Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Yes, but is it heart?

Calum Marsh

After a flurry of readers (one?) demanding (suggesting?) we do a themed list for Valentine's Day, I've decided to concede and write one up. I agree with the suggestion that "heart" might be a more interesting stipulation than merely "love", so I've compiled a list of 15 songs with titles that contain the word "heart". Even though it's for a romantic holiday, it isn't a prerequestite that the songs deal with romance - just the word "heart", that's all that matters for this one. Also, I'm going to try and avoid mentioning My Bloody Valentine. Wait, damn.

There are a couple of obvious choices (particularly obvious if you're familiar with my musical interests), but for the most part I tried to avoid picking anything you'd be able to guess without reading. I'm actually a little surprised, to be honest, that I was able to find fifteen heart-related tracks without resorting to Top 40 radio. I guess indie musicians have love stories to tell, too.

You asked, we delivered: The Top 15 Heart-Related Indie Songs ... Ever!

15. Deerhoof - Dummy Discards A Heart (MP3)
The opening track from Deerfhoof's excellent Apple O' album is a fun way to start of this list mostly because I can't tell what the hell is being sung. Is it a love song? I don't know, maybe. Deerhoof isn't really about understanding lyrics, though - the vocals tend to act as further instrumentation. It's probably not the best song to stick on a Valentine's mix tape for your significant other, though I suppose you could tell him or her that the song is about how much you love them - they'd probably never tell the difference.

14. ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Heart In The Hand Of The Matter (MP3)
Remember when everyone loved Trail Of Dead? Yeah, neither do I. They've always had an intense cult following, but indie kids in general seem to forget about them, for some reason. Despite the lackluster loving, Source Tags & Codes is a really great album (maybe not 10.0 great, but still), and this is probably my favourite track.

13. Annie - Heartbeat (MP3)
It may be hard for indie kids to stomach Annie's playful, often Kylie Minogue-ish pop sound. But honestly, if you can get past the negative connotations those descriptions have, Annie has a lot to offer you - her music is fun and catchy, and isn't that enough? It's pop music, alright, but it's also really, really good. I'm glad this song just so happens to have "heart" in it, because it's probably her best track - and even if it isn't, it's definitely the best introduction you could have to her music.

Xiu Xiu - Crank Heart (MP3)
I plan on working a Xiu Xiu track into every list I make just to shake things up. Thus far I've only discussed his cover songs, which is unfortunate considering the quality of his original work. The opening track to Fabulous Muscles - one of my all-time favourite albums - Crank Heart is full of everything that makes a Xiu Xiu song recognizably his own: beeps and crashes, soft-singing juxtaposed with screams of insanity; it's music that feels radical and sponteneous yet perfectly crafted just the same. Weird, yes, but also terrific.

11. Death Cab For Cutie - Your Heart Is An Empty Room (MP3)
As I've made perfectly clear in the past, I'm not a Plans fan. Still, I've no qualms with putting a Death Cab track on a list about hearts, so this will have to do. What's with the U2-ish electric that peppers the otherwise-fine lush instrumentation? Sigh. I guess it's not so bad, but for the most part it just makes me miss the old Gibbard.

10. Stars - Heart (Radio Edit) (MP3)
This is a much more obvious addition to the list, so I've opted to use the Radio Edit version of Heart, available exclusively on the rare Dead Child Stars EP, just to make this choice a tad more interesting. It's pretty much the same song, but it gains scene points for being hard to find. This was always one of my favourite Stars tracks, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that preference, but it's nearly impossible to resist that charming chorus. If you're making your loved one a mix tape this year, you can't leave this one out.

09. The Magnetic Fields - I Think I Need A New Heart (MP3)
I don't think any man could have crafted a love list without including a track from The Magnetic Fields' brilliant 69 Love Songs album. There are three songs that explicitly use the word 'heart' (were this topic 'love', I could form the entire list only using songs from this album), and any of the three would have done just fine in this spot. If you've never heard this album in its entirety, I highly recommend that you do so immediately.

08. Four Tet - And They All Look Broken Hearted (MP3)
Another track on this list taken from one of my favourite albums ever (the quirky and irresistable Rounds), Broken Hearted isn't immediately catchy or mindblowing, but if you really pay attention (headphones are a must), you'll get what all the fuss is about. Though it doesn't stand alone as strongly as some of the other Heart songs, it sounds wonderful in the midst of a mix tape or its original album.

