbor” was special.
  • I didn’t watch the Manchester Orchestra performance yet, but I plan to do that this weekend. It’s been getting lots of praise online, so I’m incredibly excited for that. I did a discography dive for the band over the past week, and it’s just a wildly great catalog of music. Every album has something unique to it, in my opinion, and I do not think we are going to have to wait long for The Million Masks of God.
  • I’ve listened to the new Sir Sly album, in full, about three times now. It takes what they did with their first two (great) albums and adds some new wrinkles. I get a little Bon Iver feel in some of the tracks, but it still continues to feel very much them. It’s this quirky catchy combined with multiple lyrical moments that just hit right. This will be in regular rotation for the foreseeable future.
  • Taylor Swift’s re-recorded “Love Story” is fascinating to me. I think it sounds great, obviously, with a little more modern tinge to it. I think owning her music in this way is also extremely important.
  • I gave that new Mod Sun album a spin, mostly because I still find it interesting how big he’s gotten after being in scene bands in the early 2000s. It’s not a bad modern pop-punk album. Feels in the same vein as that MGK or Girlfriends release from last year. It doesn’t have the same kick that I like in my pop-punk these days, so I don’t know if I’ll return to it again, but I still found it an interesting listen, and I’m curious if this version of this sound will continue to gain steam. (That second to last song suuuuucks.)
  • I continue to have nothing but the highest praise or the new The Night Game album. If I don’t know what I want to listen to, it’s an easy grab that will always satisfy me.
  • The new one from Pale Waves came out on Friday, and I think it’s a pretty big step up from their debut. If you’re looking for an excellent alt-rock album in the vein of early Avril Lavigne, this will be right in your wheelhouse.
  • My plan is to give that John the Ghost album a spin next.
  • The new songs on the Dua Lipa deluxe album are good! Not surprising.
  • For the past year, I’ve used the wonderful app Dark Sky to pipe in some nice beach or relaxing sounds while both Hannah and I are working from home. I find it hard to focus when there’s extra noise, something I’ve never experienced before because I’ve been working from home alone for my entire life. (God, I would be so bad in a traditional office setting.) I finally branched out this week to try some of the ambient Apple Music playlists and found them all exactly what I was looking for, completely simple and in the background music that I can pipe into my AirPod Pros, and it lets everything else fade away. I don’t know why I didn’t try these before. I love beach sounds, but I was getting a little worn out on the waves.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • I, like it seems everyone, have nothing but praise for In & Of Itself. My recommendation is to go in knowing as little as possible. Just trust that it’s good, trust that it’s worth watching, and hit play one evening with no distractions. I loved it.
  • We finished the new The Stand miniseries, and by and large, I liked it and would recommend seeing it, but I vastly preferred (shocking, I know) the book. I don’t think I minded the changes to the ending, even if it was a little more heavy-handed. My biggest complaint is that Nick’s story is so significantly reduced here. Still, with the massive source material, they did well.
  • I’m now reading Dune and am about 25% into it. Not surprising, but I like it! I can’t believe I’ve never read it before; it seems like something I would have done in high school. Better late than never! And I’m looking forward to each evening when I get to be transported to a different world for a little while.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • I’m sitting here on the couch by the fire writing this morning because it’s fucking cold in the office, and the streets are covered in snow. It’s enough snow that the city is basically shut down. No delivery, most everything is closed. So we’re just hunkering down and spending time inside trying to stay warm. Hmm, so basically not that different than the entire last year. We had a nice takeout dinner planned for Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to be pretty upset if that gets taken away. I don’t mind snow, usually, but I think that’s because it feels like a fun little vacation most years. This year, with how we’ve been so isolated, I think it feels a little more frustrating. More of an “ugh, this is one more thing to deal with.” This seems to be the feeling I heard from talking with some of my friends who live in the suburbs and currently don’t have power.
  • The good news is my grandmother seems to be doing just fine after her COVID diagnosis. And it looks like Hannah will be able to get the first dose of the vaccine next week. I’m so far down the list I’m sure it’ll be months before it’s my turn.

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. Matt Maeson – Hallucinogenics
  2. Hayley Williams – Trigger
  3. MOD SUN – Betterman
  4. Hotel Apache – Luve2Change
  5. Gordi & Alex Lahey – Dinos
  6. Taylor Swift – Love Story (Taylor’s Version)
  7. POP ETC – So Far Away
  8. Pale Waves – Wish U Were Here
  9. Dua Lipa – We’re Good
  10. Sara Kays – Future Kids

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 mgiannotti in the “Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher (June 19, 2020)” thread.

Yeah, that’s about right.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

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