Well, Valentine’s Day is once again upon us, and we here at HCT headquarters had a few days there where we were undecided as to whether we would take the opportunity to be bitter single girls, sitting around the house watching Lifetime and listening to Jagged Little Pill over and over again [This is surely hyperbole, it’s never been so bad that we have to listen to Alanis for salvation.—Cric] [Nor will it ever be that bad.—Daisy]. But then we remembered that we’re awesome. Also, we hate to be so stereotypically lame. Anyway, everyone knows that the suckiest holiday for a single girl is Arbor Day. Nobody wants to celebrate trees alone. [Except tree perverts. Yikes.—Cricket]
So, instead of eating our weight in peppermint nougats, we thought we’d share some songs about love and relationships that we dig. It’s what we do. [In the grand tradition of Valentine’s Day, we give you this present which is something you neither need nor want, is completely last minute and yet, it’s the thought that counts, right? We love y’all.—Cricket]
Lucero, “Nights Like These” — You’re surprised the first song is Lucero? This is what I like to call an “Oh, Ben” song, because after the lyrics:
I’ve only got this one wish
That I was good enough to make you forget
The only boy who ever broke your heart
you can’t help but sigh and say, “Oh, Ben.” Though I think I speak for the majority of Lucero fans (I’m looking at you, too, fanboys) when I say that Ben is more than sexypants enough to make a girl forget her own name, let alone whatshisface. But I suspend my disbelief, because this song speaks to the tortured unicorns of my soul.
Cory Branan, “The Walkaround (Amnesia)” — Speaking of unicorns! Unfortunately, Cory doesn’t have this song up on his MySpace at the moment. But, it is on YouTube, so there you go. This is a song about unrealistic expectations, amnesia, Soultrain, walkin’ around and… other things. What’s not to love? This is my bad mood song. No bad mood can withstand magic flowers and a fucking golden unicorn. But really, for all its clever lyrics and upbeat tune, it’s a song about being lonely, and just wanting someone to go out and do stuff with. To which I can certainly relate.
Chris Milam, “Maria, Maria” — This song makes me ridiculously happy, maybe even more so than the last one. Not that it’s happy-go-lucky content-wise, but every time I hear it, I just want to hear it more, as is the case with all music I really love (much, I think, to Cricket’s chagrin when driver picks the music…) [We all know shotgun shuts his cakehole when driver picks the music, so I keep it to myself.—Cric]. I could go on for awhile about how great this song is, but instead, I’m just going to post the intro Chris tells when he plays it live, because it makes me almost as happy as the song does. In Chris’s own words:
I’m writing a book. It’s a how-to guide. It’s called ‘How To Successfully Navigate the Dysfunctional Relationship.’ I’ve done about ten years worth of research on the subject.
I think any good, meaty, ridiculously dysfunctional relationship has four stages.
Stage One is Attraction. Pretty self-explanatory. Upon meeting the person, do you think, “Oh, they’re pretty,” or “Oh, I’d like to see them naked,” or “I wonder what they’d look like in my t-shirt at four a.m.,” etc.
Stage Two is Infatuation. In this stage, your significant other can do no wrong. They have faults, but you don’t see them because you’re infatuated. Listen to Lisa Loeb a little too much? Doesn’t matter, you’re infatuated. Laugh too hard at a racist joke? Yep, still infatuated. Never miss a Zac Braff movie? Well, that MATTERS, but you get the idea.
Stage Three is Stagnation. This is the moment when the honeymoon’s over and all the faults you overlooked before are now impossible to ignore. You’re not in love, you can’t imagine that you ever were in love, and the only thought that ever goes through your head is, “If I move to Greenland, how long until she finds me?” It’s the great part of any Hemingway story, where the girl bats her eyes and plaintively asks our hero, “Isn’t love fun anymore, darling?” and he says, “No. No it isn’t.” And then goes trout-fishing for six weeks.
