Liner Notes (December 13th, 2019)

In this week’s newsletter, I look at some of the holiday songs released this week, offer first thoughts on the new Brian Fallon song and Harry Styles album, and dive into my weekly media diet rundown. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I loved this week, and this week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Four Things

  • This week saw the launch of our “Best of the Decade” feature on the website. I wrote about Thursday, Phoebe Bridgers, Bon Iver, The 1975, Against Me!, and Bleachers. I specifically like how this list turned out because it feels uniquely Chorus/AbsolutePunk. It’s not like every other publication’s best-of list, and our staff and community’s tastes shine. The fact that Paramore had the top album of the decade, I think, perfectly encapsulates both websites’ ride through the last ten years. From the end of AbsolutePunk and the scene morphing into what it is now, most of us aged up, and into what Chorus has become and where the music has shifted.
  • I also shared my personal top 50 of the decade list, which was very hard to put together but I did my best. I also realized way too late that I forgot Yellowcard’s Southern Air completely. My dumb brain thought that came out in like 2008 or something and didn’t even have it on my original list to pull albums from. That was a mistake and oversight, but I think, at least so far, that’s the only album that I’ve discovered I just flat out forgot. There were a bunch of other tough cuts, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. That Bon Iver album, once I really thought about what I thought was the best, and what album I connected with the most, became a surprisingly easy top pick. I gave a little more weight to an “objective” idea of what I thought was best compared to just what my “favorites” were on this list, and I ended up trying not to repeat artists too much. I dunno, it’s all just arbitrary rules and going by feel for the most part anyway. It was a fun endeavor, and now I get to dive into putting together my best of 2019 list. Special thanks go out to Craig Manning for helping put this entire feature together and hounding writers for blurbs and tallying everything up. Because he’s a writing machine, he put together and wrote about his top 200 albums from the decade on his blog. It’s an enjoyable walk back through the past decade in music.
  • It was a full week of content on the website as I also published my annual Holiday Gift Guide. I have done this the last three years to highlight a few products and things, in a few different price points, that I think would make for cool gifts. I’ve written, mostly in this newsletter, about quite a few of them in the past, but I like to put my favorites all together on one page each year. Only a few more weeks of holiday shopping time!
  • We put up and decorated our Christmas tree last weekend. It’s a tiny little fake tree, but it’s become a fun tradition to get it out, fight the cats from climbing in it, and put our ornaments on it. Maybe next year, now that we’re married, we’ll finally get a big family tree for the room. One thing I can recommend is the Wemo mini smart plug for automating the lights. It’s an effortless way to be able to control the lights from HomeKit on your phone (or automate them to turn on at sunset) and control them with Alexa. I know it’s very nerdy and Clark Griswold-like to be excited about saying, “Alexa, turn on the Christmas lights,” but I am who I am.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • Brian Fallon announced a new album this week and dropped the first song from it. Quite a few little interesting things here. First, the album’s coming out on his imprint label, second, the album’s only eight songs, and third, he released the final track first. I’ve written about it a thousand times, but I like listening to albums as a whole. I like the entire experience of an album, and I specifically really like track sequencing and paying attention to how an album flows from start to finish. So, anytime the final track is released on an album I’m anticipating, I’m always a little nervous to listen to it. I know it’s out of place to how I would prefer I hear it, and my first impression will be tainted by that. I listened anyway, because it’s Brian Fallon and of course I don’t have the self-control not to, and I loved it. I love the softness of the song, and the small percussion flourishes that let Brian’s vocals and the lyrics stand center stage. I try not to get caught up in all the discussion of how long or not long albums are these days because I find it pretty pointless. It costs money to record in a studio, obviously, and me wanting more songs on an album is irrelevant to what the artist wants to do or maybe is capable of doing. Instead, I just try and consume the art and media as it’s given and don’t concern myself with an album being 8 or 12 songs. Those of us still listening to more than just singles are a dying breed as it is.
  • A big part of my week was putting together my “best of 2019” list (the feature will run the week of January 6th). This meant going back through all of the albums I listened to this year, making an initial draft of all the albums in contention (it started at well over 60) and then going to look through other publication and people’s lists to see if there were things I missed or needed to check out before the year’s end. By the end of the week, I have whittled my final list to a top 30 that I feel pretty good about. There are quite a few honorable mention albums, but that just goes to show what a great year for music this was. I think my favorite album that I discovered while reading other lists, and hadn’t heard yet, was Weyes Blood’s album, Titanic Rising.
  • And I rediscovered and immediately put back into rotation Alex Lahey’s fantastic The Best of Luck Club. The end of the year is always a fun time to re-find favorites from earlier in the year and dive back in. I had forgotten about quite a few great albums that arrived in the first quarter.
