learning love songs

est. 2008


June 2013


A little Lucinda Williams as I continue a lazy Sunday morning…much to do today, much to accomplish that doesn’t involving ruminating, and yet, coffee and YouTube surfing is much more satisfying than checking off any to-do lists.

Lucinda is the real deal – she just sings, there is no style to match, no manufactured pitch-matching going on. She simply sings, natural rasp, vibrato and dynamics coloring the tone instead of post-production effects. She doesn’t try to be overtly pretty or sexy or anything other than who she is, she curses and snarls as much as she wistfully narrates. No wonder she’s been so successful for so long, her performance and her songwriting are a perfectly match for the listener looking for honest American folk-rock of the modern age. No pretense, all feel, just straight up alt country blues from the heart.

“Are you all right?
All of a sudden you went away
Are you all right?
I hope you come back around someday.
Are you all right?
I haven’t seen you in a real long time.
Are you all right?
Could you give me some kind of sign?

Are you all right?
I looked around me and you were gone.
Are you all right?
I feel like there must be something wrong.
Are you all right?
Cause it seems like you disappeared.
Are you all right?
Cause I’ve been feeling a little scared.
Are you all right?

Are you sleeping through the night?
Do you have someone to hold you tight?
Do you have someone to hang out with?
Do you have someone to hug & kiss you?
Hug & kiss you, hug & kiss you
Are you all right?”

~Are You Alright?
Lucinda Williams, West


I woke up to a great text today. My sister: “I forgot what a good album everything starts where it ends is!”

She’s right! It really is fabulous. Lovedrug has evolved a lot, and while their fan base has grown I think some of the early adopters still prefer the earlier work. Though I absolutely loved “Wild Blood” and think it’s a fantastic rock record, “Everything Starts Where it Ends” has a more daring, unaffected sound. It’s a lot more unafraid to fail – in a lot of ways bands are that way when they first start out – and I think that makes it that much edgier. Years later “Wild Blood” was much more polished, with a clear narrative and spot-on precision lyrically and melodically…and I love it for its wholeness and for how fucking good those songs sounded live, but “Everything Starts” was truly a game-changer of a sophomore record. I mean, that’s how you do it, in do-or-die fashion, with tons of instruments and dark lyrics and haunting melodies that are also so fucking good live you’re getting attention from rock listeners from all over the spectrum.

These days, Michael Shepard is goin’ solo, according to a Pledge Music campaign, and I’m very much excited to see what he does. His gift for melody and hooks is so apparent, and has only grown with time, so I can’t wait to hear what he does with a clean slate. No doubt it’s going to be masterful, extremely well-produced and lyrically, incredibly sharp.

In the meantime, though, what a good time to rediscover the earlier days Lovedrug. I put it on a mental shelf, for awhile, a result of getting overplayed and over-associated, as can be the case with favorites. But on this night, where insomnia and loneliness are unfortunately getting the better of me, something familiar sounds just right. The title track to this day is one of my all-time favorite songs,  because it is beautiful and symphonic and weird and heart-stoppingly momentous. Those last two minutes? Chilling. Every time I hear it, it’s like the first time all over again.

Then there’s this track, which I think I understand tonight more than I might’ve in years gone by. As the go-to ballad of the album, it was one I may of skipped over every now and again. But tonight, I wanted something slow, sad, and just a little bit gallant – and inspired my sister’s text, I knew exactly what I wanted to hear.

“Would you believe me if I told you
That I’m surfacing for just one thieving moment
To steal your heart?

Would you believe me if I told you
That fairy tales come true
When I’m with you?

I’ll free the one who falls in love again

Come on and hold you like candy on a Friday after
Making love all year
And now we’re swimming down where
Iron doors are open
And there is too much fear to breathe

A girl, a boy, a hell
Like thieves we are…

All in love
With stolen hearts,
and we all fall down,
and fall apart for love.

Dance, alright
But I’m giving it one last fight
I fancy not your night
I’m not your girl, your whore, your hell
But thieves, we are…

All in love
With stolen hearts,
and we all fall down

and fall apart for love.
Lovedrug, Everything Starts Where it Ends


I’ll never forget this one time I was supposed to see Taking Back Sunday play an acoustic gig at a record store back home, but that morning my car’s transmission blew up on the underground floor of a municipal parking garage, striking an undercover cop car, leaving me stranded for eight hours while trying to find a tow truck that could fit under the clearance, and winding up costing me my entire savings and a 19 percent APR on a new used vehicle.

