learning love songs

est. 2008




Made a list of my favorite albums of the year so far. Everybody else is doing it! Went with 11 instead of 10, because all of these albums have been really great to listen to in my mind. My biggest impression: The alt-rock offerings this year are truly profound and poignant albums, and the alt-country/folk female contingent is killing it.

Also, with upcoming scheduled releases from the likes of Moose Blood, Blind Pilot, Angel Olson, Local Natives, Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard and hell, maybe even Brand New, a year-end list will prove to be quite competitive.

  1. The Hotelier – Goodness
  2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
  3. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs
  4. Pinegrove – Cardinal
  5. Deftones – Gore
  6. Brian Fallon – Painkillers
  7. Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
  8. Empty Houses – Daydream
  9. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
  10. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are beautiful yet so unaware of it
  11. Daughter – Not to Disappear

Special shout-out to “Best Kept Secret” for being my new favorite song about California and featuring beautiful Chinese strings.

Merits more listens/honorable mentions:
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
letlive. – If I’m the Devil…
Panic! At the Disco- Death of a Bachelor
Beyonce – Lemonade
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Sara Watkins – Young In All The Wrong Ways
Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
Thrice – To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere
Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat

“I talked about my misery, you called it pain of pain
How we light a pile on until we go insane
‘Til we go insane
Until we go insane
You’re the best kept secret in Silver Lake.”
~Best Kept Secret
case/lang/veirs, case/lang/veirs


Moving on
Is moving in slow motion

To keep the pain to a minimal
Weightless, only wait for a fall.”

Daughter, Not to Disappear

The ethereal elegance of Daughter is back and better than ever. I know that is a cliche thing to say, but it is true.

“Not to Disappear,” their 2016 release, is one of the most smoothing, stunning and haunting collections I’ve heard in months. Not only is Elena Tonra an incredible vocalist, with a delicate and haunting soprano, but she writes these passionate, stirring lyrics, ones that are so very affected by emotional states of being. On “Not to Disappear,” she tackles loneliness, aging, her own melancholic thoughts, and she does it in such a brash manner, unafraid of admitting her own failings and vulnerabilities without coming across as too apologetic for them.

But on this record I hear so much more than Torna’s thoughts and feelings, in a good way. The percussive echoes and delayed, climatic guitar parts prove a precise vision; the other musicians are not simply her backing band. As beautiful and moving as her poetic lyrics are in their own right, the choices made in regard to space and rhythm. Guitar breaks walk a line between atmospheric shoegaze and chord-contained punk rock, for the most part holding back aggression and letting it seep out around the edges.

There’s so many beautiful, moving moments here, the bust before the first verse in “How,” the hypnotic hums filling out the outro of “Fossa,” and the seemingly dance-inspired beats behind “Alone/With You.” Daughter does an excellent job at blending genres and sounds, creating something that is not rock, is not folk, is not emo, but draws on all of the above. Mostly I think they just represent solid, inspired songwriting, showing what it means to take and idea and a motif and keeping coloring around them. Each of these songs feels like lungs holding too much air and hearts beating out of their chests, with a profound sense of tension and emotion.

It’s weird how songs that deal with madness and sadness and self-doubt and turmoil can be this stunning, in a way. Shouldn’t those topics be uncomfortable? But I’ve always kind of believed that songs, like stories, don’t say much of anything if they don’t have a happening of some kind to speak of, and those happenings are often conflicts, either with lovers or the world or oneself. On “Not to Disappear,” Daughter tackles all those relationships with a mature curiosity, and a reckless abandon, but holds onto their emotional, meditative, core.

“Chemically enlaced faces
Black out nights and tight spaces
We’ll feel distant embraces
Scratching hands ’round my waist, yeah
I’ll wash my mouth but still taste you

I feel numb
I feel numb in this kingdom
I feel numb
I feel numb in this kingdom

You better, you better, you better
You better make me
Me better, me better
You better make me better.

