Playlist: Be my valentine

Okay. So here’s something that’s never been done before, at least not on this blog, or really, during any of my years of blogging. It’s true. I have never done a post observing this somewhat suspect ‘holiday’, a day that has been over-commercialized and become more about selling chocolates and flowers and overpriced dinners than spending time with the one you love. Still, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I do have a sappy side, a side that gets totally wrapped up in rom-coms and even the odd Hallmark Christmas film. And yeah, my wife and I typically do observe February 14th, usually in our own quiet way, but the odd time we have gone out for a nice dinner and paid exorbitant prices for roses.

It just so happened a few weeks ago that I realized I was due for a new playlist and the idea occurred to me to create one of ‘love songs’. Then, I quelled the idea, remembering the struggle Victoria and I had looking for appropriate songs in my collection that we could dance to on our wedding day. “Do none of your bands write songs about love?” she asked, frustrated and tired at one point during our search. Apparently not, was the answer, at least not in the conventional sense, the sense in which hair bands managed it in the 80s and out of which some R&B singers have made a career. Often the alternative and indie bands to whom I listen wrote beautiful lyrics that touched on love but did so looking at it not as a pure thing but one to be feared and revered, a bringer of both pain and joy. In short, not your typical love songs.

In the end, we found a handful to use, of which a few of them can be found in the playlist below. Of course, I had Victoria in mind while putting this one together, though I know she wouldn’t appreciate many of the tracks, still, there’s a little something for everyone. I’ve got some iconic tunes by influential alt-rock bands like The Cure and The Smiths, lesser known acts from the 90s like The Lowest of the Low and My Drug Hell, and of course, highlights from the indie kids of this new century, like Bloc Party and The Decemberists. I’ve got the whole list below, in case the Spotify doesn’t work for you, and included a lyrical gem from each song, just to give a glimpse of what you can be listening for as you peruse the list.

1. The Cure “Lovesong”
“Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am home again. Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again.”

2. Elbow “An audience with the pope”
“I have an audience with the Pope, and I’m saving the world at eight, but if she says she needs me, she says she needs me, everybody’s gonna have to wait.”

3. Blur “To the end”
“You and I collapsed in love. And it looks like we might have made it.”

4. The Rural Alberta Advantage “In the summertime”
“Once in a while, I know our hearts beat out of time. And once in a while, I know they’ll fall back in line.”

5. Teenage Fanclub “What you do to me”
“There’s something about you, got me down on my knees.”

6. The Cranberries “Dreams”
“Now I tell you openly, you have my heart so don’t hurt me. You’re what I couldn’t find, totally amazing mind, so understanding and so kind, you’re everything to me.”

7. 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’re perfectly aligned.”

8. Coldplay “Yellow”
“Look at the stars, look how they shine for you.”

9. Depeche Mode “One caress”
“Just one caress from you and I’m blessed.”

10. James “Just like Fred Astaire”
“Meteors may strike the earth. Nations live and die. I’m the boy who got the girl who showed me how to fly.”

11. The Beautiful South “Song for whoever”
“I love you from the bottom of my pencil case. I love you in the songs I write and sing.”

12. Death Cab For Cutie “I will follow you into the dark”
“Love of mine, someday you will die, but I’ll be close behind, and I’ll follow you into the dark. No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white, just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark.”

13. Oasis “Wonderwall”
“I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.”

14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Do you love me?”
“I knew from that moment on that I’d love her till the day that I died.”

15. The Lowest of the Low “Subversives”
“There’s something subversive about you and me, ’cause there’s a market-value on love and we’re getting something for free.”

16. The Smiths “There is a light that never goes out”
“And if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.”

17. The Lemonheads “Alison’s starting to happen”
“I never looked at her this way before, but now she’s all I see.”

18. Bloc Party “This modern love”
“Do you want to come over and kill some time? Throw your arms around me.”

19. The Verve “Sonnet”
“Yes, there’s love if you want it, don’t sound like no sonnet, my lord.”

20. Chairlift “Bruises”
“I tried to do handstands for you, but every time I fell for you. I’m permanently black and blue, permanently blue for you.”

21. The Decemberists “We both go down together”
“And my parents will never consent to this love. But I hold your hand.”

22. Black Box Recorder “Andrew Ridgley”
“I came alive to the smouldering fire in your eyes. I love you now and I will ’til the day that I die.”

23. The Stone Roses “Ten storey love song”
“When your heart is black and broken and you need a helping hand. When you’re so much in love, you don’t know just how much you can stand.”

