learning love songs

est. 2008


Something Corporate


“I saw this woman with tears in her eyes
Driving beside me yesterday.
She turned her head then I turned mine
And I watched her drive away.

I thought ‘If I could tell her something I would tell her this
There’s only two mistakes that I have made.
It’s running from the people who could love me best
And trying to fix a world that I can’t change.’

All our lives
I watch you search beneath the falling skies
This was no path to glory
You always walk before me

But you came back to warn me
All our lives.”

~All Our Lives,
Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness, Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness

I’m more than a little late on the album from former Something Corporate/Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon, a record where he proves he is so much more than those bands and names that he has built his reputation on. For the sake of nostalgia, I don’t think I’ll love his newer work as much as I did his past records, but this is its own little shiny gem. It proves McMahon is the rare musician (in this age, anyway) who pursues his art regardless of expected structure, and worked his way onto the pop airwaves from the indie label on up.

I listened to it after hearing the “Cecelia and the Satellite ” single enough times on the radio. Almost every song has just as satisfying of a chorus, tons of piano and bells and little catchy melodies, and some very open-hearted lyrics, true to his form.It’s very clear-eyed and bright, even when in the midst of soul-searching in a less than perfect world. It’s not too happy, as introspection and mortality lurk around the edges, but sonically its sunny as hell without betraying his emo roots. I like how effortlessly it blends dance-pop, fist-bump beats with silky, soaring piano parts, like on “Black and White Movies,” there’s something both current and elegant about it.

I hope there’s critics who are smarter and savvier than me to parce through McMahon’s latest releases, his earliest recordings and channel what has happened in his not-easy life in parallel with what he has produced.  No doubt his illness, his relationships made him grow and change, thus thrusting his work in a new direction. But while many artists find the trials of life pull them away from their art and damage their potential reach and success (cause life is hard, even when it’s easy), McMahon did this wonderful thing where he *found* greater success through the journey. What an incredible story to tell, or to hear. 

“Are you home tonight?
Are you laying in bed watching black and white movies?
All alone tonight
Do you ever rewind to the summer you knew me?”

~Black and White Movies,  
Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness, Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness


Woke up the other day wanting to listen to Jack’s Mannequin. Went with it.

This is a really good album, definitely think we’ll be able to point this in decades to come as one that defines a time, a generation, a scene. I don’t know why I forgot about it relatively quickly after it was released (definitely was a SoCo fan throughout HS). I was certainly reminded of it often though, lots of Facebook status updates from pop culture know-it-alls and many a mention of a tour date at some big outdoor or college venue back upstate. They’ve never seem to have gone away, though I don’t think the follow-up LP made as much of a splash (honestly, I haven’t heard it).

Jack’s Mannequin following branched out from indie and pop punk scenes into something much more mainstream, opening a lot of doors for what we’re hearing now. This song in particular we may want to label as, perhaps, too cliche, but isn’t that the very thing that will be able to bring you right back? Something so entirely authentically *then* that you can be transported back there *now*? It’s not easy to capture that, and it’s even harder to do so with enough subtlety that people will buy it and feel cool with it. So, props to Andrew MacMahon, you can write a hell of a song, and the world took notice.

“I read your letter,
he one you left when you broke into my house
Retracing every step you made
And you said you meant it
And there’s a piece of me in every single
Second of every single day
But if it’s true then tell me how it got this way

Where are you now?
As I’m swimming through the stereo
I’m writing you a symphony of sound
Where are you now?
As I rearrange the songs again
This mix could burn a hole in anyone
But it was you I was thinking of”

~The Mixed Tape
Jack’s Mannequin, Everything in Transit


I keep a couple dozen old burned CDs in the center console in my Saturn. There’s plenty more where these came from in a big and dusty faux leather binder that I spent around $25 on back in the day – which felt like a lot. But when I got the Saturn this past fall, with the first car CD player I’d ever had, it was a chance to rediscover the CDs that used to spin in my Discman on a daily basis.

Some are mixes, some are albums. Some are labeled in Sharpie, some are decorated in swirls and stars and colors with little pictures accentuating words in album titles. Some are not labeled at all. They’re all a nice daily reminder of who I am, where I came from, what I stand for, etc. It’s also a nice way to spice up what I’m listening to on my drive in, as there’s always a surprise or two to be found.

So today I pull out a disc at random on my way to the grocery store and laundromat, and it’s Something Corporate, “Leaving Through the Window.” OK. I’ll take that. From the opening bars of “I Want to Save You” I’m suddenly a sophomore again, and all I want is some boy with shaggy hair and kind eyes and a killer CD collection to hold my hand and wear my hair ties and rubber pink bracelets on his wrist.

“She drives away, she’s feeling worthless 
Used again but nothing’s different 
She’d stay the night but knows he doesn’t care 

Home by three, a deafening quiet 
The porch light’s off guess they forgot it 
She’d cry herself to sleep, but she don’t dare” 
~I Want to Save You
Something Corporate, Leaving Through the Window

I keep listening as I go through my day and I remember how this album as a whole is still so, so good. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s driving. It’s part of the original class of pop punk that arrived at an early-decade apex right when the kids were really starting to pay attention and start screaming for more. But it’s never too angry, and there’s slower moments, hinting at the heartfelt sentiment Andrew McMahon would continue to shape on “North” and with Jack’s Mannequin. He talks about skin and limbs and veins and cars as was the way back then, but it’s never for surface value, it’s just the poetry of it. Combine the lyrics with piano-driven melodies and key-change choruses, and you make an album that was as classic than as it is today.