Funny how that’s one of my happier TBS memories. Joking. Sort of. Anyway, love this recent performance of “Bike Scene.” What a classic this album is/will be:

“I’ll leave the lights down low
so she knows I mean business,
And maybe we could talk this over,
Cause I could be your best bet,
Let alone your worst ex,
And let alone your worst…

I wanna hate you so bad
But I can’t, but I can’t stop this
anymore than you can
So honestly, how could you say those things
when you know they don’t mean anything
And you know very well
that I can’t keep my hands to myself,
hands to myself…

I wanna hate you so bad
But I can’t
But I can’t stop this
anymore than you can

This is all wrong and it shows
There’s certain things I promised not to let you know,
You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the edge of my seat,
You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the..

 You’ve got this silly way
of keeping me on the edge of my seat
But you’re only counting the clock against the train
And I’m miserable, oh

You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the edge of my seat,
You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the…

You’ve got me right where you want me
Let’s never talk, let’s never talk, let’s never,
let’s never talk about this again because
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
~Bike Scene
Taking Back Sunday, Tell All Your Friends


I liked this song even more when Wikipedia told me it was inspired by the John Updike novels. Lots of longing, not too much distraction, simple counterpoint and simple ascension. Regret, but not defeat.

I first heard this while watching performances from the dance company I used to be in at this year’s semi-finals at Youth American Grand Prix, the biggest youth ballet competition in the country. I was far from ever good enough for YAGP and so I was very proud (and admittedly a little jealous) of the girls performing on stage, some of whom I’ve known since they were very young. But mostly I was inspired. Dancers get to show how they feel, every day, existing in the most beautiful way possible. They tell stories, using only themselves, no intermediary. I am glad I did that in my life for a time. It taught me a lot, and while I don’t find myself dancing on stage these days, I still chase the feeling, I still crave creative expression, I still run…and I don’t know what I’ll ever find but I think I’m getting closer and in the meantime, I’m always learning, always failing and improving and trying to outpace the memories…

“Every sentiment hangs around
No longer than a minute or two
I find I keep falling for love,
But I can’t seem to follow it through.

So run, little rabbit, run…

Run, little rabbit, run…
I leave one good hand on the wheel,
Been counting mile markers for days.
Everything falls further behind,
I can disappear in several ways.

So run, little rabbit, run…

Run, little rabbit, run…

Sleep through the morning,
Don’t wake me up.

Sleep through the morning,
One little man to one mighty sun

Try to break away from yourself,
Throw your broken bones in a heap,
All the blood and guts are exposed,
Your spirit has been begging to leave…

So run, little rabbit, run…
Run, little rabbit, run.”

Matt Duke, Kingdom Underground


I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I’m pretty blown away with how much I enjoy this album. Jimmy Eat World, as any longtime fan will tell you, has no two albums alike, but you never really know what to expect, so I keep expectations minimal and have a blank slate…so what a surprise and comfort to find “Damage” as heartfelt and honest and heartwrenching yet also mature it makes me feel old and new at the same time.

Jim Adkins called this an “adult break-up” album in an interview somewhere, and I definitely get that vibe. There’s a lot of regret and nostalgia here, but only small doses self-pity (something you learn is a waste of your time as you grow older). I’m really digging the whole record – the only thing I’d of  loved to see is an epic closer a la “Goodbye Sky Harbor” or “Invented” and “Mixtape.”

“Please Say No” is my favorite track so far, already have played it to death.  With a mix of acoustic and electric leads, soft background harmonies, a climatic ending full of auxiliary and dreamy sounds, and the mostly perfectly measured rhymes, it’s classic Jimmy Eat World but hardly stale, because the feeling is too fresh and the growth too evident. I plan on buying the album and playing the hell out of it all summer long.

“If all you’re really hoping for is peace of mind,
Don’t come to me with questions, you’ll just waste you time..
Exactly what your’e looking for is what you’ll find
And all I see around me is a losing fight.

Please say no, please say no 
Please say no, please say no
No, no, no, no…
Say anything you will 
Except how you’d have me still 
Say anything but no
And I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go.”
~Please Say No
Jimmy Eat World, Damage

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