learning love songs

est. 2008


Taking Back Sunday


New records from old bands can be hard to love. If I had to pick my favorite thing about the new Taking Back Sunday album, “Happiness Is,” it is how easy it was to sink into, how it’s grown to be such a reliable, satisfying record nearly two months after its release.

Listening to it today, outside of an auto shop feeling broke and defeated, I found myself flicking through old favorite songs on my iPod, largely unmoved by traditional favorites. I’d heard it all before. Then I saw the cover for “Happiness Is,” a record with just the right balance of fresh and familiar.

“So if you’re interested,
I’ll take you anywhere.
I’ll buy some beat up car,
We could get out of here,
I’ll take you anywhere that you want to go.”

~Beat Up Car
Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is

I cannot call this a pop punk record. It neither emo nor indie. Maybe it is a breed of anthemic stadium rock, derived from those sensibilities, with these big, soaring choruses, memorable bridges and high-flown drum parts, spilling over the edges with heartbreak and swagger to spare.

Lyrically, the album expands from where this band started, past the internal difficulties and crises into a more external, contextual setting. Other people’s feelings are involved now, different vantage points are considered, and a sense of place in the world is just-so explored. A rock record can be, but is usually not, a philosophical exercise. Over-ambition to understand the world in this medium can cloud any real meaning authenticity alone will provide. When you get a band like TBS, who came up as angry kids from Long Island and found themselves legions of fans, it could’ve been such an easy ending to see them try too hard. It could’ve be easy for them to fail under the weight of their own standards. Instead, I think post-reunion-with-John-Nolan TBS shows us a band that’s been around the block a time or two, and tapped into what they learned.

“Flicker flicker fade, destroy what you create
And wonder why it always ends the same.”

~Flicker, Fade
Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is

You can call this solid rock music, straight no chaser. Trendy frills are not explored. Restraint and resolve are the guiding forces, on moments like the final chorus of “It Takes More” and the utter drive of the centerstage rhythm section on “All the Way.” The lead single, “Flicker, Fade,” is slowly becoming one of my favorite songs of this spring, seemingly capturing everything I love about this band from its cutthroat honesty to great hooks, and duo vocals and memorable guitar parts. “Beat Up Car” is a standout, too, with the opening notes as rattled and ripe as you’d find on TBS albums from half a decade ago, but with a more focused attention on notes, and how to find the right wrong ones.

The best moments, I think, are the contemplative ones. A song like “Nothing At All,” which is, in my opinion, the band’s best album closer yet, builds a beautiful atmosphere for self-reflection, a tapestry of ringing guitars and echoing harmonies mirroring the album’s startlingly ambitious “Preface” opener. The last two minutes or so of “We Were Younger Then” do the same thing, and once again, the vocal trade-off between John and Adam steals the show the way it always has. You’ll hear it on this track, the fact that Taking Back Sunday has never used space in the way they have on this album, with layers upon layers of sound. The growth is evident. No longer is this band solely writing four-chord angry assaults on broken hearts and fevered fights among friends.

Taking Back Sunday won’t ever write “Tell All Your Friends” again. But they don’t have to.

“You wait in the dark for the music to soothe you to sleep
Swallow your fears
Become them eventually.

You sit like King David,
Watching women through windows and walls
Chase your desires until you find nothing at all.

Until you find nothing at all,
Until you find nothing at all,
Until you find nothing at all,
Until you find nothing at all.

I shake my heavy head and find ways to shift the blame,
I hate the rules but I still play the game.
I got an eye on the prize,
Another on the clock on the wall,
I get what I want until I want nothing at all.

Until I want nothing at all,
Until I want nothing at all,
Until I want nothing at all,
Until I want nothing at all.”
~ Nothing At All,
Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is



It’s been awhile since I thought out a playlist, but I felt particularly compelled to create this one. I present: TBS Slow Jams, a pretty excellent collection of Taking Back Sunday at their most delicate, or at least destroyed enough to the point of slowed tempos. This selection is complete with deluxe, anniversary and re-issue tracks that bring out the best in some old favorites. It is designed to break your heart. I am going to listen to this for hours.

“You always come close but this never comes easy
I still know everything.”

~Great Romances of the 20th Century, Taking Back Sunday (Deluxe Version)

“This is all I ever asked from you
The only thing you couldn’t do.”

~This is All Now, Taking Back Sunday 

“I can’t say I blame you but I wish that I could
I’m sick of writing every song about you.”

~Head Club, TAYF10 acoustic

“Something real, make it timeless,
An act of God and nothing less will be accepted.
Now if you’re calling me out,
Then count me out.”

~Divine Internvetion, Louder Now

“Hoping for the best just hoping nothing happens
A thousand clever lines unread on clever napkins.”

~Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team) acoustic, Tell all Your Friends Re-Issue

“Well cross my heart and hope to…
I’m lying just to keep you here
So reckless, so thoughtless
So careless, I could care less.”

~…Slowdance on the Inside, Notes from the Past

“And I dare you to forget the marks you left across my neck
from those nights when we were both found at our best.”

~Your Own Disaster 04, Notes from the Past

“We spoke all night in a language only we could know.”
~It Takes More, Happiness Is

“And all I need to know
Is that I’m something you’ll be missing.
Maybe I should hate you for this
Never really did ever quite get that far.

~You’re So Last Summer, TAYF10 acoustic

“Well I don’t know where you’re going
but I know where you’ve been.
I’ve been tracing all your footsteps,
I’ve been counting all your sins.”

~Call Me in the Morning, Taking Back Sunday

“And when that push comes to a shove
We’ve got a headfirst kind of love.”

~All the Way, Happiness Is

“And I’m not so sure
if I’m sure of anything anymore.”

~The Blue Channel, TAYF10 acoustic

“I wanna hate you so bad, but I can’t,
I can’t stop this anymore than you can.”

~Bike Scene, TAYF10 acoustic

“Just ask the question come untie the knot
Say you won’t care, say you won’t care
Retrace the steps as if we forgot
Say you won’t care, say you won’t care
Try to avoid it but there’s not a doubt
And there’s one thing I can do nothing about”

~New American Classic, Where You Want To Be

“I get what I want until I want nothing at all
Until I want nothing at all.”

~Nothing at all, Happiness Is


I’ll never forget this one time I was supposed to see Taking Back Sunday play an acoustic gig at a record store back home, but that morning my car’s transmission blew up on the underground floor of a municipal parking garage, striking an undercover cop car, leaving me stranded for eight hours while trying to find a tow truck that could fit under the clearance, and winding up costing me my entire savings and a 19 percent APR on a new used vehicle.

Funny how that’s one of my happier TBS memories. Joking. Sort of. Anyway, love this recent performance of “Bike Scene.” What a classic this album is/will be:

“I’ll leave the lights down low
so she knows I mean business,
And maybe we could talk this over,
Cause I could be your best bet,
Let alone your worst ex,
And let alone your worst…

I wanna hate you so bad
But I can’t, but I can’t stop this
anymore than you can
So honestly, how could you say those things
when you know they don’t mean anything
And you know very well
that I can’t keep my hands to myself,
hands to myself…

I wanna hate you so bad
But I can’t
But I can’t stop this
anymore than you can

This is all wrong and it shows
There’s certain things I promised not to let you know,
You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the edge of my seat,
You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the..

 You’ve got this silly way
of keeping me on the edge of my seat
But you’re only counting the clock against the train
And I’m miserable, oh

You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the edge of my seat,
You’ve got a silly way of keeping me up on the…

You’ve got me right where you want me
Let’s never talk, let’s never talk, let’s never,
let’s never talk about this again because
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
I didn’t want it to mean that much to me
~Bike Scene
Taking Back Sunday, Tell All Your Friends


My Top 10 Favorite Albums in 2011

I’m hesitant to call this a “best of the year” list, because best is a very subject term. So, here are my favorites:

10)Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
They still got it. No lie. I’ve seen enough live performances from this album to know that NO one can rock a room like the Foos. “Walk” is likely one of the best mainstream rock songs that came out this year, and Dave Grohl & co. continue to make their messages known and connect with society. Even thought “Wasting Light” may not have the staying power of their other catalog titles, the band still sure does.

9)Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
A band we hadn’t heard from in a minute came back with power, with perspective and punch. Take a listen to the title track, or “Apprehension” and you’ll see that Andy Hull pours out his heart like it’s made of cheap vodka. True, that’s the biographical text we’ve come to know and love from this band, but this time around in it’s a new glaze. Emo chords are traded in for darker, twisted sounds, and there’s as much layering as there is stripped-down, laid-bare musings.

8)The Dangerous Summer – War Paint
This band captured my heart early in the year when I discovered “Reach for the Sun,” and when their sophomore “War Paint” came out, the band quickly became the soundtrack to my summer. Loss, redemption, struggle, rinse, repeat. The title track is a rallying call to rise above, “Work in Progress” is a retreat from the world. Album closer “Waves” could make you conquer the world, while reminding your loved ones to do the same.

7)Bon Iver – Bon Iver
It had been too long since “For Emma, Forever Ago” and we needed to hear from Bon Iver again. We did, this fall, and the self-titled album captures a place that feels snowy, warm, effervescent. “Minnesota, WI” is just one example of how production should enhance instrumentation, not bury it, and “Towers” clips along almost like an Old West saloon song, maybe one that mated with binary. I dig the style.

