“Sam’s Town” – The Killers

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Dear Daily Phat Jam —

Oh blog, so much has I changed since I last wrote. Before, I was a balding stick figure with a cocaine addict’s disposition and Resting Sleepy Face. But now, I’ve got less hair and I moved away.

Today I somehow started listening to and preaching the gospel of “Sam’s Town,” the sophomore album by The Killers and one of the most underrated goddamn albums of this miserable century. Because I can’t have a thought without sharing it, I tweeted about it. Then I went on a long drive and listened to “Sam’s Town” and decided that an even smaller audience needed to hear about an album that was released more than 10 years ago and that was panned by many critics.

So now that I’m home and I’m wearing stretch pants and drinking CapriSun, I’m going to fire up the ol’ iTunes, queue up “Sam’s Town,” shuffle that bit, and write about what awful memories are conjured up by the album.

So strap in.

Song 1: “Why Do I Keep Counting?”

When I first listened to “Sam’s Town,” I sort of skipped over this song in favor of “Bones” and “This River is Wild.” But I re-discovered it when I digitally dusted off this album in college.

Help me get down / I can make it, help me get down

Ha ha, that always makes me think about my future life when I’m old and decrepit, probably in the next 5 years or so, and I’m just screaming at some miserable person to help me get into a bathtub.

What it makes me think of in Real Memories is darkness. Not depression, but literal darkness. I associate it with driving at night, for some reason. I remember listening to it in my sister’s Prius, which was later totaled by my arch enemy, Past Seth. And I remember it being dark, but the song, which starts quiet but blooms and eventually explodes, was always turned up so loud. The Prius had this thing where you could adjust which seat in the car got the full brunt of the speakers, and I would always angle that shit toward the driver’s seat and just go insane to this song.

There’s not much more to it than that. The memory isn’t detailed. This was a shitty idea.

Song 2: “Bones”

No it wasn’t! This brings on more vivid memories. This is a great idea! Fuck to the doubters!

Jesus, thank God. Shuffle really bailed me out here.

“Bones”! The choir-esque lyrics, the cheerful piano, they immediately take me back to being 16 years old, at my first concert ever. The Killers were playing at Sandstone outside of Kansas City (blessings be upon it), and my girlfriend and I got tickets to see it. We went with my older sister (Chaperone/Driver) and my little brother (Future Super Genius, Then Nerd). And the concert fucking rocked.

“Bones” came on and she and I danced to it, sort of PDA-swaying, and we whispered sweet nothings and just listened.

A cinematic vision, ensued / Like the holiest dream / Is someone calling? / An angel whispers my name / But the message relayed is the same / Wait till tomorrow, you’ll be fine!

It was prophetic, it was ecstatic, it was perfect for a young couple and a young relationship. It was one of those moments that you know, somewhere in your brain, you’ll remember forever. I couldn’t conjure up another exact memory of them playing another song at that show. But they played “Bones,” and I was so happy when I heard it start, and I’ll never forget that moment.

Song 3: “Exitlude”

Ughhhh the “Enterlude” and “Exitlude” from this album are incredible. They’re too short. And because they’re so short, when I was 15, I would listen to them on repeat, over and over and over, and yell at my little brother, Z, to play “Exitlude,” with its quiet joy, on the piano so I could howl out lyrics and shatter windows and send birds flying from their trees and cause an uproar among the general town folk.

When I was 15, I shared a room with Z. It was on the top floor of our house, and outside of the room was a spindly little wooden desk with a Dell computer on it that I would use to listen to The Killer’s CDs. I turned up the speakers and played “Exitlude,” which is not a banger and shouldn’t be played at full volume, but I did it because I wanted to drift away with it, float along as the lyrics fade. I wanted it to be longer, but if it were longer, it wouldn’t be the same. Like [tilts head back] being young.

Outside the sun is shining / Seems like heaven ain’t far away / It’s good to have you with us / Even if it’s just for the day.