Daughter, Not to Disappear


Speed, slow-downs, syncopation. Delicacy and direct honesty. The movement in this song is captivating, the vulnerability is physical and every time I listen to Elena Tonra I get these troubling little chills, addicting in a way I cannot hope to fight. Her words are like whispered secrets I can hear and hold in mind, a quiet oasis in the noise. The more pretentious listeners among us sometimes tend to lump these female songwriters into a category. Especially when they’re British. I have been guilty of this and the criticisms are usually accurate. Their voices are not the strongest, their words are often borderline cliche. They. All. Sound. The Same. But I’ve found Daughter surpasses these stereotypes, in part because her songs have a pained quality, an expressiveness of metaphor. Musically they show firm grasp on the possibility of structure, building on verses and choruses throughout. Dynamics and space are used masterfully, whether through gently echoed electrics or soft strumming and picking backed by the most subtle of auxiliary sounds and drumrolls, nary a crash in sight. The lack of clutter makes it so easy to hear the spine behind the song, the authenticity of where this came from. I simply love the poetry of it, how bare it is. And I think that’s what shakes me so, what makes these little quakes in my musical mind so notable, because I hear these songs and where they come from and I cannot hope to match them but maybe, maybe I could try…

“That boy, take me away, into the night
Out of the hum of the street lights and into a forest
I’ll do whatever you say to me in the dark
Scared I’ll be torn apart by a wolf in mask of a familiar name on a birthday card

Blow out all the candles, blow out all the candles
“You’re too old to be so shy,” he says to me, so I stay the night.
Just a young heart confusing my mind, but we’re both in silence
Wide-eyed, both in silence
Wide-eyed, like we’re in a crime scene

Well I have brittle bones it seems
I bite my tongue and torch my dreams,
Have a little voice to speak with
And a mind of thoughts and secrecy.
Things cannot be reversed, we learn from the times we are cursed
Things cannot be reversed, learn from the ones we fear the worst
And learn from the ones we hate the most how to…

Blow out all the candles, blow out all the candles
“You’re too old to be so shy,” he says to me, so I stay the night.
Just a young heart confusing my mind, but we’re both in silence
Wide-eyed, both in silence

Cause we both know I’ll never be your lover
I only bring the heat
Company under cover
Filling space in your sheets
Well I’ll never be a lover
I only bring the heat
Company under cover
Filling space in your sheets, in your sheets

So, please just blow out all the candles, blow out all the candles
“You’re too old to be so shy,” he says to me so I stay the night
It’s just a young heart confusing my mind, but we’re both in silence
Wide-eyed, both in silence
Wide-eyed, like we’re in a crime scene.”

Daughter, His Young Heart


If I was a producer and wanted to lock a pair of singer-songwriters in a room together to write soundtrack of my life today, I’d have to say Elena Tonra and Dallas Green. Soft songs with a lot of heart – I guess that’s how I’m feeling today.

I am a recent fan of Daughter, she’s pretty amazing and stands out among the bazillion indie Brits or indie wanna-be brits flooded the “hipster” scene and primetime female-led drama soundtracks. Daughter is different, there’s a lot of real musicianship in her songwriter. Here, for example — it’s a bold move to go with such stripped down instrumentals in a whole verse or two, that sotto voce while soft acoustics chime gradually in and out, before swelling into something more full.

Torna’s song lyrics are quite dark, as such I think they almost require that kind of delicacy…feelings and messages so bold and visceral they are better delivered by a light touch.

“Throw me in the landfill
Don’t think about the consequences
Throw me in the dirt pit
Don’t think about the choices that you make
Throw me in the water
Don’t think about the splash I will create
Leave me at the altar
Knowing all the things you just escaped

Push me out to sea
On the little boat that you made
Out of the evergreen
That you helped your father cut away
Leave me on the tracks
To wait until the morning train arrives
Don’t you dare look back
Walk away, catch up with the sunrise

‘Cause this is torturous
Electricity between both of us
And this is dangerous

 ’cause I want you so much
But I hate your guts”

Daughter,  His Young Heart

I also can’t get enough of City and Colour lately, inspired by the supreme fandom of recently made friends. I’ve always appreciated Dallas Green, even from back in the Alexisonfire days when I thought was I hardcore because I had checkered Vans and long bangs, or something. I remember listening to “Save Your Scissors” a lot when I was about 18.

