Don’t Need No Valentines

Today is a special day for those romantics amongst us. Or those who like bitter-sweet love songs, in which the usual tropes of love songs get turned on their head. Miserable gits who like miserable songs, in other words.

Josh Rouse’s “Sweetie” is one of his beautifully sung, gorgeously composed numbers that he seems able to turn out in his sleep. Seriously, does anyone have such a gift of picking out a tune as Josh? His tender voice sings plaintively over strummed acoustic guitar during the chorus, with the last line spelling out the song’s twisted romance:

“We’ll sleep on roof tops\We’ll ride on bicycles\Maybe we’ll get married\Don’t you want to, sweetie?”

As for the middle eight (“Won’t you sing with me…”), *swoons*. I wish I could write like this man.

Richard Hawley loves his bittersweet love songs too. He’s made his musical career out of them. And you know what? He’s damned good at it too. With a beautiful baritone that wouldn’t be out of place crooning away in the 1920’s, allied with guitar skills that would make Duane Eddy blush, he sings tales of lost love, fallen love, and all the myriad ways that love just goes wrong, of which “Valentine” (unsurprisingly) is one of his finest:

“Don’t need no valentines, no no\Don’t need no roses\Cos they just take me back in time, no no\Now you’re not here anymore”

If your heart doesn’t soar at the second chorus’s rising vocal line, you truly have no heart. Seeing him perform this live at the Royal Albert Hall was one of the highlights of my gig-going career. Whilst he might be a great example of the maxim that there’s nothing new under the sun, he shows you can still do something better than what’s come before with inspiration, big bags of talent, and hard work. Oh, and a great voice.1

And delving deeper into the well of melancholy, here’s that cheery chappie Will Oldham in full Palace Music garb, singing about Valentine’s Day. You just know it’s not going to be an easy ride.

“It’s Valentine’s day\And I’m catatonic”

What a marvellously twisted soul he is.

Happy Valentine’s.

MP3: Sweetie by Josh Rouse

MP3: Valentine by Richard Hawley

MP3: Valentine’s Day by Palace Music

1 Speaking of which, his forum here is an absolute marvel. It’s been running for years and Richard himself is the main man on the site, chatting with fans about anything and everything. If only more musicians would talk to their audience like this…

Buy Josh Rouse’s “Country Mouse City House” (CD/MP3)

Buy Richard Hawley’s “Lady’s Bridge” (CD/MP3)

Buy Palace Music “Lost Blues & Other Songs” (CD)

(You know, you really want to go and buy all three of these. All are marvellous)

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Albums Of The Decade (Part Two)

Part two of my run through my favourite albums of the Noughties (will someone please think up a better name?). It’s a personal trip through what I’ve loved and listened to the most, and it’s not just a list of good albums with some great songs on that you get bored of half-way through (I’m looking at you Radiohead and White Stripes). These are all proper records, which I hope that people will still make in the age of downloads and blogs. You know, records you listen to all the way through. Remember that?

Part one is over here.

A Nerd, yesterday

N.E.R.D. – In Search Of… (2001, then 2002)

Main movers in the early Noughties explosion of forward-reaching hip-hop, this album rocks so much they re-recorded it with live instruments. For some reason not many people bought it. Maybe calling themselves “NERD” wasn’t a good idea. Shame, because it’s absolutely fantastic, and I’d forgotten quite how fantastic until I listened to it again recently. Better that Outkast.

MP3: <a href=’′>Truth Or Dare by N.E.R.D. Track removed

Buy “In Search Of…” (CD/MP3)

Love This Cover...

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Or how to be different, and how to use the Internet to get noticed, especially when you’ve been dumped by your record label. Not quite as forward-sounding now as it seemed then, but still a great record, and their best. See, Radiohead?

MP3: Jesus, Etc. by Wilco

Buy “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (CD/MP3)

Beautiful in its Simplicity

Queens of the Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf (2002)

Dark, funny, twisted – the ultimate post-drink-and-drug filled debauchery album. Or, how to sing about the problems of getting fucked up, without moaning about how bad it is and how they are terribly, terribly sorry.

MP3: Hangin’ Tree by Queens Of The Stone Age

Buy “Songs For The Deaf” (CD)

Great Album, Terrible Cover

Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People (2002)

If you have this album, and haven’t listened to it in a while, go and do it now. If you haven’t got this album, go out and get it. This record shows how a diverse bunch of musicians can make an album that is uplifting, eccentric, full of life and love and sheer bloody joy. Oh, and tunes. Lots and lots of tunes.

MP3: Stars and Sons by Broken Social Scene

Buy “You Forgot It In People” (CD/MP3)

Better than BSS, But Only Just

Josh Rouse – Under Cold, Blue Stars (2002)

An album that envelops you in warmth, emotion, and tunes. So many, many tunes. Not revolutionary in any way whatsoever, but I adore it.

MP3: Nothing Gives Me Pleasure by Josh Rouse

Buy “Under Cold Blue Stars” (CD/MP3)

About A Million Times Better Than Mew's Other Album Covers

Mew – Frengers (2003)

That voice. That music. Drama, twisted tales of obsession and love and the loss of innocence, all over beautiful, inventive, gorgeous rock music. And that voice, again.

MP3: 156 by Mew

Buy “Under Cold Blue Stars” (CD/MP3)

We Recorded The Whole Thing Together, Honest

Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)

Breaking up is so hard to do, so why not just do two solo albums together, and make the best damn funk/soul/hip-hop/kitchen sink record ever? (A real toss-up between this and Stankonia, to be honest. This just about edges it)

MP3: GhettoMusick by Outkast Track removed

Buy “Speakerboxxx / The Love Below”

Albums Of The Decade (Part One)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Three)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Four)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Five)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Six)

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