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Love Songs For Every Situation: Bitterness

February 28th, 2008 3 comments

Disappointment in love — a relationship that ended, unrequited love, even a relationship that couldn’t be — can turn to resentment. Love turning into hate can be a coping mechanism. It can be levelled at the ex- or putative partner, or at the whole notion of love in general. Such bitterness may be transient or it may abide, turning the brokenhearted into a fleeting wreck or into an enduring cynic. The songs in this post address the bitterness experienced by those fucked over by cupid.

Bright Eyes – A Perfect Sonnet.mp3
Conor Oberst has been dumped and he is bitter. Listen to his delivery: agitated at first, then rather livid, and all that in quivering pain. He yearns for love and resents those who have it: ” But I believe that lovers should be tied together and thrown into the ocean in the worst of weather, and left there to drown in their innocence”, and then, even better: ” I believe that lovers should be chained together and thrown into a fire with their songs and letters, and left there to burn in their arrogance.” But you cannot stay that embittered forever, and in the song’s surprising denouement, Oberst discovers just that. A fantastic song which shows that the premature and inaccurate hype about Oberst as the “new Dylan” was not entirely without merit.

Ben Folds Five – Selfless Cold and Composed.mp3
Ben Folds has written what I consider to be the best love song of all time (oh yes), “The Luckiest”. Yet, Ben is much better doing embittered. Take “Trusted”, where he does terrible things to her in her dreams, “Landed”, where the reign of the telephone tsar comes down, or the obvious “Song For The Dumped”. Here Ben seeks acrimony in a relationship that is ending when all he gets is sterile rejection. He wants to break plates, and she just smiles “like a bank teller, blankly telling me: ‘have a nice life’.” He wants confrontation, demanding that she invest some emotion into the breakup: “You’ve done me no favour to call and be nice, telling me I can take anything I like. You don’t owe me to be so polite. You’ve done no wrong…and you’ve done no wrong — Get out of my sight.” And all that to a cool, understated melody!

Hello Saferide – Valentine’s Day.mp3
What better day to execute a break-up with somebody who doesn’t love you back than on Valentine’s Day? Annika Norlin (Hello Saferide’s real name) is going to give him fish fingers, if they really must have a Valentine’s dinner. But much rather she’d dine with “the coolest girl” (which would be herself) and then go to a club and “find a kid who’s ready to play” — a statement of contempt, of course, not of promiscuity. “Got a feeling this is going to be Valentine’s year. Roses are red and violets are blue, sugar is sweet and I’m leaving you.” Goodbye, chump.

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now (Peel session).mp3
Early ’70s folk-rockers America had a song for all the lonely people who thought that love had passed them by. Morrissey upped the ante by telling us how it actually feels to be young and abandoned by love. Shyness (of a criminally vulgar kind, naturally) is the problem here, of course. So anyone afflicted by that condition will find instant empathy with Mozzer’s experience: “There’s a club, if you’d like to go. You could meet somebody who really loves you. So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry and you want to die.” But here’s the upside of your situation, my despairing friend: if you remain single, your heart won’t be broken. Be glad and of good cheer for that.

Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (live).mp3
Buckley appropriated Cheerful Len’s song on his Grace album, to the point that it is now fully Buckley’s, with Jeff’s tweaked lyrics now more well-known than those of Cohen’s original (even though I prefer Len’s holy ghost to Jeff’s dove). This version is a live recording from the Olympia in Paris, released posthumously in 2001. Some might claim that “Hallelujah” is a love song. To me, it evokes betrayal and pain. “She broke your throne and she cut your hair” (degradation and emasculation), and yet the singer assented to his, voicing a feeble hallelujah, a response that suggests unconditional adoration. That worship turned sour, the relationship became conditional, and one dumped the other. So the singer concludes: “All I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you. And it’s not a cry that you hear at night, it’s not somebody who’s seen the light — it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah”. Cynical.

Chris Isaak – Wicked Game.mp3
Mr Isaak has a genuine grievance: somebody cruelly led him on (or so he claims) to believe real love was on its way, and then yanked the carpet from under his feet. “What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way. What a wicked thing to do, to let me dream of you. What a wicked thing to say, you never felt this way. What a wicked thing you do, to make me dream of you.” Damn, this is brutal.

Carly Simon – You’re So Vain.mp3
This song merits inclusion for providing the greatest insult in music history: “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you”. Oh, and it is about Warren Beattie.

Colin Hay – I Don’t Need You Anymore.mp3
A song from Hay’s 1987 solo debut album, the title pretty much gives away the gist of the song. The woman who broke his heart wants him back. He isn’t falling for that: “When first I knew you’d gone, the wind grew colder. But after the pain had gone I felt much older [crap rhyme, but bear with him]. You had my very soul and my completeness, and now I find you here. You leave me speechless.” So, no, she may not sleep on his floor.

Nils Landgren – I Will Survive.mp3
Along the same tack, a lovely, jazzy cover version of Gloria Gaynor’s great counter rejection song. Everybody surely knows the lyrics from disco night, but this verse cheers me up no end: “It took all the strength I had not to fall apart, kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart. And I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself. I used to cry, but now I hold my head up high. And you see me, somebody new, I’m not that chained up little person still in love with you. And so you feel like dropping in and just expect me to be free! Now I’m saving all my lovin’ for someone who’s loving me.”

Etta James – Cry Me A River.mp3
And to compete the trilogy of scorning people who broke your heart — and what response could be more bitter than that — Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me A River” (not to be confused with Justin Timberlake’s musical assault with intent on Britney Spears), performed here by the great Etta James. And what an ass Etta is rejecting here: an idiot who thought love was “too plebeian”? Well, the sorry intellectual fraud doesn’t object to being plebe now that he wants to win back the woman whose tears over him have just dried. But no go, Joe. “Now you say you’re lonely; you cried the long night through. Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river — I cried a river over you.”

Carpenters – Goodbye To Love.mp3
Can one be gently embittered? If so, then Karen Carpenter shows us how. She does not blame the concept of love for her disillusionment, nor the people who didn’t want her. She has just decided that she is giving up on it. “All the years of useless search have finally reached an end. Loneliness and empty days will be my only friend. From this day love is forgotten…I’ll go on as best I can.” A decidedly self-pitying disposition which may well stand in her way when, as she hopes, “there may come a time when I will see that I’ve been wrong”. Anyway, never mind her, but check out that guitar solo…

Inara George – Fools In Love.mp3
Joe Jackson has a way of being bitter about love, as he was in this song, covered by the wonderful Inara George (a half of The Bird And The Bee) on this fine acoustic version. It’s a cynical song about how people in love are “pathetic” creatures. “Fools in love gently hold each other’s hands forever. Fools in love gently tear each other limb from limb.” So with that attitude it seems rather inopportune that “this fool’s in love again”.

Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris – Love Hurts.mp3*
I referenced this song in the second part of this series; it seems the prefect song to end it with. Originally recorded by the Everly Brothers and covered by many artists, Gram Parsons’ version is the best, capturing the disillusionment of love persuasively. Emmylou’s harmonies, so beautiful that you want to fall in love with her, serve to emphasise Parsons’ melancholy. Our man takes a dim view of love: it has pissed on him and burnt him, it has depressed him: “Love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain… love is like a stove, burns you when it’s hot.” Love sucks so much that it is a myth: “Some fools think of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness [Gram and Emmylou sing that word, heartbreakingly, as though that is what they really want anyway]. Some fools fool themselves I guess, but they’re not fooling me. I know it isn’t true, know it isn’t true. Love is just a lie made to make you blue.” Oh yes, love does indeed hurt.

