learning love songs

est. 2008


April 2012


And the best April I’ve ever had ends with a new TGA single. It’s a get-up-and-go song, but ever bittersweet. Guitar solo rules. Brian Fallon sounds amazing. Feels like “Drive” a little bit. This is one of my most anticipated albums of the year, and if “45” is any hint, it’s going to be the perfect summer record, and it’s going to drive stakes through my heart in all the right places.

I’m in Austin, Texas today. It’s wonderful here, in a tattooed calves and tan pavement way. The air is hot and heavy and full, the people on the streets are a varied bunch who look like lots of fun.

 Today feels like a day I’ve earned. Tomorrow, I get to learn. Next week, I get to try. Here’s to the future.

“There you go. Turn the key and engine over. 
 Let her go. Let somebody else lay at her feet.”
The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten


“You want a love story? I’ll tell you a love story.

So I’m a senior in college, I’m a music history minor, and there’s this dreamy composition major who happens to live right next door to me. He sits near me in one of my classes, behind me, so I know he’s there and can feel him breathing, boring holes into the back of my head with his honey-hazel eyes, and all I want to do is turn around and run my fingers through those golden curls.

He’s beautiful, soft-spoken and more than slightly mysterious, as well as an incredible concert pianist. The kind that bobs and weaves, playing with head and shoulders as well as nimble fingers.

So, this semester, we’re in a Wagner class together, going through the operas two weeks at a time, reading a 600 page biography as flagrant and sentimental as you’d expect from an opera lover. Wagner is tragic, dramatic, wretched, vulnerable and visceral. In life, and in work. The music is violent and beautiful and profound, utterly profound. It is a soundtrack for the fated.

Well, I’m a senior in college, and my relationship’s gone sour, so one day I decide to start talking a bit. His name is Sam, and when he smiles at me I feel dumb. We exchange pleasantries, while leaving class or passing each other on the sidewalk. One day, he comes up to the porch when I’m sitting there smoking a cigarette. We begin chatting, and the conversation is pleasant. I hope he finds me charming. My  roommates come home, tilting their heads and raising their eyebrows at me, pushing for details after I come back inside, a little flushed in a rosy, post-flirting high.

One day, Sam comes up to my third-floor bedroom. I have a full-sized keyboard at the foot of a lofted bed, underneath Zeppelin and Sid Vicious posters, 45s taped crudely to the wall. The room is swathed in maroon tapestries and glinty lavender fabric. I show him the chords I know, he plays me a sonata. I swoon. I daydream.

A couple weeks later, after sharing yet another a porchside cigarette, Sam asks me in his house, somehow or other we get to his bedroom. We are having a great time, it is an unexpected first date. At least, I feel like it is. It feels important, like something big in life is about to change. We’re listening to classical  music – that’s all he listens to – and I’m talking about my love for rock bands, pushing my hair-brained theories with a naive optimism that music is music, on a sliding scale of temperament, that what Jim Adkins and Jesse Lacey convey is no less monumental to me than what Sam feels for Wagner and Verdi and Mahler.

Sam says he wants to show me something, and he picks a book from his nightstand. It’s an early edition of the Tristan und Isolde score from the late 19th century, the opera we’re studying in class at that time and my absolute favorite by far. Sam’s too. The book itself is a gorgeous thing, it’s hardcovered and bound gently, the ink clearly worn yet entirely discernible to the trained musical eye.

For the uninitated into opera, Tristan und Isolde is the tale of the original star-crossed lovers and their mixed up passions, their fevered pitches intertwined by faint and magic potions. I gasp and tell him it’s beautiful, he nods knowingly, and we talk about the Tristan chord, an augmented dissonant sound that weaves it way through the story – Wagner used certain chords and phrases to symbolize characters and feelings better than the rest. Inside the pages of the score, the music is lovingly printed, all the directions are in German, and the notes pile up on the pages in a language only the symphonic-minded can begin to decode. I read music, but not very well, and Sam explains the finer points of this score, what makes it fit so perfectly. I began to thumb through the pages, attempting grace then –


A tear. Right through a title page, about three inches down, straight but jagged with fibers of soft paper.

“ohmihgod. ohmugod imtheworst,” I agonize, unable to believe what I’d just done.

“What, oh, oh no it’s okay,” Sam is startled. He is sad. He is trying not to be sad, because he’s a lovely man and a gentleman to boot. But he is sad.

Does he know, maybe, that was fate? I comforted myself by thinking it was, maybe, it is my way to be with him, always. I will always be the girl who ripped his Tristan und Isolde score, marking our moment in time on a celebrated tale of the star-crossed, the unfortunate, the unrequited, unfulfilled lovers.

