For this week’s mix, our team of cute little cupids put together their recommendations for one love song and one “anti-love” song. Take a peek at our Valentine’s picks, and watch out for those pesky arrows!
THE REPLACEMENTS, “I WILL DARE” &
NEKO CASE, “MAKE YOUR BED”
On the few occasions I’ve been asked to DJ a friend’s wedding, I have always played the Replacements’ “I Will Dare” of their 1984 LP, Let It Be. If there’s a finer example of what a good partner in crime can inspire as a part of a relationship, I don’t know what it is. Rather than the standard love song tropes, the fact that Westerberg’s lyrics reflect being inspired by one’s significant other to go farther and do more always gives me this feeling of looking at my wife and being like, “Y’know, together we can do some amazing things.” Also, that rhythm section of bassist Tommy Stinson and drummer Chris Mars gives this song such a perfectly danceable beat, even if you’ve never heard it before, you’ll be moved to — well, move. I’ve definitely stepped out from behind the DJ equipment to cut a rug while this one spins.
I’ve probably seen Neko Case more than any other touring artist out there, but even after going to her performances for the better part of two decades, I’ve only once ever heard her sing the murder ballad “Make Your Bed” live. Off of the 2001 EP, Canadian Amp, “Make Your Bed” was co-written with Canadian roots rockers the Sadies, and it does everything I want a murder ballad to do: talk about a relationship gone wrong, with a little revenge and, obviously, murder. It’s musically beautiful, but lyrically so very, very dark. Every murder ballad is basically about love gone wrong, but it’s utterly refreshing to hear a woman doing the killing for once, as opposed to being the victim, as is so often the case. I don’t sing well, but damn if this song doesn’t make me try. — NICK SPACEK
THE-DREAM, “PIMP C LIVES” &
FELIX KUBIN, “HELLO”
As Emily Pothast notes in the A Glitch in the Matrix documentary, the only path to empathy is sex. So here is a song about how deeply, cosmically entwined lust makes humans, and another about complete mental, physical, and spiritual self-isolation. Both songs embrace certain forms of cavernous resonance, with The-Dream’s reaching the
apogee of romance, like the voice of a horny god cast down from the heavens. Felix Kubin twists the language and vibe of a Lionel Richie to be as lonely and selfish as that song always secretly was. — BRIAN MILLER
THE MOLDY PEACHES, “ANYBODY ELSE BUT YOU” &
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, “YOU MUST BE OUT OF YOUR MIND”
These two songs were picked out by my lovely lady friend Freddie so if you don’t like them, keep your trap shut about it or you’ll have me to answer to. The anti-love song she picked is “You Must Be Out of Your Mind” by The Magnetic Fields, one of the first bands we bonded over musically. This is from the group’s 2010 album Realism, which in keeping with their affinity for theme albums was almost entirely played with acoustic instruments. The lyrics describe our narrator’s diatribe to a former lover who’s crawled back into his life. It doesn’t have any of the longing pathos you normally see in songs of this type – the melody is sweet but solid, the rhythm steady, the structure and arrangement deceptively complex, and Stephen Merritt devotes his considerable lyrical panache to a series of devastating owns and put-downs, all sung with double-tracked octave vocals that put you in mind of a group of people telling you off. Paired with this offering is the love song “Anybody Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches. Lots of people got sick of this song through overexposure in the mid-aughts, but with the benefit of a considerable gap between now and the heyday of twee, it’s easy to see this song’s appeal. There’s a sort of dorky earnestness to them that no other group of their scene ever managed to capture. This song was picked out to pair with The Magnetic Fields for a number of reasons: first, the dual voices of Adam Green and Kimya Dawson are, like Stephen Meritt’s, untrained and rough around the edges, but where Merritt’s is a full-throated and world-weary drawl, the two Peaches’ voices give off a flitting shyness. Where the arrangement on “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind” is lush and complex, the Peaches in “Anyone Else But You” don’t multi-track and merely noodle around two basic chords, with the only embellishment a major 7th to add a slight hint of wistfulness. And where the lyrics on “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind” are polished, verbose, and full of adult recrimination, the lyrics on “Anyone Else But You” are charmingly inexpert, childlike, and self-effacing (Dawson supposedly wrote the song for her toddler). It’s simple, humble, and remarkably free of artifice, like love oughta be. — TYLER PETERSON / FREDDIE VOSS
THE DARKNESS, “I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE” &
A DAY TO REMEMBER, “SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE”
This song comes to mind because when I was in a relationship my senior year of high school, I made this “our song.” Eventually the person I was dating replaced that with Chantal Kreviazuk’s “Feels Like Home.” I was seeing her naked on a routine basis, I understood compromises.
