By Tom Reardon, February 2019 Issue.
Relationships and records go together — all too well sometimes. For this month’s relationship-themed issue, I paired some album favorites with the different stages in a relationship. They may not be new songs but they’re timeless when it comes to matters of the heart.
Album to listen to when things are going well:
Ben Kweller — Sha Sha
Being a sucker for an alternative-pop masterpiece is never a bad thing. Sha Sha (2002) by Ben Kweller is the type of record you put on and play over and over. It’s like the honeymoon period when you first meet that special someone you just can’t get enough of; you just keep going back for more and more and more. The opening piano riff on “How It Should B (Sha Sha)” hooks you from the get-go and I defy anyone to not grin and tap their toes while listening to the song. There are some of the best stream of consciousness, goofy love song lyrics on Sha Sha, as well. On “Wasted & Ready” Kweller sings: “Why am I dealing with this feeling?/I’m maxed out like a credit card/I’ll continue to be my worst enemy/It’s easy, but it seems so hard/You’re near, but you seem so far” as he talks about that special someone who seems like a good idea when you’re feeling no pain. While there are many super sweet moments on this record, lyrically, there are also some pretty poignant moments as well. When Kweller sings, “If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t walk all over you so please don’t walk all over me,” during the chorus of “Walk On Me” it could be a giant bummer but matched with his incredibly infectious and quirky pop sensibility, you still sing along with a sappy smile on your face.
Album to listen to when things are going bad:
Sebadoh — Harmacy
No one writes a better song while being all fucked up on love gone wrong better than the boys (well, nowadays they would probably like to be called “men”) in Sebadoh. Lou Barlow, the band’s bespectacled main dude and his bandmate, Jason Loewenstein, who is a savant when it comes to creating the dark, dirge-y riffs that make you rock while crying, are simply masters at delivering the mood you need when love’s gone wrong. Harmacy (Sub Pop, 1996) is a great album for when you feel bummed about your love life because Barlow and Loewenstein’s words echo just about any sentiment you are probably feeling. It’s easy to get lost in their words because we’ve all felt all of them at one point or another. When Loewenstein sings in “Nothing Like You” the following lyrics, “If we play your games/Won’t have time to play my games” it is almost impossible to not look inwardly at all the times we’ve felt exactly the same way. “Willing To Wait” is a Barlow song that captures how the end of a relationship truly feels. There is hope in its sadness as Barlow sings, “When you see him again, tell him everything that you told me/We’re more than friends, and maybe we should start again/We’ll start again, and maybe you could love me again.”
Album to listen to when you want to remember that love exists and is for everyone:
Bronski Beat — The Age of Consent
To say I was a confused teenage boy was an understatement and this record was just the tonic to let me know that no matter who you are or what you feel about life, sex, identity, etc., there is someone out there that not only understands, but definitely has had a much tougher row to hoe. Bronski Beat’s primary message on The Age Of Consent is that love will triumph over all, despite what anyone else thinks, and the road will be brutal at times to get to where you want to go. As you listen, though, it becomes clear that if you persevere, you will feel and experience love. Lead vocalist Jimmy Sommerville infectious falsetto beautifully evokes the full prism of emotion on this 1984 classic, hitting notes that most of us only dream of being able to hit. There is bouncy, dance music on The Age Of Consent, and dark, broody, pop explorations as well. “Screaming” and “No More War” will tug at your heart strings, but they are sandwiched by the more well-known “Why” and “Smalltown Boy,” the latter of which still can make the small hairs on the nape of my neck stand at attention. While it turned out that my own confusion about who and how I should love was not exactly the same as the blokes in Bronski Beat, this record helped me understand that someone worth loving was also worth feeling the pain that comes when your heart truly begins to grow. End note: Finishing this emotional rollercoaster with “I Feel Love” was nothing short of brilliant and I recommend you listen to it today.