Dear and the Headlights - "Grace" (from Kyle Huntington)
Despite being quite the romantic, if I have nobody to be romantic with/for/whatever then I am the complete opposite and have the unkind tendency to spit at love and those who are caught up in its fuzzy swirl. I've also never been a fan of Valentine's Day in general, whether in a relationship or alone, it's just never been my bag and I hate the clichés, "traditions" and expectations that are all part and parcel of the sneer-inducing excuse of a holiday. So you can normally find me with a bottle or two of rum or several (many) beers listening to songs that reflect my mood at time, alone in my room. "But that's a cliché of Valentine's too, ya idiot!!!" I hear you cry out through the happiness and heart-shaped balloons. Yeah, but...fuck you. Let people like me be snotty and bitter and what better way than with the brilliant Dear and the Headlights as our soundtrack. Initially I had chosen Places To Hide - "Getting Worse (I Hate Me)" but unfortunately Spotify/Rdio don't have them online...so hunt them down yourselves, but Dear and the Headlights are one of my favourite bands and almost any of their songs would have been fitting here.
Blue Of Colors - "Your Face" (from Christian Wagner)
"Taste the regret as it leaves your stomach, coating your tongue with every noun. Watery eyes the only thing that makes sense now. Spitting your insides out. Start over."
Let me give you a brief synopsis of my love life: .
Ryan Adams - "Come Pick Me Up" (from Chris Collum)
Ok, now that we have that out of the way. My only Valentine's Day date was my freshman year of college. To date myself, that was 2009. I took a girl on a triple date and there was a bet as to whether I would pay for her (SPOILER: I did). Fast forward many months later, one of my best friends asks her out. They're still together to this date and I seriously couldn't be any happier for them.
When Steve sent me his Blue Of Colors record and I delved into it and knew what it was exactly about. The words hit harder than any record I had listened to on the subject matter. I really felt like he jumped into my head and wrote a record that was meant simply for me. The lyrics speak for themselves.
Ryan Adams' aptly titled debut record Heartbreaker contains some of the most downtrodden and lovelorn songs a country singer has ever recorded--which says a lot for a genre traditionally steeped in heartache and bad times. Of all the songs on the album though, the most powerful to my ears is "Come Pick Me Up," which splits time between wistfully tender remembrance and vitriolic vilification of the lover who has done Adams wrong, thus showcasing the two disparate and often seemingly incompatible sides of heartbreak. It's a song that's equally crushing and cathartic, and has moments of spine-tingling intimacy during the spare verses as well as resounding emotional swells after each chorus as Adams wails his blues out through his harmonica.
Kanye West - "Heartless" (from Jake Jenkins)
When it came down to picking a song for this feature, there are a few routes I considered going with. I could have gone for a self-assuring song that finds happiness in being alone, or maybe something a little more somber and reflective. Instead, I decided to go with one of the most bitter, irrational break up songs that I could think of. Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreaks is a cold, lonely album that paved the way for numerous rappers, but on "Heartless" he lets his emotions take over to the point where his thoughts and actions are even alarming himself ("You're bringin' out a side of me that I don't know"). Kanye isn't worried about the concerns of his ex-lover at this point in time; throughout "Heartless," he's convinced himself he's in the right and that the woman who left him is, well, heartless. Sometimes when you go through a break up, you have those moments where your emotions take a hold of your judgement and thoughts like these make total sense to you. Much of 808s zeroes in on that phase and the ugly side of Kanye's mind post-breakup, and maybe that's why this song and album hold up extraordinarily well for me. The sheer conviction alone makes "Heartless" an obvious choice for a playlist like this. Kanye West is at his most human here, imperfections abound, and it's something that a lot of people can relate to.
Jonny Craig - "Nobody Ever Will" (from Jake Denning)
Without question one of Craig's best songs, "Nobody Ever Will" serves as a poignant reminder that I have a horrible tendency to shoot myself in the foot when things are at their best. "No matter how many times I let my pride get the best of me, I'm always calling this number back". Happy Valentine's Day.
Blink-182 - "First Date" (from Anthony Sorendino's girlfriend, Mahek)
I know this isn’t the typical romantic Valentine’s Day song, but it is so relatable to our very first date and I think about it every time I hear it. “In the car I just can’t wait. “ I remember being so anxious and nervous the whole entire drive to the diner we were meeting at. Anthony felt differently, he told me he was so pumped and was blasting music the whole ride down. “Do you like my stupid hair? Would you guess that I didn’t know what to wear?” We both reminisced on how we prepared all day for dinner. I was worrying about how my hair looked throughout the entire date and I’m pretty sure Anthony said he changed his shirt a few times before choosing “the one.”
