Liner Notes (July 19th, 2019)

This week’s newsletter contains first impressions on the new Noah Gundersen album, lengthier thoughts on the new album from Sum 41, some brief views on the new album from Oso Oso, and random commentary about a bunch more music. There’s also my weekly media diet rundown, a playlist of ten songs I loved this week, and news and forum recaps. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Four Things

  • I need to pause for a moment here at the top. This week in politics was wretched. Just wretched. And to write about music seems so silly and almost trivial when there is so much hate and ugliness in the air. I read a great piece by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic last night, and I think it’s worth adding to your reading list. I know it can be hard and rough out there these days. I hope the music and entertainment can be a needed distraction for you.
  • The newsletter continues to grow and I want to thank everyone that’s signed up or told someone about it and helped spread the word. Please, continue to forward it along or tell people about it! I’ve had multiple people tell me they signed up and they’d never read anything I’ve written before, but a friend told them they might like it. That’s incredible.
  • We passed 3,000,000 posts in our forums last week. That’s a big number. My next few weeks are the part of the year I dislike the most, but it’s the time where I dive into the economics of the website, and its economic health. So, if you like this newsletter, and the website and community, and you want me to be less stressed next week, please consider becoming a supporting member of the website. Last time I checked, we were like 100 people away from my goal and financial security. That’s like 10% of the people that will read this newsletter this week. I’m sure I’ll have more updates on this topic next week.
  • My recommendation for the week is a household item I don’t think many people keep on hand: gaffer tape. Gaffer tape is incredibly useful to have around the house because it is easy to tear, holds well, and doesn’t leave gross tape residue around once you remove it. It’s great for hiding cables or for places where something like duct tape would be overkill and masking tape is worthless.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • Sum 41 released their new album, Order in Decline, today and it’s been my most played album for the past week. I think it’s a step up from 13 Voices making it my favorite release from the band in almost fifteen years. I like the pacing, the aggressiveness, the mixture of guitar riffs and pop melodies, and a feeling of timeliness in the songs that reflect a dissatisfaction with the world. A few of the songs have melodies that remind me of Green Day (“Heads Will Roll,” “Catching Fire”), and the only song I’m not quite into yet is “Eat You Alive,” but the album as a whole feels like Sum 41 operating at the peak of their powers.

    This album feels, collectively, like a confident band making an album full of songs that they felt compelled to write. Some of their more recent work felt a little aimless to my ears. Like a band searching for what or who they should be in the years after their massive popularity. This feels like a self-assured answer that question. A record with something to say while retaining a personal touch and a whole lot of energy. I don’t see this leaving my daily playlist anytime soon. Well done, Sums.

  • I’ll preface my first impressions of Noah Gundersen’s new album, Lover, by saying that this album (with the bonus tracks) is 57 minutes long. I would also call it a very dense record. So that means I’ll need multiple uninterrupted listens before I can really put together my thoughts on the album a whole and how it works cohesively together. But my early, top-line, impressions are that this album has won me back over in a big way. For some background, I think Ledges is one of my favorite albums, and one of my favorite lyrical outputs, of the decade. The follow-up, Carry The Ghost, didn’t hit me the same way emotionally, but I thought it was exceptional and showcased Noah as one of the best singer-songwriters alive. And then, while I appreciated the artistic and sonic exploration on White Noise, it was my least listened to Noah album by a large margin, and most of the songs never grew on me. I was disappointed in myself for not liking it more than I did, but the sequencing combined with a few tracks that I couldn’t get through really bummed me out. What this new album does is take everything I liked about his songwriting talents and then reigns in some of the more eclectic ideas he experimented on this last album to blend into a new entity that feels like the perfect mix. Maybe he had to go as far in one direction as he did on the last album to find the restraint to bring it back in for this. But then it’s the ability to add the right extra flavors of experimentation that raise this album.

    I think the mentioned influences of Bon Iver and The 1975 are apt. It’s playing with electronic elements, allowing your Phil Collins to spread its wings, and using these techniques in service to the songs when it works best. There are a few places where it may feel a little overindulgent, but those moments are mitigated by the simpleness of songs like “Watermelon.” My early favorites include “Lose You,” “Older,” “Kamikaze,” and “Crystal Creek.” My least favorite is probably “Out of Time.”