But what really gets me is the light piano and drums at the end and the far-off vocals that bid you farewell. But I can’t take a hint, both from this song and from my memories, so I hit replay over and over.

Last Song and Then I’ll Stop: “For Reason’s Unknown”

Yikes, this song is so good but brings on such embarrassingly petty memories. For one, it makes me think of being 15, a wonderful time when I decided I’d rather play soccer averagely and Halo obsessively than pay attention to school or being Not A Nerd. On the bright side, I had so much hair and occasionally saw the sun.

What this song makes me think of is trying to get over this girl I had a huge crush on. We talked constantly our freshman year, and I was super into her in only the way that 15 year olds are into girls. Timing your responses to texts, obsessively monitoring her response times, playing it cool and apathetic when you see her in public like you’re stoned and trying to buy candy from Quik Trip.

Well, she didn’t like me like I liked her. So I played “For Reasons Unknown” repeatedly, made the more aching parts my Facebook status (Seth Klamann is But my heart, it don’t beat, it don’t beat the way it used to) and belted it out while playing Halo. Hey, at least it drowned out the sound of other children calling each other racial slurs over the Internet.

So that’s it. Uhhh. I masquerade as an adult now and shouldn’t share these things, but [burps] that’s the waaay the news goes.

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“This Modern Love” – Bloc Party

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I love Bloc Party. I especially love their album “Silent Alarm,” which dropped more than 10 years ago. I’ve wanted to write about their music since Chris whispered life into this beautiful and popular website (we hit 10 million views last week, folks). But I haven’t, and I’m in a writing mood, so here goes.

“This Modern Love” is my favorite song from “Silent Alarm.” The song is about, well, modern love. The inability of 21st century people to properly express their feelings for another person. The distance and guards people throw up to protect themselves, which inevitably leads to the hurt they’re avoiding.

The song starts slow, simple. But as the narrator grows more frustrated with this modern love, it picks up and Kele Okereke’s voice comes into gentle yet persistent focus.

“Don’t get offended if I seem absent minded / Just keep telling my facts and keep making me smile.” He’s keeping a distance, remaining somewhat away, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want her. “Baby you’ve got to be more demanding / I’ll be yours.” Tell me how you feel. Stop hiding it. Be blunt, be honest, knock me on my ass, tell me, tell me.

This next line is beautiful. “You told me you wanted to eat up my sadness / Well jump on, enjoy, you can gorge away.” This person says she wants to make the narrator happy, to take away his sadness. But she hasn’t, so the narrator is urging her to do it, to take a leap to him at last and eat away his sadness.

“What are you holding out for? / What’s always in the way?” and “This modern love breaks me.” He’s throwing his hands up in exasperation, enough dancing around, tell me what the problem is. He’s through with this modern pursuit of evasive love, a romantic shoot and scoot.

But … Not fully. The song ends with him repeating, “Do you want to come over and kill some time?” Despite it all, the elusiveness and game playing, her being “so damn absent minded,” he’s still there. And unlike this frustrating modern love, he’s direct. “Do you want to come over and kill some time? / Throw your arms around me.”

As my high school English teacher would say, “God damn, that’s good.”

Song assocation and “Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede

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I’d heard “Hooked on a Feeling” before it was popularized again in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but I’d logged it away in the way that you hear songs but don’t realize you’ve heard it until you’ve heard it again somewhere else. But the movie’s trailer, I think that’s where I heard it next, brought it back to me. Brought me back to it.

It’s strange, my relationship with this song. I really enjoy it, but it makes me terribly sad. As I’m sure many people do, I strongly associate songs, particularly ones I play on repeat as I did with this song two years ago, with what, where and who I am in that moment. “Breezeblocks” brings me back to the summer after my junior year, working at a soccer store and melting daily in that Missouri sun.

Lil Wayne reminds me of tooling around the streets of Kansas City with my friends, down dark streets flanked by old, dignified trees, their expressions like the clock in “Beauty in the Beast,” noses upturned, buttressing the upper-middle class fortress. That’s what I remember when I hear Lil Wayne songs. Loose happiness.

