What is Love?

It is February, which to many means the celebration of Valentine’s Day. I am not and have never been much of a fan of this “Hallmark” holiday. It is not that love isn’t important, its just that I know that love is not chocolate hearts, sugary sweet cards or flowers. I could wax poetic on love, but I will resist. I have a liberal interpretation of love songs. Love includes heartbreak and sadness. Love also means joy and comfort. Here is a selection of “love” songs that hit one (or more) of those marks for me.

The first song is a more traditional “love” song with a pinch of sadness and an understanding of mortality. Jason Isbell is a master songwriter. He is also madly in love with his wife and fellow artist Amanda Shires. Here is “If We Were Vampires” off of Nashville Sound.

The National Parks are one of my favorite bands of recent. Their songs are a bit more poppy and happy than much of the music I listen to. “Birds Eye” from their first record Young is no exception, though it may be a bit more melancholy as it is story of a lost love.

On a more somber note, “Empty” from Ray LaMontagne tells the story of the loss of love in a different way. His haunting tale has a way of filling up the quiet spaces.

It may seem at times that I do not enjoy good old fashioned pop music. I like a sing along as much as the next person. One of my favorite pop bands over the last few years has been Royal Teeth. Their songs are catchy as hell and have that sweet male/female harmony that I cannot get enough of (probably doesn’t hurt that the two singers just got married – to each other). Their first record Glow is a go-to album for good ol’ fashioned pop love songs. Here is “Vagabonds” from that record.

I believe that we only know the best that love has to offer when we understand it at its worst. I’ve heard some sad songs, but sometimes they do not seem to capture that feeling. “Play that One Again” by Greg Laswell is one of the few that captures that heartbreak and despair. Laswell wrote his newest record Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet after his divorce from fellow singer Ingrid Michaelson. The entire record is amazing, and will hopefully be featured in a post about records made after a divorce or ending of a relationship.

In an unusual fashion, I will end on a high note. Now, I don’t love the String Cheese Incident. I am not a huge fan of jam bands (even ones from Colorado), but this song is a such a beautiful exception. “My One and Only” features Bonnie Paine, the lead singer of Elephant Revival (which makes this a Colorado Collaboration, if you will). The song is a mix of bluegrass, folk, and delightful harmonies.

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