Liner Notes (July 15th, 2019)

Well, this one ended up being quite long.

In this week’s newsletter, I share some thoughts on new music from Frank Turner, Shura, Good Riddance, Sum 41, and quite a bit more. I share a love letter to Stranger Things and go through the rest of my media diet from the past week. There’s a playlist of ten songs I loved, some thoughts about Lil Wayne and Blink-182 and the drama of last night, and some random thoughts about what I worked on (and failed at) on the website this week. Plus, I share a couple of iPhone wallpapers I like. This week’s supporter Q&A post can be found here.

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Five Things

  • This week I attempted a new feature addition where I would re-order forum threads by the most “likes” in each thread. Unfortunately, after two days of work, I had to abandon the idea. I got it to work; however, the strain it put on the servers when a thread had more than 10k posts, was massive. It worked great for smaller threads, but so many of the threads on our site end up getting upwards of 35k posts before we retire them. And, at that level, I couldn’t optimize the code enough to not slow the website down to a crawl with the feature implemented. It was a real bummer to have to cancel this project, and it felt like I lost two really good days of work, but I think it’s also important to know when something is going to work and when it won’t. And right now, this path isn’t the right one. I may try a different way in the future, but it’d have to be a pretty different feature. So, for now, this goes back into the “ideas pile.” I don’t often write about the things I’ve tried that don’t work; usually, I get to announce a cool new feature for the website, but I think it’s often helpful to think about the ideas that fail or the projects that don’t quite turn out the way you hoped.
  • Hannah and I got our engagement photos back this week. I usually don’t like posting photos of myself because I get self-conscious and weird about my private life, but I truly loved so many of the photos that I posted a few on Instagram and in the Q&A thread. I think the photographer did a phenomenal job capturing the joy we have hanging out together, but I’m especially drawn to the photos of us with the Portland skyline behind us. I moved into the city almost seven years ago, right about when Hannah and I started dating, and it was a massive life change for me. I grew up in the suburbs and had spent most of my life living in similar spaces. The city was new and felt like a fresh start. Seeing the skyline that’s defined so much of our relationship together, wrapped around us, really does make my heart feel full. Plus, we got to return to the place we met and take a few photos there as well. There’s one with us enjoying a beer right at the table Hannah was sitting at when I first saw her. Photos are ridiculously expensive, but after getting these back, I think it’s been worth every penny to capture these moments and memories before the rest of our life together really begins.
  • Once a year I update my recommendation posts around the website to add new things to them:

    Also, I tossed out an ask on Twitter for recommendations of blogs or websites (about any topic) that people recommend reading. I like to ask this every once in a while to refresh what I have in my feeds, so if you have any recommendations of websites I should be checking out and reading, please let me know.