And on that cheerful note, we conclude this series. Phew!

Love Songs For Every Situation: Heartbreak

February 23rd, 2008 4 comments

When unrequited love girl communicated to me gently that she didn’t like me that way, I experienced validation for the term heartbreak. It did feel as though my actually heart was broken right down the middle. Of course it didn’t, because else I would be dead, but the instant pain manifested itself in the location where the blood-pumping organ resides. It then moved to my chest and stomach, but lungache or gutbreak don’t sound terrible romantic.

The genre of love songs is rich in lyrics about broken hearts, from Sinatra learning the blues to Alicia Keys bemoaning that she can’t have you and any number of country singers picking up the shards of their broken hearts. Somehow this hugely intense emotion has given rise to some astoundingly banal lyrics — take a bow Bonnie Tyler and Mariah Carey. Here then, in the penultimate installment of this series, we deal with heartbreak in a non-banal manner.

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Tracks Of My Tears.mp3
This may well be the best song ever about a broken heart, by Motown’s poet laureate. Smokey is stoic, like the stiff-lipped Englishman of cliché, and won’t publicly exhibit his inner turmoil. He jokes around, has a cute girlfriend, but it’s an act. “The Tracks Of My Tears” also contains one of the most wonderfully delivered lines in pop ever: “My smile is my make-up I wear since my break-up with you”. There is joy in sadness.

Colin Hay – Lifeline.mp3
Part-time genius Colin Hay (who used to be Men At Work’s frontman) has a great way of expressing inner discontent with philosophical easy-goingness (take “Beautiful World” as an example of that). Here our man is a bit more forthright. She “broke my heart, I saw it coming from the start”, and now he is drowning in a sea of depression, hence the request for a lifeline in the chorus. He acknowledges that he needs to learn how to swim, throwing away the prozac (“You’ll never forget her, so why do you even try?”) and try to get over the depression by drinking water from appears to be a lake with magical healing properties. A really powerful song.

The Weepies – World Spins Madly On.mp3
When your heart is broken, inertia and feelings of alienation are normal reactions. The Weepies’ Steve Tannen outlines just that: “Woke up and wished that I was dead, with an aching in my head I lay motionless in bed. I thought of you and where you’d gone, and let the world spin madly on.” Perfect.

April Sixth – Dear Angel.mp3
I don’t usually do stuff with emo tendencies, but I’ll make an exception for this song (by a group named after my birthday, bless them), which I like a lot. Girl has dumped dude, and dude is feeling very bad about it. He thinks about her all the time, as you do, and naturally this causes him grief (“If only my love could be with you, if only this pain, this pain died too”). So he has decided that the best thing to do is to cut her out of his life entirely, for both their sakes (“So I’ll break you away”). Will he succeed?

Aqualung – Breaking My Heart Again.mp3
Heartbreak need not be a consequence of a break-up, but can kick in while a relationship still exists. And so it is here. “Need to know, don’t want to know, already know: I’ve seen the signs;
I watch you as you pull yourself away from.” And so our man out-Coldplays Apple Sr as he anticipates having his heart broken, apparently not for the first time, and observes: “I’m losing all strength” and, finally, “I’m losing you”.

Mozella – Light Years Away.mp3
Here’s a woman, in the singer-songwriter mode, who has her heart broken so badly that she is entirely embittered while saying she isn’t. “It’s almost like you had it planned, it’s like you smiled and shook my hand and said: ‘Hey, I’m about to screw you over big time’.” Clearly, the break-up was not easy (“I think I cried for days”), nor was the recovery. She has found a way of dealing with it: “But I don’t blame you anymore; that’s too much pain to store”, but takes care to inform him that the whole experience has changed her irrevocably. It’s all a rather clever fuck-off letter.

Damien Rice – Cannonball.mp3
I really wanted to use this song somewhere in this series, because it is one of the most powerful  songs about love I can think of. But in which part of the series? It is a song that captures perfectly the pain and confusion of imperfect love, the kind of emotion that ties your stomach in a knot, which is a manifestation of what we call heartache. The first two stanzas speak of confusion: “There’s still a little bit of your taste in my mouth. There’s still a little bit of you laced with my doubt. It’s still a little hard to say what’s going on.” Not exactly heartbreak, but a good dose of confusion here. The kick in the stomach comes later when our boy seeks distance, perhaps because he is scared of getting hurt in this relationship, or perhaps because it can’t be. “So come on courage, teach me to be shy. ‘Cause it’s not hard to fall, and I don’t want to scare her; it’s not hard to fall and I don’t want to lose…” Whatever the case, he is frightened of crashing (“It’s not hard to fall when you float like a cannonball”), and that inhibits his quest for letting love find full expression. And that is heartbreaking in itself.

Hall & Oates – She’s Gone.mp3
Well, it had to feature at some point in this series. Apparently the lads who’d become ’80s icons for their hairstyles (the serious mullet and bubble perm combo) were both dealing with heartbreaks at the time this song was written. The lyrics are fantastic. I love this: “Think I’ll spend eternity in the city [cue disapproving sound effect]. Let the carbon and monoxide choke my thoughts away. And pretty bodies help dissolve the memories. [However:] There can never be what she once was to me.” And the vocal performance, especially on the last line of the quoted verse and the drawn out “she’s gone” at 3:08, is wonderful.

Brandi Carlile – My Song.mp3
This might be about a failed romance or a friendship gone sour. Either way, Brandi (and don’t let her name put you off this wonderful songbird) harbours some anger as she sings: “If you only knew my mind was full of razors to cut you like a word” and “I’m way too old to hate you” (if you have to point out a lack of hatred, then there must be residual resentment). She holds out an olive branch, but won’t any longer run after the addressee of the song: “I’m too proud to beg for your attention and your friendship and your time. So you can come and get it from now on.”

PP Arnold – The First Cut Is The Deepest.mp3
This is, in my view, the best version of Cat Stevens’ great song (though I rather like Rod Stewart’s version too). Here our protagonist finds it difficult to be in love because of a previous episode of heartbreak. “I would have given you all of my heart, but there’s someone who’s torn it apart, and he’s taken just all that I had.” As he Bee Gees would ask a couple of years later: “How can you mend a broken heart?”

Roy Orbison – Crying.mp3
Rebekah Del Rio – Llorando.mp3

I was torn between using the original version, or the one Orbison recorded with k.d. Lang, or Rebekah del Rio’s breathtaking a cappela interpretation from Mulholland Drive. Much as I love the duet, I’ll go with the 1961 original and del Rio’s Spanish cover. Apparently Orbison wrote this after meeting an ex-girlfriend and realising in the process how much he had lost when she became an ex. “I thought that I was over you. But it’s true, so true: I love you even more than I did before.” So, as you will have guessed, Roy will be crying over her. It seems to surprise him: “It’s hard to understand, but the touch of your hand can start me crying.”

