learning love songs

est. 2008


The Killers


Of the many ways to measure a year, my preference is the musical memories. 2017, for all its tumult, was a creative carnival. There were some brilliant and expertly executed highlights from old favorites this year. Japandroids, The War On Drugs, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and The Menzingers are instant classics in my catalog. But as far as taking the time to put some words down, I wanted to take my end-of-the-year list as an opportunity to highlight artists I would’ve loved to see get MORE attention for their work in the lists that I saw critics compiling, as opposed to those artists who everyone seems to agree did the best work. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of what caught my ears, here’s a playlist of some of my favorite songs from the year. And for more fun, here’s what I was looking forward to hearing this time last year (a couple wishes came true).

In no particular order, my list of the underrated music of 2017 that might be worth a listen or two:

Misterwives – Connect the Dots

This was easily one of my favorite records of this year, especially because it came in the form of a brand-new band discovery. I found Misterwives the same weekend as Record Store Day, and I bopped my way through the line curving around Amobea with “Machine” blaring in my ears. There’s a buoyancy and clarity to their sound that’s so fun and yet so strong, with lyrics are joyful, insightful and woke, sometimes all at the same time. In a year that ended with the voices of women being heard and celebrated, I think Mandy Lee’s output and Misterwives’ record was incredibly overlooked in music and pop culture circles. There’s still time, though, for Connect the Dots to take hold, and I’ll be here nodding along when it does.

Iron & Wine  – Beast Epic

This is a band that many listeners might associate with being great at a different particular time,  but I very much enjoyed Beast Epic. I thought it was beautiful, and full of thoughtful goodness. “Call It Dreaming” is, in particular, uplifting and lovely, I can think of at least two times I cried on the train listening to it. It joins a canon of other Iron & Wine songs (“Upward Over The Mountain,” “Walking Far From Home”) that instantly cut out my heart and serve it up to whatever waiting angeles want to sew it back in.

The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely

Oh, The Maine. A band that I fear will never have the recognition among rock/pop music critics that they so deserve, even though they still keep getting better with time. This album pushed their boundaries from the bubble-gum of American Candy slightly darker reflections, but still no shortage of hooks and earworm turns of phrase. A surprising addition to my workout playlists, this was both one of my most-anticipated albums of 2017 and one of my most-listened to.

The Killers- Wonderful Wonderful

Wonderful Wonderful got a bad odor attached to it way too quickly, there’s good stuff, there’s band that’s developing in the way they always were supposed to. The first 45 seconds of the album are probably the coolest part of it, but there’s a lot of other layers and meaning to it. Brandon Flowers has a cheeseball quality to him, but it’s not like that wasn’t on Hot Fuss either. I really like how thoughtful some of the lyrics seem, “are your excuses any better than your senators” is up there with the more socially observant takes from Flowers. The more I listened to it, the more layers I heard here — layers of rock music history, layers of references and layers of a band who is still finding their way, as all musicians ever are.

Carly Rae Jespen – “Cut To The Feeling”

I saw a tweet from someone who said that if there was any justice in pop radio, this song would be #1 airplay. Alas! Spotify’s Wrapped told me it was my most-listened to track this year, though, so there is that. Anyway, I know this isn’t an album and this is usually an albums list, but I can’t talk about my musical diiet in 2017 without talking about this song. For workouts, for pump-me-up moments, for sidewalk strolls, “Cut to the Feeling” is as perfect a pop song as I could ever imagine in any setting. Her voice is light and infused, the synths are sparkly and the chorus is soaring. More Carly Rae in 2018 and beyond, “Cut to the Feeling” proves she knows exactly what she’s doing and isn’t afraid to put it out there in any form.

Perfume Genuis – “Slip Away”

Another choice that rests as a song instead of an album — even though No Shape is a wonderful, thought-provoking listen that received accolades all over the place, this is the song that really stole my focus. It’s also easily one of my most-listened to tracks in 2017, a song I will forever associate with the year and the challenges and lessons it provided. I would love to see this band progress and grow, and earn more acclaim for such unique and inspired work.

Ruston Kelly – “Black Magic”

One of my favorite Americana/country discoveries of the year is Kacey Musgraves very talented husband Ruston Kelly – “Black Magic” is biting and classic and heartwrenching, and a hell of a fun to sing, too. It too became one of those songs I played in all times and all places, “Love is hell and nothing more than black magic” seems to me to be one of those lyrics that fell down from the sky and into waiting hands, meanings it’s hte most perfect, authentic, realized kind from the geniuses themselves.

