For the February edition of the collaborative blog, the collective presents a specially curated Valentine's Day playlist. These songs celebrate love through a variety of themes that'll have you swoonin' and in the mood for loving.
While I didn’t choose my picks with an overarching thesis in mind, it’s pretty apparent that the theme that runs throughout is variety. Whether it’s something as soft and tender as Coltrane or as rough and weird as Belphegor, the perfect Valentine’s Day soundtrack, and oftentimes the perfect Valentine, can come in a variety of unexpected, but wonderful forms.
Song: "(They Long to Be) Close to You"
Artist: The Carpenters
Album: Close to You
A soft, beautiful, and uplifting song is the best way to start Valentine’s Day. Imagine your significant other waking up and walking into the kitchen to see you making them a delicious breakfast, your perfectly chiseled body covered only by an apron, a beautiful sunny morning streaming in through the windows, all while this song plays in the background. As you put that perfectly balanced meal on their plate and pour their favorite drinks, can you imagine them not saying “I love you”? I can tell you with confidence that this recipe has led to countless perfect Valentine’s Days for my partners and I. To be fair, I typically put a minor twist on the recipe – replace “chiseled” with “mostly skinny”, replace “sunny” with “deep depression gray”, and “making them a delicious breakfast” with “unwrapping McGriddles” – but the key aspect of the recipe, “(They Long to Be) Close to You”, is there every time, and it always works like a charm.
Song: "Dedicated to You"
Artist: John Coltrane
Album: John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
As powerful and historically significant as John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme was, few would consider it very sexy, loving, or, in general, suitable for Valentine’s Day. So it came as a surprise to me that my favorite slow, delicate, and lover-friendly jazz song ended up coming out right around the same time Coltrane was already starting to stretch the traditional harmonic, tonal, and rhythmic limits of jazz. Less than a year before A Love Supreme, the Classic Quartet of Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison, and Jones teamed up with Johnny Hartman to put together a little gem of a duet album full of soulful ballads and blues that keep you and your Valentine warm and cuddly like an aural fireplace. Here some of jazz’s greatest step back, relax, and put together some restrained, but deeply beautiful tunes perfect for the holiday.
Song: "He Is"
For the somewhat unconventional Valentine’s Day look no further than “He Is” by Ghost. Not only is this is a superbly written, layered, and highly sing-able rock song, it’s the perfect hymn for two passionate, young lovers. However, as you’ll notice quickly from the lyrics (Two star-crossed lovers reaching out to the beast with many names), this hymn is – in fact – about Satan. This surprisingly happy, upbeat, and insanely catchy tune is ideal for those looking to spend their Valentine’s Day holding hands, watching the world burn, and waiting to stand by the side of their demonic master.
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Song: “I Wanna Be Your Lover”
Let’s be honest, Prince could easily, and probably should be, every single entry in a list of Valentine’s Day jams. The man exuded sex like most people exude sweat; he basically was sex. In fact, whenever I have a good or memorable sexual encounter, I always know Prince is up there looking down at me, smiling, nodding, and knowing he played a role. More broadly though, he was a master of songwriting, of countless instruments, of funk, rock, R&B, soul, psychedelia, pop – Prince was a master of music itself. It’s no accident he was such an icon for 40 years straight, and released not only countless hits, but countless songs perfect for lovers of every walk of life. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is one of his earliest hits and still one of my favorites. It’s not as raunchy and overtop sexalicious as many of his later songs, but you can’t go wrong this Valentine’s Day – or really any day – listening to this one.
Song: "Lucifer Incestus"
Album: Lucifer Incestus
For the really unconventional Valentine’s Day, there is no substitute for drunk, disgusting, lords of filth Belphegor. Are you tired of the same old stereotypical, Hallmark-fueled Valentine’s Day? Do you want to spice things up for once? I mean wouldn’t it be fun to just spend one Valentine’s Day invoking the unholy one with depraved, sexdiktator-style dungeon orgies instead of the typical flowers and chocolate? I’m sure everyone in a long-term relationship gets that idea at some point, and if this year is it for you, make sure “Lucifer Incestus” is on your playlist. Between screaming the opening lyrics (The goat of fukk/With cock of fire) and being bewitched by Satan’s demonic coil-phallus, you are sure to have a really wonderful and magical experience with your special someone.