Sandie Shaw – Always Something There To Remind Me.mp3
Doesn’t Sandie Shaw sound incredibly sexy on this song? Burt Bacharach and Hal David built a great repository of love songs (and a few terribly sexist ones as well), and heartbreak featured prominently, hence two inclusions of their songs in this post. The set up here is explained in the songtitle: girl loves boy who doesn’t love girl anymore and she can’t forget him. Common stuff that is no less relevant for it: “How can I forget you when there is always something there to remind me? I was born to love you, and I will never be free; you’ll always be a part of me.”

Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (full version).mp3
The other Bacharach/David song. Everybody should know the lyrics well. “If you see me, do me a favour and just fuck off because talking with you will mess with me.” Or words to that effect. The song found its perfect expression in Dionne Warwick’s version. There have been many covers since, and it is quite difficult to do a bad cover of it, though not for lack of trying. Some have put their own spin on it. The Stranglers did, but I don’t like their cover much. Isaac Hayes, on the other hand, appropriated the song without taking it from Dionne, which is a mark of his genius. He took “Walk On By” and resculptured it into a psychedelic soul symphony going on for 12 minutes – and not a single second is wasted. As he did on other Bacharach songs — “The Look Of Love”, “Close To You” – he invested into the straightforward lyrics and melody whole new dynamics and drama. Where Warwick sweetly attracts your sympathy, Hayes involves you in the inner drama of the heartbreak to the point that it leaves you feeling the torment yourself. But by then you’re so exhausted, the heartbreak feels almost sweet.

Love Songs For Every Situation: Regret

February 22nd, 2008 1 comment

Is this series bringing everybody down? Well, it’s a series, and we must get through it, with all the discipline that is absent in matters of love. Today, we deal with regret (we must still do heartbreak and – the one I’m really looking forward to – bitterness). Regret can come before or after bitterness, and often they coincide, but both emotions manifest themselves after a love has ended. Music has done better capturing bitterness than regret. Indeed, regret seems to be a bit of a stepchild in the canon of love songs, its rejection symbolised by Edith Piaf’s determined defiance.

Abba – One Of Us.mp3
My friend Tom the Sub-Editor once said that Kris Kristofferson has an eloquent song for every emotion. I would say that Abba do as well. “One Of Us” (from Abba’s final album, 1981’s The Visitors) is terribly sad and a little pathetic, in the real sense of the word. The protagonist was in what seems to have been a pretty good relationship but evidently felt cornered: “You were, I felt, robbing me of my rightful chances. My picture clear, everything seemed so easy, and so I dealt you the blow: one of us had to go.” So she dumped the guy only to discover later that she had made a huge mistake. And it is in her regret, self-inflicted though it was, that we begin to feel for her: “One of us is crying, one of us is lying in her lonely bed. Staring at the ceiling, wishing she was somewhere else instead.” Our compassion is tempered a little by her unceasing selfishness. Nowhere in the song does she wonder whether her dumping the guy caused him any pain.

John Mayer – Comfortable.mp3
Mayer is a bit of a hit-and-miss artist. When he stinks, he really does. But occasionally he hits the sweet spot. This is one of these occasions when the melody succeeds in scoring the lyrical sentiment. In “Comfortable” Mayer is in a relationship with a trophy beauty who has little warmth or culture, but has found the approval of his friends. Yet he yearns for an ex who might have been less of a looker, but evidently had lots of warmth and “knew Miles from Coltrane”. Where the beauty is boring and well-mannered, the ex was fun. More importantly, “our love was comfortable, and so broken in”. Seems like the grass was no greener on the other side (if you’ll forgive the lazy cliché). Mayer thinks so too when he sings in the final line: “She’s perfect, so flawless. I’m not impressed…I want you back.”

Ryan Adams – Somehow, Someday.mp3
Ryan tells a similar story: he had a good thing going, let it slip away, wants her back. His problem likely was a reluctance to commit (“I wish that you and I had those kids, maybe bought us that home”). Let’s hope that she has not moved on to a man more open to having those kids and real estate purchases, because Ryan plans to let her know, with imperfect grammar, that “there ain’t no way I’ll ever stop from lovin’ you now”. But Ryan better get cracking, because procrastination will not win him the girl back: “and I’m gonna try and show you somehow. Somehow, oh someday. Someday. Someday.” Tell her now, Ryan, tell her before some other dude gets her committed. Now. Not “someday”. Hurry!

Bill LaBounty – Livin’ It Up.mp3
This glorious slice of 1982 West Coast softrock (which featured in the Middle Of The Road series) initially suggests a steady recovery from a break-up: “I finally got my life together, scraped my heart up off the floor. My attitude is so much better, and I hardly ever cry the way I did before.” Oh what the hell, Bill is going to show her that he’s actually doing damn fine. He is living it up, “right from the women to the wine, livin’ out all those fantasies I never did get to.” Oh yes, he got himself “a new persona”, a whole new Bill. And, even as he tells her more of his partying ways and livin’ out all these fantasies he never got to do, he admits to being unhappy, because “it don’t seem living without you”.

Wilco – Hate It Here.mp3
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy regards this as his joke song, seeing as he is happily married and wouldn’t know how to use a washing machine. Given that, his vocals suggest some studious method acting, because our man is dying. The wife is gone, so he keeps himself busy doing household chores, worrying what his mind will do when he no longer has these diversions (“What am I gonna do when I run out of shirts to fold? What am I gonna do when I run out of lawn to mow?”). He checks for messages from her, no luck, feebly phones the mother-in-law, dead-end. This song might have fitted just as well in the breaking-up post, or the forthcoming heartbreak one. I’ll stick it in here, because the reference to all the mundane household chores might suggest that the relationship crashed because of a lack of effort on his part (not necessarily in the arena of housekeeping).

Bob Evans – Rocks In My Head.mp3
Australian folk-pop troubadour Bob Evans (whose real name is Kevin Mitchell) is employing better timing than the other fools in this post: he expresses regret before he knows it is over (” I can’t go on if I don’t know that you’re on my side”). He has screwed things up, and is asking for another chance by admitting that he was an idiot: “Worse than all the worst things that I’ve done are the things that I said. I nearly lost you there; I must have rocks in my head.” Great save there, Bob.

Love Songs For Every Situation: Unrequited Love

February 19th, 2008 7 comments

Unrequited love is a real bastard. The rejection can scar a person for life, depending on its nature. My chapter of unrequited love was set in the seasons 1988/89 and 1989/90, and was cruelly soundtracked by the disgusting cheering of the fans of Arsenal and FC Liverpool, as if to taunt me further in my indescribable pain. There was no comfort, other than Manchester Utd’s FA Cup victory just days before the object of my desire left South Africa. I cannot say whether it was a good thing or not that she and I were very close friends. There was much affection, indeed a certain kind of love. But from her side obviously not that kind of love. So there was always hope, which again and again and again would be gently but brutally crushed. Would it have been easier to let unrequited love turn to festering hate?

