learning love songs

est. 2008


May 2017


I’ve coming back to this Chris Stapleton track a lot lately. It’s the first track from his latest, From A Room: Volume 1, and it’s a wonderful introduction into his stellar, booming voice with a sentiment that’s two parts reflective, one part hopeful.

I love how observant this song is, I’ve had it on in my headphones while walking around town and meandering through crowds, and it serves as a beautiful reminder that everyone has a story, everyone has struggles, everyone has a battle they’re trying to win….and that none of it comes easy. In true country troubadour form, Stapleton offers a little bit of wisdom from the trials experienced by the downtroddern, and as much as I love hearing him sing about whiskey and women, I also love hearing him observe the world in this way and offer a little wisdom.

“Don’t go looking for the reasons
Don’t go asking Jesus why
We’re not meant to know the answers
They belong to the by and by
They belong to the by and by

Seen my share of broken halos
Folded wings that used to fly
They’ve all gone wherever they go
Broken halos that used to shine…”

~Broken Halos
Chris Stapleton, From A Room: Volume 1


Much has been written and said about the pop-tastic masterpiece that is the new Paramore album, After Laughter, and that’s instantly what I liked about it. There’s this clinging to the idea of them as a pop punk band or some notion that they “sold out” when really, their catalog extends beyond any slivered-up genre and just into one big category of modern American pop-rock. And is there anything wrong with that? Not to me. Paramore is a band I’ve always had a place in my heart for.

They’re just ubiquitous — if someone had to soundtrack a movie about a musically-inclined Millennial  in the 2000s or 2010s, you could do worse than plucking a few Paramore songs.

They’ve had so many strong points throughout their discography, even dating back to the albums from the last decade: The soaring throw-down chords of “For a Pessimist I’m Pretty Optimistic”  on Riot! are instantly satisfying — the nostaglia and homesickness of wandering youth on “Franklin” on All We Know Is Falling is identifiable and timeless. I still love these songs even though I’ve been playing them forever.

Then 2009’s brand new eyes broke through with a fresher sound (and coincided with a break-up) that veered more toward pop-rock and showed off Hayley Williams in a better light than ever. From her reaching screech on “Careful” to that stunning high note in “All I Wanted” (you know the one), she had a better command of her voice than on any proceeding records and really leaned into what she could do.

It’s also fun to listen to albums from 10 year ago like Riot! and realize I still know every word — let alone to think what my life was like then, how I identified with these songs, and how those crises and concerns have faded so much with time.

I spent lots of time with After Laughter when traveling through Colorado the weekend it came out, and since then choice tracks have made their way onto my workout/morning playlists. I really dig it, not only for its funky melodies and interesting sounds, but mostly for its attitude, this sort of in-your-face cynical optimism, this “I’m not playing this game or loving this life but I’m going to do me anyway” kind of vibe. “Fake Happy,” for instance, nails this sentiment on the head.

There’s one track in particular I binged on at any moment — “26,” the ballad, where Williams’ soprano and heartfelt emotion really shine through. Come to think of it, I’ve always really loved it when they slow things down and do the power ballad thing — but “26” is not about power, it is more about the quiet strength one finds with age and time. It’s about holding onto what you have and dreaming for something more, even at a time when the world and those around you are holding you down. And it exemplifies, as this band’s music always does, that Paramore is much more than a pop punk band, that Williams’ is much more than a petite chick rocker, and that those who live seemingly glamorous dream lives may be wishing and hoping for something else, something more, in an authentically unifying way.

You got me tied up but I stay close to the window
And I talk to myself about the places that I used to go
And hope that someday maybe I just float away
And I’ll forget every cynical thing you said
When you gonna hear me out
Man, you really bring me down

Hold onto hope if you got it
Don’t let it go for nobody
They say that dreaming is free
I wouldn’t care what it cost me

Paramore, After Laughter


One of my favorite “surprise” albums of this year is Mac Demarco’s This Old Dog. His voice has a weariness and wisdom that goes beyond his 26 years, and his sort of laid-back style feels rooted in 70s California rock songwriting. I loved hearing about his influences when he sat down with Marc Maron for WTF last month. Something about this album just chills me out and centers me — maybe it’s the way it feels slow-paced and reflective, maybe it’s Demarco’s high-voiced rasp. His sound is largely inoffensive (could fall under that amorphous umbrella of yacht rock) but not at the expense of grooves and layers. A track like “One More Love Song” emphasizes his ability to lead a band with a great piano line, while “Dreams from Yesterday” has something of an island vibe.

I find his whole style/vibe/skill reassuring, as if amidst pop chaos there can be breakthrough young talents with fundamental technique and truth to share. Looking forward to his further development, and digging deeper into his past work, too.

“Oh no,
Looks like
I’m seeing more of of my old man in me,”
~My Old Man
Mac Demarco, This Old Dog


2017 is a torrential downpour of exciting new artists and deep new releases, but lately I’m taking solace in going back into some old favorites. Coldplay is a brand that will probably forever be a dorky cultural footnote but they have a few songs that just stun me and still me.

Today, for example, I took a quick walk through downtown LA to run a couple errands before work. I clicked over Viva La Vida and played “Lovers in Japan” — something about the cyclical and jangling chords perfectly suits the bustle of a city.  A peripatetic rhythm bounces along, making it easy to keep pace while treading down sidewalks. The optimistic yet realistic chorus from Chris Martin is a thoughtful sentiment, perfectly suitable for getting lost in thought while observing the people, sights and scents of an urban scene.

If you asked me my top 5 favorite Coldplay songs, “Lovers in Japan” is in there for sure, — and if you scoff at me or anyone else who could come up with a top 5 favorite Coldplay songs, I’ll wager your letting stereotypes trigger your eyerolling, instead of understanding the meaning and message a beautiful song can provide.

“They are turning my head out
To see what I’m all about
Keeping my head down
To see what it feels like now
But I have no doubt
One day, the sun will come out…”

~Lovers In Japan
Coldplay, Viva La Via

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