Some love songs sing of lovers,
Some love songs sing of drugs,
Some love songs sing of robots
And their electronic hugs.
Song: “They Can’t Black Out the Moon”
Artist: Harry Roy & Wendy Clare
Album: ? (1939)
There’s nothing quite like a British big band swinging lovely and free on the eve of the country’s entry into World War II. When I first heard this song sung so sweetly by a female duet in the historico-romantic tragicomedy “Their Finest,” I swooned. Like the best of the old-timey songs, it bounces jolly from the first note to the last, and features the most adorable, simple poetry: “When we go strolling in the park at night / All the darkness is a boon / Who cares if we’re without a light / They can’t black out the moon.” In one fell swoop, it nods to the ancient reverence for our lunar sister while also painting optimism for the future: even if war and apocalypse wipe away all our cities and man-made achievements, we can still make love by moonlight.
Song: “Right or Wrong”
Artist: Wanda Jackson
Album: Right or Wrong (1961)
In one of our first collab posts, Parisa introduced me to an underground classic in the rockabilly world: Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love.” But even though the track went on to influence tons of bands and artists, including psychobilly punk band The Cramps and Adele, the song was largely ignored in its time. In fact, it was never released on an album, only appearing once as the B-side on a single 45” release. What was the A-side? “Right or Wrong.” True, the main cut definitely went straight-ahead country instead of raucous and leftfield, but that doesn’t make it inferior. It’s reserved, but it conveys a similar perspective: love ain’t usually a logical, reasoned choice. And most of us have probably had the experience of other people telling us that our love is “wrong” or that we made a bad choice in who we choose to love. But no one can control our love. It’s our choice—right or wrong.
Song: “Enjoy the Silence”
Artist: Depeche Mode
Album: Violator (1980)
The biggest Depeche Mode song ever. Naturally, it’s unclear whether it’s about love of humans or heroin: “All I ever wanted / All I ever needed / Is here in my arms.” When David Gahan sings those words, he joins a long and illustrious tradition of greying the line of loves, famously punctuated with The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” in 1968. The lush, pristine synthesizers—and the mysterious finale of silence—only add to the mystery. But the music is so beautiful and overpowering that the listener never really gets the chance to ponder the question too much, instead opting to dance or sway or fuck or inject to the massive beat. And, in the end, what would pondering the question solve? After all, says the second part of the chorus, “Words are very unnecessary / They can only do harm.”
Song: “Dance with Me”
Artist: Like a Tim & Gina V. D’Orio
Album: Bass Girl (2004)
The concept: A Dutch producer teams up with a German vocalist to reinterpret nine classic American doo wop and rock & roll songs using nothing but a TB-303 and a woman’s vocal cords. The result: “American Graffiti” karaoke bar acid trip. I’ll admit that this probably isn’t for everyone. It’s a bit cheesy. But if you’re like me—that is, if you love Motown harmonies, if you think those pop writers from the 50s and 60s have yet to be surpassed, and if you cannot resist the juicy burps and thumps of legendary Roland synthesizers—then this is for you. I picked the Drifters track because it’s gushing with that innocent high school prom love evoked by those classic songs, and because they kept it short and sweet (under three minutes) like an American radio hit should be!
