Music is many things, but for the artist it is often a therapeutic way to deal with their feelings and emotional energy. Putting your feelings into the lyrics and instruments is a great way to channel that energy, whether you’re celebrating an amazing relationship, mourning the loss of your lover, or anything in between. For this reason, the “love song” is one of the most repeated tropes in music.
Love songs take many forms. They cross eras and genres, constantly evolving. Some love songs are obviously and outwardly about love and romance, while others are more subtle and personal. With that, here are some of the best love songs written by artists from the Madison area.
“I know what it isby Disq
Madison natives Disq are beginning to garner critical attention, riding their heavy, melodic guitar-heavy indie rock. “I Know What It’s Like” was released as a single in 2020, and it’s one of the band’s most popular songs. With layers of guitars, keyboards and harmonies, the song is melodically inviting and robust. There’s also a trippy output with all sorts of effects and reverse tracks to create a disorienting sound field. Based on songwriting merit alone, this track is the best of the bunch.
“I Know What It’s Like” is a love song that doesn’t focus on a story or a person, but rather on a feeling, with singer Isaac deBroux-Slone singing “I know what it’s like, to not feel love “, then later “so as not to feel pain”. The chorus builds on these emotions and conveys the feeling of being lost, using the metaphor of losing your page in a book. Disq are a talented band, and I still consider “I Know What It’s Like” to be their most impressive work. At its core, it’s a catchy power pop song, reminiscent of tracks like The dB’s classic “Black and White.”
“Idaho” by Slow Pulp
One of the band’s most popular tracks, “Idaho” is bittersweet, spatial and luscious. Like much of the band’s material, it is heavily inspired by the shoegaze sound, with waves of guitars rolling over the listener. The chorus is anchored by a catchy guitar riff, simple but perfect for the slower, foggy song.
“Idaho” is one of those subtle love songs, where the lyrics don’t exactly confirm the romantic meaning of the song. It makes sense because the song is deeply personal and thoughtful. When discussing the song, singer and guitarist of the band Emily Massey admitted that she was in a difficult emotional state, feeling “really not authentic with the people I was seeing, because they were saying all these nice things to me, and I didn’t take it well or believe it. This isn’t a song about loving one particular person, it’s about learning to love yourself so you can love others As Massey says, “I think the song is about trying to accept love and kindness from others when you don’t love yourself.”
“Damian” by Deryk G.
Indie rocker and current senior UW-Madison Deryk G has a growing catalog of impressive tracks, but “Damian” might be his best yet. It’s one of his most streamed songs on streaming services, and at his concert at Der Rathskeller in Novemberthe small but passionate audience knew most of the lyrics.
“Damian” is soft and relaxed, yet full of emotion. There’s a bit of Steve Lacy in Deryk G, and that talent for soulful melodies shines on this track. The pseudo-rap on the verses is also reminiscent of some of Lacy’s music. “Damian” doesn’t go into too much detail, but the lyrics paint the picture of a tantalizing relationship, forcing Deryk to question and reassess himself at every turn. It’s a song about an indescribable feeling, which gnaws at you but gives you purpose at the same time. We see it with the juxtaposition of lines like “I’m too busy living in my own head” with “You make me want to be a better me”.
“#1 Favoriteby Garbage
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“#1 Crush”, one of Garbage’s first songs, is their best love song. The song highlights a sample of very sexual moans, with an echo that makes every moan land on the beat. This sample, combined with a breakbeat and a funky bassline, forms the basis of the track.
“#1 Crush” throws the subtle, introspective love song out the window and opts for a straightforward obsession. Singer Shirley Manson epitomizes this angle, with lines like “I’ll wash away your pain with all my tears” and “I’ll twist the knife and bleed my aching heart.” It’s psychotic and lustful, with some borderline masochistic lines. The song is most likely written from someone else’s perspective, but regardless, it embodies a darker, naked emotional side of love that many musicians won’t even touch on.
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