We once had sex three times while Chicago’s “You’re The Inspiration” was on repeat. Why the hell wasn’t that our song? Just in case any single people are reading this, I still never go soft while Peter Cetera’s singing.
Occasionally I’ll wonder what that ex is up to. She texted me out the blue around three years ago and it was fascinating. I hadn’t heard from her in half a decade and she says “you’re the best sex I ever had and that was so long ago.” I’m well aware I’m not Peter North and the sad reality is I was probably the only guy going down on her. She mentioned a guy she was with for years who refused to have sex outside the bedroom. Pathetic.
A few days after that, she told me about a recent date where she and the guy went to a porn shop and had sex in one of the booths while watching lesbian porn. After COVID, I think we all feel like Howie Mandel while imagining sitting in a porn booth where guys who make Al Goldstein look like Rock Hudson rubbed one out. I hope that actually happened because it’s apparently the stimulation she was looking for.
Last I knew she ended up marrying that guy. Haven’t heard from her in awhile so I hope she’s still doing stuff that sounds like an episode of Red Shoe Diaries.
Check out The Darkness.
I struggled trying to think of an anti-love song. At one point I thought about picking Crispin Glover’s “Auto Manipulator.” Jerking off instead of finding a date, that’s anti-love right?
I guess it’s natural to bring up A Day To Remember after my first song choice sent me back to high school. A Day To Remember was one of those groups that Alternative Press told my generation were worth checking out. I got into them after seeing a music video for their single “The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle” where Ron Jeremy is in it. Like Bill Cosby’s “Spanish Fly” routine, it hasn’t aged well.
When I was a junior in high school, A Day To Remember released their album Homesick and that’s when everybody and anybody began listening to them. I’ve heard people talk The Black Album coming out and girls who loved Duran Duran switching over to Metallica. For my era, girls who had Lady Gaga’s The Fame memorized now had “If It Means A Lot To You” on repeat. I can’t imagine how many guys learned that on an acoustic guitar to get laid.
What’s A Day To Remember up to nowadays, are they still together? I wonder how far they are from me and my high school friends going to their shows with manboobs and receding hairlines, trying to recapture our youth in a pit scored to “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” I’m imagining Jeremy McKinnon watching us call for help on the ground because our sciatic nerve is acting up and thinking “it wasn’t that long ago when our shows were filled with horny Hayley Williams clones. Now it’s guys who look like Steve Bannon. Oh, to take me back to a time when Conan O’Brien hosted The Tonight Show.” — EMILIO AMARO
JOY DIVISION, “LOVE WILL TEAR US APART” &
Normal people would hesitate to brand this a love song, but I’m what I like to describe as “healthily sick,” so it counts! Despite millennials and Gen Z brandishing Peter Saville’s artwork on t-shirts (from the band’s Unknown Pleasures album), I doubt most of them are aware of the song, let alone the band, which is a pity—go listen to them, kids! Tortured lead singer Ian Curtis was conflicted about his marriage–and life in general–and the song is one of many signposts indicating his mental state; it’s truly angst. Despite the pain Curtis feels, the song is a testament to the effects of a powerful emotion like love and it’s not surprising to me why it’s been embraced by fellow punks and goths—it’s dark yet immediately catchy (Who knew such a dark love song could be so danceable!). Love is a terrifyingly intense emotion, which Curtis acknowledges, and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” fits in nicely with the dark poetic works of French symbolist poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire. It’s a shame Curtis sought relief from this mortal coil, cutting his life short at 22, but his beautiful work lives on to be admired and celebrated.
