Liner Notes (March 6th, 2020)

This week’s newsletter has me looking at a bunch of the great releases and songs out this week, offering thoughts on staying focused while working from home, and has my usual media diet rundown as well. Plus, there is a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

If you’d like this newsletter delivered to your inbox each week (it’s free and available to everyone), you can sign up here.

Four Things

  • I saw this question from hermanthehermit posted in the supporter Q&A thread last night, and I figured I might as well answer it here. They asked, “how do you keep focused and not get stir crazy when working from home full time?” The easy answer is that I’ve been doing it so long it’s become a habit. I’ve virtually always worked from home, or before that, a dorm-room, so I’ve never really known anything else or any other way. But when I look at from the outside, what works best for me is setting up various systems that act as bumpers, or guide rails, to keep me on track. To stay focused, I make sure that I know what it is I will be working on each day. That involves a task manager and weekly reviews each Saturday. I have a good idea of what each day will look like and what I’ll be focused on working on during it. Repeating tasks keep me on track for the things I know I have to do each day, and then I sprinkle in the other projects throughout. What has always worked for me is to have a dedicated office or place in the home that I go to for “work.” I’ve never been one to be able to work from a couch or bed; it helps me to focus when I’m at a specific place more removed from the normal part of my home. In college, it was just a desk with a computer on it, but that was very much ‘the place to work.’ The habits and routines I’ve created for my day to day life ends up taking a bunch of the risks of not focusing on what I should be working on out of the equation (although everyone’s seen my spend way too much time in the forums goofing around, so it’s not like they always work). This year I’ve been asking myself when I feel I’m drifting, “is what you’re doing right now in service to your business?” — and that’s been the guiding light to asses and stop scrolling through Twitter. For me, a big part of focus is setting yourself up in a way that gives you the best chance at success, and then putting in little things into the system to keep you on track constantly. Repeating tasks, little reminders to myself to check in on what I’m doing with my time, etc. As for the ‘stir crazy’ part, I try and structure my day and week in ways that I know what I have to look forward to, and I make sure I do extra things besides just sit inside on the computer all day. Things like making sure I have a stopping point where I call it an evening, even if Hannah isn’t home yet, and go read or do something just for me. I also go to the gym in the middle of the day, every single day. Instead of waiting until the day is over, I split my day up with a workout and shower for about an hour. It helps me retain focus on the next task when I return. And lastly, I listen to when my body is telling me I’m going a little stir crazy, and I use various release valves. I go run an errand outside from my list, or go for a walk with a good podcast, or take a little break to work on a personal project on my list. I let myself have breaks when I feel my body and brain get to that point. I trust myself that if I need to lay down for a nap, or even to watch a TV show to decompress from something, that I’ll be able to get back to work soon after and it won’t become something I do every day. I suppose that trust comes from doing it for like 15+ years at this point. In short, I recommend looking at ways to structure the day to remove the pain points and to evaluate your start and stop times and what you’d ideally like to be doing during that period before you even sit down to start doing it. That way, you have a guide as to what your ideal and the most efficient day could look like, and then let yourself drift and be flexible when needed. Hopefully, this somewhat helps!
  • I saw this article over at MacStories talking about turning Newsletters (Like this one! Thanks for the shoutout Federico.) into RSS feeds so that you can read them in your trusty RSS reader. It’s a cool little trick, and if you use NewsBlur instead of Feedbin, you should be able to do the same thing following these instructions. Substack, which is what I use to power this newsletter, also has an RSS feed that I believe was recently updated to show the entire article. I’m a big proponent of RSS for catching up on news and the blogs you like the most; I wish more people still used it. (For most people, I recommend the app Reeder.) I feel like the algorithms deciding what you see each day in Facebook or Twitter feeds is so much less fun than following a specific writer or blog and wanting to read their stuff each day. I guess that’s why I still do what I do every single day.
  • I loved this interview with Hayley Williams in the New York Times. There’s a whole lot of great news bits in there, but it’s the genuine openness and raw honesty from Hayley that really spoke to me.
  • This week I continued my redesign of the new Chorus homepage and I’m getting excited about how it’s coming along. The design is virtually done, and a huge portion of how the homepage itself should be put together is complete. I have a few more things to do on the homepage before moving into the next few sections, but getting my new little sort feature to work this was extremely satisfying. Less satisfying was spending a day wanting to throw something through my screen for not working correctly only to wake up the next morning and realizing I could do what I wanted with flexbox in less than ten seconds. It’s hilarious and deeply depressing when that happens.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • The description of Lauv as kind of a one-man boyband works surprisingly well, and that’s readily apparent on the new album that’s out today. It’s an album dripping in candy-coated pop with instantly hummable choruses and laser-tight production. Where it suffers is in its length, 21 tracks over an hour of music, is a lot to take in. But there’s a whole lot here to like and a whole lot here I’ll be throwing on summer playlists for the next few months. Early favorites include “Canada” and “El Tejano” (mostly because any song with a Friends reference gets my love) and “I’m So Tired.” This feels like the kind of album I’ll end up throwing on at a gathering with friends, and people will come up and ask, “hey, who is this?” — instantly accessible but seemingly still just under the radar of the masses.
