It’s that time of the year again: Bouquets of balloons and flowers crowd the grocery store aisles, candy stamped with cheesy phrases like “Be Mine” or “We Are ‘Mint’ To Be” and heart-shaped everythings. You’re either looking forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day with your favorite person—or waiting for the love-infested holiday to be over and done with.
Whichever direction your love life is going in this season, we made a playlist to get you through it. So if you are one of the lucky ones—or one of the unlucky ones, hit play and enjoy the ride!
“Wicked Game” – Widowspeak
The dread of baring your heart to a new lover is delivered to us on a pillow of honeyed vocals and soft psychedelia in this Chris Isaak cover from indie rock duo Widowspeak. Isaak’s original message about the fears of falling in love are amplified in this track by the limpid innocence in singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton’s voice. This song makes it feel good to get hurt again.
“Show Me How” – Men I Trust
If there was one song to emulate the ultimate heartbreak feeling, it would be the hit single “Show Me How” from the Canadian band Men I Trust. Massing over 300 million streams on Spotify, many have felt the same as lead singer Emma Proulx. This song is about a girl who is obsessed with someone, but that person doesn’t feel the same as she does. The bass throughout the song is very addicting and the guitar adds that vintage indie sound that helped skyrocket this song to fandom.
“Land of My Dreams” – Anna Domino
Three parts indie dream pop, one part goth—Anna Domino’s “Land of My Dreams” is almost like an undiscovered Siouxsie and The Banshees song, except it’s not. This hidden ‘80s gem documents the heart-wrenching realization of a lover not living up to your expectations. The idealized version you had of them seems to slip further and further away with each passing day. Domino is there to guide you down the blackened hallway of your doomed relationship.
“Who Knows What Love Is?” – Strawberry Switchblade
Take a trip back to 1985 with some city pop from the iconic underground band Strawberry Switchblade. In the chorus, lead singer Rose McDowall asks “Who could tell me what love is?” and follows up her own question with “I wish it could be you.” McDowall seems to have a little crush and her deep desire for this person grows by the minute.
“Hospital” – Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers
Tragic, sulky and a little bit emo. An embittered Jonathan Richman and his precarious band of Modern Lovers show us the “pain inside” a heart that has never truly healed. Although Richman is no stranger to showing us his green-eyed side (see “I’m Straight” and “Let Her Go Into The Darkness”), “Hospital” is all of that plus the unbearable sickness that is being in lust with someone. Richman’s lover is a sucky person, but he can’t help but to keep doting over her and her beauty.
“Jonny” – Faye Webster
Faye Webster is one of those artists who always seems to be going through some sort of heartbreak, but damn is she good at expressing it. “Jonny” is a mellow track about her past lover, but now she’s questioning whether he really loved her in the first place. The chords in the background add such painful emotion to the song along with Faye’s heartbroken vocals. This will be right up your alley if you’re into the jazzier tunes.
“If Nothing Else Comes Along” – Steph Green
Mournful, reverb-drenched twangs from Steph Green’s lap steel set a moody backdrop for this indie-western track about an unrequited love. Green captures that frightful feeling of being in love with someone who doesn’t want to love you back, but keeps you hanging on by a thread while they’re still out there searching for someone better. “If Nothing Else Comes Along” is a tuneful reminder that “someone who feels like that, is someone who isn’t gonna stay.”
“HARDLY EVER SMILE (without you)” – POiSON GiRL FRiEND
The atmosphere is set with dreamy synths and a hypnotizing use of violin throughout the song. Lead singer Noriko Sekiguchi strums her acoustic guitar while expressing the sad emotions she’s feeling as she goes through this conflict. She echoes throughout the track that she wishes to be with this person every night and every second, but this person is just a figment of her imagination.
“Let Me Go” – Daniel Caesar
Daniel Caesar has established himself as one of this generation’s best vocalists after the release of his 2017 hit album “Freudian.” On this track, Caesar loses his patience with his partner and loses sleep thinking about breaking away before time is up. This track is simple—soft repetitive drums and a distorted guitar echo into the abyss that showcases the spacious atmosphere.
“Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” – The Seeds
This grimy psychedelia and garage rock break-up ballad from the ‘60s is a catchy way to push through any love-lorn turmoil you might be experiencing this Valentine’s season. Frontman Sky Saxon’s howls and Jagger-esque vocals help spell out that oh-so agonizing feeling of someone playing with your heart. “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” is a song for when you want to tune in and spin out.