We never hung out again.

I think that things must work out for a reason, in this way, that the “bad things” that happen to us are there to teach us something. The really bad things – the deaths, the illnesses, the losses – those we learn from, too, but we’re often too wrapped up in emotions to notice our growth. It hurts, deeply and fully, but the pain is prolonged over time, a needle in the back of your spine going ever-deeper inch by inch. Those little bad things, the embarrassments, the unfortunates, the screwed-myself moments, those are easier to notice because it’s all so immediate – and yet, they shape us, too, to make different decisions and be different people.

So yes, I ripped the score. Yes, I told myself it was fate. I believe Sam knows it was fate, too, knows it was a moment between two scared kids too scared to take a chance, as kids often are these days. I hope, if he saw me again, he’d remember who I was, my face, my hair, my name.

But, chances are, he’d just remember be as the girl who tore his Wagner antique. So it goes.”



Songs I Can’t Listen to Sometimes 

These are songs that, even though I love them, I just press “next.” I’m guessing you, reader, understand. You have those songs too. I challenge you to listen, purge, experience. Feels kind of refreshing.

 1)Now That You’re Gone The saddest of the sad on “Cold Roses,” in my humble opinion. It’s a simple, sweet melody, but it doesn’t take much for me after I hear this song to desperately crave a man with kind eyes and strong arms to hold me and never let me go, because the song heralds all the loneliness you could ever feel for one person in one night. It’s the love song for the one who left you, and I can’t handle that sometimes. Or anytime. I’ve been left too much, and done too much of my own leaving, to let Ryan Adams remind me of how sad I am about it all.

“Everything you ever touched is undisturbed and hangs out/Like crime scene evidence undisturbed in dust I don’t dare touch anything because it’s evidence of us/And it means everything/Well sort of/I’m alone and I’m dancin’, with you now/In your old room, in your old house/I’m alone and I’m dancin’, with you now, in your old room, but there’s nobody there”
~Now That You’re Gone
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Cold Roses

2)Hear You Me
I loved this song real hard in high school, then I lost someone I loved. I needed to believe in angels because I still need to believe she’s happy, somewhere, and I can’t hear this song because it makes me think of her too much. Then I think of all the other people I love, and how desperately I need them to know that before life takes them from me, too. In any way, gorgeous song, but I don’t listen to it anymore. Just easier not to.

“on sleepless roads the sleepless go may angels lead you in” 
 ~Hear You Me
Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American

3)Girl in the War
Beautiful song. Probably my favorite Josh Ritter song, hands down, even though I’ve come to embrace a lot of his catalog. Something about this song just breaks me, just makes me feel something that brings me back to a place I’ll never be again. So I don’t want to listen to it, because I miss that place, with its subways and rainy days, its romance and pavement and prowess.

“Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom/And the angels fly around in there, but we can’t see them/And I got a girl in the war, Paul I know that they can hear me yell/If they can’t find a way to help, they can go to Hell/If they can’t find a way to help her, they can go to Hell” 
~Girl in the War
Josh Ritter, The Animal Years

4)Baker, Baker
Simply a favorite. Incredible song, but I still press next, because it makes me want to cry. Or call people who aren’t in my life anymore. It makes me want to reach out for what isn’t there hold. It makes me crumble in ways I’m not always equipped to deal with when driving home from work or the grocery store or whatever. Tori is so soft, so sentimental in this song, it’s so contrasting to so much of what else she does, but it stills me in a frightening way.

“I guess you’ve heard he’s gone to LA/He says that behind my eyes I’m hiding and he tells me I pushed him away/That my heart been’s hard to find/Here, there must be something here/Here, there must be something here” 
~Baker Baker
Tori Amos, Under the Pink

I don’t even think I have a version of this on a hard drive anywhere. I just don’t listen to it anymore. Was it even that good? Listening to it now, I feel a little older, I feel a little beyond it, but it still makes me want to make out like a teenager. It still makes me want to reach out for someone, anyone, I feel like understands me, knows me, wants to know me and need me.

  “and if I hurt you then I’m sorry please don’t think that this was easy”
Something Corporate


I love this song, because it’s kind of happy and sexy, but it’s still so sad. Maybe it’s just because I listened to it around 5 times in the span of four hours, but, I liked it before that, too. Today, though, it was kind of perfect. Made me think of what I’m leaving behind and what’s ahead – and how, despite that, it’ll be alright.

You know, you love *somebody* not some*body*. Know the difference, and notice. Speak the truth, it’s the only part that counts.