6) The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
I discovered the Welch trio on Pandora around the same time this album came out and holy shit was I blown away. Shoegazey rock? Big guitars? Chick singer? Count me in! Don’t let the radio edit of “Whirring” fool you – these guys know their riffs, they know their layers, and they know how to blow your mind.

5)Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire
One of my most-anticipated albums of 2011, and it didn’t let me down a drop. Ryan is back with a pillow-soft smile, but the beat-up, broke-down desperation lives on. “Lucky Now” will hopefully be played on Grey’s Anatomy when the second half of this season airs. If I’m lucky. Songs like “Dirty Rain,” “Save Me” and the title track show that Ryan Adams is a master of the ballad formula in its truest sense, and with this album he’s shown us no age, illness, marriage or critique will keep him from developing his talents.

4)Wilco – The Whole Love
Wilco is an awesome band. We knew this, we knew this because of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” we knew this because of “Sky Blue Sky” but Jeff Tweedy continues to come up with some of the catchiest, sly-ist little songs I’ve ever heard. “Born Alone” is the type of song that makes me want to dye my hair dirty blonde, wear daisies behind my ears and hop in a pick-up owned by a guy with just the right amount of stubble on his cheeks. This album should be enough to make this band triumphantly mainstream, but for some reason I still feel like they are kind of under everyone’s radar. Maybe that’s where they want to be.

3)The Decemberists – The King is Dead
“Don’t Carry it All” is, in my opinion, the song that sums up where we need to go as a society. And for that, I give them extreme props. While it’s lacking a strict storyline, you know what this record is about all the same and I think that’s a strength. Instead of a script, characters and drama, we have scenes and messages. I also know that “Down by the Water” was overplayed like a motherfucker on indie radio, so we can only assume that means The Decemberists, with this release, are cemented in indie history. Applause.

2)Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
“What good is it to sing helplessness blues?/Why should I wait for anyone else?” If you’re looking for political philosophy musings as you yearn for an apple orchard to run through, Fleet Foxes will certainly soothe your desires. This is a band who I respected and enjoyed, and that’s only been furthered by this record. It rises, peaks and falls like an orchestra might, uncovering safeness in smallness and boldness in triumph.

1)The Wonder Years – Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
Just when I thought I was maturing out of pop punk, The Wonder Years came along and gave me a reason to stay. I was familiar with a few songs from their last release, “The Upsides,” and picked up “Suburbia” on a whim ’cause I liked the title. I am a little amazed at the story they’ve woven through this record. You can see the sad town, you can feel the bitter winter, and you can hear the kids partying in backyards late at night. The opening track is an anthem for recovery from the toughest falls, the longest stretches of self-deprecating doubt. “And Now I’m Nothing” is acceptance, surrender to the now and the way it is. In between, “I Won’t Say the Lord’s Prayer” is an atheist seeking not answers but apathy, and “I’ve Given You All” is my favorite song I’ve ever heard about a homeless man. If you were about to write off the genre, don’t, because the honesty is still there. This is the record for those who want to get out of this town and start again, even if there’s no way out yet.

Honorable mentions to the following albums which I enjoy but have not listened to thoroughly enough to rank against the others: The Black Keys – El Camino; The Civil Wars – Barton Hallow; Laura Marling – A Creature I Do Not Know; Dia Frampton – Red.

EDIT: Aw shit I forgot about Taking Back Sunday. With John Nolan! I missed them in concert ’cause my car died and I was kind of homeless for a couple days. But good record, blasted it many times on 5 and 20 in Canandaigua.

EDIT 2: Iron and Wine! I suck at this.


I’m pretty certain that the past few weeks have been the type where if I didn’t have music to listen to and obsess over, I would probably drive myself insane.

“Well I don’t know where you’re going
but I know where you’ve been.
I’ve been tracing all your footsteps,
I’ve been counting all your sins.
A ticking bomb, a false alarm, a wrecking ball
You left before I had the chance to say
Just call me in the morning.
Call me when you’re home.
I know what you’ve been through, don’t let go.
Don’t let go.

Well you reached into my mouth
and pulled out a single bloody tooth.
I’ve never shown that to anyone.
Yeah no one knows but you.
A ticking bomb, a false alarm, a wrecking ball
I left before you had the chance to say
Just call me in the morning.
Call me when you’re home.
I know what you’ve been through, don’t let go.
Honey don’t let go.

You never knew that it would take so long
to understand you’re right where you belong.

I don’t know where were going
but I know where we’ve been.
We’ve been hiding from each other,
we’ve been hiding from our sins.

Call me in the morning.
Call me when you’re home.
I know what you’ve been through, don’t let go.
Call me in the morning.
Call me when you’re home.
I know what you’ve been through, don’t let go

Don’t know where we’re going
But I know where we’ve been
we’ve been hiding from each other
we’ve been hiding from our sins.

