February 12, 2007

I don’t want to sit across the table from you wishing I could run: Valentine’s Day Music

As Wednesday creeps into the edges of your consciousness, it’s my pleasure to again pair with two of Philly’s finest — Bruce from Some Velvet Blog & Duke from The Late Greats — for a tag team Valentine’s Day bacchanalia. There are millions and trillions of love songs out there, ranging from the sublime to the silly, from the nostalgic to the nasty. We each arbitrarily picked out ten that we liked for this holiday of cupids and red roses, and we’re putting it up 2 days early to give you Romeos (and Juliets) a chance to maybe use some of these for that mix CD to win the heart of your true love, or for some background music, or whatever Wednesday brings for you (even if that something is a date with Ben, Jerry, and The Notebook).

Pucker up.

Cupid – Otis Redding
Hands down my favorite rendition of one of the most perfect love songs, even topping the smoothness of Sam Cooke. Otis somehow rounds up a whole boatload of soul and anguished longing into his version (with his trademark groans) and thumps up the backbeat to make this a love song you can also shake your hips to.

Catch The Wind – Donovan
A fantastically sweet little forgotten ballad from ’60s troubadour Donovan –who here sounds like a less-gravelly Dylan– with lyrics like, “In the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty I want to be in the warm hold of your loving mind. To feel you all around me, and to take your hand along the sand . . . ” Okay, so it’s a little cheesy (what love song isn’t) but it comes off as unassuming and perfectly sentimental — plus it has a wistful harmonica bit at the end.

Grow Old With Me (John Lennon cover) – Postal Service
Ahh, it’s the sentiment that’s been embroidered across a thousand pillows, framed under glass, and written in loopy script on countless greeting cards: “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” Lennon’s words here take on the shimmery electronic sheen of The Postal Service in a incandescent cover that kind of makes me feel like I am at a junior high dance. In a good way.

Love You Madly – Cake
Here’s a bit more deadpan (and, frankly, quite funny) examination of longterm love and elevated expectations, from whence comes the title of this post: “I don’t want to doubt you, know everything about you, I don’t want to sit across the table from you wishing I could run.” Who doesn’t want love and excitement every single day? Ahh, Cake.

Sick Of Myself – Matthew Sweet
An absolutely flawless, crunchy, irresistible power pop love song that is in my top 5 most days. I could listen to this ad infinitum: “‘Cuz I’m sick of myself when I look at you, something is beautiful and true in a world that’s ugly and a lie . . .” Just hearing it brings a huge smile to my face.

Easier – Glen Phillips
Glen from Toad The Wet Sprocket has been playing with his fellow Sprockets since high school, and he’s been with his wife Laurel almost as long. This song was a pleasant surprise to me for its honesty, maturity, and warmth. It is a sentimental love song that’s a celebration of getting those gray hairs alongside someone you’ve known for that long — as he says, “I want to get almost too familiar, but still notice the way that you walk.”

When U Love Somebody – Fruit Bats
To me, this simple and lighthearted song sounds the way that flustered/pounding heart/new love feels. In this song, singer Eric Johnson is so overwhelmed with his hand resting on the knee of his love interest on the bus that he can’t do much else other than forget to breathe and repeat the same lines over again. But we love it. Fruit Bats have a quirky and handclappy good-feeling sound that is perfect for a new relationship.

Fresh Feeling – Eels
In addition to a beat that I adore and a fascinating cello loop, this song is a celebration of someone who makes you see things with new eyes. E shows with lyrics like “Birds singing a song, old paint is peeling, this is that fresh, that fresh feeling” why he is one of the best songwriters out there today, even in his stark simplicity. It doesn’t take a lot of flowery words to get right to the essence of what you mean.

Tidal Wave – David Gray
Sweet son of a beesting, this is one of the grandest, purest, achingly beautiful love songs of the last decade (or more). It’s deceptively simple in its impressionistic couplets, but flawless. “Ever since your fingertips, ever since your eyes. Talking with the light on, bluer skies,” or “Coming over Waterloo, dreaming of your hands. Want to run away now, foreign lands.” Somehow Gray captures all the addictive longing of love, as well as the fear that you’ll somehow mess it up, and that the bird will fly. Two minutes and twenty seconds of perfection.

Let My Love Open The Door (Pete Townshend cover) – M. Ward
M. Ward turns this ’80s synth rocker-ballad into a good-natured amble through a sunny field, maybe with a banjo on your back and one of those drums you can walk and tap along to. It’s got a balmy and expansive air to it — sweet and wonderful.

(Meaning I absolutely could not narrow it down to just ten):
Valentine – The Replacements


Check here for Bruce’s (Some Velvet Blog)

Check here for Duke’s (The Late Greats)
(Duke designed the graphic above. Man, I look foxy. Did my hair up special.)

And that’s one festive menage a blog, as we call it.


  • Yay for the Replacements! That song has one of the best lyrics ever:

    “If you were a pill
    I’d take a handful at my will
    And I’d knock you back with something sweet and strong
    Plenty of times you wake up in February make-up
    Like the moon and the morning star you’re gone…”

    Jeff C. — February 12, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  • Wait, wait, wait – Otis Redding, too? (I just noticed that) As always, you have impeccable taste. Because any day that has Otis Redding and the Replacements in it is a good day.

    Jeff C. — February 12, 2007 @ 9:47 pm

  • not to rain on your parade…but didn’t Mr. Phillips split with his wife?

    One of my friends was chit-chatting with him after a concert, and he was asking about his family…and Mr. Phillips sounded a little bitter when he said they had split…well I guess that is up for some more investigation…

    CF — February 13, 2007 @ 8:14 am

  • Awwww, man.

    heather — February 13, 2007 @ 8:17 am

  • Great list, as always. Nothing better than a really great love song.

    Tough when you can only choose 10, but here’s a couple that would go great with what you already have:

    God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
    These Arms of Mine – Otis Redding
    Parachutes – Pearl Jam (how can you not have something by PJ??? Yeah, I know a lot of people on the message board say it’s about Joey Ramone, but I don’t buy it)

    Brennan J. Gray — February 13, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  • so I did the investigation…looks like Mr. and Mrs. Phillips are still together…yeahhh…

    Sorry Mr. Phillips…I will have a serious talk with my friend…

    Friistyle — February 13, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  • Yes! I love Otis! Nice Nice list!! My “Saint Valentines & Cupid’s Arrow” mix is up over at “Doctor Mooney’s 115th Dream”

    Check er out…

    May the wintry mix not come your way on VDAY!


    Doctor Mooney — February 13, 2007 @ 11:34 pm

  • Nice web!

    Beautiful list. Don´t you think that coul be a little tribute to “whole lotta love” in the cake´s song? just at the very beggining.

    there is also one cupid cover by dylan and harrison, improvised i think but very nice…

    I would add one of the 69 love songs by the magnetic fields.

    keep going!

    ONio — February 14, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  • What a great list! Particularly liked the Matthew Sweet, Glen Phillips, and the M. Ward. I heard M. Ward’s cover last year this time, once, and couldn’t forget it. That’s what a cover should be about, IMHO – taking a song you thought you knew and showing it to you in an entirely different light. Most excellent!

    WankelRotaryEngine — February 15, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
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