What with Valentine’s Day coming up, there’ll be an onslaught of love songs alongside the typical images of flowers, hearts and boxes of chocolate. Some of these songs are unbelievably cheesy, some are cliché, most are quite good but at the same time a little overplayed. Romance and love in all the forms it takes are frequently used subjects used in songwriting, so I thought I’d draw attention to some more unconventional songs. While the songs I’ll be drawing attention to here might not be exceptionally revolutionary for the genre they’re in, they aren’t cropping up in the first page of results for love songs in Google. So if you want something to impress a crush with, put on a mixtape for your significant other or to just listen to in your bedroom and pretend is about you, here’s some love songs from off the beaten path.
Teen Suicide: Salvia Plath
If there’s one word you can associate with Teen Suicide, it’s hostile, from lyrics expressing deep disgust with the self, peers and the world around them to a lo-fi production standard that’s raw even by the standards of the bedroom sad-pop scene they exist in. However the hostility is dropped for “Salvia Plath”, a damaged ballad draped over looping vocal samples and piano with feedback threatening to overwhelm the vocals, like we’re eavesdropping on a conversation we shouldn’t be hearing. Sam Ray’s lyrics depict a relationship with the speaker trying to mend his lover’s self-loathing, the lyrics are minimalistic but with strong unusual imagery, who knew watching the Food Network could be used to sound romantic?
Best Listened To While: Scrolling through tumblr holding out for a significant other who likes all the weird shit you like.
Camera Obscura: French Navy
Twee indie pop about falling in love is nothing new, so I was hesitant to include this song here. However it is a severely song in that field and needs to be up there with the likes of “There Is A Love That Never Goes Out”. Musically it brings on the giddy rush of falling for someone for the first time, with the band’s indie-pop framework boosted by some truly soaring strings. Though the lyrical content has the bittersweet touch that characterises Camera Obscura’s work, it’s still…just a lovely tune like, I can’t think of many more honours English words to describe it with.
Best Listened To While: either making a scrapbook for your significant other or drinking a cup of tea while it rains outside thinking about your exes.
Arab Strap: The Shy Retirer
Arab Strap are cult heroes of the Scottish indie scene, the missing link between the raw miserable folk of Smog or Red House Painters, the post-rock of Slint and dance music, draped in a cloud of cigarette smoke and cheap alcohol. Yet sometimes with their sound light does break through, and it breeds spectacular results, such as this song. A propulsive dance rhythm, delicate guitars and tasteful strings make this ode to finding love for one brief night in a shit nightclub among the band’s finest moments. They’ve always been masters at capturing the grim reality of nightlife and relationships without ever seeming patronising or like tryhards, and the situation in these lyrics is something a fair few of us can relate to.
Best Listened To While: Right before heading out to the Roost or Brady’s or Mischief.
Converge: Heaven In Her Arms
Converge are one of the most acclaimed and beloved bands to emerge from the aggressive punk offshoot known as hardcore for a number of reasons. Their sound is a principal one, blending elements of punk and metal into a mix that is chaotic yet meticulously constructed, raw and very nasty but with a complex, artsy streak. Yet their lyrics are what make them stand out, though intelligible on first listen, upon looking deeper they are poetic, evocative, and frighteningly honest. It can be jarring to hear lines like “I just needed a lover and I needed a friend” or “three simple words bled us dry, bled us dry/I love you” delivered in Jacob Bannon’s vein bursting screech, but this jarring nature is quite compelling, the harshness of the vocals driving the pain and desperation of a relationship forged from vulnerability further home. Plus the music’s quite good too, one of the best examples of Converge’s more straightforward franticly paced songs with punishing riffs, strange drum patterns and some quite haunting guitar work.
Best Listened To While: sitting on a bus with silent tears streaming down your face.
Defeater: I Don’t Mind
The most straightforward song on here both musically and lyrically, it is a criminal offense that it’s not far more well-known than it is. Though Defeater are most known for their stinging melodic hardcore and the story told across all their records, they are capable of turning down the fury and crafting some highly emotionally affecting music. The instrumentation for this is simple, just an acoustic guitar. The lyrics are extremely straightforward in the situation depicted, there’s no cynicism, it’s just a pure, wholesome song, that becomes very hard to listen to without crying in the context of the album but on its own, it’s a love song that’s dazzling in its simple effectiveness.
Best Listened To When: Sitting on a bench with your significant other as the sun sets.