Song: “Plug Me In”
Album: Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator (2010)
When I went to see Squarepusher perform in San Francisco at the end of 2016, the show was billed as Shobaleader One, the man’s full band. So I expected them to play tracks from their 2010 release under that name; instead, they ripped through a set of Squarepusher classics from the 1990s, pushing the drummer to the limits of human potential. I was astonished, I was surprised, and yet, I was not disappointed. At least, not entirely. There was one Shobaleader track I paid good money to see performed live, however, and didn’t see. “Plug Me In” may be the greatest robot love song every written. It starts out slow and soulful like it could be an old Bill Withers or Eddie Kendricks song, but instead it’s performed by musicians with names like Strobe Nazard, Company Laser, and Arg Nution. Some of the lyrics: “I've got to get in sync with you / Do you wanna sync up with me? / Twenty-four bits a night / Is all I need to do it right / Twenty-four clicks per beat / Is all I need to feel the heat / Synchronize our soul / Baby that’s how we roll.” When those last two lines hit, it’s on. Robot. Babymaking. Music.
This list doesn’t have a theme per se, although you could probably find one. In media res, for instance, perhaps it’s about asking questions or seeing visions or going crazy. Perhaps it's about the way love goes, or perhaps it's simply the list of a loon. But I’d say, de facto, it’s a themeless list. Just a handful of love songs.
Song: “I Love You So Much It Hurts”
Artist: Floyd Tillman
Album: Let’s Make Memories
See, I think this is a nice song. Uncle Art Satherley must’ve made it--must’ve been where I heard it, cuz I saw this interview with him where he was rocking along in his rocking chair remembering all the people he’d helped get on record. It’s a simple one--it’s like “San Antonio Rose,” which maybe is the song that should instead be on this list. Who wants to hear a hoarse old man talking about old hits at the beginning of a Valentine’s Day mix? Hurts is right.
Song: “Vision of Love”
Artist: Mariah Carey
Album: Mariah Carey
This song reminds me a lot of that “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart” by Julee Cruise. Maybe you know that song from that scene in Twin Peaks? Remember, when that creepy blonde girl is singing at the Lumberjack Inn or whatever that place was called, that biker lumberjack bar, and what’s-her-name is crying into her palms sitting in front of that dude who’s maybe her boyfriend, and oh damn isn’t that also the moment when Bob is up to his old program again, screaming about Montana and whatnot, and then the log-lady and the giant appear to the Mayor of Portland and tell him? Fuck, well now imagine Mariah Carey singing in that scene instead of that blonde girl Julee Cruise. Now you’ve really got an ABC show.
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Song: “The Beautiful Ones”
Album: Purple Rain
“I may not know where I’m going babe I may not know what I need. One thing--one thing’s for certain babe, I know what I want, and it’s to please you baby please you baby I’m begging down on my knees I want you. Yeah I want you. Baby baby baby baby I want you. Yes I do.” Yeah…, me too. For this one you gotta go into your private collection cuz you can’t find it on the Internet. You really fuckin’ can’t. It’s Prince though. His highness deserves the royalties.
Song: “21 Questions”
Artist: 50 Cent
Album: Get Rich or Die Tryin’
This song fuckin’ rules. I don’t care who you are, you’ve definitely heard this song. You’ve probably heard this song playing over the loudspeaker at the waterpark that you were running around at with your middle school friends. Or you probably heard this song playing Madden with your cousin and he puts it on with the disclaimer, “Yeah man this is like the only rap song I like. I normally listen to country but I like this song.” And then he plays this song, “21 Questions.” You’ve definitely heard somebody say “I love you like a fat kid love cake.” You’ve probably heard somebody read it off of somebody else’s t-shirt. “Hey that guy’s shirt said ‘I love you like a fat kid love cake!’” Plus you’ve got a trace of Nate Dogg on here, an artifact in the soon-to-be museum of the best hook-singer in hip-hop history, in this song. Actually you probably heard this song on the bus. The school bus.
Song: “That’s the Way Love Goes”
Artist: Janet Jackson
That’s the way loves goes. You ever heard this song? You ever heard this song? You ever see that movie? This is the one for when you’re going crazy. These are the rules. When you’ve finally lost your mind and you look around and it’s that country misty swamp you’re in the middle of and you want to say something to see if anybody will hear you but you also don’t want to appear like you’re lost and also anyway you’re a moth--in that sort of desperation you can turn to this song and it can lay out a reasonable set of rules for you to proceed. It’s one step at a time.