Stage Four is Damnation. Here, you make a list of three million ways you can sabotage the relationship and go through them one-by-one. “Step 3,407: Accidentally poison cat.” And so on. Stage Four is my favorite.
I usually write a song about one of these four stages, but this song’s about all four of them, in order, start to finish. It’s called “Maria, Maria”.
And yeah, it’s a true story.
If you’re in town, check Mr. Milam out live Wednesday, February 27th at Christopher’s Pizza and Thursday, March 13th at the Rutledge. (In the meantime, if you missed it, Chris did a HCT podcast over a year ago, which is almost as good as a live show.)
Tommy Womack, “I Couldn’t Care Less” — When I first got a copy of There, I Said It, I didn’t make it through the entire album before I hit the ‘repeat’ button on this song. It is, quite possibly, the best fuck-off song ever. And not just because of he grammatical correctness of the sentiment. It’s fantastically cheerful and upbeat in its message of apathy. To me this song that unequivocally states, “You’re not even close to worth my angst.” It really doesn’t get any better.
The Jayhawks, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” — I’ll never be all you want me to/ But that’s all right/ I’m gonna make you love me. I love this song for all it’s cheerfully aggressive optimism. Because who hasn’t had that Wayne Campbell moment of, “Oh, yes, (s)he will be mine.”? And sometimes it’s nice to think that love is something you have any sort of control over. Much like The Pretender’s “Brass in Pocket,” actually. Really, I just love the message of, “You don’t love me now? Just wait.” (Whoa, there was some evil laughter bubbling up inside me as I typed that…) [It’s also got a nice bit of that stalkery love that Steve Earle does so well.—Cricket]
Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You” — There are about a million and a half reasons to love this song. It’s the quintessential love song, for all it’s wonderfully teary-eyed inducing sappiness! It’s in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! Lorelai sang it to Luke! But most of all, it’s Dolly! Need I say more? (Fail if you answered “yes” to that). [Dolly is love. Perhaps all one needs for V-Day is Dolly singing this song. Too bad about that other version, Dolly doesn’t get the play she deserves.—Cric]
Dave Matthews Band, “Two Step” — A friend of ours once expressed surprise to hear Dave Matthews playing in “the car of a Troubadour”. And I’ll admit that I’ve been mocked for my Dave love, but you know what? This is the band that made me love music in a way I just hadn’t before. And this is the song that made me love the band. It’s been over ten years since the first time I heard it, but the lyrics, Hey, my love, you came to me like wine comes to this mouth/ Grown tired of water all the time/ You quench my heart and you quench my mind still makes me sigh and feel a little swoony. I’m hard-pressed to find someone better with the dead sexy lyrics than Dave.
And, on that note, I’ll turn it over to Cricket!
The hardest thing for me here was not picking a bazillion songs about hideous, horrible, gut-wrenching heartbreak. [For me it was not picking all Lucero songs, which is kind of the same thing…—Daisy] Partly because I hate Valentine’s Day and partly, well, you know, if you ever read the site before, I love the gut-wrenching heartbreak songs. I tried to get some joy in here for y’all, but bear with me through the heartbreak, yeah?
Tom Waits, “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You” — The first time I heard this song was twenty years ago (oh fuck me, really? that long?) in the midst of some teenage angst. I’d long since worn out my copy of the Violent Femmes self-titled album and was feeling around for something else to reflect my inner teenage heartbreak, loneliness and suffering. Digging through my dad’s vinyl collection I came up with big daddy Tom Waits. I was completely sold. Even today the song pulls emotions out of the dark parts of me I have been ignoring for so long. The song’s character who would rather suffer than risk rejection, who seems so hopeful at the beginning and so pathetically lonely at the end. You can’t help but fall into his fantasy and his emptiness at the end. If Tom Waits isn’t your thing (and really if you don’t dig this old Tom Waits, don’t tell, ’cause I’d hate to have to cut you), Amy Rigby’s “Knapsack” and Hayes Carll’s “Love at First Sight” both do an incredible job telling an original, new version of the same story.
