learning love songs

est. 2008


February 2016


“We spent some time
Together crying
Spent some time just trying
To let each other go

I held your hand so
Very tightly
And told you what I
Would be dreaming of

There’s nothing like you and I
Nothing like you and I
There’s nothing like you and I
So why do I even try?
There’s nothing like you and I”

~Nothing Like You and I
The Perishers, Let There Be Morning

Some nights you have to give up on the promise of sleep. Too much in your head, or too much caffeine, or too many loud neighbors. The best remedy, I have learned, is to go with the awakeness — don’t fight it, you will only end up frustrated with yourself. It winds up being the perfect time to pull out the headphones and find some new music, or revisit old favorites lurking around, like The Perishers.

Oh, how I love this little song. Patient and delicate, space in the slow rhythms and lightness in the vocal melody. Warmth in the keys. Perfect for a mix CD, the kind with random one-off songs from random one-off artists. I love how it starts very simply, and builds to a harmony-filled key change, so together and polished in that Swede-pop way. I’ve been paying extra attention to band origins since reading the absolutely excellent “The Song Machine” by John Seabrook, and upon returning to this find from The Perishers, I realized their perfectly timed rhymes and uplifting chord choices are a pure product from their scene, the late 90s pop rock eruption, directly from its epicenter.

At the very least, it’s a happier sound than the muffled grunge radio and hipster horns blaring from the apartment beneath me at this hour. At the very best, it’s a daydream, when I should be sleeping, a reminder of the lightness that lies ahead once the sun comes back up and the world wakes up.


“If you feel down and you write that down, most of the time it is going to be a country song.” ~Billy Joe Shaver, songwriter

I keep Billy Joe Shaven’s advice in my inbox. I like to look at it when I’m feeling stressed or tired or uninspired, or some combination of those. I like to remember how good it feels to purge whatever I’m feeling into music, even if it is with songs I can never remember on a guitar I can barely play for an audience that, despite their attentive ears, doesn’t have much feedback to offer (because they are felines).

Every time I tell myself that *this* is the weekend I’ll revisit some songs or *this* is the weekend I’ll post a new video, it becomes so much easier to do anything but stay home and practice — meeting up with friends, running, shopping, laundry, pretty much anything is preferable to indulging in my own creativity when, as much as I enjoy the feeling of playing music, it altogether feels like a selfish pursuit. But then I remember this quote, and all the others about how music can save souls and change lives and uplift the darkest of spirits. And then I think that yeah, maybe it is worthwhile to practice a little, even if it’s for 10 minutes, or for 30 minutes, even if it’s the same old songs I’ve always loved to play, or even if it’s whatever nonsense I need to say.


“Well I know when you’re around cause I know the sound
I know the sound, of your heart
Well I know when you’re around cause I know the sound
I know the sound, of your heart

It’s not about reciprocation, it’s just all about me
A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe

There’s so much skin to see
A simple Epicurean Philosophy
And you say I’m such a cliche,
I can’t see the difference in it either way.

And we left things to protect my mental health
But you call me when you’re bored and you’re playing with yourself
You’re so conceited
I said ‘I love you’
What does it matter if I lie to you?

I don’t regret it but I’m glad that we’re through
So don’t you tell me that you ‘just don’t get it’
Cause I know you do.Well I know when you’re around cause I know the sound
I know the sound, of your heart.”
~The Sound
The 1975, I Like it When You Sleep, for You are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of it

The new LP from The 1975 is easily one of my most anticipated releases of 2016. Not just because “The Sound” is an earworm, not just because Matthew Healy’s near-falsetto reach matches perfectly with my own, not just because their debut soundtracked one of my loneliest, but loveliest, years of adulthood. I’m excited for this record because theirs is a band that stormed on the scene and wound up creating a new trend, and the hit bands that pull that off followed by an better sophomore effort make for the best kind of music success stories.

The sound that The 1975 popularized in a somewhat ground-up fashion now radiates across radio, even if their own hits never did – Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” comes to mind. It’s that dance-beat rock and roll, with twinges of funk and disco embedded in the guitar melodies and bass lines. On “The Sound,” a very appropriately titled early single from the rather awkwardly titled LP,” a repetitive synth line sets the tone and an off-the-bat hook place the song comfortably in radio dance-rock, pop-rock world. I cannot get it out of my head, and when I do, it’s time to go listen to it again. And like the rest of their songs, it is equal parts flirty and edgy, making overt references to love, lust and self-awareness in the language of pure pop poetry.

Will this record catapult The 1975 to the top of the charts an allow them to take over the world? All the ingredients seem right. But if their chance has passed and they remain an act on the periphery,  we might be better off — it means they just might keep ahead of the curve.