I'm a sucker for love. Nowadays I'm lucky enough to have found someone who loves me, but this wasn't always so. Back in my single days, I really sucked at flirting, and talking to people in general. Because I was okay at guitar, I often tried to compensate for my shitty communication skills by confessing my love through song, mostly to no avail. These are the love songs I wish I had had the talent to write.
Song: "Don't Make Me Hold Your Hand"
Artist: Lake Street Dive
Album: Lake Street Dive
Ah, the ultimate love song for introverts. With lines like "I'm in love but I'm too shy", this is literally THE song I wish I had written back in the day. The bare-bones but groovy hook and huge vocals make it impossible not to like. Listen to this one with your favorite awkward person, but don't expect them to make the first move.
(Note: Apologies to the listener that there was no good video with the studio version on Youtube, but this live performance is pretty awesome too.)
Song: "Banshee Beat"
Artist: Animal Collective
For those who like their Valentine's Day a little on the trippy side, check out "Banshee Beat", a love story told in the eerie, childlike way that no one but Animal Collective could. The droning, slow-building intro seems light and pleasant at first until you realize it's actually the singer's slowly dawning realization that his relationship is doomed. From there, it launches into a hallucinatory tale of young children falling in and out of love. Lyrics like "Someone in my dictionary's up to no good/I never find the very special words I should" and "I don't think that I like you anymore/well I found new feelings at the feeling store" capture how shitty it is to have your heart crushed in language that kids on a playground could understand. Still, "Banshee Beat" offers hope: "Either way you look at it/you have your fits, I have my fits/but feeling is good." Listen to it with someone you love, someone you used to love, or just while you're high in the woods. I can't possibly overstate how overwhelmingly beautiful this song is.
Song: "Harvest Moon"
Album: Pacific Standard Time
Yeah, I know this is a house-y cover of a Neil Young song, but unless you like to get it on in bales of hay, this version is probably a little more your speed. For all the electronic remixes of classic dad rock songs out there (there's a disturbingly high number of them), this one actually does the original something like justice. Grab your Valentine, some bassy speakers and a bottle of bubbly, then head to a beach somewhere on the Mediterranean and get busy.
Song: "Love in Vain"
Artist: Robert Johnson
Album: The Complete Recordings
You think you know pain? You don't know shit until you've had your heart broken so badly and your soul crushed so irreparably that you might as well sell it to Satan to get famous. Such is the story of Robert Johnson, the original King of the Delta Blues. With this 1937 song and a handful of others like it, Johnson helped give birth to the early blues genre, and thus basically all of modern popular music. You know all those other love songs you like? Well, they probably wouldn't exist without this guy.
Song: "Thank You Too!"
Artist: My Morning Jacket
Album: Evil Urges
I'll wrap up my picks by sharing a song that touches on my original theme: trying to find love as a person with the social skills and emotional intelligence of driftwood. With MMJ in full-on ballad mode, Jim James croons about his "robot face" and gushes gratitude for the person who "saw my naked heart and really brought out the naked part". This Valentine's Day, be sure to bring out your own naked parts and thank that special someone who brings out the best in you, whether it's a lover, close friend, or maybe just your favorite throw pillow. Happy February 14th, y'all.
I didn’t approach this write-up with a specific theme in mind, yet after a quick reflection, there is a constant theme of obvious and outward displays of love within each of these tracks, which makes perfect sense. I’ve never understood game playing or mind fuckery. I love, love (cheeseball alert) and appreciate its journey as well as open/clear communication, the little, mundane things, and everything in between. Happy Valentines Day to my nug (you know who you are) and thank you for being you.
Artist: Animal Collective
Album: Merriweather Post Pavilion
I would be lying if I didn’t say this has been my absolute favorite love song since MPP came out in 2009. It’s such a warm sounding, buzzy feeling song with lyrics which stand for such realness. “Put on the dress that I like, it makes me so crazy even though I can’t say why” - sometimes love and infatuation are indescribable and that ‘no further explanation needed’ sentiment hits it on the head for me. “Girl we could talk far away, it’s so hard for me only to get the urge to kiss you there” There are no hidden messages in this song and its poetic simplicity has been making my heart melt for a solid eight years...I actually feel like everything slows down around me when I play this track. Listen to the song. Listen to its lyrics. Meet you in dreamland.
