learning love songs

est. 2008


April 2015


“Your gross fabrication of pretense could bore,
Yet still I fall victim to syntax omitted,
Just shy of something I could understand
So blissful, I press on to the sound of the organs
Playing their most convincing tunes
As they serenade to the parade of paid-off parts.

And now the only thing left to discuss is
The details of this armistice
We’ve come to this agreement.

Check my vitals
The truth is vile, but vital to this cause
I’ve been held hostage;
A captive of this passive shell
Give me gravity, give me clarity,
Give me something to rely on.

The debut from The Receiving End of Sirens turned 10 yesterday, reminding me of how often I’ve been playing “This Armistice.” The whole album, named off of the closing track’s most poignant, memorable lyrics, is really full and profound – that opening chorus from “Planning a Prison Break” is something fierce. But this song is the perfect example of perfect post-hardcore and everything that is/was cool about it: mixing vocal prowess with guitar madness, weaving closely-related stanzas for overlapping harmonies,and playing recklessly with rhythm and keyboard effects. Finger tapping excellence abounds.

This song is composed. This song is operatic. This song throws down, boils over and doesn’t look back as it leaves a trail of hopeless desperation.

TREOS was, and remains, one of the smarter bands of the post-hardcore genre, and so they endured. They write with sophisticated verbs, they sing with choral-style gang vocals before any screaming comes into play. Their breakdowns wash in and over the listener, like waves of angst-tinged distortion pushed back by off-kilter piano. With songs this moody, it’s easy to see TREOS blend in with the themes of the era, but listen a little harder and I think you find pieces and parts of compositions that push the boundaries of rock music into prog territory. Bottom line, they dress up aggression in a dramatic outfit, making screaming and loud guitars part of a greater sound instead of for the sake of being loud. They do this really well.

Their follow-up to “Between the Heart and the Synapse,” called “The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi,” executes on a greater level. I do not think it was as critically acclaimed but I think it shows a keen sense of timing and setting, and also the blending of studio instruments with key-sprouted parts and auxiliary….just enough digital to feel modern but not enough to feel phoned in. Been a long while since I listened to it, and on a somewhat dreary spring day, their fullness and darkness exacerbates the mood.

On a related note, singer-songwriter Casey Crescenzo was in town recently but I was not available to attend. Wonder if he played more TREOS or The Dear Hunter, which is also good and worth listening to. TREOS remains one of the most yearned for reunions in the scene, I think, because their sound is so beyond the scene itself, hitting all the right notes for drama and passion and anger without sacrificing a spine or musical integrity. Among those of us who aim to create, who aim to imprint, should we all be so skilled and focused to funnel our feelings while exploring depth and ingenuity within the medium.

“Oh, how I’ve been teething 

In light of your misleading
You’ve caused this collapse 
Between the heart and the synapse

We’re all puppets
We’re all marionettes
We’re all puppets
We’re all marionettes

~This Armistice 
The Receiving End of Sirens, Between the Heart and the Synapse


This new Shakey Graves record is really something – I missed them when they were in town last wweek and that’s a damn shame, because their sound is old-school blues at the very heart of it, dressed up in harmonies and trendy sounds for decoration. I love this record, “Nobody’s Fool,” as much as I love the fact this guy has been around for a few years, under the radar in Austin, and so it is made up of rarities and B-sides and one-offs, a delightful little taste test of his sound. His trademark is a suitcase kickdrum, which he fashioned himself and is odd to look at it and apparently pretty cool. I am not one to be sold on gimmicks, but his sound is just perfect for a chilly start to spring, hints of growth and green checkered among the grey.

Alejandro Rose-Garcia has a voice straight out of the south, grizzled and rough but able to glide across octaves as if on ice, or drunk. It makes me want to bury myself in Americana songs from now until the end of time, surround myself with sunshine and strings and tepid sadness.

This is one of my favorites so far – I can’t find a solo video for it, but it’s worth jumping the 23-minute mark to hear the simpler side of Shakey Graves:

“Dear friend of the girl i once dated
I hated the sound of her voice
and she left me no choice
I would rampantly tear all the
frames from the wall
just to make her remember
our life in the fall

So miss me once in a blue moon
if I don’t return soon
I think there’s something worth loving in me.

But I run from the touch of a loved one,
I could never live patiently.

