Liner Notes (August 23rd, 2019)

This week’s newsletter looks at new music from The 1975 and Taylor Swift, as well as offering some first impressions on the upcoming album from Tiger Army. There’s also some thoughts on a few other records, as well as my weekly media diet rundown, and a playlist of ten songs I loved this week. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Three Things

  • I’ve been re-organizing my iPad home screen this week (as one does when they’re watching a baseball game on the couch), getting ready for iOS 13. In doing so, I also re-organized my Shortcuts and realized I had one some members may enjoy. What it does is take the highlighted text on any Safari page, and then it copies that text to the clipboard, using the forum’s blockquote BBcode, and it puts the link at the top. If you’ve ever read the political forum, I use it all the time to share clips/quotes from articles in there. Anyway, it’s very convenient, and you can grab it here. (I also have a similar one that uses a different template and Markdown, specifically for Drafts 5 and posting links to the homepage.)
  • I cooked flank steak this week with the sous vide, which I hadn’t used in a while, and I re-remembered just how much I love this thing. It is a game-changer in the kitchen for foods like this. Marinated the meat the night before, cooked it throughout the day, tossed it on the grill to sear it a little bit right at the end, and then cut it up to make excellent tasting steak bowls. (Black beans, grilled peppers and onions, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, cheese, and steak.)
  • Quick update on my August goal of increasing supporters on the website: we’re now 55 supporters away from hitting my target for the year.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • There’s just something different about The 1975 music release weeks. There’s a different feeling in the air, palpable energy, anticipation, and an underlying current of prospect. The way this band has continued to shift expectations, defy preconceived notions at every turn, and continue to pump out year-defining-anthems is unlike anything I’ve seen in the music world in a long time. Combine this with their die-hard fanbase, and I feel confident in saying they’re one of the best things happening in music these days. It’s a real joy to be experiencing this in real-time and being alive while they’re in such a creative peak. “People,” as a song, is exploding with raw power and rhythmic ardor. A pounding beat and stop-step pacing bring forth comparisons of everything from Refused, to The Hives, to Drive Like Jehu, and Blur. It’s an invigorating call-to-arms that defies all predictions of where this band may have been headed next and exhibits a confidence and swagger of a group flexing at the peak of their powers. They say, “Oh, you think you have us pegged? You think we’re this?” as they metamorphosize right before our eyes. It’s stunning. A sonic shock to the system. And then the video! An adrenaline-filled shot that made me think of “New Noise” and perfectly captures the energy of the song. How this band incorporates their music, videos, and overall aesthetic into everything they do is nothing short of impressive.

    In summary: Damn good song. Damn good band. Can’t wait for more.