Todd Snider, “Lonely Girl” — This song is like the antithesis to Wait’s, “Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You.” We start the story with the lonely girl, alone, smoking, but wait!! There’s a lonely boy looking for a girl just like her! He thinks she’s the only girl for him. Oh joy! Rapture! They can run off and make lonely little babies who smoke cigarettes and are full of their own regrets!! It’s a beautiful love story. Okay, I confess, I know this was flip, but in fact this is one of my favorite songs ever. It strikes just the right tone in the music to make you feel the ache and longing of the characters in the song. And I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, yeah, I am lonely sometimes and waiting for that someone to come along and think I’m perfect. It’s almost as if the song was written as a hopeful poem just for me. Of course I feel that way about 90% of the songs I review here.
Amy Rigby, “Wait ‘Til I Get You Home” — This song is about sex. Yay! But it really is perfect love song. It’s perfectly that moment when you are settled and comfortable with someone but still so in love that you can’t keep your hands off each other. She paints a detailed picture of that swoony feeling of watching your lover and not yet being able to put your hands on them because of silly impediments like being in public. The song is so well balanced with a bouncy, clean bit of rock and roll behind it. You can feel in the music that hopped up, heart beating a little faster feeling of the anticipation of being alone with your own sweet baby. (Also, check it, Amy is blogging!)
Steve Earle, “I Thought You Should Know” — “I won’t tell you I don’t need you tonight.” Oh ♥Steve♥. I think we’ve all been there. Can’t even go there for more than a night because your heart is still so broken. It’s a love song and heart break song, and dirty one night stand, and romantic bit of new love all wrapped up in one. The part here that completely kills me is the:
I promise that I’ll do my best
To give you everything I got to give
And keep your secrets for as long as I live
It’s so sadly hopeful, it just breaks me every time. ♥Steve♥ is the master of the break-up song. It was a huge toss up between this song and “More Than I Can Do” (the ultimate stalker song, “just because you won’t unlock your door…”). [Yes, I almost picked this song, too, but I figured I could count on you for some Steve love.—Daisy]
Doug Sahm, “Talk to Me” — This song is a sweet, end of the night dance with the person you know you want to spend the rest of your life with. It’s looking beautiful, having the perfect dinner, a long slow dance by candle light and walking home, warm, in the moonlight. The song is Valentine’s Day, or at least what on would hope for it, if they were going to have ridiculously high expectations. As far as I am concerned Sahm is one of the original hardcore troubadours. Indeed, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I’ll spend the entirety of V-Day listing to the man. “Talk to Me” is the perfect timeless, bit of romance for the day, for sure, so if you only listen to one song from this whole list, make it this one.
Johnny Cash & June Carter, “Pack Up Your Sorrows” — Right, like I was going to let love songs go by with out pulling out my man Johnny. And Johnny & June? Is there anything more romantic in country music? [Or the world?—Daisy] I have equal love for this version of the song, and the original by Richard & Mimi Farina, but the J&J version is happier some how. The instrumentation perhaps, being more country and less folky? Hard to pin down why. I so wholly embrace the sentiment here, lifting your lover’s burdens. It’s impossible and surely never works, but the idea of loving someone so much that you want to save them like that is romance.
Merle Haggard, “Wouldn’t That Be Something” — I can’t decide if I want the version from the recent Bluegrass Sessions or the one off 5:01 Blues. I’ve listened to them both back to back a couple times and I love the twangy, brilliant, albeit dated sound of the latter one, as it has a roughness, sort of an incredulousness to the lyrics, like he can’t quite believe the possibilities of lasting love, of changing love, of lost love found again. The newer version is musically more beautiful, but lacks the sense of surprise, it’s almost like Merle is singing it now knowing that all the possibilities are out there and all contain both pain and joy and he’s waiting to hear about you discovering it for yourself. So go on, listen to both and then go out and discover the possibilities for yourself on this day of love. So what if it could all fall apart, without love there’d be no country music and then where would we be? [Vancouver?—Daisy]