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learning love songs

est. 2008

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Northstar

11/12/14

Nothing but Northstar. So much good new music has come out in recent weeks and I’ve got a backlog of thoughts to think and musings to post, but for daytime listening lately I keep coming back to these Glamour Kills YouTube videos from four years ago of Nick Torres acoustic. I would do bad things like take candy from children and cut off an old woman on the sidewalk if I meant I’d get an hour of songwriting with this guy.And I would like to turn around and scold all those folks chattering too loud during a too-good performance.

Torres’s post-Northstar project, Cassino, said earlier this year they’d have new music by the end of the year. So that’s something to look forward to. I’m counting down the days to the unknown.

“So this is how it ends, toxic and deliberate
She’s blood red at the neck boiling off fingerprints
This hospital love is making death seem elegant
“Just don’t breathe and we’ll stop time”
She said…

“I got this delicate lisp that speaks in tongues and upper lips”
Your silhouette’s my favorite
I’m not letting go of it

I’m not letting go of it

She’s got a leash that grips my teeth
That cleans the air I breathe and
It’s wrapped around this city

You look so lovely running through my fingers
Running through my fingers
Where everything’s always felt right
You look so lovely running through my fingers
Running through my fingers
Where everything’s always felt right

So she glides off the bed with unflinching relevance
and completely motionless
You’re so heavy, you’re so warm
Just a pillow I’ve used a thousand times before
Wrapped in velvet and filled with thorns

I’ve got this weakening grip around her arms, around her hips
Your silhouette’s my favorite
I’m not letting go of it
I’m not letting go of it

She’s got a leash that grips my teeth
That cleans the air I breathe and
It’s wrapped around this city

You look so lovely running through my fingers
Running through my fingers
Where everything’s always felt right
You look so lovely running through my fingers
Running through my fingers
Where everything’s always felt right

~Pollyanna
Northstar, Pollyana

8/18/14


“I can’t leave with words like these
They’ll break the bones that hold up my sleeves

I’ve got to tie her so high her breath freezes before she speaks
But this bus just won’t go far enough
So I’ll strap my face to a homemade bomb
And blow the bus stop through the parking lot
We’ll celebrate like we were free

I know a place where we can both get laced
Take some time to learn about your face
About bawling and bell curves, about strength from inhalers
And I’ll take the fifth and you can just sit
And I’ll watch from a distance while you open it
This is how I will keep her 

In pieces, she’s a keeper

And I’ll be holding my breath with the best
My breath with the best intentions

This is not for me, your perfume struggles perfectly
It wraps around and screams at me,
‘My hero tastes like plastic, he’s elastic and now he’s dead.’

My straight-faced grin is the first to leave
Hand in hand with the queen of tragedy

Why do I hurt just on purpose?
I guess I lack a purpose

So smile like a child sitting in the sea
Forget about what’s in the water and just focus in on me
I’ll be the phantom of the opera
I’ll be the lantern you blow out first

And I’ll be holding my breath with the best
My breath with the best intentions

This is not for me, your perfume struggles perfectly
It wraps around and screams at me,
‘My hero tastes like plastic, he’s elastic and now he’s dead’

And I’ll be the reason you’ll leave this city.

And I’ll be the reason you’ll leave this city.


This is not for me, your perfume struggles perfectly
It wraps around and screams at me
‘My hero tastes like plastic, he’s elastic and now he’s dead.'”
~The Pornographer’s Daughter
 Northstar, Pollyanna
Caught a story last week ranking the definitive bands of years and eras, and it made me realize what a difficult task that would be for me to do on my own, in a subjective, personal sense. Often, bands I encounter don’t take hold on me until one or two or six years later, when mood and measure align – and so the band may have made its mark on music long before it did on my mind. So it shows up later on my timeline, likely in stronger sense than when I first took a listen and underscored by rediscovery.
One of the best examples of this is Northstar, whose 2005 “Pollyanna” is something of a cult favorite, a particularly warm brand of emotive pop punk with ballad roots and aggressive fills. The contrast between the latter is usually perfect. 
While I knew this record back when, I took more of an instant liking to Cassino,the side project of singer, lyricist and guitarist Nick Torres. Not until the past couple years has this album become something I really appreciated; not until the past couple weeks did it become one of those I’d rather listen to than almost anything else. Baked with sadness, regret and visceral metaphor, decorated with the precise guitar lines you might expect from a band of this era, Northstar shines a little brighter than the rest of their scene in the rear view. 
Their best lines and harmonic progressions dance in perfect step, accentuated with subtle rhyme. Their minor-side melodies come from fast, controlled fingers, their rhythm section is pop punk mastery, adding muscle and movement to the skeleton of not-quite-lost love poetry.  “Pollyanna” is an album where hope is hardly visible, a dying flame, but the momentum of its flicker is just enough to burn the whole place down. I’m enraptured, always, by the word choice, by the unique structure of snaked along sentences and in-the-moment reflections. I’m singing along at the top of lungs, wishing I could say it all this well, wishing I could realize in this way. It may be nine years since these songs found ears willing to listen, but it’s tonight that mine have found them to hear.