Oh, and I loved Reputation. I listened to it on loop traveling to San Francisco for a fun weekend getaway, kept it on through train rides and strolls up to Lombard Street and while sitting on a park bench in Oakland. Now I play it on the bike, walking to my front door, waiting for the courthouse to open. I know there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t a fan of the way Taylor refrains from discussing politics/social justice, but I try not to judge people for their beliefs in the course of my daily life, and so I won’t get into that without having an opportunity to understand her as a person. So in spite of all the discussion, I’m calling it underrated, because the first reviews I read of it were all by white men and all throwing some kind of judgment toward it and it really kind of made me mad, that people were expecting so much and calling someone else’s work a disappointment. Do they not understand how creative output works, that it is not being created and poured into the world in order to appease someone else but because it had to come from the fingers of its creator before they fall off? I also love that it is first TS album to really tackle “mature” themes (she finally wrote songs about drinking and sex!). Taylor Swift at this point only does manifestos and while many are turning up their noses are her playing around with hip-hop and R&B stylings, she’s putting out work that’s exactly her, filter and polish and spit-shine and all. The control and focus and unapologetic honesty with oneself that that takes is something I really admire, something that’s worth channeling anywhere, anytime, any year.

Past years:


Happy New Year! I’m honestly optimistic about this one. I think it’s been awhile since I felt that way at the outset, but I’m going with it, looking ahead with curiosity to all the unknown the universe has in store. Throughout all the twists and turns that inevitably will arise, though, finding new music is still my constant joy. There’s something comforting about that, knowing that no matter what this year brings, at the end I’ll be left with a bunch of new music that moved me. 2016 will be tough to top on this front, as I was exposed to many different artists through reviewing opportunities and new communities, plus some of my longtime favorites like Jimmy Eat World and The Hotelier dropped incredible releases. But looking ahead at the calendar, I see plenty of highlights — here’s 10 albums I’m looking forward to (hopefully) listening to this year. I’ll revisit this in about 360 days to see where this wind up compared to my final favorites.

  1. The Menzingers: If “Lookers” and “Bad Catholics” are any indication, After the Party  will be an incredibly fun, punchy record — and perhaps the most poignant yet.
  2. Japandroids: “Near To The Wild Heart of Life” is quickly making its mark as a life anthem, as all Japandroids songs rightly deserve. I imagine this album will rock.
  3. Muna: Discovering this super-fun, super-edgy pop vocalist group was a great boon to my workout routine, and their latest single “I Know A Place” is a real earworm.
  4. Taylor Swift: Can she top 1989? I don’t know. Probably. I won’t pretend I’m not excited to see what direction she heads in , or to have more songs to practice guitar.
  5. Haim: Days Are Gone has held up incredibly well as an impressive debut, and I’m ready to be wowed with a follow-up imbued by their roaring success.
  6. Ryan Adams: My love for the folk-rock troubadour only grows, even as he fashions himself into something of a retro-bluesy, Pettyesque figure. Especially then, even.
  7. The Wonder Years: They’ve just announced they’re writing new stuff, so a 2017 release is possible/likely/high on my list of life-markers.
  8. The xx: Something tells me  the ambient, angsty chill pop of The xx will be perfect for LA’s rainy season, and perfectly sexy/cool.
  9. The Killers: Sure, they’ll never again make Hot Fuss. But who says they have to? Give me that desert-inspired do-or-die attitude and trademark soaring choruses any day.
  10. Ed Sheeran: I loved X. I still love X.  Sheeran has an undenying sweetness,  and a sensitivity that transfers beyond his gorgeous ballads. More please!


“Never thought I’d let a rumor ruin my moonlight.” 
~Somebody Told Me
The Killers, Hot Fuss

What a memorable summer I had the year I turned 16. I had the best friends, a part-time job at the local amusement park by the lake, and music, music, everywhere, all the time, on the stereo, in headphones, at the church basement where I practiced ballet nightly.

What a memorable summer that was for modern music. We’ve seen lots of 10-year anniversary stories and collections commemorating albums that came out in 2004, and I cannot believe how long and short a decade can seem. Perhaps these albums are only so memorable because they were so formative for me – and other musically minded souls of my generation – but maybe, in some way, they mark something of a turning point for pop and rock, the branching of indie into the mainstream, that pre-hipster era when laptop production was just coming into the forefront and beards and acoustics and banjos were just starting to seem relevant again. Somehow, through all that, the concept of the band still hung around.