Ask almost anyone who graduated high school between 2004 and 2007. They’ll tell ya.

One song, “The Astronaut,” was never a favorite in high school, but today it made more sense. That chorus kicked in and I kept driving, silent, onto my destination. Today it felt inspiring. Today it reminded me that if you’re going to worry about any road, it should be the one before you, and what you saw on the way there is right where it needs to be, namely behind you, but also in memory.

“i’ve been sleeping with ghosts 
i’ve been watching stars 
crawling out of the sky 
and i’ve been hoping 
i’m close to the space man movies 
i call my life 

and i’ve been climbing ladders through time 
i’ve got tunnel vision 
but i’m doing fine 
and i’ve been 
watching stars coming off of the wall 
and maybe if i’m lucky i can catch them 
before you fall 
and you are not alone 

calling out to the astronaut 
i need some of what you’ve got 
i need to be high 
crawling out of the world she brought 
calling out to the astronaut 
i need to be high”
Something Corporate, Leaving Through the Window


Songs I Can’t Listen to Sometimes 

These are songs that, even though I love them, I just press “next.” I’m guessing you, reader, understand. You have those songs too. I challenge you to listen, purge, experience. Feels kind of refreshing.

 1)Now That You’re Gone The saddest of the sad on “Cold Roses,” in my humble opinion. It’s a simple, sweet melody, but it doesn’t take much for me after I hear this song to desperately crave a man with kind eyes and strong arms to hold me and never let me go, because the song heralds all the loneliness you could ever feel for one person in one night. It’s the love song for the one who left you, and I can’t handle that sometimes. Or anytime. I’ve been left too much, and done too much of my own leaving, to let Ryan Adams remind me of how sad I am about it all.

“Everything you ever touched is undisturbed and hangs out/Like crime scene evidence undisturbed in dust I don’t dare touch anything because it’s evidence of us/And it means everything/Well sort of/I’m alone and I’m dancin’, with you now/In your old room, in your old house/I’m alone and I’m dancin’, with you now, in your old room, but there’s nobody there”
~Now That You’re Gone
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Cold Roses

2)Hear You Me
I loved this song real hard in high school, then I lost someone I loved. I needed to believe in angels because I still need to believe she’s happy, somewhere, and I can’t hear this song because it makes me think of her too much. Then I think of all the other people I love, and how desperately I need them to know that before life takes them from me, too. In any way, gorgeous song, but I don’t listen to it anymore. Just easier not to.

“on sleepless roads the sleepless go may angels lead you in” 
 ~Hear You Me
Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American

3)Girl in the War
Beautiful song. Probably my favorite Josh Ritter song, hands down, even though I’ve come to embrace a lot of his catalog. Something about this song just breaks me, just makes me feel something that brings me back to a place I’ll never be again. So I don’t want to listen to it, because I miss that place, with its subways and rainy days, its romance and pavement and prowess.

“Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom/And the angels fly around in there, but we can’t see them/And I got a girl in the war, Paul I know that they can hear me yell/If they can’t find a way to help, they can go to Hell/If they can’t find a way to help her, they can go to Hell” 
~Girl in the War
Josh Ritter, The Animal Years

4)Baker, Baker
Simply a favorite. Incredible song, but I still press next, because it makes me want to cry. Or call people who aren’t in my life anymore. It makes me want to reach out for what isn’t there hold. It makes me crumble in ways I’m not always equipped to deal with when driving home from work or the grocery store or whatever. Tori is so soft, so sentimental in this song, it’s so contrasting to so much of what else she does, but it stills me in a frightening way.

“I guess you’ve heard he’s gone to LA/He says that behind my eyes I’m hiding and he tells me I pushed him away/That my heart been’s hard to find/Here, there must be something here/Here, there must be something here” 
~Baker Baker
Tori Amos, Under the Pink

I don’t even think I have a version of this on a hard drive anywhere. I just don’t listen to it anymore. Was it even that good? Listening to it now, I feel a little older, I feel a little beyond it, but it still makes me want to make out like a teenager. It still makes me want to reach out for someone, anyone, I feel like understands me, knows me, wants to know me and need me.

  “and if I hurt you then I’m sorry please don’t think that this was easy”
Something Corporate


“And you don’t want to look much closer
‘Cause you’re afraid to find out all the hope
That you had sent into the sky by now had… crashed
And it did because of me

and if I hurt you, then i’m sorry
please don’t think that was easy.

I always catch the clock it’s 11:11
And now you want to talk
It’s not hard to dream
You’ll always be my Konstantine.

Spin around me like a dream
We played out on this movie screen
And I said,
Did you know I miss you”

an old favorite, remembered suddenly. Beautiful song, so much longing and love attached to it, so rich!! wonderful. Can’t find “Played in Space,” SoCo’s best of, yet, but oh do I want to.


zomg, just heard a re-recording of “I Kissed a Drunk Girl” and my stomach flipped and I was 16 again, haha. It sounded so good!!! Thank you, Bamboozle Radio.

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