Valentine's Day Playlist

Josh Breeden and Leah Harrison outline their latest holiday playlist for Valentine's lovers

William Shakespeare had a pretty good grasp on the concept of romance (unless you count Romeo & Juliet.) The king of romance once wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.” Whether your valentine prefers the sounds of the 21st century, or has a taste for tunes a bit more aged, we’ve got you covered. Here it is: Josh & Leah's 2012 Valentine’s Day Playlist!

Classical Music

Baude Cordier: Belle, Bonne, Sage (Lovely, Good, Wise)

Baude Cordier’s (suspected pseudonym for Baude Fresnel) poetic rondeau belongs to the tradition of Augenmusik--literally “eye music”--because of the art-infused notation. This particular piece is written on staves curved into a heart; eye-catching red notes denote altered rhythms. Musicially, the chanson belongs to the ars subtilior, a compositional convention reflecting complexity, difficulty and refinement. But the romance is not restricted to tune or notation—the last verse translates from French as: "For I love you so well that I have no other purpose, and know well that you alone are she who is famous for being called by all: Flower of beauty, excellent above all others."

Franz Liszt: Liebesträume No. 3

One of Liszt’s most-loved pieces, Liebestraume (dreams of love) features a sweet, tuneful melody. Liszt oftentimes wrote flashy, technically harrowing music (this has its moments,) but the piece exhibits tenderness akin to Chopin. Atypical compositions often denote personal meaning, so perhaps the heart we hear portrays something especially meaningful to Liszt.

Sergei Prokofiev: L’amour des trois oranges (The Love for Three Oranges) Orchestral Suite

If you’re planning on celebrating Anna Howard Shaw Day (the founding of The League of Women Voters) or any other Liz Lemon-isms (ix-nay on the alentines-vay,) you’ll enjoy this sardonic number. Prokofiev’s 1919 satirical opera, sketched on a trip to Chicago, is based on a 17th century fairy tale of a similar name. It employs remnants of the Commedia dell’Arte form, while foreshadowing surrealism.  Prokofiev later arranged the work as an orchestral suite with six movements so it could be performed without the extensive needs of an opera. No matter how wacky the libretto and plot, Prokofiev is easy to love.

Traditional/Kronos Quartet arr.: Tusen Tankar

Syracuse residents who attended the Kronos Quartet concert on SU’s campus last November heard this traditional Scandinavian folk song live, and though it was much more orthodox than anything else on their program, it captivated listeners with its honesty. 

Eric Whitacre: A Boy and a Girl

Whitacre, a contemporary American composer, has achieved fame and popularity reminiscent of 18th- and 19th-century composers, and “A Boy and a Girl” is one of his quintessential works. Depicting two lifetimes spent together through three verses, the lush, sometimes dissonant harmonies are so full and raw that the discordant notes sink into each other. This work will make anyone with ears swoon.


Pop Music

Flat Duo Jets: You Belong to Me

Penned by music librarian Chilton Price, “You Belong to Me” snowballed into a widely-covered pop hit after Sue Thompson recorded the original take for Mercury in 1952. Price dedicated the song to young couples separated by WWII, her lyrics trimmed in longing, sorrow and an eyes-to-the-horizon naiveté.

Usually a wispy ordeal, “You Belong to Me” is stripped of its tender instrumentals and plodding tempo in the hands of the Flat Duo Jets. Singer-guitarist Dexter Romweber groans and howls. His voice trembles in loss one moment, and burns triumphant in love the next. Strummed chords linger heavy with each verse and reform in hacked bursts during the choruses. Drummer Chris Smith beats out mid-tempo support, occasionally throwing in drum rolls and punctuating crash. I miss you too Dexter. The draft is such a drag.

James Carr: Lovable Girl

James Carr gave Otis Redding a run for his money. An emotive, yet controlled singer, Mr. Carr developed into a central soul figure while recording for Goldwax Records during the mid- to late- '60s. He also had fantastic hair.

Carr cut “Lovable Girl” at Sun Studios in 1967 and, like most pieces of sixties soul, the track touts a buoyant mix of brass, plucky guitar and tumbling percussion. “What a creation, what a sensation,” marvels Carr in a strained, melancholic plea. The man sounds like he’s going to collapse. He needs some love quick, and God knows he’ll get it. 

New York Dolls: Looking For a Kiss

Dolls’ lead vocalist David Johansen isn’t one for playing games. “When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love,” he proclaims moments into “Looking for a Kiss,” the second track off his band’s self-titled 1973 debut. Backed by Johnny Thunders’ chunky, blues-infused guitar tone, Johansen tells his nameless lady that he isn’t “looking for no fix.” He wants some love.

Like most of the New York Dolls’ catalog, “Looking For a Kiss” is rooted in traditional music forms. Blues, fifties rock, soul, it’s all there –– just painted with lipstick and shrouded in a purple, velvet waistcoat. 

Bright Eyes: June on the West Coast

Singer/songwriter and Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst has a love-hate relationship with everything––romance included. The seventh track of Bright Eyes’ sophomore release, Letting Off the Happiness, “June on the West Coast” features an optimistic Oberst as he searches for love on, you guessed it, the West Coast.

He drinks up “the sunlight of Winnetka, California,” contemplates death in Arizona (who doesn’t) and has lunch with his bro in Olympia. Finally, Oberst reaches San Diego, which he decides is the perfect place to plot out his future romantic pursuits. “I thought about my true love, the one I really need,” he sings. “With eyes that burn so bright, they make me pure.”     

F****d Up: Queen of Hearts

The censored band name should give you a clue as to what sort of music this Toronto collective produces. Usually, there’s screaming, loud guitar and blood (this includes both live and studio settings.) But there’s also a "but," and that "but" encapsulates a variety of un-hardcore stuff, like immensely melodic hooks and well-crafted lyrics.

“Queen of Hearts” is the second “scene” from the band’s four-act, 18-track concept album titled "David Comes To Life." The record tells the tale of David, a young, angry lightbulb factory worker on a quest for rebirth, and, consequently, love.

In the second scene David, joins forces with Veronica, who also happens to be mad at "the Man," and together they decide they’re going to blow the bulb factory to hell. It is then that seeds of love are planted. “Hello, my name is David, your name is Veronica––lets be together, until the stars go out,” screams singer Damian Abraham. It’s a cry of love, and yes, I so did.  

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