'Smile Like You Mean It'

Photos by Nick Tomecek

One second listening to this record takes me back in time.

I remember so clearly the first time I heard a song from The Killers’ 2004 album, “Hot Fuss.” My sister was watching music videos before school — back when watching MTV videos in the morning was still a thing — and I caught the tail end of “Somebody Told Me.”

Back then, I lived in an old, somewhat rundown house in Oklahoma. Pre-braces and with a mean older sister — don’t worry, we’re past it now — I can remember almost never feeling cool.

This song, this album at least, gave me an idea of what it might be like.

The upbeat, tongue-in-cheek track was the first I’d heard of its kind. The spacey, electric sound so common today seemed groundbreaking to me back then.

Little did I know, this “spacey,” synth sound would dictate my music taste for lifetimes to come. It’s the same reason I like Keane’s “Night Train,” Walk the Moon’s debut album and The Burning Hotels’ “Eighty Five Mirrors.”

I’ve gone through phases with every track on this record, even the more experimental Radiohead-esque tracks, “Andy You’re a Star” and “Everything Will Be Alright,” but only recently acquired a yearning for the opening track, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.” I read online this song is one of three — two of which are on this album — that describe the murder of a girl named Jenny.

The record follows up this morbid tone with “Mr. Brightside,” an anthem, though not necessarily a happy one. It’s no surprise listeners latched onto the song that says how we all feel.

But it’s just the price I pay

Destiny is calling me

Open up my eager eyes

‘Cause I’m Mr. Brightside

— “Mr. Brightside”

“Smile Like You Mean It” is equally catchy with the same message: pretending to be happy when we’re not. Who can’t relate to that?

Panic! at the Disco answered these hits with an album of these catchy punk tracks in its 2005 debut, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.” I digress.

I wish I could watch a montage of all the times I’d listened to the songs on “Hot Fuss,” showing how old I was, the people I was with, what I was doing and how I felt. It would probably stretch into a movie.

I can remember listening to “All These Things I’ve Done” about 50 times on the way home from a soccer tournament with my teammates, chanting “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” I can also remember every time Ryan, a friend from college, would drive me home, I would steal the auxiliary cord so I could play “On Top.”

I’ve listened a lot lately because it was reissued on vinyl in January.

This is one of those records that follows me through every stage of life, and I look forward to what parts of the montage are still to come.

The outfit:

Dress - Forever 21

Sneakers - Puma, Dillard's

Hey, I'm Savannah. I collect records, and they collect dust. Like my preferred media form, I strive to not become obsolete. I created Off the Record as a way to turn my mind inside out, into something visual and tangible. One is the loneliest number, so I asked my friends to join.