It’s February 14th: time to get out the flowers, Hallmark cards and boxes of chocolates shaped like hearts. If you’re feeling particularly romantic (and retro), you might want to make the special person in your life a mixtape. But what if you want to fill your scratchy cassette with something other than Whitney Houston? Don’t worry, we have you covered. Thanks to a small army of willing contributors, we have compiled a little list of the most loving tunes you might not have thought of.
Once again, thanks to everyone who contributed to the list; it’s a bit shorter than the Anti-Valentine’s playlist (don’t know what that says about us), but it’s wonderfully cuddly for the most romantic day of the year and guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face.*
*Guarantee not actually a guarantee.
Nick Cave – Into My Arms
The Boatman’s Call is possibly one of the most heart-wrenching albums ever made. In amongst the tales of heartbreak, though, rests this diamond, possibly the most beautiful song Nick Cave has ever recorded. There’s an all-too simple message behind it (in a nutshell, never change a single bit) but it’s Cave’s delivery and questioning of his own atheism when gazing upon this beauty that elevates it to near world-ending levels of gorgeous.
The Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes For You
The oldest song on this list still stands up, a whole 56 years after it was first released. If you’re looking for an even more alternative version of the song, check out Scottish trio North Atlantic Oscillation’s glitchy but equally beautiful rendition of this cult classic.
Cat’s Eyes – Best Person I Know
Not familiar with Cat’s Eyes? Well, I’m not too surprised. Comprised of Faris Badwan, frontman of The Horrors, and Canadian-Italian soprano Rachel Zeffira, the duo quietly released an album of 60s-tinged alt-pop back in 2011. Amongst the collection was ‘Best Person I Know,’ a quietly quirky tune sung in untypically girlish tones by Zeffira and backed by a plethora of muted strings. The beauty of the song is that it’s not necessarily about a lover; it could also easily be applied to a family member or a good friend, making it a very democratic Valentine’s ditty.
Frank Ocean – Thinkin’ Bout You
For all you urban and R’n’B lovers out there, there’s plenty of smooth jams that you can get down to this Valentine’s Day. Most of the time though, that’s precisely the problem. Most of the ‘romantic’ R’n’B tunes have a heavy undertone of the sexual in them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it’d be nice to have a bit of hip-hop that considers your feelings too. On his debut LP Channel Orange, Frank Ocean gave the world what we needed: a smooth R’n’B jam that is bashful and has extremely little to do with physicality (other than Ocean’s musing about the person in question providing him with his first time). It’s about searching for the one and holding on to a feeling, something missing from a great many urban songs.
Glasser – T
First off, if you’ve never heard of Glasser or picked up her debut LP Ring then you’re missing out. It’s a sub-40 minute glide through DIY electronics and tribal beats all held together by the mesmerising one-woman powerhouse that is Cameron Mesirow. Lodged precisely in the middle of Ring is ‘T,’ a slice of deceptively simple, slightly melancholic romanticism shrouded in glitch synths and balanced by Mesirow’s silky-smooth vocals. A haven of earthy bliss in an already highly mystical album, ‘T’ is a surprisingly deep foray into what it means to really be in love.
The Cure – Pictures of You
The Cure are known for veering wildly between gothic tones and completely smooshy indie ballads and nowhere is this most prevalent than on their album Disintegration. Often hailed as the band’s best, it features some of their masterworks and what could be their most gorgeous ballad, in the form of ‘Pictures of You.’ Robert Smith’s voice is as pained and strained as ever, but it’s the wistful melody that makes this stand above the band’s more famous love songs.
Sufjan Stevens – Futile Devices
Poor Sufjan probably got a bit of a bad rep when I included him in the anti-Valentine’s list. Truth is, Stevens can very easily be a big softie and melt hearts with the best of them when he’s not stabbing himself in the chest and staining your carpet. Perhaps ironically, ‘Futile Devices’ also comes from The Age of Adz. Unlike ‘I Walked,’ though, it sees Sufjan doing what he’s best known for: masterful guitar picking and slightly off-the-wall lyrics. Despite it being just as quirky as the rest of his output, ‘Futile Devices’ manages to turn the weirdness into a bashful and sometimes stumbling roam into the beauty of domestic life. Sufjan doesn’t go as far to say ‘I love you’ (thus the futile device of the title) but it doesn’t matter. You know exactly what he’s trying to say.
Bright Eyes – First Day of My Life
The first time I ever heard this song, I had to disappear to the bathroom to have a little cry. ‘First Day Of My Life’ is arguably Connor Oberst’s magnum opus, the best, most fully-formed song he’s ever written. That it also happens to be one of the most wonderfully romantic alt-folk songs of the twenty-first century is just a bonus.
Bette Midler – Wind Beneath My Wings
This one was suggested by our very own editor, at the Queen’s request. Should everything else fail to impress your loved one, it couldn’t hurt to throw in some classic Miss M just to knock them off their feet. The eclecticism of your finished mixtape will simply bowl them over.