Love songs that don’t suck

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

My Spotify consists of dozens upon dozens of playlists I’ve compiled with different themes: writing, working out, road trips, sad as hell, etc. Among the day-to-day necessities are small collections of sappy songs — the ones I play when the sun is just right and I’m feeling particularly lucky to be headed home to my person. In acknowledgment of Valentine’s Day, here are a few of those tracks.

Photo by Mark Kamalov.

“Hold You In My Arms” • Ray LaMontagne

It’s simple, but so, so good. Ray LaMontagne is one of my feel-good artists, and this song is all about making each other feel good, or at least feel better. “Hold You In My Arms” exemplifies what I see as one of the main tenets of romantic love: to be someone’s safe place to land when the cruel outside world beckons. The easy-going chorus is medicine for all the bad things — fears, insecurities, anxieties — that threaten to take over until our person is there to help carry the load.

Choice lyrics: “Don’t let your eyes refuse to see / don’t let your ears refuse to hear / you ain’t never gonna shake this sense of sadness”

“Strawberry Blonde” • Sam Burchfield

For someone who doesn’t much like surprises, I am a sucker for songs about running away together. Burchfield strikes a tone somewhere between simple adoration and deep desperation, so I can’t imagine the person he’s pleading to run away with and marry could possibly say no. This song for me is the pie-in-the-sky love song, perfect for when life is just a little too much to handle and disappearing with the person you love could be the perfect antidote — in a perfect world.

Choice lyrics: “Throw out your bobby pins and your reservations / let your hair hang loose”

“Where You Are — Acoustic” • Tenille Townes

This track comes from an emerging country singer-songwriter out of Nashville, but this rendition of “Where You Are” strikes a folksy tone and showcases Townes’ gift for giving life to simple lyrics without any predictable twang or country cliches. What struck me upon first listen is how easily this song rises and falls from profound declaration of love to subdued fondness as Townes recounts all the things she would do be with her person — from standing in a long line to swimming across a sea. Above all, this song feels genuine, and that’s why I dig it.

Choice lyrics: “I’d stand in any ticket line / any mountain, I would climb / just to find my way to where you are”

“Truly Madly Deeply” • Yoke Lore (Spotify Session)

When a folk band tackles a ‘90s pop hit, the results can vary. Yoke Lore takes Savage Garden’s 1997 “Truly Madly Deeply” and gives it new life, taking the timeless, hopelessly-romantic lyrics and giving them a melancholy touch over soft banjo. Sounds weird? I didn’t think it would work that well either, but the result is a gem that keeps making its way onto all my cheesy playlists.

Choice lyrics: “I’ll be your dream, I’ll be your wish, I’ll be your fantasy / I’ll be your hope, I’ll be your love, be everything that you need”

“The Bad Days” • David Ramirez

This song takes us off the track of typical, sappy love songs and into the realm of sad love songs, which might be my favorite kind of songs. Ramirez has all of the elements here: incredible vocals, searingly sad acoustic guitar and lyrics that are almost painfully honest. He pleads with whoever is back home waiting for him as he travels, acknowledging that while there will days when she’s fed up, she’s “still (his) girl in the bad days.” I can’t say whether the woman he is singing about is still in his life, but based on this song, I probably would be.

Choice lyrics: “There are gonna be days when the love is so thin / the days are a game that we just can’t win / there are gonna be days you might want to be free / there are gonna be days that you hate me”

“Heart’s On Fire” • Passenger

Alright, this one is a little on the sad side, too, though in a less obvious way. The English singer-songwriter recounts his fortunes, admitting he doesn’t have much, but he’s “got enough,” and recalls someone he hopes to see again. Just the line that serves as the song’s namesake — “Oh, darlin’, my heart’s on fire for you” — is a lot to unpack. Fire is so destructive and all-consuming, and sometimes love can be, too. Anyone who likes more well-known Passenger songs — or who has a soft spot for solemn, string-dominated folk tunes — will love “Heart’s on Fire.”

Choice lyrics: “When something’s living well you can’t say die / you feel like laughing but you start to cry / I don’t know how and I don’t know why”

“Northern Wind” • City and Colour

When I consider what love would sound like if it were a song, I believe “Northern Wind” is the answer. With simple guitar and a string of similes, the Canadian singer-songwriter compares his love to falling leaves, a lullaby, the four seasons and more. Making comparisons to the beauty he sees in the world made more sense than to attempt to describe his love for this person, and that, to me, speaks volumes. There’s power in simplicity when it comes to love songs, and City and Colour nails it.

Choice lyrics: “You are all four seasons / rolled into one / you’re like the cold December snow / in the warm July sun”

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