That summer, caught somewhere between a woman and a child, I found myself as obsessed with listening to albums I’d ever been. While preoccupations with boys and friends and fears filled my teenage head, I had found a culture to immerse myself in, a topic to become an expert on that would provide a starting point of conversation with others and emotional fulfillment in the lonely hours. I usually spent the mornings burning CDs to soundtrack laying out in the sun on my driveway, or for when my friends would come over in the afternoon to hang out in the basement before we walked down to 7-11 or the hill by Laurelton-Pardee school. Chief among the albums I played, over and over again, was “Hot Fuss,” the debut from this hot chart-topping Vegas band called The Killers.

From the danger-driven chorus of the opening track, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” to the infectious “Mr.Brightside,” and the anthematic “All These Things That I’ve Done,” not a track on this album is to be missed. Something about The Killers was so fresh and edgy, without being too far afield from the pop rock formats buzzing through the airwaves. This was a post-punk revival, fueled by pedals and swift snare hits supplementing rich synth grooves underneath stories of sex and jealousy and living fast, but not without a gripping fear and fragility.

“Over and in, last call for sin
While everyone’s lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I’ve done.”

~All These Things That I’ve Done

The Killers, Hot Fuss

Take the lead-in to the chorus of “Somebody Told Me,” the repeated hook about heaven with ascending chords, suspended and full. So much of this album is minor and dark, it is heavy but sparkling, like it’s studded with cheap rhinestones. I love how Brandon Flowers manages to pull off storytelling frontman without making it all about him (not on this album, anyway). Mostly, one of the main things I still really love about this album is how ringing and rich the production is. Every song on this album has layers upon layers of transcendent sounds, building and breaking , the kind painting a landscape far back in the mix, a backdrop for the band to dance in front of. 
But I don’t know if I cared about those kind of details when I first listened to this album, over and over again – at least, not consciously. I think I liked the words and the attitude. I think I liked the recklessness, I think I liked how biting and angry the songs could be without being terribly depressing to listen to – see “Smile Like You Mean It,” or “Change Your Mind.” I know I liked how addicting this hooks are – the last day or so, I’ve probably listened to “Hot Fuss” three or four times through and every song is an earworm in its own way. What was extra cool about this record was *everybody* liked The Killers. I became friends with one of my coworkers at Sea Breeze, a kid named Steve with curly hair and tall socks who would always annoy the hell out of me, only after I caught him humming “All These Things That I’ve Done.”  When I’d invite friends from all over town to my house, some older, some younger, some hipper, some weirder, this was an album I knew I could put on that would set a good vibe without being dry, dull or offensive to those with more refined modern tastes. Everyone knew “Mr.Brightside,” and then everyone knew “Somebody Told Me,” and  somewhere in there, The Killers became a band with popularity among the masses that was OK for elitist emo listeners, too.

This album drummed up a lot of high hopes for The Killers as a band to watch. Sadly, I don’t know if they really delivered on that front. I’ve tried hard to get into their later stuff, and I have done quite well, but it’s not without biting my tongue through some really cringe-worthy, campy moments (see “Human” or “Flesh and Bone”). Tracks like “Dustland Fairytale” and obviously “When You Were Young,” though, have solidified their image as dusty, dramatic American rock band, one who took a shot in the dark on a debut and created one of the most memorable albums of the decade – for me, for certain, and probably for a lot of other listeners, too.


It’s been 10 years since The Killers released “Hot Fuss.” I wonder what it would feel like in their shoes, where the first album and the first hits are the ones everyone wants from you. It’s the classic catch-22 of striking gold – where do you from there? I’ve seen plenty of critics, and heard plenty of friends, deride their later work including the most recent, “Battle Born,” for being too theatrical, too formulaic, too boring. But I’ve found I enjoy it, especially the title track. While the edge, the cynicism, of their earlier work has dulled some, it’s been replaced with a wiser perspective. Instead of dark anguish of relationships like “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” or “Mr.Brightside,” there’s contemplation, there’s soul-searching. Instrumentally, where they once were trendsetters in pop rock, they’ve taken a more classic approach with clean guitar solos, well-balanced ambiance.  They’ve got that dessert feel, though, that Vegas-Route 66-cowboy approach they cultivated during “Sam’s Town” and never really let go of.

One thing that’s remained consistent is Brandon Flowers’ songwriting – it is direct, it is cutting, it is comfort. It is literary, in a sort of post-modern way, about spirit and surroundings and sexuality. You could make an argument that, of all bands that have stuck around for a decade or so, The Killers have retained this sort of borderline pretension, not really *fitting* in any scenes and seeming like they’d be bothered if you tried to do so, but I’ve never been one to give much of a damn about that sort of thing if I’m enjoying listening to your music. And when you write songs this anthematic, how could I not?