But sadness is what I feel and hear and breathe when I hear “Hooked on a Feeling.” It’s a happy song, a song about how love is intoxicating, a drug, but also a safe house, an existential embrace. A reminder, a reassurance, delivered and demanded.

So why do I keep saying, in such an irritatingly overwrought fashion, that it makes me sad? Because it re-emerged in my life almost a year after the death of an old friend, and to my shame and sorrow that’s likely the only fair way to describe our relationship.

I fixated on the hooked on a feeling lyric. She died in a car accident, alone. But months before she died, she reached out to me, for the first time in six years. I didn’t reach back. A year later, and still really, I was hooked on the feeling that I’d failed her.

It makes no sense, I kept telling myself then and tell myself now, my doublespeak with this song. But I wanted somebody to quote the song to me, to tell me that everything was alright, and I wanted to believe it. To the credit of several people, I got half of that. But I was hooked on the feeling.

“I can’t stop this feeling / Deep inside of me.” It makes no sense, it makes no sense, it makes no sense. But I can’t breathe logic into it, can’t dismantle and discard my irrational association of Blue Swede’s blissful joy and my leaching sorrow. Don’t ask me to because I can’t. They’re pressed together at the top of the stack in the part of my memory when old didn’t proceed friends.

I love the song. I listen to it often. But it makes me terribly sad, and maybe it’s a good thing. No, it’s not. But I listen anyway, and pass my hand over my face, and remember.

“Pyotr” – Bad Books

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Prepare to get your sad on. This is the song that plays during a movie montage where the main character just broke up with his girlfriend. The camera cuts back and forth between the breakup fight and the main character packing up his stuff, eventually concluding with him driving away in his 2006 Hyundai Sonata. He probably stares into the rearview mirror until he rounds the corner.

This song, and its meaning, were graciously introduced to me two weeks ago. I’ve had a hard time getting it out of my head since then. Even Future’s “Purple Reign,” pretty much the exact opposite in every way, hasn’t been able to evict it fully.

Like Alt-j’s “Taro,” which Drewbert so astutely wrote about last year, this song changes completely when you learn what it means. Most songs mean something, but if you really listen to this one, you kind of have to look into the background. So. Here it is.

Pyotr is Peter the Great, the Russian tsar. He marries Catherine, a servant who would eventually become tsarina and empress when Peter dies. But Catherine is unfaithful, and Peter discovers her and her Lover (shudder. That word sucks). The lover is executed, and his head is dunked into a jar. As punishment, Catherine is made to look at the Lover’s final resting place.

The song is told from the perspective of Peter and the Lover, with the perspective swapping from verse to verse, even after the Lover, in the immortal words of Michael Scott, had his cappa ditated from his head.

It’s a very sad, mournful song; both men love Catherine. From Peter’s perspective, you get the feeling of a wounded animal: “I know I am not the man you desire / I know you think I’m some kind of fool.”

But he’s also a tsar, so you know what they say about wounded animals: “I know you would gaze into his eyes forever / I figured out just how to give that to you.”

I like that line. Not because of the eye-poppingly brutal vengeance it describes, but because of the depth of pain Peter clearly feels.

The other line I like, from the perspective of Mr. Lover after Peter “found us in the western wing sleeping”: “And I tell you in the heat of the struggle / Nobody ever takes my eyes off of you.”

I keep trying to pick a favorite verse or lyric, but the song is amazing throughout. It’s the sort of song you listen to on repeat hoping you find a lyric you haven’t heard yet, or maybe the song will magically double in length. The last verse, from the perspective of the now-dead Lover, is incredible. “It’s so good to see you back here again.”

I’m going to take a long walk in the woods or something. Are there woods in Nebraska?

“Wilder Mind” — Mumford and Sons

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Back in the spring, I wrote on Twitter dot com that you die twice: One is the run-of-the-mill death we’ll all suffer once the earth is completely underwater and only the top of Mt. Trumpmore is visible above the waves.