“Sparkle In Your Eyes” – Jensine Benitez and Thee Sacred Souls
Thee Sacred Souls is a new-age time capsule of late 50s and early 60s soul. Over the past couple of months, they have been going viral over their 2020 song “Can I Call You Rose” and this track is a piece of that same style of soul. Jensine Benitez is a backup singer for the band, but this song is credited under her vocals are the star here with the help of Thee Sacred Souls on the drums, keyboard, and bass. Benitez describes how stun-locked she is after locking eyes with this person and wanting to share her love with them. If you enjoy the old-school Chicano-style soul, this is the song for you.
“Baby” – Donnie and Joe Emerson
Donnie and Joe Emerson’s “Baby” should be at the very top of the list of songs to play at your wedding—if you ever agree to get married. This track rolls into a golden-houred skyline slowly, with a melodic groove and soft, satiny coos, before the brothers Emerson whisk us away into the night. Controversial indie-rocker Ariel Pink covered the love song in 2012 and offers an equally beautiful take on this track with a slight psychedelic twist. Unfortunately, Pink’s version has seen more success since its release than Donnie and Joe’s 1979 original recording and 2012 re-release ever has.
“A Greater Love” – Yves Tumor
Sean Lee Bowie, lead vocalist of Yves Tumor, is a modern-day rockstar with his experimental sound. This song borrows from other rock subgenres, such as shoegaze, which helps set the tone for this rock love ballad. Bowie expresses his deep love for his partner and describes them as an angel sent from above. This intimate track showcases Bowie’s distorted vocals with an angelic voice ad-libbing throughout the track.
“Shut Up and Kiss Me” – Angel Olsen
“Shut up, kiss me, hold me tight.” // Angel Olsen’s breakout hit from her third studio album says everything we’re thinking when entering a new romance and coming up against a petty lover’s quarrel. You know that argument won’t matter in a few hours from now. And you’re still, like, really, really into them. So—what’s the deal? “We could end all this pain right here.”
“Something About Us” – Daft Punk
A Daft Punk classic, this prime Daft Punk sound emulates the energy of driving at night through downtown Japan. Although the electronic duo doesn’t usually rely on their vocals or lyrics in most of their songs, this track reminds listeners that there are real people behind those cool masks and, like us, they couldn’t live another day without their significant other. The electronic love ballad ends with “I love you more than anyone in my life.” For a robot to express their feelings like that, It has to be true love.
“You Can Have It All” – George McCrae
Soul singer George McCrae devotes himself fully to love and the dance floor in this disco hit from the ‘70s. You and your dancing queen will be hard-pressed to not enjoy this little number when it shows up in the song rotation. Indie rock band Yo La Tengo covered the track in 2000, but swapped out the funky organ keys and disco whistles for dreamy string accompaniments and endearingly awkward “ba bum, bum dum, bah–” vocalizations to create a love song masterpiece of their own.
“Buttons” – Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy took over the world in 2015 as a Grammy-nominated teenager and again in 2022 with his second studio album Gemini Rights. Led by the hit single “Bad Habit,” the album debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard Top 200 and was generally received positively by his audience. Buttons, however, is one of those sing-in-the-shower love songs that gets stuck in your head all day. The bass notes following Lacy’s flow are satisfying and his vocals are as smooth as ever. Lacy describes how he fell in love with this person and how they both let their guard down so quickly. If you enjoy those Stevie Wonder-esque type vocals, this should be right up your alley.
“And I love Him” – Esther Phillips
This gender-bent variation of The Beatles’ 1964 original adds piano, horns and string backings that coat this dreamy love song in an extra layer of sweetness. Although nearly the same length as the Beatles recording at just over two and a half minutes long, Texas-born early R&B, jazz and blues vocalist Esther Phillips allows the track to linger a bit in order to really lock in that sultry admiration that the singer croons about. McCartney himself has praised Phillips’ cover saying it was the earliest Beatles cover he remembered hearing and loved.
“So In Love”- Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield is so good at capturing the feelings of love, lust and happiness, as notable in many of his songs. The song is off his 1975 album “There’s No Place Like America Today” and imagining yourself on a sunny picnic date with your partner is the kind of energy this track gives off. Mayfield serenades us over and over again with that iconic chorus. And although he repeats it 12 times throughout the song, it never gets redundant. Mayfield makes up for it with his iconic soulful voice.
“Come On (Ven Aqui)” – Los Saicos
Even with its throat-itching vocals, this surfy garage track from underappreciated Peruvian proto-punk rockers Los Saicos is still wildly provocative. Those sultry growls are part of what makes this track so seductive. That, mixed with the unabashed confidence that exudes from lead vocalist Erwin Flores when urging you to come closer makes this a pretty fun song to listen to when you’re really feeling someone.