Liner Notes (July 3rd, 2021)

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This week’s newsletter has some thoughts and concerns about Apple Music’s “Spatial Audio.” There’s also thoughts on music I listened to this week, some movies I watched, and a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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A Few Things

  • Well, it’s the Fourth of July weekend here in the states, and I’m looking forward to the long weekend. A friends’ child is having a birthday party today, so we’re heading over there for a little backyard BBQ. Nothing else really planned for the weekend, but on Monday, I’ll be working on getting our “best of 2021 so far” feature put together and posted. It’s been an interesting year of music so far, and I can’t believe it’s already half over. I’m expecting a strong second half as well, with quite a lot to look forward to.
  • One of the things I haven’t really written much about so far is the new Apple Music lossless and “Spatial Audio” features. Lossless is a nice addition but really is more of a placebo effect for people who think they can hear a difference that they probably can’t. To me, “Spatial Audio” is the interesting feature. There are some songs where it’s exceptionally cool. Like this Brahms performance ends up sounding like the instruments are where they would be in a concert hall. It’s a fascinating way to experience the music. When it comes to some of the other songs in this space, I think it’s a work in progress. Listening to tracks like Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” or Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue” leaves me with mixed feelings. For starters, the volume change is extremely noticeable and distracting. When only one song in an album gets this mix, it throws off the entire flow and feel of the record. Second, I checked with Ryan Key of Yellowcard, because I was curious if he knew who does this specific mix of “Ocean Avenue.” He had no idea. And this is where I’m also a little weary. From talking with some audio engineer friends, these “Spacial Audio” tracks do require a specific remix of the song. Now, in my opinion, how a song is mixed is extremely important to the final product. Even hearing one person’s version of a mix versus another can often lead to a very different experience. The care, and intentionality, that goes into a song’s mix is part of the song’s essence. The artist, the producer, and all those involved make choices together to craft the final output. I think it’s a little weird to inject this new version into the world that, in at least some cases, none of those involved in making the song have had any input on. It changes how it sounds, and it becomes, for Apple Music listeners, the default version of the song. That sits weird with me. I think there is absolutely a world where the artist, producer, engineers, and the mixing and mastering process incorporates this new technology to create incredible pieces of music that can pull things out of the song and let us experience it in ways we currently can’t. The part I find … odd … is who is making these choices for the songs that are getting this treatment right now? Did Apple pay some random people to go remix songs in “Spatial Audio” without consulting the artist? Who are these remixers? Someone like Tom Lord-Alge is one of the best in the business at mixing songs, and his work is being morphed here with, from everything I can tell, no consultation. That’s strange to me, especially when this remix becomes the default. I don’t know how others feel about this, but it’s something I’ve been mulling over in my head the past few weeks, and I’d love more information about this process. Because I don’t really know how I feel thinking there’s a good chance a bunch of artists spent six figures to have someone mix their album, extremely intentionally, only for Apple to pay some random dudes in a studio somewhere to remix it in a weird assembly line process of just cranking these out without artist input. That feels super weird to me.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • We’re getting new You, Me and Everyone I Know this year! First single sounds pretty damn good. I’d tell you how the rest of the album sounds, but I’m embargoed.
  • I continue to listen to this KennyHoopla album on a daily basis. It’s definitely one of my favorites of the year and one of the best new pop-punk releases I’ve heard in a long while. Our building’s gym finally opened up again this week for the first time in over 18-months. It was so weird being back and being able to lift real weights again. But, that also means I can confirm this is a great gym album as well. Yeah, nothing but praise.
  • The new JXDN album is a less good pop-punk album. The interpolation of “Feeling This” in “A Wasted Year” is the standout, and there are a few other interesting moments on the album. I’d say it’s fun, catchy, but too long, and not as refined. The kind of thing I’ll listen to for a few weeks and then probably forget about. I remain utterly intrigued by this pop-punk renaissance. The next one on my list that I think could be a smash is the upcoming WILLOW album. And, of course, keep your eyes peeled for the new Meet Me @ The Altar EP (it’s awesome), and if you haven’t checked out Action/Adventure yet, that’s another one worth your time.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • I love me some noir and thought No Sudden Move was great. It took some reading after the film to completely understand everything that happened, but I had a whole lot of fun watching. Great performances, classic Soderbergh.
  • My sister was over last weekend and the three of us watched Luca. And all three of us adored it. A true delight from top to bottom.
  • The fourth season of Elite is interesting so far. It’s good, but I think what’s hard is that we had set the characters all up in a good space. Everyone was, relatively, in a decent place in life when we last left them. So, to get to the drama that’s needed … that all has to be dismantled. And that’s a tough watch. Seeing characters you care about be pulled apart. I’m still enjoying the show and am very curious where it’ll go in the last three episodes, but I think it’s my least favorite of the series so far. I almost wish they would have written more of the characters out and brought in more new ones to fall in love with.
  • My word is the latest Below Deck: Sailing Yacht season a lot. Gary, wooo boy, I do not like him. And I feel extremely bad for the chef so far. She’s been incredible and is getting the short end of the stick from the crew, captain, and the guests. We just finished the episodes with the 9-person charter and I was practically, ok, I was literally screaming at the guests through the TV. Haaaaaaaaaaated the primary so much.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • Welp, my baseball game is a disaster so I’m going to head to the gym for a bit and listen to the Accidental Tech Podcast instead. I hope everyone has a great rest of the weekend.

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. KennyHoopla – Smoke Break
  2. JXDN – A Wasted Year
  3. Simple Creatures – Ether
  4. Modest Mouse – Wooden Soldiers
  5. Lucy Dacus – Going Going Gone
  6. Action/Adventure – Semi-Prologue
  7. The Killers – Dustland
  8. Catbite – Call Your Bluff
  9. Big Red Machine – Renegade
  10. Bo Burnham – All Eyes on Me

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 Meerkat in the “Accountability in Music” thread.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

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