Liner Notes (September 11th, 2021)

Sunshine

This week’s newsletter has broad impressions of the new album from Thrice, first impressions of the new Angels and Airwaves record, random other thoughts about the music I listened to this week, and musings about organizing my music collection (both physical and digital). There’s also a playlist of ten songs I enjoyed this week, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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A Few Things

  • Last week, my younger cousin got married. It was a lovely wedding, and it looked like the bride and groom had a wonderful time. It was pretty weird being around people like that again. I haven’t been around that many people in … over a year? I’ve lost track of time. Besides one of the guests falling and breaking her leg, everything went off without a hitch! Just, you know, a minor “omg, what just happened?!” moment. But the bride and groom had a great day, and that’s really what matters most. I enjoyed many Rice Krispies treats and watching all my cousin’s friends, who are all about ten years younger than me, having a good time. No one does a good job of explaining how much aging really messes with your head. (And I was relieved to see that sweet negative COVID test on Tuesday as well.)
  • On Sunday, I spent a good part of my morning organizing my record collection. It was starting to get a little unwieldy, with records just kind of haphazard put everywhere. I wanted to make sure everything was alphabetized, and everything was properly added to Discogs. So I pulled everything out, reorganized it all, and made sure to put the records in plastic slipcases that needed them. It felt good to get everything back into places where I could easily find them. Vinyl records are interesting to me because I do listen to them, but not consistently. I consider it a few things, one, it’s absolutely a “collection” – it’s something that brings me joy to look at, like a bookshelf full of books you love, or even artwork on a wall, it’s something that makes me happy. It’s also a way to show support for music, for the artists I love, and I find it more appealing than a giant wall of plastic CD cases (which at one point in my life were actual bookcases stacked top to bottom like I was a mid-90’s DJ). After getting everything organized and cleaned up, I realized I was missing 3-5 albums I consider in my top 20 of all time. A few of those are going to be next to impossible to get, but a few others I’m going to pick up. I’m not as into the “rare pressing” or different variants; I’m more of an “I just like to have the record” kind of ‘collector.’ Records (and my cat) are pretty much all I post on Instagram these days, and I have some fun stuff coming this week, so if you’re into that at all, you can find me here.
  • In last week’s newsletter, I wrote a bunch about starting to take Last.fm seriously again. Which, admittedly, is a hilarious sentence to write. But I want to have more data around what I listen to the most, and I think they’re far and away the best place for that. It also makes writing things like this newsletter easier when I can get a great look at what I listened to and how often, and it helps as a backstop to make sure I don’t miss something. Part of this “project” also involved making sure that the metadata that was currently on my profile was organized as well. Since I’ve had the account since 2005, there was a lot of improperly categorized data. Things like early blink-182 listens being in there as “Blink 182” and therefore not being counted as one whole, or albums being named wrong and having weird duplicates. So, I spent some evenings pouring over everything and cleaning it up. To be able to do this, you need to have a “Pro” account, and then I highly recommend looking at this Github project. It’s is a browser extension that makes bulk editing on the website a breeze. All of this should be built into the service, and it’s a real shame that it’s not. But you can merge albums, mass edit, and do all sorts of fixes once it’s installed. After all that work, I enjoy looking through all the charts to see what artists are my most played, which albums of theirs I spin most frequently, and what years correlated with which albums. 2009 was the year that I used the service the most, and it has a like double the number of scrobbles as all the others. I was diligent that year. But it also means that everything that came out around 2008-2009 gets a little extra boost. It’s kind of funny, but it is what it is at this point. Most of the artists and albums make a whole lot of sense. Well, clearly all of them do because I listened to them, but you know what I mean. However, there are also things like Years of Refusal, which I haven’t heard since I spun six songs in 2014. It turns out being a world champion toxic racist asshole has a massive impact on if I give a shit to listen to your music, even if I once loved it. It is interesting to be able to dive into things like that, though, and see what and when I was listening to different things. And, the more I use the service, the more value I’ll get out of it. (Seriously, Apple, build this into Apple Music.) Of course, this is also probably opening me up to criticism at some point when someone is going to deep dive into my account to find the problematic art I’ve consumed, but I’m just kind of accepting that at this point.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • Organizing my Last.fm profile had me looking at a bunch of albums, and bands, that I haven’t listened to in a long while. It made me nostalgic. I spend a lot of time each week going through “the new” and not getting away from the “Recently Added” section of my collection. Which is great; I love listening to new music and diving into and really spending a lot of time with the latest. But, there’s also a massive catalog of music that is part of my life, my history, and I want to make sure I listen to that sometimes too. So, for the next few weeks, it’s my goal to revisit some of my favorites. This week, I went with My Chemical Romance. Extremely strong discography. Black Parade is an all-timer, but Danger Days really has grown on me. And I’m a big fan of those Conventional Weapons tracks as well.