Morrissey – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (live).mp3
I presume everybody has this Smiths track already, so here is a live performance by Morrissey from 2004 in Manchester, ripped from DVD. That line about the doubledecker bus crashing into us is justly regarded as a classic lyric, but the one that really gets me is this one: “And in the darkened underpass I thought, ‘Oh God, my chance has come at last’, but then a strange fear gripped me, and I just couldn’t ask.” Don’t I know the feeling! For days, weeks, months one prepares for the perfect moment. The words are ready and practiced, the mood is set in one’s mind. And then, when the perfect opportunity presents itself, one chokes. And what setting could be better than a darkened underpass, where the object of ones desire cannot see the blushes. Ah, but she’d see the potentially crushed face, the dazed look, when they emerge into the light. At which point the 10-ton truck killing the both of us would appear to be an inviting proposition. So one waits for a really long, dark tunnel…

Freshlyground – I’d Like.mp3
South Africa’s most popular band, probably, engaged in a spot of self pity in this tender anthem to unrequited love and the self-loathing which often accompanies it. To the casual observer, the reactions she anticipates from her putative displays of affection seem exaggerated, even silly. Would her object of desire really say the singer deserved to die or humiliate her otherwise for showing affection or making a phone call? I suppose any vaguely negative response, or even a lack of response, would feel like an extreme reprimand or punishment to the one who is in unrequited love. The song might be dealing with a further complication: the lyrics make sense also in a context where the protagonist has same-sex feelings for somebody who is heterosexual (which could also explain the fear of being rejected harshly). Either way, the singer asks questions that make sense to anyone who has experienced unrequited love: “What do I do with all these feelings tearing me up inside? What do I do with all these wasted hours dreaming of you at night?”

Weezer – Pink Triangle.mp3
Weezer provided the flip-side to the theory posited in the entry for “I’d Like”. Here the protagonist is falling for a lesbian. “I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian. I thought I had found the one. We were good as married in my mind, but married in my mind’s no good. Oh, pink triangle on her sleeve.” Which raises the question if there is any comfort to be had if the woman a man desires is at least not with another man. Is Rivers holding out some hope when he asks: “If everyone’s a little queer, can’t she be a little straight?”

Nick Drake – Man In A Shed.mp3
This apparently is based on Drake’s own experience of living in somebody’s backyard, admiring the girl of the house from afar, but she doesn’t acknowledge his existence, presumably thinking she’s above his station in life. Drake clearly doesn’t buy into the class hierarchy (and Amen to that). Employing what might be termed Byronic Marxism, he declares: “So leave your house, come into my shed. Please stop my world from raining through my head. Please don’t think I’m not your sort. You’ll find that sheds are nicer than you thought.” Observe also Drake’s exquisite guitar work on this track.

Mazzy Star – Give You My Lovin’.mp3
You have to love Hope Sandoval. So it is difficult to believe that Hope should have any unhappy experience of unrequited love. And yet she sings: “When I see you I want to kiss you, but I know that ain’t right. So I ask if I can hold you. Oh babe, I need you so bad. Oh babe, I only want to make you glad.” What crazy fuck would say no to these words from the wonderful Ms Sandoval? She believes such crazy fucks do exist: “Discomfort arouses when I speak of you, as if you’ve been saying something bad about me.”

The Band – It Makes No Difference.mp3
You may thank one of the commenters in this series for this song from The Last Waltz, which would otherwise slipped below my radar. And what a fortuitous alert: this is a most beautiful and heartbreaking song. It makes no difference, Rick Danko sings, “where I turn, I can’t get over you when the flame still burns… the shadow never seems to fade away… like a scar, the hurt will always show… who I meet, they’re just a face in the crowd on a dead-end street.” The Counting Crows are drawing their influence from The Band (even framing a song around the news of Richard Manuel’s death), but their lyrics are usually unpenetrable. Here Danko is writing poetry you can actually make sense of, hitting the listener in the guts. “Well, I love you so much, and it’s all I can do just to keep myself from telling you that I never felt so alone before.”

The Temptations – Just My Imagination.mp3
The sweetest song about unrequited love. Our guy plays a trick on us as he begins: “Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by. I say to myself, ‘You’re such a lucky guy. To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true.’ Out of all of the guys in the world, she belongs to me…” Ah, but the alert reader will have spotted that in this post nothing is as well as that. So in verse two, the punchline pokes you in the eye: “But it was just my imagination running away with me.” Our friend even pleads with God to play cupid (and here we briefly call to mind Sam Cooke’s hymn to unrequited love), but how can God fix him up when “in reality, she doesn’t even know me”.

Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him.mp3
And from the sweetest song to the most acerbic. Observing from indoors, Joe sees Jeannie, and every other pretty woman, walking with gorillas down his street. This makes him angry. Knowing that he is puny, and they are gorillas, he employs his imaginary superpowers: “But if looks could kill, there’s a man there who’s more down as dead.” Zapp! He is possibly better served engaging his wit: “They say that looks don’t count for much, if so, there goes your proof”, he sings about Jeannie’s boyfriend (would that be the same Jeannie whose diary Eels wish to be a page in?).

The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love.mp3
It seems that our boy is having some sort of relationship with the woman who nonetheless is rejecting his love. She doesn’t treat him well. “You spurn my natural emotions, you make me feel like dirt.” He won’t cause a scene though, because then he might just lose her. So while she keeps rejecting him, he’s getting increasingly frustrated and, the clue here is not in the lyrics but in the intensity of music, obsessed with the one-sidedness of it all. Unrequited love happens in established relationships as well. Think of the stunning Odyssey song I posted in the Love Ends post.

Johnny Mathis – Misty.mp3
The person in unrequited love often is like a pathetic puppy. Mathis certainly is in this definitive reading of Erroll Garner’s standard, better even than Sarah Vaughn’s. And the key is that Mathis actually does sound like a lovestruck puppy. The girl sounds like a bit of a tease (she lets him hold her hand), “you can say that you’re leading me on”, and Johnny likes it, “but it’s just what I want you to do”, because as long she takes notice of him, he has hope that his total love will find reciprocation.

Jens Lekman – Maple Leaves.mp3
This song puts an unusual spin on unrequited love. Jens can’t find a way into her heart — “if you don’t take my hand I lose my mind completely” — but the problem seems to be twofold. For one, the girl has such low self-esteem, she perhaps cannot accept that somebody could love her (“You said you hated your body, that it was just a piece of meat. I disagreed”). The second problem may be that incredibly unjust curse suffered by millions of nice men: the girl sees you as a friend! A bloody friend! “So we talked for hours and you cried into my sheets”. Of course, it may be that Jens just couldn’t understand her accent. “She says the dreamer just make-believe, but I thought she said maple leaves… and when she talked about about the fall I thought she talked about Mark E Smith.” No wonder he “never understood at all”.

Joshua Radin – Do You Wanna.mp3
I might be way off the mark here, but this is how I read the song: Joshua is in love with his friend (Ducky Dales everywhere!). She is in a destructive relationship. He brings comfort, but doesn’t want to be seen doing so with the ulterior motive of preparing the ground for his romantic relationship with her. And, you know, he cares firstly for her well-being. Which makes him a star among men — and sets him up for friendship standing in the way of romance and sex. “No one believes you smile alone. You wanna retrieve your high on the phone, but when you hang up all I wanna do is help you to pick up the pieces from your past. But there’s nothing more to gather, holding on to moments that won’t last. Or would you rather end it all; do you wanna?” Well, even if I’m totally wrong, I’d be pleased if this song, from Radin’s excellent First Between 3rd And 4th EP in 2004, is going to turn one or the other reader on to this wonderful singer-songwriter, whose new album will feature Ingrid Michaelson and Catherine Feeny, plus some production by Rick Rubin.

