Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fourteen Love Songs for February Fourteenth

"Blah blah Valentine's Day, started by Hallmark, commercializing human emotion, goddamn am I ever cynical."

You hear it every year, and it's largely true, but the fact remains, that's some pretty lazy-ass cynicism there, guy. If you want to be a cool cynic, you really need to step up your game a little. Or a lot. I'm just saying. You're not impressing anyone. I mean, I'm single and not all that overjoyed about it, but even so. Let's try to have a little dignity.

So rather than giving in to derivative cynicism, let's provide a brief list of some romantic songs ('romantic' being fairly loosely defined). Truth be told, it's only random chance that there ended up being fourteen of them, but I'm going to pretend it was intentional. That's just how I roll, retconning the shit out of some shit.

Angela Lansbury, "Beauty and the Beast"
"Bittersweet and strange/Finding you can change/Learning you were wrong." Spoiler alert: this will probably be number one in the list of Disney songs that I may write one day. Really exquisite. It probably goes without saying that I am referring here exclusively to the version sung by Mrs. Potts, NOT the hideous AOR version that plays over the closing credits. It's kinda heartbreaking--they came SO CLOSE to perfect artistry with this movie, but then they just HAAAD to let CĂ©line Dion get her bony talons all over it. Oh well--nothing can spoil the power of the proper version.

Suede, "The 2 of Us"
"The snow might fall and write the lines on the silent page/But you're outside making permanent love to the nuclear age/Two silhouettes by the cash machine make a lovers' dance/It's a tango for the lonely wives of the business class." Brett Anderson's lyrical facility doesn't get much better than this. Just a really breathtakingly lovely song.

Nick Cave, "To By by Your Side"
"Over the shifting desert plains/Across mountains all in flames/Through howling winds and driving rains/To be by your side." This is the song that plays over the closing credits of Winged Migration, a kind of documentaryish thing made up of mind-boggling aerial footage of migrating birds. The song perfectly evokes the kind of hushed, primal power of this ancient ritual.

Heaven 17, "Come Live with Me"
"I was thirty-seven; you were seventeen/You were half my age, the youth I'd never seen/Unlikely people meeting in a dream/Heaven only knows the way it should have been." Pretty sure that's illegal, but Glenn Gregory sells it perfectly with his always-sumptuous singing, creating an atmosphere of gorgeous melancholia. Probably the band's lyrical height.

Sparks, "(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing"
"When I kiss you, When I kiss you, I hear Charlie Parker playing/Will I miss you, will I miss you, when the playing ends one night?" Surely you did not doubt that Sparks would be present here. A lot of people would choose "Rocking Girls," and I can see their point, but for me, this is the sentimental favorite.

Oysterband, "A Time of Her Own"
"She moved me to tears, she tripped away years/Turned my dark night into day/Now all that is gone like the soft winter sun/And turned all my green into grey." Man, someone broke up with someone while this album (Here I Stand) was being written. With artistically rewarding results, however.

Blood or Whiskey, "When You Sing"
"Let your pain just leave you when you sing, she said/Let your pain just leave you when you sing/Let your pain just leave you when you sing, she said/And may god to you his mercy bring." A surprisingly tender love song from the rather rough-hewn Celtic-punk band (made up of actual Irish people, unlike many such ventures).

The Pogues, "Lorelai"
"I've thought of you in far-off places/Puzzled over lipstick traces/So help me god I will not cry/And then I think of Lorelai." Not particularly Celtic-sounding, but when you have a song as stunning as this, caviling seems inappropriate. Phil Chevron, as far as I can tell, has only ever written TWO songs, this and "Thousands Are Sailing." They're both exquisite-- so what the heck happened?

Marc Almond, "Love Letter"
"There are times/You can't hold back the tears/And hurt won't heal/With the years." Crazy that a guy who can write the most misanthropic songs you will hear can also on occasion throw off something as casually affecting as this.

Joe Jackson, "Steppin' Out"
"You can dress in pink and blue just like a child/And in a yellow taxi turn to me and smile/We'll be there in just a while/If you follow me." I feel sort of lame listing such a ubiquitously-known song, but dammit, I am highly familiar with just about everything JJ's ever recorded (excepting the dubious 'classical' experiments), so I feel entitled. Anyway, this song deserved to be a big hit, because it's beautiful. End of story.

XTC, "Seagulls Screaming 'Kiss Her, Kiss Her'"
"I say 'I like your coat'/Her thank you tugs my heart afloat/I nearly didn't hear for/Seagulls screaming 'kiss her, kiss her.'" This would be worth it for the title alone, but the song itself is nearly as evocative as what it's called. I don't always care that much for XTC, but this is really great.

Leonard Cohen, "Light as the Breeze"
"There's blood on every bracelet/You can see it; you can taste it/And it's please baby please baby please/And she says drink deeply, pilgrim/But don't forget there's a woman/Beneath this resplendent chemise." It occurs to me that I could probably fill this list with nothing but Cohen songs. But, as great as songs like "I'm Your Man," "Lover Lover Lover," "The Gypsy's Wife," "Winter Lady," "Suzanne," "Hallelujah," "Famous Blue Raincoat," "Dance Me to the End of Love, "A Thousand Kisses Deep," "Do I Have to Dance All Night?" "Take this Waltz," "Ain't No Cure for Love"--as great as they ARE, this one won out, which ought to tell you something or other.

Tom Waits, "Invitation to the Blues"
"She's up against the register/With an apron and a spatula/With yesterday's deliveries and the tickets for the bachelors/She's a moving violation, from her conk down to her shoes/But it's just an invitation to the blues." If you remember Waits' character in Short Cuts, you get the idea. Battered yet hopeful.

Lilium, "Lover"
"She got dressed and left that morning, in her hair the autumn rain/She didn't leave a number; wouldn't tell me her last name/She said don't fall in love with me, if you want to be my lover." Thought I'd go a little obscure for this one. I suppose it may be more of an anti-love song than anything else, but hey, I didn't specify "love songs" (okay, maybe the post title did, but hey--it's MY list, so we do it MY way); I just said "romantic," and a strung-out, fragile, and bleary-eyed song like this qualifies, I think.


Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

There was a post above this. It said "Great List. For another take on Valentines Day Check this out @ [blogspot address]," and yes that sounds kind of spammy, but the blog did appear to be an actual blog, kind of, even though it consisted mainly of long, manifesto-like anti-Obama ranting. So really, it was basically spamming with human-agency. If he had said anything aside from "visit my blog," I would have left his post up, but he really didn't. So I decided, HEY! You can't leech off the massive popularity of Inchoatia to try get hits for your lowly blog! Be gone with ye, peasant!

And that's the story of why I deleted the comment above this.

1:20 AM  

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