Liner Notes (February 25th, 2023)


This week’s newsletter has thoughts on new music from Andrew McMahon, Ruston Kelly, City and Colour, Real Friends, and a bunch of other things I checked out and enjoyed this week. There’s also a playlist of ten songs worth your time and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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A Few Things

  • I have a lot of music stuff to write about this week, so I feel like I need to dive right into it, but first, I noticed this week after I was listening to an album at night and only got about halfway through, the next morning I felt compelled to finish that album before I started listening to something else. Almost like it was a movie or a book, I had this completionism compulsion. Does anyone else do that?

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • This was a nice week for album advances, so I have a bunch of new music to talk about—first, the Andrew McMahon album. I am pretty sure more than half of the album has been released, so if you want to know the direction the album is going, you can get a pretty good idea just by listening to the already-released tunes. I think the released songs are representative. The album, to me, feels very sonically similar to Zombies on Broadway. It’s got big lush production that leans into the pop sensibilities that this project is known for. It’s got Andrew’s unmistakable fingerprints all over the songwriting, and it ended up being my most-played album of the week, so I think I have a pretty good feel for it already. Quibbles about the album rollout aside, just on a music level, I believe this is the kind of confident late-career Andrew McMahon album that checks all the boxes. I’m immediately drawn to “Little Disaster,” “Submarine,” and “Nobody Tells You When You’re Young” as three standouts. These are songs that showcase the kind of writing that I think elevates Andrew’s music. Personal storytelling wrapped in melody. The types of songs that stay with you after listening to them surround you on a cold February night. Snow mist rolling down the city streets, the music reminding you of the years you’ve spent listening to this man put his life to the songs that you’ve carried with you. From walking down high-school hallways with “Cavanaugh Park” playing in your Discman, to graduating college and celebrating with the quintessential summer album Everything in Transit blasting as you start your new life. And now, here, a few weeks before my fortieth birthday, as I fight off the midlife crisis cliche, I think about the steadiness and constant Andrew’s music has been in my life. And I’m thinking about the line from “Little Disaster” that’s been rolling around in my head since I first heard it: “It’s crazy how time can turn chaos and crime, into magic.” It’s such a perfect little way to put on a bow on the past, nostalgia, and how the sands of time can shave the barbs off memories. And it reminds me that in a few years, I’ll probably be looking back at things from this past year with similar glasses. Thinking of it that way forces me to slow down. Or, at least, to try.
  • Next on the advance listen parade is the new one from Ruston Kelly. If you’ve never given Ruston a listen before, I highly recommend starting to jump on this hype train now, because this album has rocketship potential. I’ve always enjoyed the “Dirt Emo” label he’s used because it does seem to fit into this pocket of alternative/emo-influenced music with a little Nashville/country tint. And where his last couple of releases felt more in the singer-songwriter vein, this feels bigger, more refined, and with an expanded soundscape. You can hear this in songs like “St. Jupiter” and “Hellfire,” songs that have a crackling energy within them. And then the brooding emotion pours out in tracks like “Dive,” “Better Now,” or “Wicked Hands.” This is the kind of album that I wouldn’t be surprised to see end up on a bunch of readers’ and publications’ end-of-the-year lists—the kind of songs that I could see catching a wave with the right late-night TV performance. I can see the hype building behind this record, I get an “on the precipice” feeling, and the album absolutely delivers.
  • The new City and Color album takes a lot of what I loved about A Pill for Loneliness and pushes it up a new level. Maybe it’s this damn weather. It’s bitterly cold. The snow has been piling up all week. And the past few nights, I’ve ended my day by the fire, hooded sweatshirt pulled tight, laying there with this album swirling in the air. Dallas’s voice transporting me. Just goddamn beautiful; a soothing balm after a stressful week. The whole thing is incredible, but “The Love Still Held Me Near” and the final three songs really knocked me on my ass.
  • This week saw a few new albums get released that I checked out as well. The first was from Gracie Abrams. The most common comparison I’ve seen is to the softer Olivia Rodrigo songs, and I think that’s probably fair. Maybe a little more underlying synth and atmosphere to the songs. It was a positive first listen. I know nothing about teenagers these days and have no pulse for what is popular. But, this is the kind of album that I would assume could dominate the bedrooms of whatever we’re calling that generation now.
  • Real Friends has always been a band that I’ve followed because they, ostensibly, made a genre of music I like. But I just couldn’t get into the albums. I wasn’t a fan of the vocals, and the underlying hooks never grabbed me. So, after hearing the former vocalist had left the band, I figured I might as well give the new album a shot. Two listens down, and I can confidently say it’s by far the most I’ve ever liked a Real Friends album. “Tell Me You’re Sorry” is a legit good pop-punk song. Consider me impressed.
  • There were a few things that popped up on my Apple Music playlist this week that got me to listen to the complete albums. The first was the album from Anchor Lane that was released earlier this year. I’d say it reminds me a little of Muse meets Billy Talent. Just a solid alternative rock album that I don’t hear much of these days. Then there was Hodera, which kind of reminded me of The Damnwells in a few places. I’ll definitely return to that next week. And, finally, this band Poeta had an acoustic version of their song “Stella” show up that I enjoyed. The album it’s from is more indie rock, I guess that’s what I’d call it, but I liked what I heard. Worth a glance IMO.
  • The rest of my week had me on a big MxPx kick again, going back through some of the albums and EPs I don’t listen to as often. I always forget how many little things in that band’s catalog that are incredible. The AC/EP, the At the Show live album, and Mike’s latest live solo album (which includes MxPx songs) are all so damn good. Following last week’s big Anberlin kick had me realizing that I had never listened to their livestream records before, so I made it a point to dive into those this week as well. They’re all very well done, highlighted by some incredible vocal performances, but I don’t think I’d turn to any of these over the studio recordings. Still, a fun way to hear the songs in a different setting and to get some stories and insight from the band during the interludes. And, finally, I continued listening to literally everything Taylor Acorn has released. If I could snap my fingers and make someone instantly blow up, I think she’d be in the running for my first wish.

The Stats: Over the past week, I listened to 41 different artists, 102 different albums, and 600 different tracks (725 scrobbles). My most played artist was MxPx and my most played album was the new one from Andrew McMahon. Here is my Top 9 from last week, and you can follow me on Apple Music and/or

Entertainment Thoughts

  • There’s a certain kind of two-and-a-half-star movies that are not very good, but they’re exactly what you’d expect them to be and, therefore, comforting and decent. Like a simple grilled cheese sandwich. It’s not winning any awards, but you enjoyed it enough. That’s Plane. A ridiculous and stupid movie that I would have expected to be on something like TBS on a random Saturday back in the day where you had to look at the “Guide” screen to even know what was airing.
  • Our current nightly show is Apple TV’s Pachinko. Three episodes in and it’s incredible. I’m a big sucker for these epic lifelong stories, and this is delivering on all levels.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • It’s been snowing here in Portland this week. So, that means no one knows how to drive, and I can see cars sliding down the street from my office window most of the day. When it snows, I only want to stay inside and drink hot coffee by the fire.

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. CHVRCHES – Over
  2. Poeta – Stella
  3. Gracie Abrams – Where do we go now?
  4. Mike Herrera – Let’s Ride
  5. Midtown – Know it All
  6. Taylor Acorn – Therapy
  7. Real Friends – Tell Me You’re Sorry
  8. Anchor Lane – Call This a Reality?
  9. Can’t Swim – Nowhere, Ohio
  10. Hodera – Trying

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 oncenowagain in the “Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks of God (April 30, 2021)” thread.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

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