Even if the band hadn’t intended it, the entire album feels like a response to the end of lead singer Damon Albarn and Elastica’s Justine Frischman’s seven-year relationship. Is it an “anti-love” album? I’m not entirely sure–maybe Beck’s Sea Change is a better candidate, but despite that album’s quality, I get too depressed listening to it, so I pick 13. As chief lyricist, Albarn uses the album to sort out his feelings of his relationship aftermath, for someone to “heal his mind,” as described in the opener, “Tender.” There is a dizzying amount of emotions relayed immediately after that elegiac, gospel intro, but there’s an overwhelming sense of melancholy coloring the entire album, culminating explicitly in “No Distance Left to Run,” the last song on the album with lyrics (the instrumental “Optigan 1” acts like a mournful coda to the whole sad drama); it’s as if Albarn is talking to Frischman directly: “When you see me/Please turn your back and walk away/I don’t want to see you/’Cause I know the dreams that you keep is wearing me/When you’re coming down, think of me here/I got no distance left to run” (I hope his bandmates gave Albarn a hug!). I’m sure 13 was a cathartic experience for Albarn, but his misery helped create a truly remarkable album. — JAY ALARY
LORETTA LYNN & CONWAY TWITTY, “YOU’RE THE REASON OUR KIDS ARE UGLY” &
DOLLY PARTON, “I WASTED MY TEARS”
Well, this Tennessee girl decided to go country today. If you think that sounds a little reserved, maybe it is. But honestly, there’s not another genre (okay, maybe other than R&B) that regularly speaks so candidly about both love and heartbreak. After all, what is a country song if not someone swooning about a sweetheart or crying into a bottle of whiskey when that sweetheart ain’t so sweet no more?
My love song comes from frequent collaborators Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, off their 1978 LP, Honky Tonk Heroes. “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” might sound like an anti-love title, but it’s really about a couple who are comfortable enough with each other’s faults that those imperfections let the love grow rather than stifle out the flame.
More sophisticated country fans will know the song previously charted in 1977 with a recording by the songwriters themselves, L.E. White and Lola Jean Dillon (those on Music Row recognize White’s name as the writer for several of Twitty’s hit singles, including the Grammy-winning “After the Fire Is Gone,” also a duet with Loretta Lynn. Dillon is also notable for having written several of Lynn’s “album tracks,” aka the lesser-known songs that just kind of show up on the record.). The White/Dillon version is almost funnier, with extra ad-libbed “insults” and slightly more of a flirty feel between the two singers. I almost say this earlier version should be recommended over Conway and Loretta, but I’m such a big softie when it comes to Loretta Lynn that I’m too overcome with joy when I hear her voice (either her singing or speaking voice, it doesn’t matter) that I literally cannot recommend anything else.
I heard a long time ago that 3/4 time is the closest to our natural heart rhythm, which is why many of us are so drawn to waltzes. I can’t really say how true that actually is, but as someone who often has an irregular heartbeat (randomized tachycardia is a bitch), I can say from experience that a song in 3/4 time does often feel more soothing than others. So I guess it’s a good thing I grew up around classic country music and the Grand Old Opry.
“I Wasted My Tears,” with its up-tempo, waltzy beat, appears on the 1967 record Hello, I’m Dolly. You may have guessed by the album’s title that it was Dolly Parton’s professional debut, and you’d be right. What you may not know, though, is that the head of Monument Records at that time didn’t think Dolly’s voice was very well suited for country music, so he tried to brand her as a bubblegum pop star. I guess that guy hadn’t visited the Smoky Mountains much.
Anyway, country music’s reputation for simple songwriting may be deemed as insulting to some, but I find that to be one of the genre’s strong points. There’s an art to straightforward, uncomplicated storytelling, and those who master it deserve more credit than perhaps many music fans are willing to give (we all know at least five people who answer “anything but country” when asked what music they like). “I Wasted My Tears,” in four words, perfectly captures the shame associated with rejection, the self-loathing that comes when we realize we’ve been devoting time and energy to someone who doesn’t love us back. What a simple, honest, and relatable a line “I wasted my tears/when I cried over you” is. That’s what country music does: it slaps us in the face with its candor, especially when we need it most. “I Wasted My Tears” isn’t about wallowing in our sorrows; it’s a call to get ourselves together post-heartbreak. — ELBEE
TENACIOUS D, “FUCK HER GENTLY” &
BEN FOLDS FIVE “SONG FOR THE DUMPED”
While I considered some more serious entries for my “love song,” I decided to go with the ultimate laugh-along love ditty instead. Sure the Jimmy Eat World track that my wife and I enjoyed during our first dance at our wedding would have meant more in many ways, but laughter really needs to find a way into our lives somehow. And, being that my life has been hectic and insane lately, I certainly need that laughter.
That said, I still have a distinct memory of a good friend’s little brother singing me this song, as if he was serenading his lover, during a college fire drill on the lawn outside my dorm. That always adds an extra smile for this one.
“Give me my money back you bitch!”
I love the rawness and intensity of Ben Folds’ piano rock, especially in the BF5 era. This song is fun and funny and it packs an emotional punch to boot! I hope many of you readers listen to and enjoy this jam! — JUSTIN HARLAN