Call me when you’re home.
I know what you’ve been through, don’t let go.”

~Call me in the morning
Taking Back Sunday, Taking Back Sunday

This song isn’t overly complicated. It’s got nice subtlety that I don’t necessarily except from TBS, the drum swells and stuff, which is great. Killer to hear John and Adam singing together again – the harmonies on this record are sick, even better than “Tell All Your Friends.” Their furthered experience shows on this album in every track.

I’m really excited about this album overall. I think it’s a great addition to what they do. Some tracks – say, the dreaded “Money,” aren’t too great or anything to be that impressed by. But I’m loving it – “Who Are You Anyway?,” “Sad Savior,” “It Doesn’t Feel a Thing Like Falling” are also standouts. “El Paso” is as good a track one as “You Know How I Do” but it’s showing off a totally other side of their sound.

This song isn’t overly complicated lyrically, either. But it gets the point across, I think. Feels good this afternoon. Among these complicated situations, doubt and worry, confusion and concern it’s good to hear something that’s new yet familiar.


If I’m just bad news, then you’re a liar.


I’m glad I was there when emo happened. I know “emo” as we’ve come to define is nearly two decades in the making, but for me, around 2002-2005 is where it all began, where all these artists who seemed to fit me started creeping out of the closet (really, I was just a lonely kid on Limewire)

Jesse Lacey, Adam Lazzarra, John Nolan, Andrew McMahon, Jim Adkins, (and for theatrical measure) Conor Oberst…those guys were writing my fucking soundtrack.

Violence, guns and car crashes from TBS or Brand New, lonely-awkward guy heartbreak from SoCo or Straylight Run, and the madness and drama wrapped up in Bright Eyes’ “Fevers and Mirrors”…those kind of songs taught me about love and relationships and people as much as chick flicks marketed toward teenage girls, or Jane Austen or wherever we get all our ideals from.

It was all so bright-sounding, so new to me and so true-to-my-own life. Looking back some of the stories are tragic, some are just plain whiny, and some of the lyrics really fucking suck.

Jimmy Eat World was big, too–the first time I realized SoCo’s Konstantine referenced “For Me This is Heaven” I felt like I was discovering a tomb of buried treasure.

Then Elliott Smith’s “From a Basement on a Hill” was released when I was 16, and I found out about a whole bunch of other stuff. After lots of classic rock up til high school,combined with lots of Tori Amos from ballet class, trembling songwriting like his was some kind of music for my “still-not-bleeding” ears.

Then there was the first Spill Canvas record, Sunsets and Car Crashes. god such a cheesy title, but I listened to that thing every waking moment. I must’ve burned 5 copies of that thing because I kept breaking or scratching the ones I’d carry around with me. I preached that record like it was the damn third testament, pawning it off to anyone who would listen to see if it got to them the way it got to me.

I think I had it before it was actually released, too (zomg!!) and I remember hearing different studio versions of the songs and being like “what the fuck happened to my songs!” It’s especially noticeable on “Caterpillars” or the backup vocals on the title track.

Made me smile when I heard his single on the XM radio station at work. “All Over You” or whatever. I had to go out and buy that CD when it came out, too. I had to see what he did. It sounds exactly the same to me, the same kind of writing, same kind of phrases all direct and dramatic and frustrated and insistent.

I’ve made leaps and bounds in my emotional and musical maturity in the past five years, but I hope that fucking CD will always have that same kind of magic to me.

What very well might be on every mix CD i made sophomore year of high school:

Something Vague
(Sing me to death, Conor Oberst! This guy just wails…let’s see how his solo album, stripped of the Bright Eyes name, fares with his fans.)

Embers and Envelopes
(I forgot how much I liked Mae. The have a new CD that I really want to hear, but for some reason it would be weird.)

Cute without the “e”
(I never would’ve admitted loving this song, but you bet I did.)

Punk Rock Princess
(So bright. So bouncy. So cuffed-wrists holding hands. Ah, memories! I still listen to this song, it is so fucking cute, and somehow still sarcastic. And look at McMahon in his sweater. He looks/sounds so young!)

(Don’t ask how I responded when I saw that Paramore was covering that. So many wires in my head got crossed.)

And of course…
The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
I remember watching that video to death. “Your Favorite Weapon” was an instant favorite as soon as I heard it, for whatever reason, I downloaded it, I think, after hearing Seventy Times Seven. When I looked them up and realized they had just released this second record…well, next time I was at the mall with my mom I took my restaurant paycheck and bought “Deja Entendu.” Peeled through those liner notes, I couldn’t believe what this dude was saying and how it sounded.

Still fucking love that song.

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