Coupled up or not this Valentine’s Day, you’re likely going to need some music — whether you intend to get down or be down. Well, the Talkhouse has you covered. This week, we’re rolling out a collection of love song — and anti-love song — playlists created by those who know love and anti-love songs best: musicians. Next up, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.
— the editors of the Talkhouse Music
Arthur Russell — “Love is Overtaking Me”
Is it so different now, or is it just the way I feel? My goddamned number one. Listening to this song just feels like falling in love. It’s incredible. Its effect on me never wanes, unlike actual love (ha! just kidding?). But truly, there are few songs that have ever managed to move me so deeply. It’s perfect. I’ll be in love with this song for the rest of my life.
Judee Sill — “The Kiss”
This song is a haunting. When I heard it the first time, it actually frightened me, and I still can’t quite figure out why. I became obsessed with figuring out how and why it works, which is, of course, impossible. It’s beautiful, but it feels dark, a bit unhinged.
Bob Dylan — “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”
I’ve really tried, in my career, to avoid putting Dylan on any list of anything. But I got this record when I was twelve, and it was the first love song I can remember hearing that addressed the subject with anything other than “forever and ever, baby”-type platitudes. When you go? It shook me up. So it gets a spot on the list.
Lambchop — “I Believe in You”
This song conjures in me something like false nostalgia for experiences I’ve never had. On paper, it seems a bit saccharine, but Kurt Wagner’s voice can make almost anything sound real. It’s the rare love song that makes me actually believe that I will die The Notebook-style with my true love when we’re both ninety, simultaneously whispering sweet nothings to one another with our last ragged death rattles. Yeah, this song sounds like that.
Switch — “I Call Your Name”
Something a bit more lighthearted, perhaps? How about a gorgeously funky seven-and-a-half minute prog-R&B epic, anchored by the dopest falsetto imaginable? No? OK, go listen to “Wonderful Tonight” and leave me to my ecstatic dancing. This song rules.
Smog — “Dress Sexy at My Funeral”
The first couple of times I heard this song, it read as kind of flippant and cheeky, classic Callahan stone-faced wisecracking. Weeks later, it hit me at the wrong (right?) moment and I cried in the shower until the water went cold. A strange and beautiful sentiment that hints at the most painful truth — some losses are so great that you can’t even bear to look them in the eye.
Stevie Wonder — “Joy Inside My Tears”
I bust this sucker out when I want to have a good, happy cry. It captures perfectly the painful truth that love and pain are never very far from one another — a great example of every aspect of a song working in perfect sync.
Talking Heads — “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”
An obvious choice, but I couldn’t make a list of love songs without this one. The less we say about it, the better.
Aaliyah — “Let Me Know (At Your Best)”
Originally by the Isley Brothers, but this version just speaks to me. I’m always amazed at how this song manages to be deeply romantic and completely realistic at the same time. A perfectly direct, unadorned account of what it’s like to be in love with someone when it only works some of the time.
Katy Perry — “Teenage Dream”
Fuck y’all. I once saw a grown-ass man break down in tears to this song. I tried to resist; I couldn’t. It just sparkles with joy! This song is for everybody.
(Photo credit: MarLeah Cole)