  • There’s a new Cassino album out today. It goes by fast, clocking in only a little over 30 minutes, but it’s damn nice to hear his voice again (it’s the solo project of the former singer of criminally underrated Northstar). Early favorites include “Tacoma” and “Corvette.”
  • Fickle Friends continue to crank out great singles. This may be their best of the latest batch, and if you’re a fan of what Paramore was doing on their last album, this is absolutely a band to watch.
  • Press Club’s new single, “Insecurities,” is a nice little punk track full of energy and maybe a tad The Distillers feel.
  • The Aces returned with the new single “Daydream,” and I’m here for the Wilson Phillips chorus.
  • Things I didn’t expect to be typing this morning: the new Mandy Moore album is worth your time. Welcome back, Mandy. I only had time to listen once this morning, but there’s some excellent stuff here.
  • PVRIS released the new song “Dead Weight,” and this album is extremely high on my anticipated list now. I feel something bubbling here. Someone send me this album early dammit.
  • The new Dixie Chicks song, their first in something like fourteen years, is surprisingly good. A nice little modern spin on pop-country with some razor-sharp lyrics in the verses.
  • This Jenny Dee album is going to be in a lot of people’s wheelhouses because it’s certainly in mine. Think singer/songwriter mixed with Copeland-like layers and sonic flourishes. Hey, look, whattaya know, Aaron Marsh produced it and is featured on a song. That makes sense. “House That We Built” knocked me on my ass, and “Before I Go” is an apparition of a song.
  • Look, a lot is coming out today, so just add it all into your library and listen throughout the week, but make sure you don’t sleep on the new album from Caroline Rose called Superstar. It’s unique in a way that’s hard to describe, but there’s something about the various groovy sounds used that I think works well. If you’re interested in what I mean, give “Got To Go My Own Way” a play and pay attention to how all the layers in the background move together.
  • I gave lengthy thoughts on the new All Time Low in last week’s newsletter, but the album has continued into my heavy rotation throughout this week, and I’m still very much into it. It’s become something I reach for to play more often than not.
  • Next up on my to listen list include Silverstein and Worriers.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • Jumanji: The Next Level wasn’t as good as the (surprising) first film, but it was still an enjoyable evening of silly fun. Not great, but mindless entertainment. Dwayne Johnson trying to talk like Danny DeVito was killing me the entire time though.
  • We’re almost done with the third season of Atypical, and I still love it. I’m glad they’re getting a fourth season to tie everything up, and I’ll be sad when this show is over.
  • I finished my binge-watch of High Fidelity last weekend, and I must say, I enjoyed it. I thought the new spin on the classic worked well, the new additions were welcome, and getting a little Jack Antonoff cameo was the cherry on top.
  • McMillions remains fascinating.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • With all of the news about the COVID-19 virus going around lately, I’ve been noticing just how many things I interact with daily where spreading of germs is trivially easy. Not just door knobs and handles, but signing tablets when purchasing something, or handing my ID over to be checked by the cashier when buying beer. It’s one of those things that you don’t notice until you start paying attention, and then it’s almost all you can think about. Anyway, I’m pretty worried about how this is going to impact the music industry as a whole. With so many bands and artists relying on touring income, a pandemic that causes people to stay indoors and avoid large spaces with lots of people could be a massive hit to the industry. With that in mind, wash your hands!, and try and stop touching your face so much (he writes seconds after resting his chin in his hands to think for a moment).
  • I know a lot of people are disappointed about what’s going on in the political world right now, and I just want to say I get it, and I’m with you. It’s ok to be frustrated. I lived through 2004 and running John Kerry against Bush, and I am seeing so many parallels right now with the Biden campaign and candidate that it’s giving me nightmares. These next few weeks are going to be tough, but it’s not a time to give up. I recommend looking at places and thinks you can get involved locally, find out the local races that matter, and/or upcoming down-ballot races that are important. So many of these little things get forgotten when there’s a Presidential race going on, but that’s only one part of the bigger picture.

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. Lauv – I’m So Tired
  2. Fickle Friends – Eats Me Up
  3. Mandy Moore – Fifteen
  4. Cassino – Tacoma
  5. The Aces – Daydream
  6. Press Club – Insecurities
  7. Jenny Dee – House That We Built
  8. Caroline Rose – Nothing’s Impossible
  9. PVRIS – Dead Weight
  10. Lauv – Canada

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 alina in the “General Politics Discussion VII” thread.

Would you like this newsletter delivered to your inbox each week? You can sign up to have it sent to your email right here.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.