*Disclaimer: Not all of these are “love songs.” This list covers many stages of romance, from lust to marital struggles to deep devotion.
1. “Young Blood” – Birdy (originated by The Naked and Famous)
The original version of “Young Blood” by The Naked and Famous is fantastic; a veritable indie rock hit featuring a fuzzy bass line and energized drums. English musician Birdy does a more mellow cover of the track that intensifies the imagery in the lyrics. Her gorgeous voice soars as she sings of the adventures that coincide with the dramas of youthful love.
Image Source: Facebook
2. “Cardiac Arrest” – Bad Suns
In “Cardiac Arrest,” Southern California alt-pop band Bad Suns capture the feeling of an electrifying kiss with someone you’re devastatingly attracted to. The chorus burns with emotion about this relationship that has not yet been defined. Frontman Christo Bowman says the song is a “depiction of an honest and beautiful moment in time.”
3. “Play” – Goapele
Bay Area artist Goapele’s single “Play” is sensual, to say the least. The theme of the song is exploration of pleasure, and Goapele’s vocals slink over a minimalistic track featuring finger snaps and deep bass sounds that resemble heartbeats.
4. “Under Your Spell” – Desire
Some may recognize “Under Your Spell” from the 2011 neo-noir film that Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan starred in, Drive. This track by Desire is hypnotic, with lyrics that repeat, “I don’t eat/I don’t sleep/I do nothing but think of you.” It’s fitting for a scene in the movie that shows Gosling and Mulligan’s characters deep in forbidden thought about one another, for Mulligan is portraying a married woman and mother.
5. “Sexy Boy” – Air
Air is a French electronica duo, and the lyrics of “Sexy Boy” translate to being about what you might expect: a description of a young, handsome guy. This is another song that was featured in a movie; in 10 Things I Hate About You. The gritty synth and languid vocals add a dimension of recklessness to the track, which is apropos for use in a film about high school love.
6. “Weekend” – Class Actress
Brooklyn-based Class Actress was originally a trio, but is now singer Elizabeth Harper as a solo act. The music style is ’80s influenced, and “Weekend” uses the precise synth sounds and cutting drums of that decade. Harper’s soprano is rueful as she describes the neediness that can arise when falling for someone new.
7. “Sweet Nothing” – Calvin Harris ft. Florence Welch
“Sweet Nothing,” created by Scottish DJ and producer Calvin Harris, is a dynamic electronic track that showcases British artist Florence Welch’s powerful vocals. Welch, from the group Florence + the Machine, has a naturally dramatic timbre to her lovely voice, and she is so emotive as she sings of someone who is toying with her feelings.
8. “Hurts So Good” – Astrid S
If you have ever loved someone who always had an excuse for why he or she couldn’t commit to you, and yet who would not let you move on, take a listen to “Hurts So Good” by Norwegian artist Astrid S. 20-year-old Astrid’s voice simmers with frustration as she explains the juxtaposition of this pain/pleasure.
9. “Taken” – Young Summer
Young Summer, also known as Bobbie Allen, is a Washington, D.C. based electro-pop singer and songwriter. Allen’s voice is silvery and strong, and her music has a confessional quality to it. In “Taken,” she reunites with an ex and questions, “Have I been taken by you one more time?” Her description of looking deeply into her former love’s eyes and remembering those familiar feelings is a situation that many of us can relate to.
10. “Gemini Feed” – Banks
“Gemini Feed” begins with a lone arpeggiated synth, setting the scene for this moody track about a toxic relationship. L.A. based musician Banks often sings about the underbelly side of love, and in this song she breaks free of a person who is deeply insecure. “If you would have let me grow/you could have kept my love,” she declares.
11. “Tears in the Rain” – The Weeknd
The Weeknd shook up the R&B genre with his initial three mixtapes, introducing the world to a more indie take on that style of music. Fame came to the Canadian artist in a massive way, and “Tears In The Rain” from his debut studio album Kiss Land is a beautifully vulnerable track about losing a genuine love in the midst of his life’s new chaos.
12. “Something Good” – alt-J
English experimental quartet alt-J is known for singer Joe Newman’s extremely unique voice, and creative songwriting. Newman opens this song with the statement, “Something good tonight will make me forget about you for now.” The death of a matador is used in the track to symbolize the end of a love, which has finally been healed by enough distractions.