Frank Turner - "I Knew Prufock Before..." (from Thomas Nassiff's girlfriend, Katie)
“You make me nervous so I really can’t eat.” This detail is something I remember the most from our date. I hadn’t eaten all day and just could not wait to finally get some food in my stomach. When the food arrived, I barely touched a thing because of my nerves; neither did he. “Let’s go, don’t wait, this night’s almost over. Honest, let’s make, this night last forever.” I had this feeling after our first date, and still do two years later whenever we do anything together. “I dread the thought of our very first kiss, a target that I’m probably gonna miss.” This didn’t happen on our first date, just our weird awkward half hug goodbyes with no eye contact. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything about our first date. It will always be one that I remember and laugh at how stupid we were and how it started a really wonderful relationship.
Thomas and I have only been dating for seven months, but we’ve known each other for about six years. When we were in high school, he used to make me mix CDs (of course he did) that I would play (and still do, sometimes) on repeat in my car because I didn’t have an iPod or any great taste in music. My boyfriend at the time really hated it. One of the first few CDs had Frank Turner’s “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous” on it. The track was my first introduction to Frank Turner and became one of my favorite songs to belt out while driving home after curfew.
David Ford - "Song for the Road" (from Craig Manning, for his fianceé, Jillian)
Fast forward to the summer of 2013, Thomas and I went to different colleges but we kept in touch semi-regularly, and I went to visit him after he had been living in NYC for a few months. We weren’t dating yet and there wasn’t really any specific reason for me going to visit. He took me to a Frank Turner show at the Stone Pony in New Jersey, which was incredible. After the show, he read the train schedule wrong and we missed the last train back to Penn Station. Both of our phones died and we hadn’t brought chargers with us. We ended up finding a motel within walking distance that had vacancy; this place advertised the wonder of ~color TV~ and the room didn’t have any wall outlets whatsoever. It DID, for some reason, have a lamp that required being plugged INTO a wall. Thomas put it in front of the door for additional “security,” then proceeded to flop onto the (very firm) bed and jokingly ask, “Are you ready for a night of romance?!"
On the flight back home I listened to Frank Turner on repeat, hoping that I would miss more trains with Thomas, but praying that never, ever again would they be out of Jersey.
My fiancée and I started dating in 2010, during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. It was a perfect, textbook summer romance, a month and a half where we quickly went from friends to more than friends to – as I realized on my last night in town – people who were completely in love with each other. Of course, it all went by too quickly, and when I left to go back to school, I was a wreck. I had found this deep, meaningful connection where I could spend every minute of every day with her and still feel like it wasn’t enough, and I wasn’t sure how all of that would function away from the long days at the beach, the hot summer nights, and the grandeur of our hometown. All I knew was that I loved her and that, as I was driving away from our summer together, toward the place that was supposed to be teaching me what I wanted to do with my life, I was driving away from the one person I wanted to spend it with.
Arvo Pärt - "Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror)" (from Jason Tate's girlfriend, Hannah)
Before I left, she made me a mixtape, and this song, "Song for the Road," was right in the middle of the disc. It cut through my emptiness and sadness and made me feel like things were going to be okay, like our romance wasn’t coming to an end, but was instead just beginning. I played that song a lot of the next few years, always in the car and always on trips I took to see her (because we had to do the long distance thing for three years). Now, come July, "Song for the Road" will soundtrack our first dance as husband and wife, a landmark moment that I couldn’t imagine entrusting to any other song or sharing with a more perfect girl.
This piece is everything I feel in my heart, but don’t have the words to say. Happy Valentine’s Day, Jason.
Earl Klugh - "Living Inside Your Love" (from Lueda Alia's boyfriend, Shola)
I routinely listened to this song and album on the bus rides to Eda’s place when we began spending a lot of time together. Our relationship was quickly growing in intensity and I think we were both a little in awe of the strength of the connection developing between us. I didn’t know what to do — all I knew is that I was completely smitten by this beautiful girl and I wanted to spend entire days with her. I think this song perfectly captures the purity of those feelings and the sense of extreme optimism and unconditional love we’ve shared over the past year and a half together.