  • The new Taylor Swift album is here. And, compared to her past releases, this album seems less like AN EVENT. Even still, any day Taylor Swift is releasing an album all of the music industry attention and oxygen feels hyper-focused around it. I was surprised how subdued the album feels to me on first listen. I think I was expecting more straight-out pop hits, and instead, there’s a nice mix of tempo and nuance in the songs. The album feels long, too long, on first listen. This leads to me feeling like there’s filler without really knowing what songs should be b-sides or released at a later time. Tracks like “Cruel Summer,” “Paper Hearts,” “Cornelia Street,” and “Afterglow” all stood out on first listen, and I had a much more positive listening experience than I did to Reputation. The songs where Taylor’s songwriting takes center stage, I think, work the best. The songs that feel a little too “of the moment” in pop-radio, work less well. I think the conversation around Taylor, and hell maybe most music of the past few years, has been about how big an album needs to be and feel. How it needs to impact the culture, dominate the conversation, and if it fails to do that … then it fails as a piece of art. That every conversation around Taylor has to be if her popularity is waxing, or waning, is exhausting to read. And, not only do I think this entire mindset is silly and a disservice to the music, I think being able to pull away from that conversation lets us look at the songs divorced from any need to put it into a narrative arc of good or bad. And, there are some terrific songs here. Well crafted, well-written songs.
  • After hearing the first two released songs from the new Tiger Army album, Retrofuture, I was a little worried. Their last album, V, was one of my favorites in 2016 and I loved the little throwback sound they had going on. I shouldn’t have worried so much. The new album gives me big Buddy Holly and the Crickets vibes mixed in with a little rockabilly punk edge. Songs like “Valentina” sound like they could be played at a sock-hop in the 1960s. I love “Mi Amor La Luna” being sung entirely in Spanish. The only real complaint I can come up with is that since there’s already an instrumental opening track, so having another one (“Night Flower”) as the penultimate track feels a little weird in the sequence. But that’s just a weird little nitpick. The first five songs on the album are everything I wanted this album to sound like, and producer Ted Hutt brings out the best of the band’s sound in songs like “Beyond the Veil” and “Last Ride.” I love how you can hear the stand-up bass slap and groove. And the lead singer, Nick, has never sounded so smooth; he’s got a real crooner thing going on here. This mix of early-era rock and roll fused with a little punk works extremely well.
  • After another week listening to the new Grayscale album, I’ve now reached the point where I actually can’t avoid the lyrics. It’s easier to just toe-tap along to some catchy music the first couple times, but the more I listen to something, the more I can focus in on what’s being said. And, oh my are there a lot of songs about fucking on this album. We already have the sub-genre label “sad-boy rock,” and we may need to throw “horny-boy rock” into the mix. I actually laughed out loud when I caught a part of “Twilight (My Heaven).” That aside, I’m still digging tracks like “Baby Blue” and “Young” and “What’s On Your Mind” quite a bit. The little pre-chorus part in “What’s On Your Mind” has been stuck in my head like gum on a scalding sidewalk.
  • The new Noah Gundersen album is out today and I recommend finding some time to put this on with some nice headphones and nothing to do for an hour or so. There’s a lot to take in, but it’s a journey worth taking. Also, check out Craig’s review of the album.
  • I spent a lot of time listening to the new Somos record this week, and it’s still great. The album now has physical pre-orders up as well.
  • The Menzingers’ new song “American (You’re Freaking Me Out)” sounds like pretty classic Menzingers. That’s still a positive thing, even if I hope they start to mix it up a little. It sounds like a good opening track. I think I’m out on listening to any more new songs until I can hear the full album though.
  • I listened to the new Early November once again this week, still enjoyable, but not something I find myself craving. It feels a little disjointed to me from a production standpoint. Some songs sound so sonically different that it throws off my listen.
  • I was right about that new Refused album being a damn good gym album. This one’s been growing on me with each listen.
  • I’ve got the new albums from Third Eye Blind and Korn here. Feeling very ’90s. Haven’t listened yet.
  • Next up on my “to listen” list is the new album from Knocked Loose and Brockhampton. And I’ll probably give that The Band Camino EP a spin as well.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • Men in Black: International was not anywhere near as bad as the reviews made it seem like it would be, but it also wasn’t very good. It was too long, edited poorly, and entirely predictable. However, the leads had pretty good chemistry, and it was relatively entertaining. I wouldn’t watch it again, but it was harmless. Sometimes I’m confused by what “paint by numbers” action/blockbusters get destroyed by critics, and which end up with 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and are pretty much the same thing as this.
  • After writing about them in last week’s newsletter, I had to re-watch The Raid 1 and 2 this week. God damn are those good action movies. The first one is straight-up “here’s the premise, go,” and you’re thrown into the action nonstop. The second has a little more “plot,” but it’s still a thrilling watch. I love the kitchen fight scene at the end. Yep, both of these hold up on re-watches if you’re in the mood for hyper-violent action.
  • The Rewatchables podcast can be hit or miss, but more often than not, when it’s a movie I’ve seen and enjoyed, I need to re-watch it after listening to an episode. This week I listened to their episode on The Town, and then we re-watched the movie. It had been a few years since I’d seen this and it holds up pretty well to what I remember. Good film, good performances, good direction, some iffy Boston accents at times. I feel like a bank/heist movie should be made every one or two years, ’cause I’m in on all of them.
  • We finished the final season of VEEP and I think it ended the only way it could. It’s a brutal satire of power and politics, and I fear it’s far closer to reality than we really want to admit. The final episode is hilarious, as the show often is, but watching someone be that backstabbing, and that power-hungry, is a tough watch. Still, an exceptionally funny show for its run and one that I think will end up standing the test of time better than most.
  • While searching for a lighter, twenty to thirty-minute show to watch, we stumbled on Derry Girls on Netflix. We’ve only watched the first three episodes so far, but this is right in my wheelhouse for a TV show. It’s funny, clever, and it captures that period in young-adulthood quite well.
  • I’m on episode ten of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery and loving it. Things are getting really good in the main storyline.
  • I spent this week finally breaking out some comic books again! This week I decided to dive back into The Amazing Spider-Man, and I read the first ten issues of Nick Spencer’s start to the book. It’s pitched as a back to the basics take on Spider-Man, and so far, that’s precisely what it is. It includes Nick’s well-known humor and wit in the stories, but it’s also been a pretty low stakes, fun, romp into the Spider-Man world so far. Which, given everything that had been happening in Spidey’s world over the last decade in this book, does work as a nice recalibration of the character. I’m going to keep reading until I’m caught up, and my only hope is that at some point Nick does take the character in new, exciting, directions. He’s made one bold choice so far, which I approve of, but I’d love to see what else he can do.