  • I saw a bunch of Thrice reviews posted this week. Which feels a little side-eye at the September 13th embargo, but, who knows, we live in a lawless society! Over the past week, I did a catalog dive through the band’s work. I started with Illusion of Safety and then returned to their new album to see if I could best put how I feel about it in context. The other albums surrounding it made me appreciate it even more. Sure, it’s out of the vein that has come to define Thrice; however, it’s a much more lush, subdued power. While I’d define Beggars as an album with a groove, I’d define Horizons/East as an album with a pace. Where Vheissu had a weight that often felt like being hit by a sledgehammer wave, this feels like the pressure from a strong tide. A pull. An ebb. A flow. A connection that grows with subsequent listens and rewards the patient listener. I get a sense of more confidence from the band here and that they trust their fans to join them as they continue to shift and morph just what it is to be Thrice. And this is a band that has played in so many different genres and carried so many different aesthetics. And while I see pieces of all of those in this record, it’s that the band can still surprise me by injecting new life and motifs into their sound that impresses me so much. Play 1: Hmm, this is good, interesting, not sure how I feel. Play 2: Oh, that’s a really unique way to do that; yeah, this is pulling me in. Play 3: After all these years, I’m still just at my core a Thrice fan. They got me again; I just respect and enjoy the feeling that listening to their music brings me. It was 2001 when I first discovered this band, a wide-eyed college freshman. Some twenty years later, and with everything that’s changed in my life, it’s nice to have a few constants. Early favorites include the opener, “Northern Lights,” and “The Dreamer.” I look forward to talking even more about this one with everyone in the upcoming weeks.
  • I saw some online disappointment in the new Kacey Musgraves album. After listening a couple of times, I guess I understand. It does carry with it a different sound than the previous. It’s a little more subdued, and there’s definitely a different weight to the lyrical content, but the songwriting is still top-notch, and I think as a whole, it’s a very strong record. It has a clear intent, and it achieves it. It’s interesting because it doesn’t ultimately make a pop turn, and it doesn’t have the same breezy feeling of her last masterpiece, but I think there’s a lot to chew on here. I’m curious how this one grows on people or if they’ll just write it off and move on to the next? I’m also interested in a more extensive discussion at some point in this more subtle, mellow, and much more melancholy era of pop music we’re going through right now.
  • Earlier this week, I saw this nostalgia post for when Tom DeLonge announced Angels and Airwaves in the AbsolutePunk forums. Now that was a weird day. I’ve always been a little back and forth, to put it mildly, when it comes to this band. There are times where I’m extremely impressed with Tom’s gumption, drive, and singular vision for his art. And there are times where I think it gets a little too much and that he could greatly benefit from an editor of some of his more … out-there ideas. I, personally, have always preferred Mark’s more pop approach to songwriting and therefore connected more with +44 than I did AVA. But, of course, I’ve always kept my eye on the band. I’ve had the chance to spin the new album Lifeforms twice, in full, now, and my first impressions are maybe(?) shockingly positive. At times I feel like AVA songs can become weighed down under the extra studio machinations; however, I think the synth and electronic elements heighten many of the songs here. “Losing My Mind” is probably the best song in this collection, but “Timebomb,” “Automatic,” “Restless Souls,” “A Fire in a Nameless Town” are all up there with, in my opinion, the best of the Angels and Airwaves catalog. “A Fire in a Nameless Town,” specifically, deserves a shoutout as something I was unprepared for. I had to listen twice to confirm, but yep, that’s as good of a song as I think Tom’s written in a good while. On the flip side, “No More Guns” has an admirable message that I think is poorly executed. Brass tacks: This is the AVA album that most resonates with me in years. Mainly because it plays in a sonic space I enjoy and is in line with my current tastes.
  • I’ve been a massive fan of the last two MUNA albums, so sign me all the way up for this new record. The first single features Phoebe Bridgers and it’s a nice little pop-bop. This is an album to keep on your radar, and if you’ve never checked them out before, now’s a damn good time to start as both of their previous have featured highly on my best of the year lists.
  • Some quick hits: That Jail Socks record remains awesome and I’ve had quite a few people reaching out after I recommended it last week. Someone said it reminded them of the Armor for Sleep era in our music scene, and I think that’s just about dead on for a comparison. That was a fun time. The new record from The Band CAMINO (seriously, this band name and weird stylization still makes little sense to me) has some decent tracks on it. But it feels very disjointed, very “we wrote a bunch of songs over the course of a few years looking for hits and meshed them all together” – I don’t find it very cohesive, and while the highs are very radio-ready, there’s also an underlying feeling of a band searching for an identity. Reminds me a bit of FAIM. After loving the new Blindspotting TV show, I realized I missed the creators (Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs) had put out Seven Nights in Chicago in 2019. I very much enjoyed it and paired with the two Blindspotting EPs from the movie, that’s a nice little collection of music. (Rafael Casal is also a very good Instagram follow, and his thread on that new “Activist” TV show is well worth a read.) The latest Hot Milk EP is a little hit or miss for me, they absolutely have something here, and it’s bursting with potential, and when they grab it, it’s captivating. I think those “yep, that’s it” moments make some of the other songs feel a little underdeveloped, but I would not be shocked if this band has a major crossover hit at some point. The new Colleen Green album has a tremendous end-of-summer feel to it, and the Cheat Codes and All Time Low song continues All Time Low’s streak of getting me to say, “hot damn, that’s good!”