“I’ve got this weakening grip
around her arm, around her hips.
her silhouette’s my favorite,
I’m not letting go of it.
I’m not letting go of it.

She’s got a leash that grips my teeth, 

that cleans the air I breathe
It’s wrapped around this city.

You look so lovely running through my fingers,
running through my fingers
where everything’s always felt right.

You look so lovely running through my fingers,
running through my fingers
where everything’s always felt right.

I will chase it, grab it, stake it
Run until she fakes it,

We all blew faster,
An oncoming disaster,
I will let this hurt.

You look so lovely running through my fingers,
running through my fingers
where everything’s always felt right.

You look so lovely.”

4/15/14

I’m reading this book about writing short, and there’s a chapter about song lyrics. There’s another chapter about tweaking the predictable, and others about parallelism and variety. Most of it, almost all of it, reaffirms what I’ve always thought I’ve known – that writing is writing is writing. When it’s good, it’s good, and you know it. 
Nick Torres packs such a punch in this Northstar track off “Pollyanna,” performed acoustic here, that all I can do is replay it, dissect it. The original pop punk setting of the song is fun, sure, but here, he is a master of metaphor, unencumbered. This is literary. This is why I can’t wait for new Cassino material, and why, in the meantime, I will dissect the rest of it over and over again.
“She will sleep here

In between the cracks
Just a flower with a broken back
Waiting for dirty water
Did you sleep alright, did you sleep…?
She’s giving beat stares from being beat all day
Indian eyes in the American way
Hail Marys and ale
A Hailed Mary that ails.”

~Between Horns and Halos 
Northstar, Pollyanna

9/4/12

Nick Torres, please teach me your ways. Master of assonance and parallelism, he is. But you might not know without a real close ear. It was something potentially lost on the pop-punk scene of the early 2000s. Maybe why Northstar didn’t blow up like the rest of them? But then we got Cassino, so I have no complaints.

I do, however, love this album, and it’s occupying my mind well tonight. Could probably play this song seven more times tonight and still feel like it’s not enough.



“Let’s sober up, it’s time to find that galaxy
that was created and named after me.
But these rocket hips blew apart the entire ship.
So if you find some pieces,
just name them after me.
It’s on fire, it’s my empire.

It went up so fast I couldn’t grab it
along with medicine and magic
that keeps me breathing right on key,
Broken straps strap in the captain
that’s praying just for me.

And this is so typical, erased by the author of me.
So dance to some broken chords,
with broken knees, through open doors.

And save me with a microphone,
Give me something so I can go home.
Give me something so I can go home. 
Don’t you have a lesson for me?

I raced concrete to the front row seats,
Threw her bows and whiskey kisses and left
her on the street with her hands out
and her head down.
She’s nothing more than a movie that never panned out.
Hey Mr. Destiny, you forgot about me,
You forgot to leave a number.
You forgot to name the street.
This is American living with my American dream,
It thunders like a river, but it’s cold just like a stream.

And this is so typical, erased by the author of me.
So dance to some broken chords,
with broken knees through open doors.
And save me with a microphone
Give me something so I can go home
Give me something so I can go home
Don’t you have a lesson for me?

And I know now,
Things don’t get much better than this,
Life doesn’t get much bigger than this.

So dance to some broken chords
with broken knees
through open doors
and save me with a microphone
Give me something so I can go home
Give me something so I can go home

Don’t you have a lesson for me?
So teach me something so I can go.”

~American Living 
Northstar, Pollyanna

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