While I am the biggest fan of the old classics – seriously, play a little Otis or Van and I’m putty in your hands – thousands of amazing love songs are written each year, and those deserve to be celebrated. In fact, with every new year, there are always a lucky few ballads that are good enough to cross into “classic” territory.
2013 was a great year for music, and the new dribbles we’ve heard so far in 2014 have been sounding equally lovely. So, while you have the next week to assemble your cheesy candle, chocolate fondue and bearskin rug display for Valentine’s, when it comes to the music – look no further. These thoughtful, funny and sexy new tunes will put the spark back in your relationship, and your playlist.
1. Turn Your Lights Down Low – Jim James: This gorgeous Bob Marley original has been excellently covered by nutty daughter-in-law Lauryn Hill, but the version that My Morning Jacket frontman James recorded for Starbucks’ fabulous Sweetheart 2014 compilation is a deliciously bluesy upgrade. (Sweetheart 2014 was released today – you can stream it here.)
2. Detlef Shrempf (Acoustic version) – Band of Horses: No playlist is really complete without the sounds of one of my favourite rock bands. Add an acoustic piano breakdown of an already-classic into the mix, and all bets are off.
3. Darker Side – Rhodes: This is one of my very favourite new ballads. This young UK singer-songwriter is one to watch; his breathy vocals and woozy guitars are only a few pieces of his promising puzzle, and I can’t wait to hear the melodies he pens next.
4. Look Out – James Vincent McMorrow: Unless you’re the tin man, this whole album should absolutely melt you. Irish gem McMorrow straddles the line between James Blake and Patrick Watson with his quiet, soulful crooning – but once this song explodes midway through, nothing about him is delicate.
5. You’re the Best – Wet: This lovelorn new electronic piece is probably the first you’re hearing of Brooklyn trio Wet, but I can guarantee that after one listen to the melodic and adorable number, you’ll want more for your collection.
6. Stay (Rihanna Cover) – Hannah Georgas: The soulful thump of Georgas’ iTunes session version is totally arresting – making it the perfect piece to slow the pace of your Valentine’s weekend.
7. Fall in Love – Phantogram: Spice things up with skilled electro-rock duo Phantogram and their amazing mishmash of R&B and shoegaze.
8. Tomorrow is a Long Time (Bob Dylan cover) – Phosphorescent: Another golden number of the Sweetheart 2014 compilation, Phosphorescent’s whack at Dylan’s romantic plucking has only further secured the notion that I will someday marry him.
9. Last Mile Home (Acoustic) – Kings of Leon: Stripped down for the August: Osage County soundtrack, the brilliant Tennessee rockers hit a home run with this heartfelt road anthem.
10. Good Sex – Kevin Drew: BSS frontman Drew speaks the truth on the first single from his forthcoming solo album. Declarations like “good sex never makes you feel hollow” and “I’m still breathing with you baby” have put both our attention and our hearts in the bag.
11. Powell River – Jadea Kelly: Off her beautiful 2013 release Clover, this talented Toronto folk artist seems to have a pocket that’s endlessly filled with these kinds of sweet, swaying ballads.
12. Seasons (Waiting on You) – Future Islands: Let’s mix it up with the latest from one of the best synth-pop groups out there – who were kind enough to release this sunny love song just in time for the occasion. Although slightly less eccentric than some of their previous singles, “Seasons” is still all sorts of infectious.
13. Someone – We Have Band: Continuing on the upbeat note, this single off We Have Band’s third album is bound to get you and your lover out of your seats and onto the dance floor for a fun little two-step.
14. Rocket – Beyonce: Need I say more?
Have fun, kiddies!