  • I made an iPhone X sized wallpaper using Blink-182’s “Happy Days” artwork if anyone would like it. I wasn’t sure what to do with the cord, but I think it looks pretty cool. (I am currently using this Stranger Things wallpaper I cropped for my lock screen.)
  • One of the blogs recommended to me this week was GoodBeerHunting, which I’ve added to my RSS feed reader and been reading throughout the week. I found this article, “Rising to the Top — How Nitro Transformed Beer and Coffee” fascinating. If you like beer and/or coffee, add this to your things to read. It’s great. This is why I often ask for recommendations of new things to check out or read, because I can refresh what my daily media intake is and find awesome new stuff. I’m keeping this blog in my feeds.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • The breaking news last night was that Lil Wayne cut his set short after only playing a few songs and mentioned that he might be dropping off the tour with Blink-182. As of writing this newsletter he has posted on Twitter that he is not leaving the tour but offered no other explanation for what happened last night. With the giant caveat that all of this could change within the next few hours, and that I have no idea what’s going on, I do have a random collection of thoughts on everything. I found the ensuing dialog online last night utterly absurd. People were gloating about the tour being “a disaster,” there were people thinking All Time Low could just take over instead, and there was a whole lot of fucked up racism on social networks as well. First, by all accounts (lots of photos and the numbers I’ve seen), this tour is actually doing pretty well. As the ticket prices have come down to sane levels, they’ve sold well, and reviews from fans and publications have been quite positive. Last night apparently had a weather issue which caused a lower turnout (still saw estimates of over 8k at the show), but I’m not even certain that’s the explanation for Lil Wayne cutting the set short. I think there’s a case of a priori reasoning with some people that didn’t like this tour announcement from the start and want it to be a massive failure where no one is showing up so they can prove themselves right. It doesn’t, at least so far, seem to be playing out that way. Also, I think a lot of people in the pop-punk world don’t understand the relative size of their favorite bands. I’m sorry, I like All Time Low, but they are not a fill-in for Lil Wayne on a tour of this size for the entire thing. They’re not nearly big enough. You would need at least one more band of their size, at least, to make up the difference. I have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes or if this tour is going to end up having even more drama by the end of it, but I think people need to realize how many jobs, and lives, go into putting on a tour like this. The stuff I saw from Tom DeLonge fans making memes about how Tom “wins” if Lil Wayne leaves the tour and Blink is “doomed” seem so cold-hearted to me.
  • Frank Turner’s new album, No Man’s Land, is an interesting one to pin down. I listened once, and I think I need more time with it. It’s not that the songs aren’t good for what they are: stories. But they also bled together for me in a wash of facts and I felt disconnected from the music. I like storytelling music, but it’s not my favorite. Usually, I am looking for more of an emotional connection with the performer and songwriter, and searching for the reason behind the music. This album, to me, is a history lesson of people’s tales I didn’t know before but now am looking up and reading more about, so in that realm it has absolutely succeeded in its mission; however, it’s not something I really see myself wanting to come back to much in the future. It’s not an album that I think I’ll ever be sitting around and in a Frank Turner mood and think “let’s put on No Man’s Land” to scratch that itch. Give me another week with this, and I’ll have more thoughts.
  • Good Riddance will release their new album Thoughts and Prayers next week, and if you like punk music, this is a must-listen. It’s a little more melodic than I was expecting, with a few songs even slipping into the mid-tempo and breathing more than their previous work, but it’s still got a whole lot of toe-tapping fast tunes with a relevant political lyrical bite as well. My fandom has always leaned more toward their My Republic sound, and this feels like an album that will be played quite often in the gym over the next few months. Between this and Bad Religion, it’s been a pretty good year for punk so far. Now, my sights are on the new Strung Out.
  • I the Mighty released a live, acoustic, album called Unplugged in LA today. This is a band that I’ve always thought would have a bigger following on our website than they do. They do that alternative rock sound well and have a songwriting style that I feel would resonate with a lot of listeners. These songs translate well in this setting, and while the recording is a little rough in a few spots, it made me want to go back and listen to their last album again. They’re good at writing these kinds of songs.
  • On DeRRek’s recommendation I checked out Woes’ album, Awful Truth, and it feels like the kind of album that would have been popular with a group of readers like eight years ago or so. I didn’t listen to the entire thing yet, but they do this sound well. It’s got a little bit of an edge on the pop-punk sugar cube, and if a mood for that style strikes, I’d rather listen to something like this than anything from that Waterparks dork. I find myself more attracted to a more theatrical pop-punk, or more straight forward rock, these days. Stuff in the vein of that last Set it Off album or The Dangerous Summer’s latest. This is in that space of music I haven’t found myself going recently, but I think it’s something I’ll listen to again and see how my feelings coalesce.
  • PVRIS signed with a major label and released their new single “Death of Me.” PVRIS are a band to me that write great songs and, now, have two fantastic full-lengths under their belt. However, I still haven’t heard “the hit” from them. That one song that makes me go, “holy shit, this is going to be everywhere.” This is close though. This direction is hinting at a potential breakout album, and I’d love to see it. They feel poised for a next-level leap; I hope they deliver.
  • Shura’s new album, Forevher, doesn’t come out until August, but I got an advance early this week and have had time to listen to it twice. The record has a little more of an organic feel to it than her previous, but I think it works pretty well. The songs didn’t instantly grab me with the same catchy intensity of the last album, but there’s a lot here that keeps pulling me back.
  • First listen of Tycho’s new album, Weather, was positive. I’m not sure how I feel about the songs with vocals quite yet though. I’ve long listened to Tycho while doing intensive coding work because it helps me focus, and this doesn’t feel like it’ll have the same impact. I can understand the creative choice to move the music forward by including vocals and lyrics, but it throws me off a little on the first pass. I’m curious to see how and where I end up working this into my playlists.