“She ain’t lonely now
See her shuffle across the floor
Yeah, she’s happier now
See her smile and say “come on”

Let’s dance all night
Let’s dance all night
Dance all night
Yeah, I think she’ll be alright

I ain’t lonely now
Yeah, I got someone I love
Someone I think about
Someone for me to take care of

Dance all night
Dance all night
Dance all night
Yeah, I think I’ll be alright

She ain’t lonely now
See her shuffle across the floor
Yeah, she’s happier now
See her smile and say “come on”

Let’s dance all night
Let’s dance all night
Dance all night
I think she’ll be alright”

~Dance All Night
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Cold Roses


I start an adventure today.

I’m almost jealous of myself.

The saying goodbye is by far the hardest part. Because saying goodbye to people you love is the only way you get to love something new. A heart can give only so much, so, we change and shift and settle somewhere new. The only way to do that is to make room.

We never forget. But it’s never quite the same.

I loved this album real hard when I first discovered it. Must’ve been 2003/2004, sometime during my sophomore year of high school. I remember listening to it in the summertime, surrounded by friends and mischief. That might have been the last year I was innocent. At least, it was before I learned the true fatefulness of mortality, what happens when we live and love and die. I still love this album, I still find solace and hope in it, years later.

They’ve been busy years, full of everything, but I won’t forget this song. Funny the things that stick with you. I think about the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, the people I love…and they all mean so much to me, some more than others, some in different ways. Some, they make you wonder if there’s anything or anywhere or anyone else on the planet who will be able to cut through your reflection enough to make you really think about what’s important, that pebble through a softly rippling stream that sets off a physically impossible to fight chain reaction.

Those people are tough to find. They don’t come around too often. But the adventure beckons, and life won’t wait around for you.

“and thats the way its been,
ever since we were kids but now,
now weve got something to prove
and i, i can see there eyes
but tell me something, can they see mine
cause whats left to lose,
ive done enough
and if i fail well then i fail but i gave it a shot
and these last three years, i know they’ve been hard
but now its time to get out of the desert and into the sun e
ven if its alone

i was on your porch last night,
the smoke it sank into my skin”

~On Your Porch,
The Format, Interventions and Lullabies


Just a post to commemorate the Lovedrug concert I went to Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at the Bug Jar with my dear sister. Spent a good hour before the show chatting with the band, sharing stories about travel and music and bands and life and partying. Lent out a cigarette or two. Entirely likable gentlemen, not taking themselves too seriously but not spotlight-seeking.
All in all, enjoyable company. Hope I was too, though my sister told me I talked too much. I was drinking Jack and diets, so, my animation increased tenfold as dark liquor tends to do to me. Layer on talking about compression, and Taylor v. Martin, shady American suburbs and favorite musicians, and yeah, I’m in a pretty good mood.

I am past the point of being intimated by meeting musicians I look up to. At one point, sure, but the mystery of the traveling musician is just that, a mystery, and it’s a complete fallacy when you get down to it. There is no magic potion, these are men and women with a lifestyle choice that has a number of conseqeuences most people don’t want to take, or give up on. And it creates drama, intrigue, romanticism. Talent will do that to a soul. Hence the allure.

But, I digress. The show itself – a 50 minute rip through nine or 10 tracks old and new. Incredible. Pretty much everything sounded perfect, no technical difficulties, no notciable alterations to songs to make them easier. No kitchy audience banter, no smug prefacing. Just the tight live performance of modern American grunge-inspired and melody-laced rock and roll.

The Bug Jar is tiny – they may as well have been performing in my parent’s basement, and I think if I asked them, they would – so keys and auxiliary sounds on albums were not replicated live. The setlist reflected this – no “We Were Owls” otherworldly intro, no piano-driven “Everything Starts Where it Ends” cuts. But that was OK, this was about silky guitars, eat-your-heart-out melodies and a really-fucking-tight rhythm section.

I was awestruck the whole time, really, too enraptured to notice the world around me. Any thought that dared enter my head unrelated to the performance in front of me quickly burned out, unable to compete. Before the show I wondered if they may have intentionally held back a bit, as they were playing in NYC the following night and clearly that’s the crowd you want to impress coming off a new album, right? – but this concern was not validated. They played tight, they played well, the entetained the living daylights out of a small but devoted crowd, true troubadors to the end.

It can’t be easy, weeks on end on the road, but what a challenge, when home is a memory, and friends and loved ones are scattered around the country. A meaningful moment is hardly replicated elsewhere, just replaced by a new one til it all blends together into one mess of snapshot recollections – meanwhile, your energy pours out on stage night after night, thretening to leave you stale if you push it that much harder. Human is human, right? Even at those times when we feel so much more – like when songs still your heart and mind, or when the blood in your fingertips delivers the pulse in your soul, or when the tiny fraction of a second between the last moment and the next one captures more meaning than you’d ever care to begin to unravel.