The Stats: Over the past week, I listened to 46 different artists and 309 different tracks. Kacey Musgraves’s Star-Crossed was my most played album, while My Chemical Romance were the most played artist. Here is my Top 9 from last week, and you can follow me on Apple Music and/or Last.fm.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • I had never seen I Kill Giants but thought it was a lovely coming of age story with a well-executed premise.
  • Those Who Wish Me Dead felt like a mediocre streaming film that just tossed a bunch of ideas into a blender and hoped it would work. It was passable but ultimately unrewarding and a poorly edited mishmash.
  • I highly recommend the TV show Blindspotting. You don’t need to have seen the movie to watch the show, but you should because it’s also great. The actor that plays Earl gives a star-making performance, and this season is intelligent, funny, poignant, and artful. The final scene left me slack-jawed. I hope they get another season because we need more like this out in the world.
  • With everyone, including Hannah’s and my mother, having seen Clickbait and talking about it, we figured we might as well. We’ve seen two episodes, and I don’t really have an opinion yet. This could easily go either way …
  • We’ve also now watched two episodes of The Other Two, and they both had multiple laugh-out-loud moments. I’m in for more.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • Nothing much here this week. I just hope everyone has a wonderful rest of their weekend. We’re heading out to meet my sister and her boyfriend for a little wine tasting. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. Probably run a few errands after and then probably watch my depressingly embarrassingly bad favorite baseball team continue to shit the bed.

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. All Time Low & Cheat Codes – Ghost Story
  2. The Band Camino – Underneath My Skin
  3. Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs – At This Point
  4. Hot Milk – Split Personality
  5. Kacey Musgraves – Camera Roll
  6. MUNA – Silk Chiffon
  7. Victors – Hey, U Up?
  8. Aaron Sprinkle – Impossible
  9. Great Good Fine Ok – See Me Here, See Me Now
  10. Jail Socks – More Than This

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 mescalineeyes in the “Kacey Musgraves – Star Crossed (September 10, 2021)” thread.

Haha, wow. Well played.

Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.

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