Dear friend of the female persuasion
on lonely rotation through all of the boys in the town
I would instantly answer the phone if you call
just to make me remember the point of it all.

You miss me once in a blue moon
if I don’t return soon
I think there’s something worth leaving in me

but I run from the touch of a loved one
you could never love patiently
you could never love patiently
you could never love patiently

you could never love patiently

Yeah miss me once in a blue moon
if I don’t return soon
I think there’s something worth loving in me

but I run from the touch of a loved one
I could never live patiently.

~Love, Patiently
Shakey Graves, Nobody’s Fool


“Didn’t I tell you that I could hear you running out?
Didn’t I find you when I knew you were hiding out?
Didn’t I see you when you thought you’d never stand out?
Didn’t I find you?”

~When You Thought You’d Never Stand Out
Copeland, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Probably one of Copeland’s best uses of the string section, little trills and arpeggios opening up early on before diving into a full-on orchestral fall. Something about this song is eternally stunning and stilling. The piano helps. So do the carefully woven vocal parts. Though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the return of Copeland via “Ixora,” and while I’m deeply sorry their tour won’t be possible for me to see this summer, I find myself very much soothed and invigorated by their past catalog, today and forever after, as ever I was.

Some songs don’t get old. They don’t get tired. They just reveal themselves, new again, and deeper than before, steeped in warm memories but fresh again in the light of the still-cold present.


This new Lord Huron record is as lush and stunning as expected. What could’ve been a hipster flash-in-the-pan band is blossoming into a really full-fledged folk endeavor – one whose live performance, I can testify, is a powerful display of showmanship. Founder and frontman Ben Schneider is as talented and belt-worthy as the recordings make him sound, and he embraces the talents of his backing band, like with a clever decision to posit the drummer sideways, side stage, allowing the audience a vantage point rarely seen.

“Strange Trails” picks up where “Lonesome Dreams” left off, as elemental as its predecessor but a little more wild, a little more exploratory beyond the woods into pop-song structure influenced by folk leanings. I love the delays and echos, the constant percussive spine, and Schneider’s cavalier-cowboy finesse. My favorite so far is opening track “Love Like Ghosts,” a song I first heard through headphones drifting off to sleep. “La Belle Fleur Sauvage” is winning me over with its hushed blend of western twang and romantic gestures, “Cursed” is that perfect blend of sunny and lonely, and the end of “Yawning Grave” sounds like something that would tear down the house live. This album is a shade or two darker than the debut, lyrically speaking, but it’s hardly depressing, more like sorrow moving through its expected motions of crawling back into hope in spite of loss, loneliness and mortality.

There’s something very roots rock about Lord Huron that won’t appeal to all indie listeners, especially those that have gone on to lighter/digitized fare from the dreadnought-focused groups, but I find this sound incredibly grounding. It’s rather classic, too, with songs like “Way Out There” and “Frozen Pines” evoking The Eagles desert era. I love how unafraid to “go there” this band is, touching and toying with all the instruments and sounds they can find to create something rich. I love how easily I can turn on this record and tune out, how it sounds so vast and open and unashamed, much like all the landscapes it describes. I love how, just in the nick of the time when everything was starting to sound the same, I’ve rediscovered an artist’s new approach to pass the time and distract my mind.

“Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh, few have seen it, but everybody talks

Spirits follow everywhere I go
Oh they sing all day and they haunt me in the night,
Oh they sing all day and they haunt me in the night.

Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh, and what ain’t living can never really die,
You don’t want me baby please don’t lie,
Oh but if you’re leaving, I gotta know why,
I said if you’re leaving, I gotta know why,
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night.

Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh and the moonlight, baby shows you what’s real
There ain’t a language for the things I feel,
And if I can’t have you then no one ever will,
Oh, if I can’t have you then no one ever will.

I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes
Oh go on baby, hurt me tonight.
I want ours to be an endless song,

Baby in my eyes you do no wrong.

I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes

So go on baby hurt me tonight
All the spirits that I know I saw
Do you see no ghost in me at all ?

Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night.

~Love Like Ghosts
Lord Huron, Strange Trails


“Not gone but fading fast,
So let me put to rest the only question that you’ll ask,
We don’t feel anything.”
Brand New

It’s finally here.