    There’s a whole lot to take in here. Yet, I feel confident in saying that I think this is a perfect marriage of the heartfelt, end up crying while-listening-singer-songwriter of Noah’s early career, with the more modern experimentational side of the artist. The results are moving, beautiful, songs that often challenge you and just as often leave you breathless.

    I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this record as I spend more time with it, but I’m immediately impressed. I re-found exactly what it was I loved about this man’s music in the first place. About halfway through “Crystal Creek” I realized I had stopped everything I was doing and was entranced as he sang, “now you’re running on empty, now you’re running out of time, you used to be so hungry, how’d you get so tired?” and as the music and vocals fuzz with a 22, A Million like nod, I realized he’d done it. He’d found a way to evolve and grow while keeping the emotive aspects I first fell in love with. I’ll need more time before I can say if this is an achievement record, but I can say that the degree of difficulty was sky-high, and the achievement of pulling it off was met.

  • The new album from Good Riddance is called Thoughts and Prayers and it’s out today. If you are looking for a damn good melodic punk record, you should check this out. This will be in my rotation all summer.
  • I’m not sure I get what The All-American Rejects were going for on their three song EP. The title track is alright, and the best of the bunch, but “DGAF” is truly awful, and the third track is so forgettable I don’t even remember what it’s called. I unapologetically think their last album was one of their best and this feels like a massive regression. I don’t see much chance I ever return to these songs.
  • The Menzingers’ dropped their new song “Anna” early this week. God damn do I love this band. This is a pretty standard Menzinger’s track that doesn’t quite get me as excited as “Lookers” did, but it’s close. I’ve always been more drawn to Greg’s songs and the way he can paint a nostalgic picture of longing with his lyrics. I was asked in the Q&A thread if I had any thoughts about the vocal effect on the song, and my response was: “I continue to think Will Yip holds the band back from ever reaching outside of our little world. They have songs that could cross over into other groups of fans, even like going toward the Jason Isbell crowd, but they’re held back by sounding too thin and muddled. It’s a stylistic effect that doesn’t bother me (or I just get over), ’cause I like the band, and I like their songs, but I don’t think I could share this song with a friend without them asking why the vocals sound like they’re recorded in a bathroom or ask if it’s a demo.” I think that’s really my only criticism, but it’s not actually a criticism, because I like the song, I like the effect, and I like the way it sounds; however, I also think those choices limit the potential reach or growth of the band to new heights. I think there’s an expectation that music should sound, sonically, a certain way in 2019, and when it’s off even just a little more mainstream listeners notice. My hunch is that I would not have the same success recommending this band, and these songs, to my less musically invested group of friends that I got into The Gaslight Anthem.
  • Typing the words “there’s a new Mest song” in 2019 just feels weird. The song’s a generic pop-punk song about generic pop-punk things with a generic chorus. The second verse with trading off vocals is the best part, but there’s only so many songs with “when the night is over/will you remember my name, when we wake up sober/will you remember my face” lyrics I can handle in one lifetime. I’ve reached my limit.
  • I like the new Ra Ra Riot album, Superbloom, more than I’ve liked one of their albums in years. However, it still has a vanilla quality to it that doesn’t particularly have me craving further listens.
  • I only had time to give the new album from The Hold Steady one listen, and that’s probably all I will be doing for a while. The advance was 128 KBS mp3s and when the band already has a pretty raw sound that ends up sounding pretty rough. I liked the songs, and it sounds like a Hold Steady record, but I feel like the songs are missing something at this bitrate, and I want to hear better quality before judging.
  • The new Tiger Army single “Eyes of the Night” seems like something that will appeal to a lot of their older fans. (The social media response I saw seemed to be filled with a lot of “return to form” comments.) However, it’s not the direction I was hoping they would go with this record. I loved their previous album, and was hoping for a more refined or updated take on that sound. Maybe there will be more songs like that on the album, but this one felt repetitive and did nothing for me while only clocking in at one minute. Maybe it’s an intro? Whatever it is, I’m a little worried about my fit with this album now.