  • I am a sucker for artists releasing holiday songs, and I love that Phoebe Bridgers has now done three. This year’s is a take on “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night,” and Phoebe’s haunting vocals carry the song. Hearing all the news stories and the lyrical changes add extra poignancy to the song. Not sure it’s one I’ll want to throw on to feel in the holiday spirit, however.
  • Now, Now’s new holiday track, “Lonely Christmas,” is an instant favorite. I am full-on obsessed with this band (their previous album was my favorite album last year), and this style and sound is right in my current musical wheelhouse. Great song and it led to me going on another run through the band’s fantastic discography.
  • I didn’t write about the Blink-182 Christmas song last week because I had other things on my mind. But, I listened, and it’s … not doing anything for me. The video’s the best part, the riff’s alright, there’s some cool drumming at the end, I guess, but as a whole, it’s not that interesting or catchy and won’t be something I find myself needing to hear much in the future.
  • I had never heard of Talker before, but quite enjoyed the new song “Learning the Feeling.”
  • The Wonder Years’ new acoustic version of “We Look Like Lightning” seems to be something fans of the band would be into. I wish I liked any of the band’s recent material as much as I enjoyed The Greatest Generation, but alas.
  • I thought Josh Ritter’s latest album, Fever Breaks, was his best in years. This week he released the new song “The Gospel of Mary,” and it’s a pulled back, stripped-down, very storytellers kind of track. I’m a fan.
  • The big album out today, and maybe the last big release of the year, is the new Harry Styles album. I listened to it once this morning while posting news and liked it a whole lot more than I was expecting. There are some great songs here, the production is top-notch, and this is a nice little gem to end out the year. Highlights included “Cherry,” “Fine Line,” and “She” on my first pass.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • As we begin the march toward The Rise of Skywalker, Hannah and I are taking a dive back into the world of Star Wars. The plan is to attempt to get through all the movies before the new one next week, and if all goes to plan, I’ll write up my lengthier thoughts on the new film in next week’s newsletter. So far, we’ve made it through Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. They still suck. What I can’t get over now is just how blatant, and bad, and overbearing, the green screen is in these movies. It’s atrocious. The last time I watched the prequels I swore to myself, I’d never do it again … I really need to listen next time. This has been painful.
  • My sister and Hannah watched The Holiday earlier this week, and I wrapped presents in the background. It’s the perfect kind of movie to have on in the background while wrapping presents. Inoffensive, feel good, and you don’t have to pay much attention while you’re fighting with tape and scissors and unruly sized gifts before giving up and throwing things in festive bags with tissue paper on top.
  • We watched the first three episodes of season three of Mr. Mercedes, and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. I am not as instantly into it as I was the first two seasons. The storyline isn’t doing much for me at the moment, but I like the characters and am curious to see where it goes.
  • After finishing Doom Patrol, I’ve now started season four of Billions as my “watching alone” show. The show is like rich-people Entourage, and the TV equivalent of junk food, but I love it anyway. It’s ridiculous and over the top and yet extremely entertaining.
  • Somehow Watchmen just keeps getting better. Episode 8 was incredible, and we’re gearing up for one hell of a season finale on Sunday. This has been one of the best first seasons of television I’ve watched in a long time. I’ll need to watch the last episode as soon as possible to hopefully avoid spoilers.
  • We watched the entire second season of Magic for Humans on Netflix and continue to enjoy Justin’s sense of humor and sleight of hand. It’s a fun and easy to watch magic show.
  • We’ve watched a few of the holiday episodes of Sugar Rush, but I am ruining it because I have to make the “I’m Anthony Napoli” joke every single time the host is on screen.
  • It is embarrassing how much better Tatooine looks in episode five of The Mandalorian than it did in any of the prequels. This show continues to delight me each week; it has a level of fun and adventure to it that really captures a special part of the soul of Star Wars.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • This weekend we’re going to a friends for a little “Friendsmas” gathering. I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by and how fast December is moving. We’re doing a basic get one gift, and it all goes in the middle, and then we steal gifts and yell at each other or something like that. My gift to bring is a small portable phone charger that I feel like anyone could use and enjoy, and Hannah picked out this Telestrations party game that looks fun. So, to sum up: she’s fun, I’m boringly practical.

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. Now, Now – Lonely Christmas
  2. Alex Lahey – Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
  3. Josh Ritter – The Gospel of Mary
  4. Phoebe Bridgers – 7’Clock News/Silent Night
  5. Weyes Blood – Andromeda
  6. Talker – Learning the Feeling
  7. Harry Styles – Cherry
  8. Brian Fallon – You Have Stolen My Heart
  9. Allie X – Love Me Wrong
  10. The Night Game – Summerland

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 Drew Beringer in the “Q&A and Chat With Jason Tate” thread.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and all your holiday planning and shopping and family get-togethers and whatnot are going well.

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.