Six years since their last release, with a criminally slow build-up of teasing and hint-dropping of new material, Brand New gave their fans something to listen to on this random spring Monday.

It’s barely two and a half minutes. It rips fast and ferocious. It kinda makes you want to rage. It makes me want more – so much more! – of new riffs and Jesse harmonizing with himself on snarling hooks. “We don’t feel anything,” he declares – is that why we haven’t heard new music in six years? Because for all your heralded brilliance and iconic anthems, you haven’t had anything worthwhile to say since your last album turned into something of a disappointment? Oh. Thanks for clarifying.

I will take it.

“Mene” doesn’t say much about a change in their direction as a band out of context – does a single mean an album? Does their live performance of this, followed so quickly by a recording, tease a larger forthcoming announcement? I would like to think so. It’s new Brand New, and so the world has to stop spinning for a minute, all the blog posts have to be written, and all the speculation has to culminate with a whole bunch of question marks as to their next steps.

No one is worse to their fans than Brand New. As such, no one has more devoted fans, left parched enough for any drop of activity to swallow with gleeful greed (like that Instagram wipe-and-post over the weekend). I am going to play this song probably a dozen more times today, I am going to memorize it, I am going to learn all the words and hum the parts and I will go back and listen to the rest of their discography in celebration of a band that I cannot, will not give up on – even when they give fans very little to hang on for.In their defense, giving it away as a free download is a fan-friendly and biz-smart move.

I generally roll my eyes at old sayings and cliche phrases used as central tenants in reviews & writings, but this time, I can only think of one thing to say and it’s as recycled as the best of them:

Good things come to those who wait.


First bike ride of the season took me on my favorite solo-cruise route – from Millvale along the Three Rivers trail, past PNC Park, around Heinz Field, across the bridge and down to Point State Park. The scenery changes quickly, the path goes from crushed stone to pavement to concrete with varying degrees of incline, and on the first free day I’ve had in awhile that just happened to the warmest yet, I could not resist putting on my headphones and going for a ride. 
Shuffle did not fail me, starting with a strong run of modern pop punk.

“I’m safe, and who ever thought that was difficult?
My nerves start to feel so frayed.
I’m trying to turn things around, but instead
I’ll say ‘Why do I feel so invisible?
Good things will come my way.’
I’m trying to turn things around, and I wait

‘Till the day when I stop making big mistakes
And the clouds, they roll out of this whole damn state
I believe in a place and I wanna go
Honesty will leave me feeling livable
Once I change.

Now that I’ve found some time, all the pain won’t bother me.
I’ve wanted to find what my head keeps filtering.”
~Good Things

The Dangerous Summer, War Paint

The trail was full of so many people – solo riders like me, couples jogging, small groups of  walkers or cyclists – so I knew better than to blast the volume and tune out. Never know when someone’s speeding up behind you. I quit dodging the crowds for a bit when I got to the Point, and decided to stretch out and lay on the grass. Like divine intervention, or the mathematical realities of an 8-gig device, a sliver of “Clarity” arrived on cue. 

I laid there for awhile, listening to the same song over and over again. I put the volume up and watched the clouds, watched the fountain, and stretched my feet in time to the staccato strings. I let the rest of the album play the whole ride back.

“I promised I’d see it again
I promised I’d see this with you now.
I promised I’d see it again,
I promised I’d see this with you now.

I said, said, said it out loud over and over
Said, said, said it out loud but it did not help
I’ll stop now just enough so I can hear you
I stay up as late as it takes”

~Just Watch The Fireworks
Jimmy Eat World, Clarity

By the time I made my way back to the trail head, I was just sweaty enough, feeling tension-free and exhilarated by the spontaneous ride. I switched back to shuffle and found myself where I started,with “Suburbia” piping through like a boisterous old friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Usually, I plan rides for certain early mornings or with friends. It’s a scheduled activity. But today, with my bike fresh from a tire tune-up on the back of my car, I decided to deviate from my to-do list in favor of what felt right, and it was worthwhile. What a change of pace, what a pleasant reminder of the control we have over our own destinies. 
I strapped my bike to the trunk of my car. I kept my headphones in.
“I’m not a self-help book; I’m just a fucked up kid.
I had to take my own advice and I did.
Now I’m waiting for it to sink in.

