Perhaps February 14th conjures the romantic charms of a Lifetime movie, or maybe it evokes the trashy dramatics of a Victor Newman-Nikki Reed-Ashley Abbot love triangle. These albums offer a bit of both for Valentine’s Day.
Rock ‘N Soul, Solomon Burke (1964)
Frontloaded with perfection, the rolling plea from the friend-zone, “Cry To Me”, Solomon Burke’s second LP deserves the attention of listeners who might never venture beyond the opening cut. There exists the misconception that early R&B and soul albums were grab bags of filler, fronts for a single or two. R’NS demolishes this untruth. It’s an album meant for midnight and beyond, suitable for looping if the mood suits you.
Electric Warrior, T. Rex (1971)
File Under: Grinding. Here, Marc Bolan and the gang perfect their metamorphosis from tripped-out hippies to glam gurus. Electric Warrior leads with “Mambo Sun”, but one feels like they’re encountering the track in medias res, its groove predestined, infinite, locked in, threading the rest of the album. The rhythm, punctuated by Bolan’s guitar stabs, never wanes or flourishes; instead, EW is an eternal strut down the catwalk.
Phil Seymour (1980)
More than any other genre, power pop thrives on mercurial matters of the heart. Besides a gorgeous “fuck you” to your manager, what else is there to sing about? Phil Seymour, along with like-minded artists like Tommy Keene, The Smithereens, and former bandmate Dwight Twilley, believed in giddy power chords, devastating hooks, and the virtues of pining. “Precious To Me” secured a spot on the Top 25 and on countless mixtapes curated with ulterior motives. At a loss for words this Valentine’s Day? Say it with “Baby It’s You”, “Love You So Much”, or “I Found a Love”. Seymour’s wide-eyed innocence endures.
I’m Your Man, Leonard Cohen (1988)
Per usual, Cohen’s eternally suave, hopelessly devoted. To some disciples, his embrace of synthesizers was heretical, akin to Bob Dylan’s electric blasphemy at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival. Yet nothing about I’m Your Man sounds dated, cheap, or inauthentic; if anything, the ’80s production yields an icy gravity to the longing of “Ain’t No Cure for Love” and the litany of promises in “I’m Your Man” (featuring the timely line, “If you want another kind of love, I’ll wear a mask for you.) His ambition is fanatical: “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.” And what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?
Chain Gang of Love, The Raveonettes (2003)
Torch songs for the JD set. On paper, the description sounds perfect– Buddy Holly-meets-surf-guitar-meets-The-Shangri-La’s-meet-The Jesus-and-Mary-Chain; on record, it is fucking perfect. Chain Gang of Love lands us in a world where breaking hearts is a criminal offense. The Danish duo makes a mess of things– feedback, white noise, distorted bass, with Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo giving us both sides of the story. Underneath the noir haze is a perpetual heartbeat ensuring that we’ll keep coming back, that we’ll never learn, that we’ll rave on.