Barenaked Ladies – If I Had $1000000.mp3
Beneath the jocular mirth of this song there is a slightly pathetic subtext. Here our boy wants, Dr Evil style, a million dollars (Canadian, presumably) to buy the object of his desire everything, from a “nice reliant automobile” to a green dress (“but not a real green dress, that’s cruel”). All that sounds very nice, even amusing, until the pathos of the final line of the third verse: “If I had one million dollars, I’d buy your love.” Poor bastard.

Richard Cheese – Creep.mp3
I presume that everybody who needs it already owns Radiohead’s “Creep”. So here, to introduce some levity into the proceedings, is the lounge-jazzy version by the great spoofologist Richard Cheese. In the original, our boy is so intoxicated with self-loathing that he places himself several leagues below hers. He might have a good reason for doing so, but for every “creep” and “weirdo” there is a beacon of hope: Pete Doherty pulled Kate Moss. That must give hope to anyone who believes the unattainable to be just that.

Love Songs For Every Situation: Impossible Love

February 18th, 2008 6 comments

Of all the ways love can hurt, the impossible love might be the worst. Think about it: you have found the person you love, that person loves you back. It would be perfect, but there is something that stands in your way: a spouse, a family feud or other prejudice, maybe physical distance, or the knowledge that the relationship will be destructive. It is no accident that the most celebrated of all love stories falls into this category — Romeo and Juliet. For some, the obstacles are cleared: spouses are left (or one has an affair), or the pair elopes to escape the family, or one moves to the place where one’s love lives. None of these solutions are without risk. If the love dies, one might have lost a family, a family or a home. So one might, for whatever reason, retain the status quo while the love that can’t be consumes the poor devil. Here then are songs about love that can’t, or shouldn’t, be.

Karma – Pachelbel.mp3 (re-uploaded, December 2008)
Perhaps the most heartbreaking song of the lot is this strangely titled song, by South African folk-rocker Karma, former singer of Henry Ate. She is in love with somebody, and that love is reciprocated. His or her arms were close enough for them to kiss, but they don’t. So instead they “talk every now and then about our day-to-day, never saying the things we both planned to say.” Well, she is saying these things now, through the medium of song: “I think I smile a little differently when you’re close by.” So, what’s the state of play? “It’s too late to say goodbye; too early yet to think you can’t be mine.” So she won’t give up yet, even as she knows that this is a love that cannot be. And how can she surrender when there is “pleasure to be had in this sort of pain”?

Jem – Flying High.mp3
Welsh songbird Jem usually does the electronica thing, but here she is in ballad mode. And what a sad ballad it is, continuing the close-but-not-close-enough riff of the previous song. “I know that we can’t be together, but I just like to dream. It’s so strange the way our paths have crossed, how we were brought together.” The wonder of love seeks physical expression, but even though she’d “love to spend the night”, she “can’t pay the price”, even if they are “so close to giving in”. The realisation arrives: “I know there’s no such thing as painless love…we can never win.” And still, in the next line Jem reiterates just how giddy this impossible love makes her — it makes her “flying high”.

Sara Bareilles – Gravity.mp3
The highpoint of Sara Bareilles’ fine debut album, “Gravity” implores the person she is in love with to let go of her. The song does not tell us the circumstances of this love, (which rather than can’t probably shouldn’t be), only how it makes the singer feel that he (or she, who knows?) has a hold over her, and it is pulling her down. “Something always brings me back to you; it never takes too long.” Hence the plea: “Set me free, leave me be. I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.”

Howie Day – Collide.mp3
Howie Day has a similar problem: he and she keep colliding (the attentive reader may well chide at this moment that the title suggests as much). For whatever reason, this love has little chance of working, possibly because the two are too different in personality. Yet the attraction won’t go away — the old opposites attract cliché applies. The love is inexplicable, and still “I worry I won’t see your face light up again”. Indeed, it seems our boy would be much happier if this love was unrequited: “I’ve found I’m scared to know I’m always on your mind.” And so they’ll keep on colliding till they crash. Another love that shouldn’t be number.

Joseph Arthur – Honey And The Moon.mp3
The song starts hopeful: “If you weren’t real I would make you up now.” So we know, the dude’s in love. And is she who is real and need not be made up in love with him? The fourth line confirms that she is. But you already know that there is a problem, else the song would have appeared in one of last week’s posts. Joseph doesn’t tell us what the problem is. He loves her, she loves him back, they already seem to be together, but “right now, everything you want is wrong. And right now all your dreams are waking up.” He wants to follow her “to the shores of freedom, where no one lives”. I’m not certain, but I have a hunch that the problem here relates to depression, a real obstacle to love. Listen to this gorgeous song and tell me what you think.

Luther Ingram – If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right).mp3
The late soul legend (whose earthy soul is quite in contrast with the more polished stylings of his near-namesakes, Vandross and James) tries to rationalise his bid to have the love that can’t be. It’ll all end in tears, because he is not going to leave his wife, “who needs me just as much”, but he’ll continue his affair. And he doesn’t mind the judgment of others, because…well, look at the title. “If being right means being without you, I’d rather live a wrong-doing life.” Can’t blame the man for falling in love, of course, and when he pleads to know: “am I wrong trying to hold on to the best thing I ever had”, who cannot empathise? The man is torn apart between love and obligation (like the hapless lovers in Billy Paul’s “Me And Mrs Jones” a year later). He has decided he won’t end the affair, for reasons he has explained. Is he right, or is he wrong?

Intros quiz: Love edition

February 14th, 2008 1 comment

An Intros Quiz, to mark everybody’s favourite day of crass commercial exploitation, with a time-appropriate theme.

Every song in this lot of 20 intros of 5-7 seconds each has the word “love” in the title. All but one were hits in the UK or US (or both); the one that wasn’t is a well-known album track from a famous album by a very famous singer.

Answers will be in the Comments by Saturday.

Intros Quiz – Love Edition.mp3

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Love Songs For Every Situation: Love ends

February 13th, 2008 3 comments

And after love comes the break-up. We’ll deal with the long-term effects of that later. For now, let’s get caught in the moment of the break-up.

Kris Kristofferson – For The Good Times.mp3
Few songs are as much in the moment as this: Kris is proposing break-up sex to celebrate what must have been a great relationship, and to signify that the split is amicable (“There’s no need to watch the bridges that we’re burning”). There is still some love there (it is unclear who actually wants to leave). There is much tenderness in the chorus: “Lay your head upon my pillow.Hold your warm and tender body close to mine. Hear the whisper of the raindrops, blowin’ soft against the window,and make believe you love me one more time…for the good times.”

Crowded House – Better Be Home Soon (live).mp3
Interpreting Crowded House lyrics can be a precarious past-time. I read those for “Better Be Home Soon” (here a live version from the Farewell To The World album) as a desperate plea to save a relationship. Perhaps the couple has already separated, or one partner is playing away, or (as I read it) the couple is experiencing a great personal distance, but the protagonist is asking to fix a relationship that is dying. The effort must come from both sides: “So don’t say no, don’t say nothing’s wrong, cause when you get back home, maybe I’ll be gone.” This is a great song to play on guitar. For the tabs check out the Guitariotabs blog whence I borrowed this file from.

