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The AV Ultimate Valentine's Day Mixtape
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“A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell cover)
I’m not sure why a popular post-dubstep singer/songwriter from London would choose to cover a song from a 1970s Canadian folk icon, but I’m sure glad he did. James Blake takes the already heart-tugging melodies of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You,” replaces the tinny guitar tones with sparse piano flourishes, and sings lines like “I remember the time you told me Love is touching souls/Surely you touched mine” in his naturally sad but beautiful voice. The result is a devastating and genuine reimagining of this well-known folk song for a new generation.
She & Him
Sweeter than a second strawberry milkshake, catchier than a commercial jingle, and more nostalgia-driven than a hipster’s Tumblr, She & Him’s debut album Volume One is packed with Zooey Deschanel’s wistful vocals and M. Ward’s pop guitar and California-inspired production. It is no wonder this track is so appealing as it was written by Deschanel alongside Wes Anderson darling Jason Schwartzman of Phantom Planet and Coconut Records. Even if Deschanel’s overexposed saccharine persona makes you queasy, it’s hard to deny the appeal of this handclapping, heartstring-tugging plea for affection with a dash of country twang.
“Take Ecstasy With Me”
Stephin Merritt, the mind behind Magnetic Fields, has been steadily gaining status as an almost Morrissey-like critic of love. On his 1994 album Holiday, the openly gay songwriter reminisces about the “strange powers” that some strangers can have over him, how he’d love to be the “desert island” of someone’s love life, and what a joy it would be to take ecstasy with a long time partner. On “Take Ecstasy With Me,” Merritt recalls a string of unique experiences with a long-time lover. Yearning to revisit the feelings they once shared, he gently requests he and his partner take the infamously love-inducing drug together; a request that not many could deny.
“True Love Will Find You In The End”
Written by an cult icon who has had a lifelong struggle with manic depression, schizophrenia and survived a self-inflicted plane crash, “True Love Will Find You In The End” is one of the simplest and most sincere love songs: “Don’t be sad I know you will/but don’t give up until/true love finds you in the end.”
The Beach Boys
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
The upbeat sunny sounds of the Beach Boys bring to mind more than just the hazy lazy days of summer, they also remind listeners of the warm glow of falling in love. The opening track on the classic album Pet Sounds, this infectious anthem of puppy love expresses the frustrations of waiting for something you want but can’t have and youthful dreams of what could be. If it is good enough to remind Drew Barrymore’s amnesiac character of her love for Adam Sandler’s womanizing veterinarian in 50 First Dates, it’s good enough to send a cheerful message to your Valentine.
“Never Tear Us Apart”
The universe unexpectedly draws two people together, they fall in love, and they’re not going to let anything get in their way. Now mix in some synthesizers, dramatic pauses, a sultry sax solo, and you have a quintessential 1980s pop ballad at its finest.
The Rolling Stones
Somehow during the recording of their magnum opus Exile on Main Street, a period marked by heroin abuse, infighting and screwing each other’s girlfriends, the Stones managed to produce their softest, sweetest ode to the humble pursuit of a little lovin’. A departure from the bravado and debauchery of their’ earlier “romantic” riffs, this lazy, mid-tempo piece twinkles with piano keys, an upbeat horn section and an everyman Mick Jagger just begging “Give me little drink from your loving cup/Just one drink and I’ll fall down drunk.”
Daft Punk knew the feeling of digital love long before you ever poked a crush on Facebook or met a date from OK Cupid.
“Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” (reissue)
“All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away” is uttered in the first few seconds of the song. A heart-rending plea is sung: “I will love you ’til I die/And I will love you all the time/So please put your sweet hand in mine/And float in space/And drift in time.” The song’s repeated mantras are piled on top of each other in escalating harmonies, putting the listener into a dreamy, cosmic state. There is a euphoric feeling of floating along with spacey beeps, Pachelbel’s Canon undertones, and Elvis Presley lyrics: “Wise Men say only fools rush in/But I can’t help falling in love with you” fading in and out. The haunting melodies and bittersweet lyrics are heart-wrenching perfection.
“I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”
There’s a lot of confusion out there over exactly what “that” which Meat Loaf won’t do for love is—but the answer is actually right there in the lyrics. Some nine minutes into this 12-minute opus, a female character asks Meat “Will you hold me sacred?/Will you hold me tight?/Can you colorize my life, I’m so sick of black and white?/Can you make it all a little less cold?” with Meat responding that he can do “that.” Still skeptical, the female scoffs, “I know the territory, I’ve been around/It’ll all turn to dust and we’ll all fall down/Sooner or later you’ll be screwing around,” and Meat defends that he would never do “that.” Case closed.
Perhaps you’ve become immune to cutesy love tunes and you’re looking for the harder stuff. For straight-ahead rock and rich vocals, turn to the female-fronted (Nancy and Ann Wilson) band Heart. This song tells a story of a young girl falling for an irresistable older man, with deliciously trembling guitar licks, vocals that moan for more, and notable Minimoog synthesizer usage that creates trance-like sounds. The song contains autobiographical lyrics about the beginning of Ann Wilson’s relationship with band manager Michael Fisher. The slow burn of this song perfectly describes the hypnotizing force of lust and attraction.
Released in 1993, this long misunderstood ballad to stalker love has been an anachronistic mainstay in romantic movies and weddings despite its’ decidedly creepy origins. Featuring a rape-tastic chorus of “And I would be the one/To hold you down/Kiss you so hard/I’ll take your breath away,” Sarah McLachlan actually wrote the song from the viewpoint of an obsessive fan—the very same fan who would later sue her for allegedly using his love letters for lyrics. Before the case could go to trial—which the stalker admitted was a frivolous attempt to get closer to McLachlan—the stalker committed suicide. Now that’s romance.
Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Known for their work with the Everly Brothers, the husband/wife songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant are responsible for some of the most beautiful American love songs in any genre. This heartbreaking version of the duet taps into the yearning of young lovers who are apart from one another through agonizingly long nights. The bridge poses the musical question “Why did you go?/Why did you go? Don’t you know?/Don’t you know? /I need…you.” They could have written “love” instead of “need,” but to be denied a need will cause more than heartache. Left unaddressed, a need will kill a person. “Sleepless Nights” only found the light of day on a Gram Parsons album of the same name, released in 1976, three years after his death at the age of 26.
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