learning love songs

est. 2008




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’m a little late on this one.

I wanted to sit down and write about my favorite albums of 2012, the music that came out, crossed my path and meant something to me for any combination of reasons.

I wanted to talk about how there were songs that reminded me how wonderful it is to be young and alive even though it’s messy and mean, like Japandroids and The Menzingers. And how there were songs that blasted the cracks in my heart with deadly aim, and others that caulked in the gaps, like those from The Gaslight Anthem and Lovedrug.

I wanted to do this yesterday. But time got the best of me, and here we are, 2013 with no “Favorite Albums of 2012” on the blog. Let’s proceed.

Normally people order and rank these things; I have done this in the past and found it to be useful, clean and a fun reference for discussion purposes should the topic ever arise. My rationale for placing an album on this list could come from many places: Did I hear it, and love it instantly? Was I drawn to replay it in full one more time, or are there tracks that I simply couldn’t get enough of? And why? Was it the meaning, the message, the technique, or the timing?

I’ve also decided to highlight other albums that caught my ears for being very successful records in one way or another, because 2012 was a damn fine year for new music from artists both familiar and burgeoning. Here’s a whole bunch of proof:

10) mewithoutyou – Ten Stories
Kicking off the list, an old favorite band out with a new, thematic collection that’s eerie and haunting and potentially their most polished, meticulously produced effort yet.  Details pop out at every new listen, a harmony or a guitar part or an elusive, mysterious phrase. So enchanting, how could you not want to get lost in the night inside an otherwordly tale?

“All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin/But only in their leaving can they ever come back around”

Posts from the Year: 7/15/12

9) Passion Pit – Gossamer
Ya heard. Electropop made it on my favorites list. But I’ve never liked electropop this much before, I’ve never seen the weirdness and depth this way. Played it all the time, even got my mom hooked on it. I found this album uplifting and entirely thoughtful, bright and shiny but ever calm, ever cool and just enough collected. I hear the  live shows are slammin’. Also: Gossamer is, and has been, one of my favorite all-time words.Shimmers just like it should, a perfect title.

“When then I’ll say what they say/And I’ll do what they do/But it doesn’t mean a goddamned thing”

8) Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams
Oh how perfect and beautiful this album is, how folksy. Though it seems acoustic and auxiliary-heavy Americana bands are a stone’s throw from every dive bar in mid-sized cities to the hottest clubs frequented by trendy, hipster-inclined urbanites, Lord Huron is, to my ears, the real deal. Kick back, relax and let their lonesome dreams interrupt and intersect with yours for awhile. And take a walk in the fucking woods while you’re at it.

“I’ve been dreaming again of a lonesome road/Where I’m lost and I’ve got no friends/Just the rocks and the trees and my lonesome dreams and a road that’ll never end”

Posts from the Year: 12/12/12

7) Bad Books – II
Perhaps I am inclined to rank anything involving the likes of Andy Hull and Kevin Devine, given my listening roots grew up in their respective heydays. And yet I have never appreciated them as much musically as I do today. Maybe it’s in the maturity, the sardonic tone, or the willingness to try on styles and sounds exemplifying a mastery of creative convention. Bad Books colors in the lines, but this is by no means a dig on lack of originality. Rather, we’ve got layers and layers of complimenting and contrasting rock ‘n’ roll theory. More, please.

“Folded arms and I felt your heart hum/Speedy eyes and I want what I want/Truth cut with a generalized fear/Cash baggies and an ash tray beers/I know you know/I wanna love you but I can’t let go/Honey, it never stops/No it never stops”

6) Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
How did you not just instantly love this band? Rootsy and bluesy and fusion-y and all kinds of familiar, Alabama Shakes debuted with a powerful hello to an indie pop audience that was ready to lap up something designed to comfort the soul. We’ve got real instruments, real vocal talent like we haven’t heard in some time, real skilled players, and a whole lot of heart. Between the dynamics, the passion and the style, Alabama Shakes has serious rock chops, and I’d bet strong that we’ve only seen the start.

“I feel so homesick/Where’s my home/Where I belong/Where I was born/I was told to go/Where the wind would blow/And it blows away”

(Bonus Link: Listen to this full KEXP performance!) Seriously. Do it. Your face might melt, though.