Missy Higgins – Ten Days.mp3
A relationship is certainly dying in this song, by another Australian artist, but not so much because the love has been extinguished, but as the effect of long-distance (“so tell me, did you really think…I had gone when you couldn’t see me anymore?”). Missy is “cutting the ropes”, even though “you’re still the only one that feels like home”.

Powderfinger – Wishing On The Same Moon.mp3
More Aussie heartbreak in this slow-rock song from last year’s Dream Days at the Hotel Existence album. The dude is still totally in love, but has been left. He’s not bitter yet (that’ll be dealt with in later posts); in fact “whenever you set free your devil smile on me, I melt”. The poor guy knows it’s over, and is now reduced to begging: “I’m calling out for you, pleading for your love. You’re falling from my view and there’s nothing I can do.” So, what does one do when one cannot be with one’s love? Why, look up at the stars and the moon, of course. That’s what they are there for, it’s what he and she can share: “I’m waiting in the afternoon for the sun to sink and let the night back in. It’s when I feel close to you, when the stars they swoon and bring their night time bloom.”

Prefab Sprout – When Love Breaks Down.mp3
An obvious break-up song from the great 1985 Steve McQueen album. There isn’t much drama in this split; the relationship is fizzling out, the inevitable being delayed to avoid the pain. They don’t see each other much, so “absence makes the heart lose weight, till love breaks down, love breaks down.” So, what will it be like when he’s single again? Paddy’ take: “When love breaks down, you join the wrecks who leave their hearts for easy sex.”

Carole King – It’s Too Late.mp3
Another song about love fading undramatically. “It used to be so easy living here with you. You were light and breezy and I knew just what to do. Now you look so unhappy and I feel like a fool” — that is such a brutal realisation. It’s over, but it is reciprocal: “There’ll be good times again for me and you, but we just can’t stay together, can’t you feel it too? Still I’m glad for what we had and how I once loved you.” They’ll have their memories, and they’ll be good.

Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way.mp3
A classic in the genre, this track, from the 1977 Rumous album, was Lindsay Buckingham’s “fuck off” letter to Stevie Nicks. He wants to give her his world, but “how can I when you won’t take it from me”. Much has been made of the line: “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do”. Either Stevie was cheating (which she denies), or it refers to the rejected wedding proposal. Mick Fleetwood’s furious drumming and Buckingham’s angry guitar solo help to underscore the acidity of the lyrics.

Abba – The Winner Takes It All.mp3
Another song about band members splitting. Everything that has been said in praise of this song is true. Agnetha’s vocals are drenched in the pain of her own separation from Bjorn, who said he wrote it with a bottle of whisky as a companion. “I was in your arms, thinking I belonged there. I figured it made sense, building me a fence. Building me a home, thinking I’d be strong there, but I was a fool, playing by the rules.” The disillusionment of love, and trust, broken. The dude goes on to somebody else, (“but tell me, does she kiss like I used to kiss you?”). In this split someone is going on with life, the other feels foolish, desperate, frustrated and lonely.

Earth, Wind & Fire – After The Love Has Gone.mp3*
A marriage is blowing up after several good years, and our man can’t understand why. “We knew love would last. Every night, something right would invite us to begin the day.” Then things went awry. “Something happened along the way, what used to be happy was sad…” Words and melody combine to express an inner drama in the singer’s bid to make sense of it all (seeing as it’s Maurice White singing here, maybe a clue is in his sexual selfishness as revealed in yesterday’s post).

Odyssey – If You’re Looking For A Way Out.mp3
This is the saddest song among all these sad songs. A ballad from the funkster’s 1980 Hang Together album, the singer knows her man’s love has died, and puts the ball into his court. “Tell me I’m wrong”, but if she isn’t, “if you’re looking for a way out, I won’t stand here in your way”. Dude needs telling. She knows he cares: “Ain’t that just like you to worry about me. But we promised to be honest with each other for all eternity.” But she also knows that his love is gone: “Your kisses taste the same, but it’s just a sweet disguise.” Are you feeling tears coming on yet? Try this for size then: “Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying, they’ll only make you wanna stay. Don’t kiss me again, ’cause I’m dying to keep you from running away.” So what does the guy do when he is told: “Better tell me what’s in you heart. Oh baby now stop pretending, stop pretending, stop pretending”? He might be ready to tell her what’s in his heart, but then she adds: “Don’t you know I’ll always love you.” Checkmate.

Love Songs For Every Situation: Being In Love

February 12th, 2008 1 comment

Here’s the trouble with Valentine’s Day, apart from the crass commercialisation and pressure to spend a month’s salary on a dozen frozen roses shipped in from Argentinia or wherever. Valentine’s Day is just for the select few, the lucky ones who are experiencing love in a good way. It excludes those who yearn for love, those who have had their heart shredded to ribbons, those who love somebody they cannot have. No, it doesn’t just exclude hem; it mocks them. The forced inclusiveness — red and white dresscodes, the Valentine’s cards and, worse, Valentine’s e-mails to people — creates an illusion that love causes no pain, that love is like it is in the movies (and how many rom coms open at your multiplex on February 14?). Worse, Valentine’s Day makes people in a relationship say or do things they may not really mean, even if they don’t really know what they are doing. So for most people, the most appropriate Valentine’s Day song is the one I posted a few days ago: Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris – Love Hurts.mp3

For most people, Valentine’s Day is a banal fraud, and so are many of the songs that extol the glory of love. In lyrics, romantic love, of whatever brand, is usually a musical McGuffin, the plot device that drives the song. The Beatles sang exclusively about romantic love until Rubber Soul, their sixth album, “Nowhere Man” breaking the mould. Some of the emotions portrayed in some of these songs ring true, of course. Sometimes the lyrics are eloquent even. But do they convey the feeling of love accurately? Does, say, Kylie Minogue communicate it today? The challenge today, as it was on the mix-tape I posted on Saturday, is to find songs that can convey being in love believably, in lyrics, sound and performance (songs marked with an asterisk have been recycled from older posts).

Art Garfunkel – All I Know.mp3
“I bruise you, you bruise me. We both bruise too easily, too easily to let it show.” Art Garfunkel breaks our hearts in his beautiful 1973 version of the Jimmy Webb song. Being in love is a fragile reality. You are vulnerable. Your future is determined by the one your with: “All my plans have fallen through, all my plans depend on you; depend on you to help them grow.” Hurt may be just around the corner. Is Art neurotic or realistic when he sings: “But the ending always comes at last; endings always come too fast”? All these questions have no answer. There is only one answer: “I love you, and that’s all I know.”

Sarah Bettens – Grey.mp3
Sarah Bettens, of the folk-rock duo K’s Choice, takes the vulnerable route too. Here, love isn’t red, nor black or white. It’s somewhere in between: grey. Love can die, and Sarah says it might do so from her side even as she pleads to be loved. “You can’t be my everything and I am not half you. But you can make it all worthwhile, and that’s why I love you.”

The Weepies – Cherry Trees (live).mp3
Yeah, posted again. This is a gorgeous love song based on Pablo Neruda’s poem. “I wanna do with you what spring does with the cherry trees”, the idea nicked from Neruda, means that love must renew itself and grow. “Sometimes our love is like a mountain: solid and steep, grounded in heat. And sometimes we rage like a river, cold and fast, then quiet and deep. We ride the storm, ’cause when it’s through we have changed and love is new.” This is the key love surviving summarised in two lines.