07. The Arcade Fire - My Heart Is An Apple (MP3)
I originally didn't give this track much thought, particularly because in comparisson to the Arcade Fire EP's more immediately pleasing songs (No Cars Go and Vampire/Forest Fire), it didn't seem like anything to get worked up over. But now that I've spent long enough with that record to get to know each track well, My Heart Is An Apple has grown on my quite a bit. I equate it to liking Rebellion (Lies) best when you first hear Funeral, but slowly and surely realizing that In The Backseat is the real gem.

06. Final Fantasy - Took You Two Years To Win My Heart (MP3)
Final Fantasy got fairly looked over in 2005, partly due to his album being released among so many instant classics. With lyrics like "They say heartbreak is good for the skin/but all it has helped is my drinking", this is really the song for those who plan on celebrating Valentine's Day alone. A slow crawler, Two Years To Win My Heart sounds as though it could be used for Waltzing, assuming dancing couples can ignore (or not notice) the depressingly negative lyrics. Oh, irony, you slay me.

05. M83 - A Guitar And A Heart (MP3)
Why aren't more people into M83? This song (and album) is incredible for its ability to evoke the night so accurately. I've never been able to listen to it without thinking about late night highway traffic, tall buildings, stars, and an assortment of other dark soundscapes. Quit complaining about the cheesy voice samples and just enjoy the associations.

04. Sufjan Stevens - The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts (MP3)
What starts off sounding like a straight-forward rock song ends up being, of course, an accoustic Sufjan ballad - not that there's anything wrong with that. This song has all the great elements that make Illinoise so great: layered backing vocals, light guitar, big-band instrumentation, masterful lyrics, and...electric guitar breakdown? Only Sufjan could be so eclectic without sounding unfocused.

03. Wolf Parade - This Heart's On Fire (MP3)
Who didn't see this coming? Apologies To The Queen Mary's closer is close to perfect, ending the disc in the best imaginable way. I remember this song coming on at the dance club last week, which at first seemed odd but by the end made sense. Only Wolf Parade can make a song that, heard in the right context, could inspire emotional catharsis or drunken dancing. Problem is, I no longer know whether to cry or move my feet. Maybe I'll try both simultaniously.

02. Antony & The Johnsons - Hitler In My Heart (MP3)
Best "heart" title ever. It's strange to hear pre-'Bird Now' Antony tracks such as Hitler In My Heart after being so familiar with that album; the music, which is still relatively sparse, seems totally excessive in comparisson - you know now that Antony's voice should be carrying the track, and all those sweeping strings are doing is distracted you from what's important. If you somehow managed to go without hearing I Am A Bird Now last year, this is probably a good track for easing you into Antony. It's dense and a bit overwhelming, but once you get into it you'll be hooked.

01. The Rapture - Open Up Your Heart (MP3)
Well, obviously. This is the first song I heard by The Rapture, and I loved it right away. It's an odd introduction, considering how different it is from the rest of their material. You'll find no traces of dance or rock here; no handclaps, no scratchy guitar - still, it's an excellent tune, in its smooth slow-burning way. Hopefully you can move past my bias and take my word that it's worth hearing - maybe this song will find a special place in your heart. Ha!

Deerhoof - Dummy Discards A Heart
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Heart In The Hand Of The Matter
Annie - Heartbeat
Xiu Xiu - Crank Heart
Death Cab For Cutie - Your Heart Is An Empty Room
Stars - Heart (Radio Edit)
The Magnetic Fields - I Think I Need A New Heart
Four Tet - And They All Look Broken Hearted
The Arcade Fire - My Heart Is An Apple
Final Fantasy - Took You Two Years To Win My Heart
M83 - A Guitar And A Heart
Sufjan Stevens - The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
Wolf Parade - This Heart's On Fire
Antony & The Johnsons - Hitler In My Heart
The Rapture - Open Up Your Heart

The Rapture - Echoes
The Arcade Fire - EP
Antony & The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
M83 - Before The Dawn Heals Us
Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles
Four Tet - Rounds
Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary

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