5) fun. – Some Nights
Yes, I know I’ve said The Format is better (and first!) but what a record this was. Everyone seemed to love it, everyone related to it. At the tail end of 2012, I found myself replaying this album over and over. Great for drives, for thinking alone. Nate Ruess is a genius at capturing the mischief in melancholy, the hope in the view from the ground, and I am grateful he continues to make wonderful music to share with the world.

“My head is on fire/But my legs are fine/After all they are mine”

Posts from the Year: 8/14/12

4) Lovedrug – Wild Blood
Redemption comes in many forms. Lovedrug’s first full-length after a run of successful EP releases left me feeling full and happy, and intrigued by the new direction of a band. Focus, melody, depth and layers were always strong currents, but these qualities are the crux of Wild Blood’s impressive, hungry and ever-onward spirit. Glad this record was made, because it marks something of an end of an era for me — a triumphant effort from a band I’ve followed for years in a year that, for me, showed similar feats.

“We were owls when they came in the night/they were lookin’ for a creature to fight/I can see it that you’re ready to go/Like a bat in the cave of my soul”

Posts from the Year: 2/10/123/6/123/13/12,  4/15/126/15/12

3) The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
Sometimes, people kind of laugh a little when I tell them I’m a pop punk/hardcore/whatever the fuck you call emo these days fan. A bit of an eyeroll. But The Menzingers are amphetamine laced proof that the genre isn’t dead and Epitaph is a fighting beast of a label(so shut your fucking trap). Heart-wrenching and boldly embracing pathetic helplessness and hopeless, this album is a collection of odes to self-fulfilled failures past and present. As I am a codified expert on such instances in my own life, it was entirely too easy to relate. Coated in familiar chords and fast-finger solos and just the right amount of scream, I listened to this at my worst only to end up feeling pretty damn close to my best.

“I will fuck this up/I fucking know it”

Posts from the Year: 8/22/12, 8/27/12

2) The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
What to say that I haven’t said? Do I have a bigger music idol of 2012 than Brian Fallon?  Not really, maybe, probably not. “Handwritten” proves that TGA will continue to churn out confessional narratives with amphitheater-sized proportions. They’ve proven to be true to their own style, a dash of the past included, so the end product is good, old-fashioned, new rock and roll.  And this album could’ve been a make or break moment after so many past successes. No doubt it was a daunting task to say, “Oh shit, gotta write more great songs.” And yet, I am more of a fan than ever.

“And we waited for sirens that never come/And we only write by the moon, every word handwritten/And to ease the loss of youth and how many years I’ve missed you/Pages plead forgiveness, every word handwritten”

Posts from the Year: 4/30/127/16/127/19/127/31/129/13/1210/9/1212/5/12

1) Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Japandroids just got it just right. They got the hunger right, the anger and fury, the passion, and the inescapable needs and conflicts of living fast. They’ve captured a certain brazen slyness that once thrived all over punk and rock scenes that’s shrunken to give way to pretension, a forced literariness that can be so guarded. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not really a good one either, if you’re looking for something to rock out to.

If you told me that 2012 would be the year that it turned out to be for me personally, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Or, maybe I would’ve of, but immediately passed out from fright, thereby changing said future through butterfly effect means. So, the present is fleeting, the past is permanent and the future, a wide scary unknown. In this lost haze, Japandroids brought a reminder that all you have is you and now, and fast is fun when your eyes are open.

Musically, omigod, so cool. Not only was I completely blown away by the sheer sonic power of such a tiny band (two skinny white dudes!), but you don’t hear guitars played in this way, so full of repetitive fierceness, in ways that are simultaneously melodic. This has a lot to do with the chord choices, and phrasing of vocal, but we’ve got some real metal technique doing some indie rock things.

So thanks, Japandroids, for making me remember so much of what I love about loud and fierce rock music, and for laying it all out so honestly, that there’s no way I will ever be able to hear these songs, and not connect to the moments, people and places of 2012. What more do you want out of an album of the year?