Everything But The Girl – Love Is Where I Live.mp3*
Some of the songs here are love-giddy, others communicate the fear of being in love. Of the latter, this is the darkest. Tracy Thorn seems certain that this love won’t last. It’s here now, but may not always be. So she repeats these three words like a mantra: “It won’t last”. She’s been burned in love before, clearly. Love is here, but it cannot survive when one partner thinks it is already doomed. What Tracy needs is a shot of Donny Hathaway’s brand of love.

Donny Hathaway – A Song For You.mp3
In this definitive version of Leon Russell’s stunning declaration of love, Donny Hathaway puts us through the wringer. He has treated the woman he professes to love poorly, but now he is going to articulate just how much he loves her back: “and if my words don’t come together, listen to the melody, ’cause my love is in there hiding”. He’s not lying: the melody is enveloped in pure love. It communicates tenderness and vulnerability. But the words do come together: “I love you in a place where there’s no space or time. I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine. And when my life is over, remember when we were together: we were alone and I was singing this song to you.” Would you not melt? Would that not reassure Tracy Thorn?

Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You.mp3
It may be a little premature to include this Bacharach composition here. It might belong in yesterday’s post. Our dude has only just picked up that the girl he desires seems to like him back. From here on, Herb gets into it. The deal, as far as he knows, is done. Back out of the deal, he tells her melodramatically in the best bit of the song, and he might not survive it: “My hands are shakin’, don’t let my heart keep breaking ’cause I need your love, I want your love. Say you’re in love and you’ll be my girl…if not…I’ll just…die.” To great effect, when it seems that the song has ended on that note, it resumes with Herb’s trumpet, indicating that probably the girl has not given him cause to die. Yay!

Blue October – Calling You.mp3
We’ve not dealt with the insecurity in love that produces quasi-stalker behaviour, have we? This is where alt.rockers Blue October come in to help us out. This seems to be quite a sweet song: guy finds girl (probably out of his league), life has become easier and better…except he feels the need to phone her all the time to see if she is thinking or dreaming of him (yup, way to keep the girl, dude, waking her up all the time). The thing is, love makes people act stupidly. We may laugh at our dude here, but who in love has not ever had the same impulses?

The Crimea – Lottery Winners On Acid.mp3
Let’s get giddy, kicking off with John Peel-championed Indie-rockers The Crimea (with the original EP version, not the inferior re-recording with which they scored a 2006 UK hit). The song has a ’60s-like exuberance about it, and not just because of the acid reference. Our boy is so deep-fucked in love, he even loses his grasp on basic grammar: “If she get a black eye, I want a black eye. If she get a splinter, I want a splinter too.” And later: “If she get a disease, I want a disease. If she go tripping, I go falling over.” And his Mom might rightly enquire: “If she jumps of a bridge, would you jump as well?” Of course our boy would. ” Everything she say, I was thinking anyway.” Isn’t that just the way love is, initially?

Style Council – You’re The Best Thing (extended).mp3
Presumably Paul Weller wrote this for Dee C. Lee, a former Wham! backing singer who joined the Style Council in 1984 when she and Weller hooked up. So when he sings stuff like: “I could be discontent and chase the rainbows’ end, I might win much more but lose all that is mine” (meaning Dee C.’s love), you sort of wonder what their chances are. All good intentions in vain, Weller and Lee ended up getting divorced.

Sarah McLachlan – Ice Cream (Live).mp3
Sarah McLachlan takes the more conventional route to explain love: it’s like ice cream or chocolate. A jubilatory song that conveys the euphoria that comes with being in love, and being loved back. A note of caution: ice cream and chocolate melt in heat; will the romance retain its shape in the heat of passion?

Minnie Riperton – Lovin’ You.mp3
A song just dripping with love. The birds are singing, so is Minnie, hitting orgasmically high notes. The song was written with her husband, and in the end Minnie sings, in multi-syllable mode, the name of their daughter, Maya (SNL comedian Maya Rudolph). Which is lovely, I think. The lyrics are simple, yet communicate all that needs to be said. The line, “Stay with me while we grow old, and we will live each day in springtime” is a great one for wedding proposals (though these are best not uttered on February 14). In the context of this song it is poignant: Minnie died of cancer in 1979, five years after “Lovin’ You” was a hit.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Love’s Holiday.mp3
Love finds expression in sex. So, to round this thing off, a couple of songs saturated with love and sex. On “Love’s Holiday”, Maurice White rocks his sonorous voice in the most seductive manner. Forget about Barry White or Isaac Hayes, Maurice’s is the voice of a sex god. “Would you mind if I looked in your eyes till I’m hypnotised, and I lose my pride?” Playa got game. But, ooops, what’s this: “Would you mind if I make love to you till I’m satisfied, once again.” Till you are satisfied, Mo? What sort of seductive proposition is that? Promise her satisfaction twice over before you think of yourself, you selfish goon!

Foo Fighters – Everlong (acoustic version.mp3)*
Maurice’s women may be better off with Mr Grohl, who may not look particularly hot, take much care of his hair (if the Grammys performance is a reliable guide) or have a particularly sexy voice, but he has a way with words: “Slow how you wanted it to be… Breath out, so I can breathe you in, hold you in.” And here is the beauty of Grohl’s seduction technique: he doesn’t make grandiose promises of being a bureau-of-standards-approved lovemachine; he doesn’t flatter about bodies being wonderlands. He just outlines how he plans to make an emotional connection while in the act of making love. Which makes this is one of the best song about sex ever.

Love Songs For Every Situation: Falling In Love

February 11th, 2008 3 comments

I’ve said it before (sort of): Valentine’s Day is crap. But that is no reason not to deal with the subject of love this month. All of it: the good, the bad, the shitty. And, oh man, love can be a real bastard. So over ten posts I’ll aim to cover almost all emotions that accompany love: the butterflies that take residence in one’s stomach, the giddiness of being in love, the betrayal and pure pain of love dying, the emotion of being left heartbroken, the bitterness that follows a broken love, the regrets of a love failed, the confusion and conflicts that love deals in several ways, the pure pain of unrequited love, and love that cannot be (not necessarily in that order).

We’ll kick off with the butterflies of falling in love, that incredible emotion when you know that somebody else has dominates your mind, the euphoric fear as you realise things will not be the same again, as you face the prospect of happiness or utter heartbreak. The artists in our selection here are generally a hopeful lot.

The Spinners – Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.mp3
The singer in this glorious slice of 1973 soul has discovered with amazement that he is falling for his latest flame. He makes grand promises of that love being everlasting, mainly, one suspects, because he fears that “there will never come a day when you up and take your love away”. In the fadeout he is begging that she, who in the first verse seems to have fallen for him, will not fuck him over. He doesn’t use such language, of course, but the message is clear: dude is giddy and scared.

Colbie Caillat – Realize.mp3
I’ve posted this before (twice, I’m ashamed to say), but I’m all for recycling. And this song is as perfect for this post as Colbie believes she and her object of love are for each other. A cute song which acknowledges that love on first sight is not a common occurrence. She and the paramour have known each other for a while, and suddenly — pow — she realises she’s in love. That happened to me once while away in Johannesburg (possibly the ugliest city in the world). Sitting in the car, I realised — pow — that I was in love with a girl back home. Alas, the story will have to continue in the post about unrequited love.