  • I’ve decided not to listen to the new Bon Iver songs yet because I want to hear the entire album as a whole. Bon Iver’s one of the few artists that I trust implicitly at this point, and I think he creates albums that work best a whole piece, so I’m waiting. I’ve read positive comments, but I won’t have thoughts until I can digest the entire album. Hopefully, with a good drink and an uninterrupted listening session.
  • The new Banks’ album, III, is out today and it’s been in my rotation for a few weeks now. I think she did it again. Great combination of catchy, emotive, and creative. Definitely worth your time.
  • Matt Nathanson released a cover of Chance the Rapper’s “Same Drugs” featuring Patrick Stump. Those that have been reading this newsletter for a while know I was a big, big fan of the last album from Matt, so seeing this combination was a pleasant surprise this week. I think it’s a really solid cover with a very Matt spin on it, Patrick’s little back-up vocals sound good, and this project will be one I’ll keep an eye on.
  • Right as I started writing this newsletter the new Sum 41 album showed up in my inbox. Reviews are embargoed until next week, which kind of sucks. However, I’ve only had time to listen to about half of it so far anyway, so I don’t have a whole lot of thoughts worked out yet as it is. I will post some early thoughts on it first thing next week when the embargo lifts in the Q&A thread, but my top-line first impression is this is probably their best album since Chuck. I’m 100% in.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • We watched all of season three of Stranger Things this week, and I absolutely loved it. I’m not sure if there’s a show out right now that feels more tailor-made for me and my tastes. It’s got everything I want in entertainment, and it delivers in spades. I think what the show captures is a combination of drama, a little thriller, the obvious nostalgia, and an undercurrent of fun and levity. It’s that levity, and that genuine fond feeling you have for multiple characters, that drives the show. I want to watch these people do more things in this world; I cheer for them; I enjoy spending time with them. Sure, there are some action scenes, there’s the “scary” moments, but they work such a great mixture of humor, and honest character moments, into the fabric of the show, that it does what the best entertainment does: delights. We loved this so much that after it ended, we decided to start the series over and watch season one again. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen the first season and forgot just how damn good it is. We’ve got one episode left on that, but I think I can say the first season is still my favorite. And then season three. Two felt a little too scattered for me, but we’ll see how I feel when we inevitably watch that again also. Sidenote: I’m a little surprised there haven’t been other attempts at ripping off what this show does so well. It’s clearly a big hit, why aren’t there other similar shows coming out on other networks? I feel like there are plenty of different versions of this that someone could make and I’d eat up. Maybe they’re coming.
  • The first two seasons of the Scream TV show were not very good. However, they were this campy teenage slasher thing that I enjoyed for the dumb pure pulp fun of it anyway. They canceled it before finishing it, which is annoying because I’d like to know the end of the mystery and re-booted a new season on VH1. I figured I’d give it a shot. It was fucking horrible. I made it less than halfway through the first episode and was bored out of my mind. I was hoping for, at least, some stupid silly show with some dude in a mask and knife, but it’s unwatchable dreck.
  • Since I was in the mood for something like Scream, and was utterly disappointed, I decided to give Slasher on Netflix a try. I probably should have watched one of the countless other shows I’ve got on my list that I want to watch and know are good. Instead, I watched the first two episodes of this. It’s … basically exactly the same stupid shit I liked about the first couple seasons of Scream. It’s dumb, and it’s got some jump scares. I wouldn’t call it good, but given my mood for something like this, it ticked that dumb and gory box.
  • I wanted to like Alita: Battle Angel more than I did. It’s stunning to look at, but it didn’t have much else. Some cool action scenes, some cool effects, but it felt like it was rushing through a thin story just to set up a sequel that it doesn’t look like will ever get made. I never understood the why behind the characters, and that ended up leaving me feeling like I was missing big pieces of the plot. The world never got built for me, which in a movie like this, ends up being a fatal flaw.
  • The NBA has been absolutely insane the past few weeks. All of the new signings, the trades, have played out like a soap opera stuck on fast forward. I’m excited for the next season to start and to see what ends up shaking out. I think some of these teams are going to be better than expected, and a few are going to struggle, the rub is I’m not sure which way it’s going to go for almost any of them. For example, I wouldn’t be shocked if the LA teams are incredible or can’t figure out how to make it work.
  • It was the all-star break for baseball this week. I missed it dearly.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • We’re going to do some cake tasting this weekend. Wanna know a secret? I don’t like cake. I’m not big on frosting and prefer other desserts. So, I’m not sure how helpful I’m going to be in this process.
  • This week was a disaster with calorie goals. I felt hungrier than usual this week and needed a few extra snacks. Up a little bit from my desired weight, but still close enough within range to be ok with it for now. Will have to redouble my efforts next week.
  • My Plex server storage space is getting close to full, so I think it’s time to splurge and buy a new 10 TB external drive. I’ll probably work on getting that set up this weekend and will have updates next week on how it goes.

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. PVRIS – Death of Me
  2. La Bouquet – You Only Need Me When You’re Blue
  3. Tycho – Easy
  4. Woes – Suburbs
  5. I the Mighty – Pet Names (Unplugged in LA)
  6. Ralph – Gravity
  7. Hellogoodbye – Finding Something to Do
  8. Matt Nathanson – Same Drugs
  9. Tyler Hilton – How Long ‘Til I Lose You
  10. Benjamin Gibbard – Keep Yourself Warm

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

Hey! That’s the first time I’m the most liked post for the week. Mini-wave in celebration of me! (It’s my post of some engagement photos in the supporter forum.) I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend and I hope you liked this week’s newsletter. It was a long one, so please feel free to share it or forward it along to someone that may not know about it. My goal is for it to be a way for people to catch up on music news and stuff without having to check the website every day during the week. Maybe you have a friend that used to be into this kind of music but never knows how to stay up to date or what to check out these days?

(Please pardon any typos this week, this ended up being way longer than I expected and I’m sure I messed up somewhere.)

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Previous editions of Liner Notes can be found here.