  • I am getting huge Saves the Day vibes from the new Oso Oso album. This is one of those albums that has a sound I don’t listen to often anymore, but it’s done so well that it draws me completely in. While some of the melodies remind me of those early 2000s bands we all loved, the songwriting elevates the album to the top of the emo rock genre. I’m always curious to see where a band like this, today, finds a place in the music landscape. What ends up being their audience? It feels like it could have been one of the biggest things in our scene if it came out when bands like Armor For Sleep were getting airplay. Cult classic status? Small group of die-hard fans? We’ll see I guess, but it’s definitely worth your time when it drops.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • Long Shot was a pretty fun political romantic comedy that was better than I expected. It’s not particularly deep, but it did have quite a few laughs and ended up being pretty enjoyable. It is, however, way too long. It should have been at least 30 to 45 minutes shorter. I feel like that length may have hurt it at the box office.
  • I finally sat down to watch Vice. Hannah didn’t have any desire to see it, so I was waiting until I had a night to myself and a desire to get angry at the world. It, predictably, it did exactly that. All these people should be in jail. As a movie, it wasn’t as good as The Big Short, but it was well-acted, had enough levity to keep the story moving, and Christian Bale played a soulless ghoul about as well as one can.
  • We’ve been continuing our re-watch of the Stranger Things and are now up through episode six of season two. I’m pleasantly surprised with how well this season has held up for me. I remember liking it, but not as much as the first, when it aired. Now that I’m seeing it again, it’s better than I remember and I had forgotten quite a bit of it.
  • I expect we’ll be binge-watching the new season of Queer Eye over the next few days. At some point, this show may end up feeling old or trite, but so far, almost every episode makes me feel something, and I chase those little shots of hope and happiness.
  • We’re getting very close to the release of the new season of Veronica Mars. I’m not sure how fast we’ll go through it, but I’m sure I’ll have thoughts. The original is one of my favorite TV shows of all time and top three in my “comfort watch” shows. The kind of thing I can put on when I’m feeling down, or need to lay on the couch and veg for a while, or, years ago, the show I’d throw on every single night before bed. (Note: As I finished writing this newsletter I saw that the show was surprise-released early on Hulu. So, fuck yes!)
  • The Cats trailer looks horrifying, the Top Gun: Maverick trailer has me singing danger zone at random intervals throughout the day.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • I ordered a new external drive to attach to my Plex server. This led to me reorganizing the little closet enclave where the server lives to account for extra heat. I have some things I still need to troubleshoot, but the additional disk space is going to be quite nice. Once I’m done with this newsletter the rest of my day will be spent working on that and trying to figure out this home network issue I’ve been having where the network slows way down at night, or disconnects entirely, for no discernible reason.
  • We tasted wedding cakes last weekend and decided on a three-tier cake with some flavors I’ve already forgotten. I know one is poppyseed with raspberry filling, one is lemon with lemon creme, and I don’t remember the other one exactly. I got a massive sugar high from tasting cakes and fillings and frostings, and now we have to finalize how we want this glucose tower to look.
  • Next week is tasting and finalizing the food for the wedding. I’m definitely looking forward to this. We’ve got a good idea what we want the menu to look like, but anytime I can stuff my face with crab-stuffed salmon is a good day in my book.

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. The Menzingers – Anna
  2. Good Riddance – Edmund Pettus Bridge
  3. Oso Oso – Impossible Game
  4. Sum 41 – Catching Fire
  5. The Hush Sound – We Intertwined
  6. Tycho – Into the Woods
  7. Ra Ra Riot – War and Famine
  8. Malia Civetz – Little Victories
  9. Hatchie – Kiss the Stars
  10. Frank Ocean – Moon River

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 BlueEyesBrewing in the “Post Your Picture Thread” thread.

Pardon the typos this ended up being longer than expected and I’m sure I missed something in my proof reading. I hope everyone has a great weekend.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.