In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in advance of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking about songs we’ve used (or would like to use) to win a crush over.
My most recent Hear This entries on Jets To Brazil and Jimmy Eat World have screwed me this week, because my go-to mixtape jams have been penned by Blake Schwarzenbach (Jawbreaker’s “Want,” Jets To Brazil’s “Sweet Avenue”) and Jimmy Eat World (“Crush”). That’s okay, because any emo guy worth his cardigan has a whole arsenal of them. “Red & Blue Jeans” by The Promise Ring (or “A Picture Postcard”). “405” by Death Cab For Cutie. (“Transatlanticism” feels too obvious, “I Will Possess Your Heart” too on the nose.) “Else” by Built To Spill. “The Modern Leper” by Frightened Rabbit. “Anxious Arms” by The Jealous Sound. “Under The Hedge” by Ted Leo. “Favorite” by Neko Case. “Boom” by Wild Flag. “King Of All The World” by Old 97’s. (“Buick City Complex” from that same album could also work, but Rhett Miller opening the song with “Do you wanna mess around?” might be too direct. Ditto the line “Do you wanna be my girl? / Do you wanna be my friend?”)
I could go on. A lot of those are older songs, because I’ve been out of the sending-songs-to-crushes game since the earliest days of the first George W. Bush administration. So much of selecting a song depends on the personality and taste of the recipient: Wild Flag’s “Boom” might be too aggressive; she may be turned off by the shaky vocals of “A Picture Postcard.” Please consult your nearest copy of High Fidelity for more information.
That said, I’ve passed a few songs onto my wife in recent years. One of them is “The Modern Leper,” whose closing lines kill me: “And you’re not ill and I’m not dead / Doesn’t that make us the perfect pair? / Just you and me, we’ll start again / And you can tell me all about what you did today / What you did today.”
So many of crush-worthy songs are mostly appropriate for new relationships, not long-term ones, which is why I’m choosing “Lose Big” by Clem Snide frontman Eef Barzelay. It’s a snapshot of a relationship years after that initial spark, when the issues of real-life can test the bond between people. In this case, it’s a rather specific case of life as a struggling musician and the choices it entails. “If you’re gonna lose, then / Might as well lose big, then,” Barzelay sings over a spare, clean guitar at the beginning. “As always it was, always it shall be / Do you really love me? / If you promise me you do / I’ll take that job you want me to / And do my best / Swear that I can past this test.”
The rest of the band kicks in as the song segues into an encounter with a female fan (and Barzelay gently chiding his suspicious wife with “You should try to be more kind”) then an unfortunately timed European tour: “Europe’s going to love me / All in different countries / There is no way that I can turn it down / And anyway, it’s for us / Promise I’ll be home before / That baby’s knocking on the door / I’ll be right there to let it in / I won’t be scared.”
The band drops out again. “Well if we’re gonna lose, then / Might as well lose big, then / As always it was, always it shall be / Do you really love me? / Do you really love me?” The song began with you and ends with we, like the two of them against the world. It may sound resigned, but I think it sounds fearless. The answer to his question is clear—and when you have someone by your side and no fear of failure, then you’re free. “Lose Big” doesn’t have the giddy anticipation of a new crush, but the richness that comes once you’ve found a keeper.