24. First Aid Kit “Emmylou”
“I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June, if you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too. No, I’m not asking much of you, just sing little darling, sing with me.”

25. Björk “Violently happy”
“Since I met you, this small town hasn’t got room for my big feelings. Violently happy, ’cause I love you.”

26. Longpigs “On and on”
“All the songs that I’ve sung you, more often than you know. You’re the love that I’ve clung to more often than I’ve let it show.”

27. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros “Home”
“Ah, home, let me come home, home is wherever I’m with you.”

28. My Drug Hell “Girl at the bus stop”
“Girl at the bus stop, I wished for once that the bus would never come. She sat downstairs, I sat behind I couldn’t get her off my mind.”

29. Pulp “Babies”
“Oh I want to take you home. I want to give you children. You might be my girlfriend, yeah.”

30. Nine Inch Nails “Closer”
“I want to f*ck you. I want to taste you. I want to feel you.”

Enjoy. Happy (Saint) Valentine’s Day.

And of course, I’d be up for hearing what your own favourite ‘love’ songs are from the alternative and indie rock realms.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.

Best tunes of 2002: #17 Doves “Caught by the river”

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In the handful of years directly following my and Victoria’s big move to Ottawa, we lived a very frugal life. This was more out of necessity than aesthetic, given my student debt, Victoria’s concentration on finishing her master’s degree, and our measly collective earnings. Still, we often returned to Toronto to visit friends and family, but had to do so by spending the least amount of money possible, and in the periods where we didn’t have our own wheels, this meant long hours aboard the Greyhound bus fleet.

I particularly remember one such trip, an overnighter on the Friday of the August long weekend. And, well, the main reason I remember that it was that particular weekend is that we arrived just as the subway was opening on the Saturday morning and we had to wrestle our way into the subway station amongst the drunken crowds still partying after the opening night of Caribana. It wasn’t a fun experience to say the least, but perhaps I am digressing a bit too much here.

Right.

So I’ve never really been able to sleep on planes or trains, and especially not buses, no matter how tired I’ve been. I’m a pretty tall guy with spectacularly bad posture and can never get comfortable enough to catch proper rem sleep in those seats. However, I hadn’t actually come to that conclusion about myself in those days and still made every valiant effort. That particular evening, I had a new album by a new band in my discman and it went down so well through my earphones on the first spin, I repeated it. And I continued to do so for the entire five (plus) hour trip. As you might’ve guess by now, unlike Victoria beside me, I never properly fell asleep that night, just faded in and out, while the Doves and their sophomore album, “The last broadcast”, guided me through the surreal, not-quite subconscious journey, brightening an otherwise worthless night’s sleep.

This album drew me in and enveloped me for most of the following months. I was in love. I identified them with the dream pop and Madchester bands of the early 90s that I knew and loved. Their sound kept some of the dance aesthetic of their earlier incarnation as Sub Sub but it’s really the layers in the music that define who the Doves are. The music of “The last broadcast” is almost tactile, like running into a massive cobweb that wisps around you and grabs onto you, even as you try to break through it and break it down. It’s great music for driving at night and for listening to with ear phones. Believe me, I’ve tried both multiple times.

The track of our focus today, “Caught by the river”, always reminds me of R.E.M.’s “Find the river”. Perhaps because of the word “river” in the song title or perhaps because it is the finale track of another standout album. Both tracks are the perfect way to close out their respective album.

“You and I
Were so full of love and hope
Would you give it all up now?
Would you give in just to spite them all?”

The undulating strumming of the rhythm guitar emulate the feeling of being cast overboard and caught up in the crashing and splashing waves of a tumbling river. It’s a river in which the water is just fine, the chiming guitars and Goodwin’s soothing vocals ensure just that. And then, the eddies created by all the reverb and effects  just swallow you up whole and let you drift off into eternity. Ohhhhh yessssss.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

 

Vinyl love: The Smiths “Meat is murder”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Smiths
Album Title: Meat is murder
Year released: 1985
Year reissued: 2011
Details: Remastered, part of box set that includes booklet and poster

The skinny: If you missed last week’s post for this series, I’ll once again forewarn you that I am in the midst of a Smiths bender. This here’s the second post in a series that will take me through the entire “Complete” box set that Rhino Records UK put out a number of years ago. “Meat is murder” is the second proper full length by the Manchester quartet and was their highest charting record in the UK. As I mentioned last week, all the records in the set follow the original track listing so you won’t find “How soon is now” here. However, the album did see Morrissey climb up on the vegetarian soapbox with the title track and also a belt out a few other humdinging tracks, like the one below.

Standout track: “That joke isn’t funny anymore”