“It’s a lifeless life with no fixed address to give/But you’re not mine to die for anymore/So I must live”

Posts from the Year: 6/2/126/18/12

Special Awards:
Best EPs: The 1975 – Sex EP, The 1975 – Facedown EP

Best Genre-Bending, The Cool Award: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Most Ambitious, Most Likely to Make Me Dance Contemporary Ballet, Most Poetic Album Title: Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Best “Comeback:”  Soundgarden – King Animal

Best Collaborative: GOOD Music – Cruel Summer

Best Taylor Swift: Taylor Swift – Red

Best Album for a Love Scene in Outer Space: The xx – Coexist

Best Metal (TIE): Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind, Every Time I Die – Ex-Lives


The song just stills my heart. It freezes me. Puts me in a moment I remember somewhere back in my mind beyond the to-do lists and present paranoias, past the judgement and despisement…somewhere where love and safety and happiness were synonymous, somewhere where I never thought I would be.

I do not think that is a feeling that you duplicate. I am not holding out much hope. But I suppose that’s why sad songs are good for the soul. It means maybe something else is out there.

“Desire has known us well
Living dreams is living hell but
They brought us through the times

I wanna light myself on fire

I spent thirty years not knowing you
I can’t afford to waste more time
Running ’round the world
When all I know is you’re my girl”
Lovedrug, Wild Blood


Just a post to commemorate the Lovedrug concert I went to Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at the Bug Jar with my dear sister. Spent a good hour before the show chatting with the band, sharing stories about travel and music and bands and life and partying. Lent out a cigarette or two. Entirely likable gentlemen, not taking themselves too seriously but not spotlight-seeking.
All in all, enjoyable company. Hope I was too, though my sister told me I talked too much. I was drinking Jack and diets, so, my animation increased tenfold as dark liquor tends to do to me. Layer on talking about compression, and Taylor v. Martin, shady American suburbs and favorite musicians, and yeah, I’m in a pretty good mood.

I am past the point of being intimated by meeting musicians I look up to. At one point, sure, but the mystery of the traveling musician is just that, a mystery, and it’s a complete fallacy when you get down to it. There is no magic potion, these are men and women with a lifestyle choice that has a number of conseqeuences most people don’t want to take, or give up on. And it creates drama, intrigue, romanticism. Talent will do that to a soul. Hence the allure.

But, I digress. The show itself – a 50 minute rip through nine or 10 tracks old and new. Incredible. Pretty much everything sounded perfect, no technical difficulties, no notciable alterations to songs to make them easier. No kitchy audience banter, no smug prefacing. Just the tight live performance of modern American grunge-inspired and melody-laced rock and roll.

The Bug Jar is tiny – they may as well have been performing in my parent’s basement, and I think if I asked them, they would – so keys and auxiliary sounds on albums were not replicated live. The setlist reflected this – no “We Were Owls” otherworldly intro, no piano-driven “Everything Starts Where it Ends” cuts. But that was OK, this was about silky guitars, eat-your-heart-out melodies and a really-fucking-tight rhythm section.

I was awestruck the whole time, really, too enraptured to notice the world around me. Any thought that dared enter my head unrelated to the performance in front of me quickly burned out, unable to compete. Before the show I wondered if they may have intentionally held back a bit, as they were playing in NYC the following night and clearly that’s the crowd you want to impress coming off a new album, right? – but this concern was not validated. They played tight, they played well, the entetained the living daylights out of a small but devoted crowd, true troubadors to the end.

It can’t be easy, weeks on end on the road, but what a challenge, when home is a memory, and friends and loved ones are scattered around the country. A meaningful moment is hardly replicated elsewhere, just replaced by a new one til it all blends together into one mess of snapshot recollections – meanwhile, your energy pours out on stage night after night, thretening to leave you stale if you push it that much harder. Human is human, right? Even at those times when we feel so much more – like when songs still your heart and mind, or when the blood in your fingertips delivers the pulse in your soul, or when the tiny fraction of a second between the last moment and the next one captures more meaning than you’d ever care to begin to unravel.

Oh yeah, that concert. Damn. “Wild Blood,” “Dinosaur,” “Pink Champagne,” and “Great Divide” all made appearances, as did “Angels With Enemies,” and “Blackout” which I was very excited to hear. “Blackout” in particular sounded amazing, fierce and imposing and frightening til the last foreboding lyric – “walk down the hall/and put yourself to bed.” They closed with “Anodyne” and I was thrilled to hear it. Gorgeous, chilling song (see below for video worthy of equal adjectives, cut from cult b-list horror flick). The crowd, throughout the night, was incredibly responsive – Lovedrug fans are a devoted breed.