“Up against the wall
There’s something dying on the street
When they knock you down
You’re gonna get back on your feet
Cause you can’t stop now

Did they break your heart?
And did they cause your soul to mourn
Remember what I said
Boy, you was battle born

Cause you can’t stop now.
Cause you can’t stop now

~Battle Born 
The Killers, Battle Born


Somehow, when there’s a band you’ve really loved, you love what they make regardless of it’s critical reception. For me, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Copeland, Jimmy Eat World….whatever they do, I will love. And I’ll feel some deeper connection to it, as if they’ve been releasing songs for a span of a few years that correlate to my own experiences.

This song, is gorgeous. Soft, melodic, floating…I love the direction this band has been going in. Album to album, Copeland shows off mature progression and and ability to create delicate soundscapes with poetic meaning and gentle emotion. They’re extremely patient, never pushing a song too far in one direction but always having a beginning, middle and an end.

“Cause it’s no good if you can have it all,
Well I’d give it back but I never stole the first part.
And it always goes when you need it the most,
The kindest love is still bleeding from the last shot.”

-Good Morning Fire Eater, Copeland
You Are My Sunshine


I knew it….tastemakers be dammned! THIS is the track on Day & Age that defines the album, and it’s quintessential new Killers. This performance warms my fucking heart. Everyone bashed & hated this album, but I think this performance proves their legitimacy and the strength of their songwriting.


This has become one of my “been-a-hard-day” songs. I love it with the full orchestra, it’s like a piece from a musical or something.


“The Dustland Fairytale begins

With just another white trash county kiss in ’61.
Long brown hair, and foolish eyes.
He’d look just like you’d want him to
Some kind of slick chrome American prince.

Blue Jean serenade
Moon river what you do to me?
I don’t believe you.

Saw Cinderella in a party dress, she was looking for a nightgown.
I saw the devil wrapping up his hands, he’s getting ready for the showdown.
I saw the minute that I turned away, I got my money on a pawn tonight.

Change came in disguise of revelation, set his soul on fire.
She said she always knew he’d come around.
And the decades disappear
Like sinking ships but we persevere.
God gives us hope but we still fear, we don’t know.

Your mind is poisoned.
Castles in the sky, sit stranded, vandalized.
The drawbridge is closing.

Saw Cinderella in a party dress, she was looking for a nightgown.
I saw the devil wrapping up his hands, he’s getting ready for the showdown.
I saw the ending where they turned the page, I threw my money and I ran away.
Sent to the valley of the great divide
Out where the dreams all hide.
Out where the wind don’t blow,
Out here the good girls die.
And the sky won’t know
Out here the bird don’t sing
Out here the field don’t blow
Out here the bell don’t ring
Out here the bell don’t ring

Out here the good girls die
Now Cinderella don’t you go to sleep, it’s such a bitter form of refuge.
Why don’t you know the kingdoms under siege and everyone needs you?
Is there still magic in the midnight sun, or did you leave it back in ’61?
In the cadence of a young man’s eyes?
Out where the dreams all hide…”
~The Dustland Fairytale
The Killers, Day &Age

Not a horrible CD, but not mind-blowing either. The songs are theatrical and dramatic, lots of do or die attitude and really powerful parts and choices. But that kind of sound doesn’t always do it for me, so it’s not an album that’s going to get much repeat listen once i’m over it (which’ll be about 2 more minutes). This song was cool, really like the chorus. “I saw the devil wrapping up his hands/he’s getting ready for the showdown”–such a good line! Couple other cool spots like that on the album,one verse in the single that’s got some good lines, and Neon Tiger is catchy as hell. But I still like Hot Fuss better.

What it comes down to? The Killers think they’re a more important band than they really are in the scheme of things.

But I think that’s kind of their charm–what’s wrong with dreaming big?


So, Brandon Flowers displayed his sexiness for GQ (gah) right before The Killers album drops (Nov. 22).

Sexy? sexy.

Promote much? There’s validation in endorsements–especially when it’s modeling for GQ (and looking that good doing it). I’ve always liked them/him, though. I thought Sam’s Town was a great record, and the Sawdust b-sides are tons of fun.

Listened to this song a few times lately:

You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now
Here he comes

He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentleman
Like you imagined
When you were young

Can we climb this mountain
I don’t know
Higher now than ever before
I know we can make it if we take it slow
Let’s take it easy
Easy now, watch it go

We’re burning down the highway skyline
On the back of a hurricane
That started turning
When you were young
When you were young

And sometimes you close your eyes
And see the place where you used to live
When you were young

They say the devil’s water
It ain’t so sweet
You don’t have to drink right now
But you can dip your feet
Every once in a little while
–The Killers, When You Were Young
Sam’s Town

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