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 Three)

Here’s part three of my list of albums of the decade. These are albums I love and have listened to, ooh, hundreds of times over the years. Pretty much all of them are still on my very full iPhone, instead of more current stuff like Animal Collective or whoever, because they are great. Oh yes.

Part one is here
and part two is here. Enjoy.

One Swan

Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans (2004)

For all the wondrous musicality of his “States” albums, this stripped-down, acoustic album shows the beauty and tenderness of his songwriting at its absolute height.

MP3: The Dress Looks Nice On You by Sufjan Stevens

Buy “Seven Swans” (CD/MP3)

Swim Until You Can't See A Band

American Music Club – Love Songs For Patriots (2004)

Making an album with the word “Patriots” in the title at the height of post-9/11 anguish and rage, then filling it with songs of anguish, rage, and the wonders of male strippers, was never going to make them too many new friends. But it’s their best album, and Mark Eitzel at his finest.

MP3: Home by American Music Club

Buy “Love Songs for Patriots” (CD/MP3)


Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender (2004)

If you find the first minute of “Bridges and Balloons” utterly wonderful, then you’ll love this. If you think she is a wailing harpy, then you may probably just want to move onto the next record. You’re missing out though, mind.

MP3: This Side of the Blue by Joanna Newsom

Buy “The Milk-Eyed Mender” (CD/MP3)

It's Supposed To Be A Funeral

Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

Or how the Internet will get you noticed. Sure, there’s more that a touch of the U2’s about their later material, but go and listen to this again and be utterly transfixed by their tales of lost childhood all over again. So filled with drama that you need the quieter songs to catch your breath.

MP3: Neighborhood #2 (Laika) by The Arcade Fire

Buy “Funeral” (CD/MP3)

Loneliness Hangs In The Air, Indeed

Richard Hawley – Coles Corner (2005)

Lovelorn tales from Sheffield’s finest guitarist. His most complete album; this could just as easily have been made in 1957 or 1963, but it’s far too lovely to be snooty about.

MP3: Coles Corner by Richard Hawley

Buy “Coles Corner” (CD/MP3)

Lonesome Fire

M Ward – Transistor Radio (2005)

This could also say “The Transfiguration Of Vincent” or “Post War”, but look, I had to make a choice and as this was the first record of M Ward’s I ever heard, this is my choice. Go for all three, frankly. Ageless, timeless beauty.

MP3: Hi-Fi by M. Ward

Buy “Transistor Radio” (CD)

(2005 will continue in Part Four)

And out of chronological order, because I forgot it earlier:

Stripes And Stars And Stripes

Tortoise – Standards (2001)

Electro-free-jazz-noise-post-rock-funk, as played by aliens. Wonderful, exasperating, confusing and brilliant, usually at the same time.

MP3: Seneca by Tortoise

Buy “Standards” (CD)

Albums Of The Decade (Part One)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Two)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Four)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Five)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Six)

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