Expect me standing tall, back against the wall,
‘Cause what I learned was
It’s not about forcing happiness;
It’s about not letting the sadness win.

~Local Man Ruins Everything 
The Wonder Years, Suburbia, I’ve Given You all and Now I’m Nothing


What a pretty little sad surf-rock song this is, one of my fastest favorites on “Kintsugi.”

My high hopes for this new Death Cab for Cutie album, I’ll admit, were a little too high. I’ve gone back to it once or twice loving the colors and the tones, but I can’t put this on par with “Plans,” or even “Narrow Stairs.” The album, for me, starts strong and has some really beautiful sentiments and the kind of thoughtful takes I expect from this band – as well as musically cool moments – but I’m  not sure if it presents a new landscape or treads new territory, as past albums accomplished. I hope this takeaway fades and changes in time, I hope some day on some drive the whole thing just clicks into place for me, but I’m not there yet….that said, who in the the pop-indie realm these days writes better songs than Ben Gibbard? That said, this is so far one of the most solid, clear-eyed and composed albums of the year, from one of the most reliable bands of the decade.

I like the guitar tones on this entire album, they’re just-so resonant, just-so round and occasionally a little groovy in a 90s radio rock sort of way. The subtle digital manipulations,like on “Black Sun,” are a modern touch, the piano work is both expected and refreshing. Gibbard’s voice here is as mature and sure of itself as I’ve ever heard it, owing its presence to the song and its melody instead of simply delivering his words in his way. This, I think, is a learned skill. Lyrically, he is still a sad sack of hipster, the OG of the genre, as it were, and I can not, will not, get enough. His perspective switches from the internal to the wide-angle track by track, it seems, even verse-by-verse, and this is how he has written as far back on “Something About Airplanes.” But their is obvious maturity, and it’s not just in giving up the raspy falsetto, it’s also in in the reflection.

Can we pinpoint when this band became so good with hooks? Maybe they always were, but I never thought of them as writing chorus-driven songs and that is what this album is full of. Is this regression, or progress or songwriting? Regardless, I like this one from “Little Wanderer” in particular, it’s so melodic for a sad little song. I like how this song This song hangs tight in the present, it wistfully dwells on the past, it longs for the future. Also, I am sucker for any airport reference (and not just because my new line of work involves understanding them, but because of those feelings of love and hope and solitary contentment they can provide).

Yesterday I leaned Death Cab will be in town in September, and I’d be foolish to not try to make that happen. My slightly  dashed hopes on the record from won’t keep me from feeling optimistic that this could be, would be, should be a show to remember. I’d rather have something to look forward to, than go in thinking this band I’ve held in high regard for so, so many years would disappoint me with their seasoned performance. From what I understand, they are pretty fucking fantastic. Do they still play “Transatlanticsm?” Oh well, even if not, I would not mind hearing this newest collection in its fullest form. Maybe by then, these songs will have gelled a little more with my ears and my mind, as I slowly detatch from the old assumptions of what a DCFC record is supposed to be. Maybe by then, I can begin to embrace and understand the one they’ve chosen to produce, and maybe, by then, I will have learned a little something about growth in the process.

“You sent a photo out your window of Tokyo
Told me you were doing fine
You said the cherry blossoms were blooming
And that I was on your mind
But I couldn’t make you out through the glitches
It’s how it always seems to go
So we say our goodbyes over messenger
As the network overloads
When the network overloads

You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Off across the sea
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Won’t you wander back to me
Back to me.

Always fall asleep when you’re waking
I count the hours on my hands
Doing the math to the time zone you’re at
Is an unseen part of the plan
But if you’ll be my bluebird returning
Then I’ll be your evergreen

Standing tall on your horizon
Guiding you home to me,
Guiding you home to me.

You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Off across the sea
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Won’t you wander back to me
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
How I wish that you could see
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
How I need you back with me
Back with me.

You sent a photo out your window of Paris
Of what you wish that I could see
But someone’s gotta be the lighthouse
And that someone’s gotta be me

And I hope your absence makes us grow fonder
I hope we always feel the same,
When our eyes meet past security, we embrace in the baggage claim,
When we kiss in the baggage claim.

You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Off across the sea.
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Won’t you wander back to me,
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
How I wish that you could see.
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
How I need you back with me,
Back with me “

~Little Wanderer,
Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi

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