A Valentine’s Day playlist from a Valentine’s Day hater
Look, I’ll be honest. I kinda hate Valentine’s Day.
I’m not anti-love, and I’m by no means a brooding figure, but it’s hard not to be cynical about a day that’s become so crass and so greedily commercialised.
It’s a grind trying to get through this day each year while being assaulted by sickly sweet imagery conjured up by Valentine-obsessed marketing teams.
However, I do kinda like the idea of having one day in the year where we all celebrate the idea of love in all of its forms, not just the sticky gooey romantic kind.
Excuse me if this makes you want to vomit, but it’s true that all of us could do with a reminder every now and then to give love to those close to us and be tolerant to everyone around us. Especially now.
Apparently, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. Or something like that.
So, while Valentine’s Day makes me nauseous, I really do love love songs. Maybe it’s a cliché, but what better art form to celebrate love than the ephemeral and unknowable magic of music, which seems to work on us a bit mysteriously, not unlike love itself.
With that in mind, here are a few of my favourite love songs from out of leftfield. Can electronic music be romantic? You betcha.
The Focus Group – ‘Hey Let Loose Your Love’
Leave it to a brooding English sound collagist to remind us that love is about abandon and giving yourself over to the moment.
The Focus Group is an ongoing project for English producer Julian House, who explored a kind of psychedelic musique concrète that inspired a movement that came to be known as hauntology.
Hauntological music has an uncanny way of melding emotion and memory via ghostly sound design. You can broadly throw Burial and vaporwave under this umbrella too.
Jessie Ware & Sampha – ’Valentine’
Not all love songs have to be soppy and sickly sweet. But it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of that in your life.
Be warned: this one is so adorable that you will either want to immediately cuddle a puppy, or immediately chew your face off in anger.
Art of Noise – ‘Moments In Love’
One of the most unlikely and indulgent pop hits of the 1980s. A sensual ten-minute celebration of elegant romance, pieced together by pop pioneers Art of Noise and accompanied by a surreal film clip.
It’s hard to understate the impact of this song on electronic pop music. For proof of that, check out DJ duo Nguzunguzu’s incredible Moments in Mixtape which seamlessly pieces together over 20 songs that have riffed on or directly sampled the original classic, including Genuwine, Caspa and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.
Caribou – ‘Can’t Do Without You’
With his all-white outfits and sexy mathematician aesthetic (note: he is an actual mathematician), Dan Snaith - aka Caribou - is a lothario for our times.
If Calvin Harris had grown up listening to Arthur Russell, he probably would have written this song. Dan, it’s not too late to reach out to Rihanna for a guest verse on ‘Can’t Do Without You (Remix)’.
The Presets – ‘This Boy’s In Love’
Love is soft, and love is hard. The best The Presets ballads convey this concept perfectly, somehow simultaneously tough and gentle.
Coming at you like a rebooted Pet Shop Boys, this song is on fire, a celebration of the rush of love.
Bonus points to Melbourne duo Kult Kyss who recently covered this modern classic, coating it with a Knife-esque electro sheen.
Zinja Hlungwani – ‘N'wagezani My Love’
At its best, Shangaan Electro is addictive and hypnotic, a relentless rush of repetitive high-tempo South African rhythms.
Pair that vibe with a handful of charmingly romantic sentiments – ‘What can I do, my baby, I wanna make you mine’ – and a video with some of the most sensual Dad dancing you will ever see from a bunch of men in suits, and you have an all-time classic moment in love.
Björk – ‘All Is Full of Love’
Yes, it’s the song with the video with the kinky robot sexy times. But, beyond that, there’s a lovely message here: love is more than just about the connection between two people, it’s all around you if you open yourself to it.
“The song in essence is actually about believing in love,” Björk herself said. “Love isn’t just about two persons, it’s everywhere around you. Even if you’re not getting love from Person A, it doesn’t mean that there’s not love there.”
Check out more great electronic love songs in this Spotify playlist.