The second, more devastating time is when you realize the Mumford and Sons of “Sigh No More” and “Babel” is gone.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. They wanted to change their sound, and I’m good with that. I mean — it’s like, OK, so pretend you’re a parent. You have a kid, right? Your kid’s name is, I don’t know, something innocuous, let’s just say it’s Marcus, and he’s in a folk band that’s incredible but then he and his friends hang up their banjos and denim jackets and change their music and you cry uncontrollably at a truck stop. That’s the perfect way to describe it.

I’ve resisted listening to any of their new music. I listened to the first half of “Believe” back when it was released, but I couldn’t make it all the way through. It was weird, like when you hear a word that you know is a word but it just doesn’t taste right in your mouth or ring right in your head. So I turned it off.

Since I’m probably going to come off as a little shit throwing a tantrum because a band he likes stopped playing music exactly the way he desired it, I’ll say this: I get why they wanted to change their sound. Like I said, I’m good with it. I’m not bitter.

Well.

But I finally listened to the album. OK.

Whenever I talk about how I was scared listening to “Wilder Mind” would ruin Mumford for me, the conversation turns to: Would you like it if it weren’t by Mumford and Sons? If your memory was “Men in Black’d” and you knew nothing prior to “Wilder Mind,” would you like the album?

I don’t know because that movie is fictional and about Will Smith killing aliens. But I don’t think I would.

Some of “Wilder Mind” sounds a lot like The Killers post-“Sam’s Town.” Which is good music, but I’m not as into it as I am “Hot Fuss” and “Sam’s Town.” The difference is, it was a gradual shift for The Killers to become that English rock band that they always sort of were.

It’s just not for me. The electric guitar is so weird to hear from Mumford. (We’re moving past the hypothetical where I haven’t heard them before. Keep up.) I can’t really explain it. It just isn’t music I like. That sucks to say because I really want to keep listening to them, and I’m sure they’re devastated to hear I’m lukewarm.

It’s a huge bummer that the Mumford I knew, the band whose concerts were the best I’ve been to, has moved on. I haven’t, and that’s because I’m a petulant child. I’ll always want more songs like “Babel,” where the energy and emotion is so palpable and loud you can feel it filling the air around you. But, as I said in my speech at my sister’s wedding, joy dies when you get older.

My fears weren’t realized. Listening to “Wilder Mind” didn’t ruin Mumford for me. But it will change how I listen to their old stuff, and it did make me think of my #genius #twitter #content from last year. We all die twice.

“1957” – Milo Greene

Jams

This song is pretty old, so old it’s sprouting gray hairs and hipsters are raiding its closet for stuff to wear to class.

I really like this song. It has a sort of melancholy sound, sad and wistful. To me, I take it as a song about a breakup, one where a friendship and deep dependence upon each other has ended. One partner, the singer, wants to forget completely. “It would be much better If I knew / nothing about you.” He (the dominant voice is male) wants to move on, and his method of doing so is to scrub his mind and his life.

The thoughts of the relationship — “the windows that we watched from” — “take him away” to a time when they were together. There are traces of her, “scents,” ghosts that haunt and reappear, triggered.

Despite an intimate relationship, the girl “acts like you don’t know me,” and thus “tempts my anxious mind” to say something, to engage and break his insistence to move on.

The song ends with a repetitive chant, “I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go, I.” It reminds me of the end of “Breezeblocks.” This might go back to the breakup, when she left. It might be a threat from her. It might also be a threat from the narrator, to move far away to escape more the lingerings.

It’s just a great song. I found it last year, and even then it was old. But it’s still a goody.

“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” — Drake

Jams

I’m not gunna lie, man. I’m a touch embarrassed by how much I’m listening to Drake lately. It’s not because he’s from Canada, America’s hat and hype man, or because he made his name by being on Degrassi (Jesus Christ, Degrassi). I don’t need to go off on some tangent to illustrate how odd Drake’s career as an entertainer is because you should be familiar. It’s a little bananas, really. And not bananas you eat, but bananas you slide around on in Mario Kart.

