There are moments that stick out in my mind when I think about the love I’ve seen and heard and experienced. When I saw Patti Smith play in Central Park in September, she looked to the sky each time she played a song for her late husband, and the love and adoration she still has for him was displayed blatantly across her face. My mom and my step-mom and my sister snuck letters into my backpack or handed me cards on the day I left for Leeds, and although I cried reading each one of them, they all made me feel so full. I’m learning that loving myself is rather important, too, and I spend mornings reading and nights journaling and I often find time to fit a yoga practice somewhere in between, because tending to myself means that I can tend better to others. Love is not always romantic, and it is not always extravagant, but it exists and it’s all around and that is perhaps the most reassuring thought there is. Musicians often have the best ways of expressing love, and this playlist collects all my favourite ways that they’ve done so.
The first love song I remember adoring is ‘I Always Knew’ by The Vaccines. It’s not just my favourite love song, it’s my favourite song, period. I love how nostalgic it feels, I love how the rhythm gallops and roars, I love the lyrics and the simultaneous hesitation and urgency. That album, Come of Age, also boasts ‘Lonely World,’ a much slower track with lines like “I feel like I have always known you” that make me swoon every time I listen to it. I had to include both of them here, because I am weak in the knees for The Vaccines, but also because they paint two different portraits of love, and I like the juxtaposition.
I am one hundred percent convinced that Talking Heads’ ‘This Must Be The Place’ is the best love song to ever exist. It’s glittery and romantic, the lyrics are enough to make my heart jump out of my chest, and every time I listen to it I imagine David Byrne prancing around a stage in a ridiculous oversized suit. I could pick out a lot of lines that I love – “I come home, she lifted up her wings,” or “Sing into my mouth” or “Never for money, always for love” – but really, the whole thing is magic.
When it comes to love songs, it’s often the lyrics that get me. ‘Cars Not Leaving’ by Gabriel Bruce has the singer professing a sincere but almost comical form of love, insisting that “This car’s not leaving if you’re not in it.” On ‘Dark Side of the Gym,’ The National’s Matt Berninger croons “I’m gonna keep you in love with me for a while.” Each verse in Wintersleep’s ‘More Than’ provides beautiful imagery of infatuation, but my favourite description is “I read your letter, printed it up, crumpled up the paragraphs so I could fit it in my mouth.” I express myself through the written word, and something about hearing others do the same always feels incredible, especially when it all comes across so beautifully.
It’s difficult to pick out only a few songs to talk about. If I were to discuss all twelve, we’d be here all day, but there are a few more I want to point out. Alvvays crafts an incredible ode to partnership in ‘Forget About Life.’ Spector’s ‘Lately It’s You’ feels like a shot straight to the heart, honest and vulnerable. ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie is, at this point, required listening at any time, but especially at a time when we’re all so focused on love.
I absolutely do not have the authority to be making a Valentine’s Day playlist. I’ve never been in love and I’m not in love now, but I know how it feels to love a city before you’ve even been there, or to love a band so much it hurts, or to love the feeling of sharing space with someone, even if you’re just listening to records or reading books or driving in silence. This playlist is full of romantic love songs, just because I love them, but I think it’s important to recognize the breadth and depth of love, the forms it takes and the ways it presents itself. Love is staying in bed on a rainy Sunday, doing nothing but drinking French press coffee and watching Netflix. Love is texting someone you care about out of the blue, just because you have something to say and you need to get it out of your mouth before you stop yourself. Love is standing next to someone at a concert, saying nothing and everything in the space that exists between you and them and the person onstage. We express love in a multitude of ways, and even the tiniest moments deserve the biggest celebrations. This is my own way of celebrating it all.