Lately, though, on this side of college and real relationships and indulging in all the highs and lows young adulthood can offer, his heartfelt sincerity for love and affection is perfectly sweet,simply just right. He has some serious perspective, on life and despair and dreams and love….it’s the last one though, where he really drives it home. Lyrically,  Green equally captures the fragile and the strong sides of sentimentality, never pandering to either. Seriously don’t know of any other modern songwriter who can write this many love songs that are so beautiful without being incredibly cheesy or poppy or forced. You have to click here to see what I’m talking about because of YouTube rules.

Green’s voice is ethereal, his melodies are enchanting, and when he gets the choir-like backup vocals and tambourine going, I cannot help but feel lighter, making no matter of my automatic default to remain knee-deep in melancholy. I suppose it’s not the worst thing to find yourself smiling alone.

“You’re the Northern Wind
Sending shivers down my spine.
You’re like fallen leaves
In an autumn night.

You’re the lullaby,
Singing me to sleep.
You are the other half
You’re like a missing piece

Oh my love…
Oh my love ,
Oh my love,
You don’t know,
What you’re doing to me

You are all four seasons
Rolled into one,
You’re like the cold December snow,
In the warm July sun.

I’m the jet black sky,
Just before the rain,
Like the mighty current,
Pulling you under the waves
Oh my love,
Oh my love,
Oh my love,

You must be tired of me,
Of me…

I’m the darkest hour,
Just before the dawn,
I’m slowly sinking

Into the slough of despond

Like an old guitar
Worn out and left behind
I have stories still to tell
Of the healing kind

Oh my love,
Oh my love,
Oh my love,
If I could just find you tonight,
If I could just find you tonight…
Oh my love…”

~Northern Lights
City and Colour, Little Hell


“Shadows settle on the place, that you left

Our minds are troubled by the emptiness
Destroy the middle, it’s a waste of time
From the perfect start to the finish line

And if you’re still breathing, you’re the lucky ones
‘Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs
Setting fire to our insides for fun
Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong
The lovers that went wrong

We are the reckless,
We are the wild youth
Chasing visions of our futures
One day we’ll reveal the truth
That one will die before he gets there

And if you’re still bleeding, you’re the lucky ones
‘Cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone
We’re setting fire to our insides for fun
Collecting pictures from the flood that wrecked our home
It was a flood that wrecked this….

And you caused it
And you caused it
And you caused it

Well I’ve lost it all, I’m just a silouhette
A lifeless face that you’ll soon forget
My eyes ae damp from the words you left
Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest

Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest

And if you’re in love, then you are the lucky one
‘Cause most of us are bitter over someone

Setting fire to our insides for fun
To distract our hearts from ever missing them
But I’m forever missing him

And you caused it
And you caused it
And you caused it “


Daughter, The Wild Youth EP 
Daughter writes some pretty deep songs – this is the single that’s got the most attention but thumbing around on YouTube yesterday showed lots of deep sad tracks to get lost in. Lots of sad, dark metaphorical lyrics, about regret and the unfaithful and pain and healing and that ilk. Sounds are sometimes spacey and air-filled, affected by computers just-so to highlight the somewhat unearthly quality of Elena Tonra’s just-so-British voice, but lots of piano, too. I expect lots of Florence Welch comparisons, but Daughter is a bit more understated, I think. A solid choice for get-lost-in-your-head listening.

You’ve got a warm heart,
You’ve got a beautiful brain.
But it’s disintegrating,
From all the medicine.
From all the medicine.
From all the medicine.

You could still be,
What you want to,
What you said you were,
When you met me

Daughter, The Wild Youth EP

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