The Weepies – Gotta Have You.mp3
Another recycled song, I’m afraid (I promise, it’ll get better as we go along, but this is about finding the right song for the right emotion. And this one happens to feature four I’ve posted before). The cute Deb Talan sets out her agenda: she has to win the heart of the man who has entered hers. I’m not sure she is going about it the right way as she admits to deliberately annoying him in the first verse. Yet, her commitment is evident: “No amount of coffee, no amount of cryin’, no amount of whiskey, no amount of wine; no, no, no, no, no, nothing else will do: I’ve gotta have you, I’ve gotta have you.”

Stephen Bishop – It Might Be You.mp3
As I said in the introduction to the Valentines mix tape (thanks for the nice comments, those who bothered), love demands some cliché, and Stephen Bishop is our man for that purpose with the love theme from Tootsie, which was a rather nice movie starring the lovely Jessica Lange, and some chap. Beware though, only the melody is cliché; the lyrics are quite beautiful. “I’ve been saving love songs and lullabies. And there’s so much more no one’s ever heard before”. Awwww! This is a vinyl rip, for that extra piece of romantic nostalgia (that is to say, I can’t find my Stephen Bishop CD).

Michelle Featherstone – Falling.mp3
The wonderful Michelle Featherstone doesn’t go with the giddy in this quite fantastic, Mazzy Star-ish song. Love is sucking her in and making her knees buckle, but not necessarily in a good way. She’s not comfortable making herself vulnerable: “In my state of vertigo I can’t look down, can’t feel the ground, so will you catch me?” The fear of falling…

Weezer – Falling For You.mp3
Oh yes, falling in love can come in all sorts of musical genres (though in C&W that would probably involve a doggy gone died). So we’ve had the Spinners falling in love soulfully, Colbie Caillat acoustically, the Weepies folkily, Michelle Featherstone darkly and Stephen Bishop schmaltzily. Weezer doing so alt.rockingly. And what a joyous song to do it with. The lyrics are less joyous. Rivers Cuomo knows he’s setting himself up: “I’m shakin’ at your touch, I like you way too much. My baby I’m afraid I’m falling for you. I’d do ’bout anything to get the hell out alive, or maybe I would rather settle down, with you.”

Valentines – Any Major Love Mix CD-R

February 7th, 2008 12 comments

I am no great fan of Valentine’s Day, and don’t usually join in the hype. It seems time appropriate to post a Valentine’s mix though — especially for all the lovers out there who want to express their emotions via the time-honoured medium of the mix-tape, but lack the time or energy to bang a good one together. If I can prevent one fool in love from rushing out to buy a Valentine’s Day comp featuring the stylings of Celine, Whitney and, invariably, the totally misapplied James Blunt classic “You’re Beautiful”, then I feel I have done good.

Compiling this mix represented a challenge, for the genres represented herein tend to be less than effusive on matters of the heart. But when the artists representing these genres do effuse, they tend to do so eloquently and without dangling too much by way of cliché. Of course, love does attract, even demand, cliché, and some of our artists here toy with the odd hackneyed sentiment. These may sound silly to us cynics, but to the fool in love, these clichés are poetry and fact.

Has there ever been a more beautiful love song written than Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest”? Not all the songs here are about the blissfulness of love, perhaps Colbie Caillat’s song is the most conventional love song in this lot. Bright Eyes’ “First Day In My Life” has an undertone of uncertainty. Jens Lekman’s love is slavish, to the point of making grand romantic gestures involving vandalism at his lover’s instructions. Hello Saferide introduces a wonderful paradox in wishing her lover sickness. Liz Phair rounds things off with a take which makes being love seem as difficult as it really is.

Tracklisting:

1. The Postal Service – Such Great Heights
‘I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they are perfectly alligned.’

2. Jets To Brazil – Sweet Avenue
‘ Now all these tastes improve through the view that comes with you. Like they handed me my life, for the first time it felt worth it, like I deserved it.’

3. Michelle Featherstone – Rest Of My Life
‘ How ’bout that? Waking up every morning with me. Spend our time drinking coffee, speaking softly as the days go by.’

4. The Weepies – Somebody Loved
‘Now my feet turn the corner back home. Sun turns the evening to rose, stars turning high up above. You turn me into somebody loved.’

5. Bright Eyes – First Day Of My Life
‘ Yours was the first face that I saw, I think I was blind before I met you. I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I’ve been, but I know where I want to go.’

6. Ben Folds – The Luckiest
‘And where was I before the day that I first saw your lovely face? Now I see it everyday, and I know: I’m the luckiest.’

7. Joseph Arthur – Echo Park
‘ The fire never understands the spark, the way it is with you and me.’

8. Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes
‘The sun alone will never do, without your love to shine on through’

9. Jens Lekman – You Are The Light
‘ Yeah I got busted, so I used my one phone call to dedicate a song to you on the radio.’

10. Hello Saferide – Get Sick Soon
‘ Oh, I love you! I wish you got the flu, you’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen — like a teddy bear on heroin ... You can lay your weight on me and I’ll be your backbone. Lay your weight on me, you won’t have to worry.’

11. Colbie Caillat – Magic
‘ I remember the way that you move. You’re dancing easily through my dreams. It’s hitting me harder and harder with all your smiles.’

12. Josh Kelley – To Make You Feel My Love
‘ I’d go hungry I’d go black and blue. I’d go crawling down the avenue. No there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love.’

13. Ben Harper – By My Side
‘My care for you is from the ground up to the sky it’s over under up above down below and to the side.’

14. Mason Jennings – Ballad For My One True Love
‘And all the while I ‘m dreaming of the ballad for my one true love, searching for the perfect way to say: I love you sweetheart, this is my dream come true.’

15. Peter Mayer – Now Touch The Air Softly
‘And I’ll love you as long as the furrow the plow, as However is Ever, and Ever is Now.’

16. Richard Hawley – Baby, You’re My Light
‘But I believe in you and now I’ll show it. And as life goes on you know you don’t have to hate all you find. Baby, you’re my light.’

17. Mindy Smith – It’s Amazing
‘ It’s amazing what you do to me: took my heart and made me feel things I never felt before. It’s changing me, Which direction so certainly; shook me up and threw me around. When we learn to breathe it all in.’

18. Josh Rouse – Wonderful
‘ Reading the paper with my coffee, and before you must go there’s one thing you should know: I think you’re wonderful. Don’t change.’

19. Jackie Greene – Love Song; 2.00 am
‘ Should your mind forget me, regret me, or even do me wrong, you’ll always live here in my heart, ’cause, baby, that’s where you belong.’

20. Eastmountainsouth – So Are You to Me
‘As the ruby in the setting, as the fruit upon the tree, as the wind blows over the plains, so are you to me.’

21. Bob Schneider – The World Exploded Into Love
‘The world exploded into love all around me, and every time I take a look around me, I have to smile. ’

22. Liz Phair – Good Love Never Dies
‘ Tell me what can I say to keep you in my life, all the words slip away when I look in your eyes, because I can never relax.’

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