No, my past distaste was more because the middle part of his career was punctuated with pouty heartbreak music. It felt a bit like Wayne’s decision to try rock(ish) music for a little while. I’m not saying you shouldn’t branch out musically; look at Mumford & Sons right now. But man. Hard to go from Taylor Swift-type singing to rapping about “never letting the street down.”

But Drake, the Drizzy That Mounted The World, appears to be back. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late finds Drake largely back to his roots. Rapping more than singing (or whining, as it sometimes becomes). He’s matured; the album is almost entirely him, and it’s him pondering his roots and the state of the industry.

The tracks are crazy catchy. My favorites have switched rapid-fire as I play it on repeat, hopping from Legend to Know Yourself to 10 Bands. I’m currently on Star67, which features a dig at Birdman (whose dispute with his entire label has become public and as ugly as Drake’s jumpshot [OHHHHH]) and Drake’s reflecting on where he is now and where he was, a perfect summation of the mixtape as a whole

The number 6 features prominently, a figure that is apparently a nod to his hometown. His beats are fairly simplistic, his lyrics emotionally packed and featuring a better balance between hippity hopping and singing.

Largely, it’s a pretty good work that should draw people like me back to him. It’s filled with hits that are dope to blast out your windows or groove to as you annihilate children who are just trying to have a good time on Xbox Live.

“Talkin’ Shit About A Pretty Sunset” – Modest Mouse

Jams

Modest Mouse is one of those bands that your brother probably listened to as he drove you to karate practice in his Rav4 that reeked of cigarettes and teenage angst. They’re an odd band, whose lead singer Isaac Brock possesses a voice that isn’t beautiful, far reaching or breathtaking. The music is sometimes just total chaos, reigned in by the straining chainlink fence of Brock’s vocals.

It’s sort of like riding a wooden roller coaster. The ride is unlike anything else, and you feel that at any moment you and the coaster will go careening off of the trails and the world will turn upside down, the rivers will run red with blood and the four horsemen will parade through the streets. It doesn’t hasn’t yet, but you just always feel like it could.

Their songs are deeply symbolic. Much of their early work featured more instrumental than lyrical content, a habit they’ve reversed in their more recent albums. You get a deep sense of bitterness from Modest Mouse, toward religion, people, society.

Perhaps my favorite Modest Mouse song is “Talkin’ Shit on a Pretty Sunset,” which is from their 1996 album, This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Talk About. It perfectly captures early Modest Mouse: symbolism, instrumentals, Brock’s sad but often powerful voice punching through the group’s chaotically coherent instruments.

I can listen to this song on repeat for hours. The point where the soft instrumentals dim momentarily and Brock’s voice comes through so clearly, there’s so much emotion underneath it. It’s bitter and it’s contained.

Modest Mouse is releasing their first album in years this spring, hypothetically. Their music has evolved, naturally, as time has gone by. I can’t waaaait.

“Boom Clap” – Charli XCX

Jams

First thing’s first: this song ain’t the realest.

It’s terrible. It’s crap. It sounds like a song that failed out of the 80s and then just sort of drifted until it settled down upon us, like musical mustard gas choking your throat and nose and lungs. It falls upon the land during a time period when music charts are big red exclamation marks with a frowny face drawn beneath them on a U.N. weapon’s inspector’s clipboard.

Hunger of the Pine – alt-j (∆)

Jams


After the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick famously said that if you understood the film completely, then he failed.

So, with that in mind, here’s the thing about Alt-j: even if you get it, you feel like there’s something you’re not getting. You have to suspend disbelief a little bit, like you’re watching New Girl. A key difference: Alt-j doesn’t suck. Seriously, I hate that show. You have to swallow the vomit and suspend disbelief that Zooey Dickchannel hasn’t been slapped.