Song: “You’re My Excuse to Travel"
1) I have always thought the name of this track was perfect and VERY romantic. 2) I am currently in a long distance relationship where visits switch off most weekends and an approx. two hour bus ride is required (worth it). There are only two sentences repeated in this song; one half of one of these sentences is ‘I love you enough to drive, like, an hour from wherever I am to be with you’ so just YES 3) Will Wiesenfeld (Baths) struck every chord within me with the other sentence of this song which states, ‘and it is always the simplest shit that means the most’. I remember when this album came out I was at work one day with nothing to do and made a huge Sharpie drawing of aforementioned lyrics, and Will favorited it when I posted it to my Twitter. GOOD JOB WILL, it really is always the simplest shit that means the most.
Song: "I Remember"
Album: Odd Blood
Yeasayer’s Chris Keating wrote this track about a woman who, in this order, he met on an airplane, kissed on an airplane, got over his fear of flying on said airplane, and then got married to this woman. I can end on this note and leave it at that, but I’ll continue on. Yeasayer doesn’t tend to take the ‘traditional love song’ route, but this is one of the most emotive, heartfelt songs to me. The tracks’ lyrics reflect on the seemingly mundane yet wonderful memories you form with someone (if you couldn’t tell already, I’m a huge believer of little things = big things) when in a relationship. Lyrics express sentiments including, ‘I remember making love on a Sunday; bright floating hearts in a fresh cut grass in may … I remember the smell of your skin forever; love us being stupid together,” and are surrounded by a sea of ‘woahs’ and glittering synths. This sparkling, hazy dream of a song is another one of my all time favorites whose simple words are beautifully profound.
Throughout my adolescent years, I never really had the courage to tell someone how I felt about them. Instead, I would make my crush a mix CD in hopes that the music would speak for me. Below are some songs that I would have put on a mix CD back in 8th grade for a potential Valentine.
Song: "Her Ghost in the Fog"
Artist: Cradle of Filth
Dear GOD. This song is so fucking bad. SO. BAD. As any true metal head would tell you, though, everyone had a pseudo-black metal band that served as a catalyst to eventually learning about true metal. Until I really did my research in high school, I thought listening to Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth made me kvlt as fuck. All I wanted was a kvlt boy to live a grim, bleak life with me. I would dream of getting dropped off at the mall by my mom to meet up with a kvlt boyfriend so we could walk around Hot Topic together, make fun of the "preppies" shopping at Hollister, and get tangled in each other's Tripp pants. I would have definitely put this track on a crush's mix CD to see if the ~alluring~ lyrics would make him think I could be his "Queen of snow, far beyond compare".
Song: "Somewhere I Belong"
Artist: Linkin Park
Don't let my Cradle of Filth shirts and inverted cross notebook drawings fool you, I was also a pretty approachable, alt-radio rock friendly 8th grader too. You could hit me up on either of my two AIM screennames after school --- LPfreek410 or LinkinParkPunkBB. I would've put this song on a mix tape to show that I could be sensitive. Just like Chester Bennington, I also wanted to heal, feel, and find somewhere I belong. I would be the perfect date to 101.5 Phoenix Alternative Rock's Edgefest, where we could watch bands like Linkin Park and Authority Zero 'till our curfew.
Song: "Diary of a Dope Fiend"
Artist: Marilyn Manson
Album: Smells like Children
Towards the end of 8th grade, I grew a huge fascination with Ouija boards and the occult. All of my sleepover parties would end in seances and summoning my heroes like Anton Szandor LaVey. This was also the same time that I literally listened to nothing but Smells like Children for months on end. Does this song say anything about love? No, not really. But I would've still thrown it on a mix CD for my crush so they know I'm into freaky shit, and they could hold my hand during a seance any time ;)
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