    I suppose, since I’m writing about Spider-Man, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some thoughts on the news this week that Sony and Disney may not be able to come to an agreement on using Spider-Man in future MCU movies. My thoughts sort of boil down to: two multi-billion dollar companies fighting in the press over comic book characters is hilarious to me. But, Disney should pay what they need to pay to keep the character available in their movies. They print money at this point due to buying up basically everything, and it’s a shame fans will suffer because of it. That said, I think the character in Sony’s hands will be just fine. They’ve made the best Spider-Man movie of all time (Into the Spider-Verse), and I think it’s easy enough to write around any limitations they may have going forward. It may even be for the best of the character (since I love a more solo-Spidey anyway). If they can keep large portions of the team together that have made these previous two films, and maybe even add Phil Lord and Chris Miller into the mix, I think the movies will be of the same quality they’ve been so far. That said, they’re going to take so much shit no matter what they release because MCU fans are pissed off. The next movie could be better than the previous two, and there will be a vocal group that will hate it and say it’s ruined. Feels like a lose/lose proposition. I don’t know, in the end Disney should probably just open up the wallet.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • We’ve picked out our florist for the wedding. I can’t believe how much very simple, very basic, flowers cost when they’re part of a wedding. I am going to try not to think about it too much.
  • I spoke with a journalist this week that’s writing an article about Blink-182 and masculinity and that era and fandom of, it seems like, specifically men growing up with that band and how it shaped our worldview. It was an interesting conversation, and I’m curious what the final piece ends up looking like. I don’t love doing interviews like this because I always end up saying four things that I think are pretty good while making solid points, but they’re a little too long to quote. So while those never make the article, me saying something dumb does instead.

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 1975 – People
  2. Somos – Mediterranean
  3. The Menzingers – America (You’re Freaking Me Out)
  4. Taylor Swift – Cornelia Street
  5. Noah Gundersen – Crystal Creek
  6. Ben Platt – Rain
  7. A Day to Remember – Degenerates
  8. Tiger Army – Prisoner of the Night
  9. Lauv – Fuck, I’m Lonely
  10. The Japanese House – Maybe You’re the Reason

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 personalmaps in the “Accountability in Music” thread. (Hey, personalmaps: Last week you were saying how you wanted to make section so badly, and now it’s your second time on it.)

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. Don’t forget to tip your bartender.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.