Oh yeah, that concert. Damn. “Wild Blood,” “Dinosaur,” “Pink Champagne,” and “Great Divide” all made appearances, as did “Angels With Enemies,” and “Blackout” which I was very excited to hear. “Blackout” in particular sounded amazing, fierce and imposing and frightening til the last foreboding lyric – “walk down the hall/and put yourself to bed.” They closed with “Anodyne” and I was thrilled to hear it. Gorgeous, chilling song (see below for video worthy of equal adjectives, cut from cult b-list horror flick). The crowd, throughout the night, was incredibly responsive – Lovedrug fans are a devoted breed.

After the show I got my “Wild Blood” vinyl signed, without a shred of fangirl shame. I have so much respect for this band and every time I see that record I’m going to remember to never give up, always stay true to yourself, and don’t be scared to show the truth – it’s the only thing that counts.

I just fucking love this band.


An all-time favorite song, making more sense than ever.

“This time, I’ll be sailing
No more bailing boats for me
I’ll be out here on the sea
Just my confidence and me

And I’ll be awful sometimes
Weakened to my knees
But I’ll learn to get by
On the little victories

This time, I’ll have no fear
I’ll be standing strong and tall
Turn my back towards them all

And I’ll be awful sometimes
Weakened to my knees
I’ll learn to get by
And I’ll learn to get by
On the little victories
And if the world decides to catch up with me
It’s a little victory

-Little Victories
Matt Nathanson, Beneath These Fireworks

You go forward, you take what wins you can but you do not let them define you. You do not build Rome in a day, you do not cave to the pressure to achieve some social standing utopia. Even if you did, you’d be disappointed by it, empty with nothing to show for yourself but wasted time. Instead you stay true, you go forward, and you wake up each day to chisel away at the block of marble that is your life’s potential, finishing your own one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Somewhere, probably some cheesy movie, I heard some line about life being a gift, and having no intention to waste it. I’ve felt that way but I’ve also felt trapped. I’ve felt the dark shadow of mountains towering before me render me useless, leaving me saying “What the hell do I think I’m doing here?” But I haven’t given up, and I’ve cleaned up and tossed out the clutter.

I am going to start an adventure, finally, and I am not going to look back. I have no intention to waste it.


I say with certainty this one of my all-time favorite songs. Like, I don’t think my life would be the same if I never heard it. I don’t think I’d be the same. Last summer was jam-packed with Cassino, on walks down to the Pickering, on car drives out to the eastern Finger Lakes and down Route 364 to the end of Canandaigua Lake, winding up at Bare Hill.

I can also say, upon reflection, I didn’t necessarily care what this song was about. I just knew it was beautiful, but the other day, driving the route I always drive only to be averted by traffic cones, it hit me and I realized how much it’s about the chase, the struggle, the trappings of American life.

This is why I say, tambourine hit on the two, please.

“Marionette made its marks, dragging on the pavement.
The dogs of sleep and sick were tangled in the strings that keep the leverage.
Come on, come with light…Illuminate and drive…
I need to leave what followed me
When I washed in from the sea
That’s taken so many of our lives
With its awful waves

Chevrolet is done, it’s sunk into the ground.
Chromes become my dining couch,
The ornament on a broken house,
And the weathers com alive
And it’s leaking inside
Knocked the breakers paralyzed,
And turned my savings on its side.
Its taken many of our lives
With its wild ways
So my mother says

Heaven found on my way out
Heaven found on my way out
Heaven found on my way out
Heaven found on my way out

I took a walk one way…

And with a spark, all the lights in the city started racing
Out interstates and up the up the buildings, through the walls
and turn so filthy
And it lights this room that we pay with our lives, everyday
The toll booth of the birds of prey”

Cassino, Kingprince


So, this was on as my friend was driving me home from the bar tonight. Felt pretty right. Though popular long before I was born, though related to by millions time after time, I get into it.

You can’t talk about love songs without mentioning. And yeah, I’m a cheesy motherfucker, but yeah, try and fuck with this song.

love, I don’t like to see so much pain
so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

and all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn

without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches

in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
the heat I see in your eyes

~In Your Eyes
Peter Gabriel

Timeless. Refreshing. Reassuring. We could make a Say Anything boom-box-above-the-head joke, but, no. Just the song, and the passenger seat, and thinking.

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