Lovers and Loners: Songs for Valentine’s Day
For centuries, Valentine’s Day has long stood as the pillar of romantic holidays. For some, it serves as a way to celebrate the mutual affection with a significant other, and for others it is a little less…uh, fruitful.
Regardless of which side you are on—the lover or the loner—here are some songs to further foster feelings, or keep you company this Feb. 14.
“Valentine” – Chuck Ragan
When Hot Water Music went on hiatus in 2005 it was with the purpose of increasing Chuck Ragan’s time with his family. It makes sense that when he started releasing solo material that a fair amount of it focused on his wife, Jill. “Valentine” sums up Ragan’s endearing love, “I am captivated and concentrated/My sweet, my valentine,” and it serves as a great addition to any Valentine’s Day festivities.
“Fourteenth of February” – Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg’s career started in 1983 with a simple declaration, “I don’t want to change the world/I’m not looking for a New England/ I’m just looking for another girl.” Thirteen years later, it seemed that Bragg had found that ideal lady. On “Fourteenth of February” he attempts to recall the magic of this first meeting, “I know the date, I know the place where it happened/Yet in my mind the scene I recall is imagined.” Bragg’s memory may have faded, but the feelings certainly hadn’t.
“Want” – Jawbreaker
If you’ve ever received a mix from a ’90s emo kid, there’s a mighty fine chance Jawbreaker has made an appearance on that tracklist (This writer is guilty of that). On “Want,” the opening track from 1990’s Unfun, Blake Schwarzenbach lays all his cards on the table, “I’m lying naked at your feet/Don’t crush the heart that beats/Take me at my word/It may sound absurd/I want you.” Sometimes desperate acts don’t make you look foolish.
“Make Me a Mixtape” – The Promise Ring
Milwaukee, Wis.’s The Promise Ring deftly rode emo’s second (or was it third?) wave, leaving numerous poppy sing-alongs in its wake. On “Make Me a Mixtape” Davey Von Bohlen implores a prospective beau to reach out with this simple gesture. However, his advice that she “Don’t leave out Hüsker Dü” may be problematic, as “Never Talking To You Again”—although a great song—could send the wrong message.
“I Love You” – Andrew Jackson Jihad
People often cite a sense of humor as being a necessity in a mate, so why not prove it by playing Andrew Jackson Jihad’s “I Love You” when it comes time to set the mood? If Sean Bonnette’s opening lines of “I like telling dirty jokes/And I like smoking crystal meth/But darling, I love you” doesn’t tickle your lover’s funny bone then it may bring the evening to a crashing halt, but there’s no reward if you don’t take the risk
“Sweet Avenue” – Jets to Brazil
Making his second appearance on this list, Blake Schwarzenbach knows a thing or two about articulating his emotions. Although not as direct as “Want,” Schwarzenbach’s indie-rock band Jets to Brazil knew how to project in a much subtler manner, “Now all these taste improve through the view that comes with you/Like they handed me my life, for the first time it felt right.” Say it with me, “Aww!”
“The Disco Before the Breakdown” – Against Me!
In its early days, Gainesville Fla.’s Against Me! dealt solely in sociopolitical anarchist jams. After the group went electric—and added a few members—vocalist/guitarist Tom Gabel started exploring some new lyrical territory. On this 7-inch release, Gabel screams “I know they’re going to laugh at us when they see us out together ‘holding hands’ like this/They wouldn’t understand it if we told them all the reasons, not that I think this deserves any kind of explanation.” Aren’t those anarcho punks just darling?
“(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” – Weezer
A far cry from the pleas of longing found on Pinkerton, Rivers Cuomo seemed downright happy by 2009’s Raditutde. As evinced by the album’s power pop lead single, Cuomo is way less timid than he was in Weezer’s early days. He deftly tells his lady, “So make a move, ‘cause I ain’t got all night.” If ultimatums are your thing, Cuomo has a way of making them seem a little less off-putting.
“Enjoy Your Day” – Alkaline Trio
The first of two acoustic tracks on Alkaline Trio’s Goddamnit sees Dan Andriano in perhaps his whiniest state ever recorded. Andriano is clearly brokenhearted, as he himself states, but when he wishes his former lover good tidings it is almost too much, “So happy Valentine’s Day/I hope the sun’s out in New York/I hope he brought you roses.” For those still too kind to let past feelings turn bitter, Andriano makes a lonely Valentine’s Day all the more relatable.
“Just Friends” – The Steinways
Never to be mistaken for anything other than a sophomoric pop-punk band, The Steinways found a way of inserting humor into its lyrics without ever being too jokey—although it often came close. On “Just Friends” Grath Madden explains the friend-zone as bluntly as possible, “I just want to make out tonight and you just want to be friends.” The fact Madden ends the song with “And that sucks” sums up the feelings of anyone who has ever found themselves in that awkward state.
“Pray For Rain” – The Ergs!
Drummer/vocalist Mikey Erg is no stranger to failed relationships, and as he posits on “Pray For Rain,” it’s the main reason he is able to write songs, “I could write you the perfect song/About how everything’s gone wrong/And you could sing along.” Mikey shows that, even in the worst of times, you can still make some killer art out of a broken heart.
“Tears Dry On Their Own” – Amy Winehouse
The late Amy Winehouse devoted much of her breakout album in the U.S., Back to Black, to her on-again, off-again relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil. On “Tears Dry On Their Own,” Winehouse is the strongest she had been, declaring that although she had been left, she would still find strength flying solo, “And in your way/My deep shade/My tears dry on their own.”
“Don’t Ever Fucking Question That” – Atmosphere
Atmosphere’s Slug has no problem spitting some of the roughest rhymes in the direction of his muse, Lucy Ford. “I love you, don’t ever fucking question that/That’s why we’ll probably never get along,” raps a vitriol-fueled Slug, trying to show just how much he cares for this character, but how he also knows it is just not meant to be.
“Caught In a Flood With the Captain of the Cheerleading Squad” – I Hate Myself
Not only did screamo outfit I Hate Myself probably snag the best band name in the entire genre, it also penned some genre-defining songs during its short time together. If there’s ever a need to share in some self-deprecation Jim Marburger makes that possible when he wonders whether or not the person he’s longing after would return that interest, “You don’t like me, and I don’t like me, and it’s unlikely.”
“Moving on Blue” – Tim Barry
While much of Tim Barry’s solo output has toed the line between folk-punk and bluegrass, on the piano-driven ballad “Moving on Blue” he attempts to find strength after a dissolved relationship, “I had my own life before we met/Not sure what I can get back considering the way I left.” When Barry sings, “These steps I take I own/They are mine and mine alone,” he shows that the true test of a person is how they hold up under pressure.
“I Keep a Diary” – Braid
There’s little dispute that Frame & Canvas was Braid’s best work—as well as one of emo’s best albums—and on closing track “I Keep a Diary” the band succinctly showcases its strengths. The song builds slowly, but it is Bob Nanna’s soft delivery and subtle lyrics that propel it, “One, two, and three/I can see exactly/Just where you ruined me.” But it’s not all misery, as the song’s chorus reassures with a repeated, “Come on, come on/So long, so long/Move on, move on.” It may not be hopeful, but it makes for a great forlorn Valentine’s Day companion.