“Get lost in the dead of the night where once I lived on Grand Street.

Deaf from Chucks on bones crushed white. 
New Brooklyn bows before me. 
Soak it all in and let it run deep, glory in delusion. 
I can picture us, 
Waltz in the ruins of this wilted gray contusion.

Sometimes, when she’s far and I’m drunk, I clutch her like a compass. 
Never thought of being anything but quixotic and self-conscious. 
Some ache to guide your hand, to pull out of the socket. 
I’m the cricket that lets you burn while I smolder in your pocket.”
Say Anything, I Don’t Think It Is

I didn’t know Max Bemis planned on releasing a new Say Anything record this week, so I was had an extra surprise when he started streaming it for free the day prior.

Sad to say I lost the plot on his records after “In Defense of the Genre,” which always felt like too much to wrap my head around despite some catchy standouts. This record feels far more organized than that, with the same outrage-inspired message. The musical maturity of Max Bemis since he stole a generation’s heats and minds on “…Is A Real Boy” is obvious, with more intricate parts and progressions, but the same tired, aggressive snarl.

Emotional expression remains the star of this show, even in newfound restraint – the end of “Attaboy,” in particular, features a nice sort of post-rock delicacy under screamed-in-despair vocals.  Track 2, “17 Cokes Up Speeding,” feels like a throwback, capturing the anxiety and depression Bemis has always channeled with punked-out chords and dizzying technique. There’s some really excellent guitar parts and harmony-filled hooks, and Darren King (brother-in-law by marriage to Bemis) is a strong addition to the sound (feel like I hear more of him behind a kit on this than I do on MuteMath’s “Vitals,” it seems, at least as far as that smooth, understated backbeat goes).   

As a musician, Max Bemis remains experimental – whether this is for its own sake or to underscore his messaging, I can’t be sure. He continues to plays around with spoken word and hip-hop samples, like on “Goshua” and odd choice for a closer “Varicose Visage” and I have to wonder what feedback he’s received. But then a track like “Jiminy” returns to the dramatic kickdrum-backed melodies and brilliantly twisted wordplay that have made the backbone of Bemis’ discography, full of buoyant grit and graceless glory.

I’m surprised how much I like this, having given up on Say Anything’s sound as a little too disorganized and radical for my tastes. I’ve preferred to hear Max Bemis acoustic or in Perma, like when I caught that show in December 2013.  But where “I Don’t Think It Is” veers into unfamiliar territory, it’s still a confessional ode to the art of grappling with the mind and its anxieties, which is an unsurprisingly comforting listen for me, for now, regardless.

“I’m 23 locked up in the asylum
Listening too much to my own album
Sent me spinning out death-wish-bound to forge a callous
Stomping on the seesaw where I balance
I’m at that age where I actually go to parties
And I sit in the back with a drink and let them judge me
While I pray to the devil that a hurricane comes to take us
We’ll be torn away from all the ways we fake trust

‘Hey, kid!
You’re not a kid anymore!
You’re not a kid anymore!’

 Said the fool to the mystic
“Be realistic!”

He replied with a lipstick sigil:
‘You always think too much and feel too little’

‘Hey, kid!
You’re not a kid anymore!

You’re not a kid anymore!’

Said the fool to the mystic
‘Be realistic!’
He replied with a lipstick sigil,

‘You always think too much and feel too little.‘”
~17 Coked Up Speeding
Say Anything, I Don’t Think It Is


Saturday! SaturdaySaturdaySaturday. On Saturday I finally get to see Marianas Trench, one of my most favorite bands due to their musicality and lyrics and being an all-around good time. I’ve been binging a little bit, in the middle of putting Kanye West’s discography on repeat in anticipation of “Waves.”  The contrast is a little rough, but energizing through long, grey days nonetheless.

While I’m expecting a total barrage of hooks and harmonies from “Astoria” during this Marianas Trench tour, my fingers are crossed for some special covers and old favorites, perhaps like this “Iris/Good for You” one. It’s a pretty simple transition, nothing fancy, the connection is all in the chords and the sentiment. I could do without the crowds screaming along, but I can’t say I won’t be acting in a similar fashion in four days time.

And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am….

Everyone’s around, no words are coming now.
And I can’t find my breath, can we just say the rest with no sound.
And I know this isn’t enough, I still don’t measure up.
And I’m not prepared, sorry is never there when you need it.

And now I do want you to know 

I hold you up above everyone.
And now I do want you to know 

I think you’d be good to me
And I’d be so good to you

~Iris/Good to You, as performed by Josh Ramsay  

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