After the show I got my “Wild Blood” vinyl signed, without a shred of fangirl shame. I have so much respect for this band and every time I see that record I’m going to remember to never give up, always stay true to yourself, and don’t be scared to show the truth – it’s the only thing that counts.

I just fucking love this band.


So, Lovedrug released “Wild Blood” last week. There’s little chance I will do this album justice, should I attempt to write a review. Maybe because I already love it so much, because it’s warm outside and “Wild Blood” sounds so damn good blasted loud with the windows down and true connections with records can be so hard to find.

I love this album, and I love this band. With an ambitious sound and a live show to die for, Lovedrug has long stood out among indie bands as a group with true mastery of their craft. The type of band you could call on to write any type of song, and they’d give it to you – a theory proven in a cover album released this past winter in the run-up to the full-length release.

“Wild Blood” has just enough of a point to prove, just enough swagger propelling the sentiment.

“we’ll fight the hipster hell/we’ll soak it all in gasoline/got matches/we are a fire/we’re cryin’ out/honestly/this wild blood will set us all free/we’re crying out/do you follow me/this wild blood/will set us all free” ~Wild Blood

Unafraid of tradition in an age where indie music too often relies on ones-and-zeroes, “Wild Blood” counters with a full-fledged offensive of chromatic and delayed guitar parts, heavy hooks and locked-down rhythms, singing the songs in the hearts of the tired and worn and willing to fight. It’s a rallying cry for the wrecked looking for more. Though they may waltz down the road of nostalgia at times, a fervent desperation to get out, get up and get on makes for a fearless onward trek of life and love.

“sure shot/you were always my sure shot/kicking up dirt in the wrong bars/hey good lookin’/you are bad news following bad news/drunk and beautiful born to lose/and if you’re wanting the truth honey/i’m falling harder and harder for you” -Pink Champagne

Words full of passion and fire glint like steel held in defense against the shadows of aging. Lovedrug doesn’t shy from embracing the darker side, letting it creep into low-end driving, occasional piano chords and hazy synth tones.

Slower moments unveil heartfelt sentiment, the type of honesty often cast aside in favor of mysterious, unearned gravitas and armchair pontificating in today’s lyrical catalog.

“you crawl in the fire when you’re feeling down/when you feel it hurting/these ghosts have been a chasing you so/if you could violently swim to the opposite shoes/i’d be there reaching out so/i’ll be your drug if you need it, i’ll be the one that’ll chase you so hard/i’ll be the one your drug if you need it so” ~Anodyne

The album hits a steady groove with the yearning, pace-jumping “Ladders” followed by “Great Divide,” with an undeniably stadium-sized bridge. Here, on this album, we have a Lovedrug that embraces the hook like never before and it is Satisfying, although they were already pretty good at it before.

“nothing good comes easy/nothing good is free” ~Great Divide

Well-toned, well-polished and luminescent, “Wild Blood” shines under what is easily the best production from Lovedrug (which is incredibly fascinating and wonderful, to me, given “Wild Blood” was funded by fans through PledgeMusic when previous releases were label-supported). Backing vocals are sprinkled carefully, with a hint of choir harmony, and barely-there auxiliary tones fill the space between.

Well, at least I can say I tried. In any case, they’re on and long, windy tour and they’re coming to Rochester. April 11 can’t come fast enough.


There is new Lovedrug, and it is beautiful. It is real, and sad and hopeful, and made for live performance.

It is Wild Blood.

Here’s a softer cut:

Words that come to mind: Realized. Focused. Satisfying. Heartfelt. Heartbreaking. Joining. Sentimental. Nostalgic.

This is the album for wondering if where you’ve been will follow where you go.

I have much to say about this record – the songs themselves, and the band’s approach – but I am getting picked up for drinks. Meanwhile, the title track chorus will be running through my head.

Meanwhile, I will be running ’round the world.

April 11 will be a show in Rochester, at the Bug Jar, which is small and grungy and dirty and freeing. I hope I will be here to see it. I hope I leave shortly after, resolving to run, propelled by momentum of knowing there’s much more in this world than me and these corners.



March 6. Hell yeah. I think I am going to listen to it forever.


In a “Pretend You’re Alive” mood tonight.

Because sometimes, that is the only way to convince yourself to keep going on. Pretend. Sooner or later you’re be some place new, and it won’t be so hard to move on.


Lovedrug covers Muse!

Mind = blown.

Blog at

Up ↑