Image Source: Facebook
13. “Harlem” – Cathedrals
A song about a tumultuous, but loving relationship, “Harlem” is a stand out single from San Francisco-based duo Cathedrals. The band’s genre is dreamy electro-pop, with singer Brodie Jenkins’ rich voice grounding the style with depth, and musician Johnny Hwin’s classical music background providing interesting textures to their songs.
14. “Calling in the Name of Love” – Active Child
Active Child, also known as Pat Grossi, uses elements from his upbringing in his ambient style music. As a kid, Grossi sang in choir and learned how to use the falsetto range in his voice, and in college, he picked up playing the harp. “Calling in the Name of Love” incorporates these special components as Grossi expresses hope that a difficult relationship will persevere.
15. “Poison & Wine” – The Civil Wars
This song was almost not included on the list given that the band is now dissolved, but the accomplishments Joy Williams and John Paul White achieved in their time as a creative duo are immense. The two toured with Adele, wrote a song with Taylor Swift, and won numerous awards. The Civil Wars were something special – in “Poison & Wine,” Williams and White (who are both married to other people) use weaving harmonies to duet about the hurdles of being loving while experiencing marital trials.
16. “Pieces” – Andrew Belle
Andrew Belle’s Black Bear album is euphoric from start to finish, with vast soundscapes cushioning his throaty baritone. “Pieces,” which Belle wrote for his wife, is one of the most amorous tracks on the LP. He touches on the troubles the two have experienced, but the song’s main takeaway is that he loves her wholly.
17. “You’re The One” – Charli XCX (Blood Orange Remix)
British singer Charli XCX’s single, “You’re The One,” is an infectiously dark electro-pop song made softer and more mysterious with Blood Orange’s spin on it. The lyrics swirl with images of a pink and purple color palette, stars and golden arrows, and being drunk on a love potion. Charli herself says the track is about “super amazing, orgasmic love.”
18. “Old 45’s” – Chromeo
Chromeo, an electro-funk duo from Montreal, mix a goofy sensibility with highly skilled musicianship. Though their lyrics are often in jest, sometimes a sincerity shines through, such as on the track “Old 45’s.” It brings to mind romance of the past, when people fell in love to dances around the jukebox.
19. “So High” – Ghost Loft
Danny Choi, also known by his stage name Ghost Loft, is an L.A. based producer and artist. Choi says “So High” yes, has the drug reference, but that it’s more about “the feeling of elation” when you’re into someone. The track is a passionate mix of Choi’s light vocals, trippy beats, and lots of reverb.
20. “Signs” – Bloc Party
One of U.K. band Bloc Party’s most touching songs is “Signs,” which is about a romantic love who has passed away. A glockenspiel helps create the song’s shimmering atmosphere, and the strings that enter the track midway emphasize the loss singer Kele Okereke is feeling. He yearns for a different reality as he says, “I see signs now all the time/that you’re not dead/you’re sleeping.”
21. “Running” – b.miles
New York-based indie pop singer b.miles is not yet widely known, but her catalogue consists of some top quality singles, including the recently released “Running.” This is a song to listen to if you’re in the throes of obsession and lust over a new relationship.
Image Source: Timothy Saccenti
22. “Red and Purple” – The Dodos
San Francisco band The Dodos have a singular style, frequently using off the grid instrumentation alongside their folk melodies. In “Red and Purple,” a toy piano and Logan Kroeber’s syncopated drumming accompany Meric Long’s lyrics about a relationship that can sometimes feel like warfare.
23. “Re: Stacks” – Bon Iver
It is well known that Justin Vernon, of the indie group Bon Iver, spent three months in his father’s Wisconsin cabin penning the group’s debut album For Emma, Forever Ago. Vernon was in a transitory state, dealing with both musical and personal break-ups, and healing from mono. “Re: Stacks” discusses the fact that while personal burdens hinder Vernon, he is unlocking a greater access to his ability to love.
24. “Work Song” – Hozier
Irish artist Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known simply as Hozier, made waves in the music world with the release of his eponymous debut album, and for good reason. He is a gifted songwriter that explores life’s dualities with poignant metaphors, and his deep voice is both howling and tender. “Work Song” is particularly affecting, with Hozier proclaiming devotion even after death: “No grave can hold my body down/I’ll crawl home to her.”
25. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” – Death Cab for Cutie
“I Will Follow You Into the Dark” is an acoustic, quietly stunning track by Washington-formed indie legends Death Cab for Cutie. Ben Gibbard sings alone with his guitar, pondering religion and promising his love that the two of them will remain bonded, even in the unknown afterlife.