Ok, Boomer. That sappy “chocolates & I love you” Valentines’ Day chicanery is just not gonna work this week. We are in extraordinary times (an exhausted phrase for our exhausted moment). I know people who have somehow found their soulmate during these quar-times and I salute them. I’ve also heard about people who broke-up, separated, and got divorced during COVID and still, out of sheer financial constraints, have to reside in the same house.
Ouch. That’s a version of “different” you don’t want.
The nation is impeaching a President no longer in office (rightfully so but still weird right) and the NFL just held their Super Bowl in Florida with at least 40,000 mouth-breathing spectators in attendance without one broadcaster whispering the phrase “superspreader event.”
(That intersection of sports, culture, and money brought in at least a couple billion in advertising revenue, including a John Travolta commercial, where he prances like a basic, thirsty for any type of celebrity drip. “Hey Travolta, don’t be Tikking and Tokking on my grass” indeed.)
We are a good full month-and-a-half in 2021, and the world is still afflicted by a case of not acting right.
So this Valentines’ Day, were putting love in a to-go cup. We’ve assembled a Quar-times Valentines’ playlist. It’s full of covers, bizarre takes, and oddities, without the sappy begging for that sexytime energy—cause we’re all a bit too weary from the world these days, ya know? Anybody who really has game knows feeding somebody bon appetite fare is telling ’em you love ’em. And that’s a wrap. This world is complicated enough on its own; simplicity is the new tequila.
Episodes of tech bros fistfighting in the Whole Foods parking lot on Franklin (true story btw) for the last bunch of Valentines’ Day roses has exited The Bay for greener pastures. Boston, Austin, and Seattle, good luck, and please guard your tax breaks (shout out to AOC!) like they were your own Chicken McNuggets… if you know what I mean.
The Internet, “Special Affair”
Every time Syd Tha Kyd shows up on a record, a surprise cameo on HBO’s “Insecure,” just makes an appearance, I’m all in. Just on how she handles her biz. Vulnerability and sincerity is the best way to describe how she eloquently represents, without uttering a note. All the while giving off those shy cute vibes, but when she spits, it’s dead-ass. “Special Affair”—the “I’m not messing with small talk” manifesto—sees her band The Internet making simpatico neo-soul, built just for Syd to come in and swoop everybody off their feet. Ego Death, the LA band’s third album, saw the young vocalist stretch out a bit. Not on some ego expanse, just “it” factor.
With the opening lyrics: “Penny for your thoughts/I know what you want/I can read your mind even from behind”, OK Syd… go get your girl.
Jan Hammer Group, “Don’t You Know”
I take way too many shots at Jan Hammer because his latter ’70s discography is amazingly good, great, bizarre, and sparingly cocaine-fueled. A decade-plus before he created the “Miami Vice” theme, The Jan Hammer Group made the cooler-than-you ambient joint “Don’t You Know,” with a keyboard-driven melody that remains an earworm without getting even tepid hot. Something the Czech-American musician—who first gained his most visible audience while playing keyboards with the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the early 1970s—rarely does.
It’s notorious for popping up in cratedigger mixtapes, mellow house comps, and good-feeling chill rooms at raves from the before-times. There’s never a wrong situation for it.
D’Angelo, “Feel Like Making Love”
So much going on with this Roberta Flack cover. First off we get peak D’Angelo giving a Sly and The Family Stone rendition of this all-time jam. Second, it’s produced by the Soulquarians (Questlove, The Roots, J-Dilla, Erykah Badu, Roy Hardgrove, James Poyser, bassist Pino Palladino, amongst others) giving it that extra low key funkiness. It’s one of the best yesterday-tomorrow jams from the masterpiece Voodoo album. Hands down.
Daughter, “Get Lucky”
Listen, as much as I respect the hell out of The God Nile Rodgers (co-creator of Chic), “Get Lucky,” the inescapable track he made with Daft-Punk and Pharrell, just felt like a massive cash grab. I like pop music, but that was just too obvious.
Then I found the English folk band Daughter, who recorded an indie version of the song for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. That version discovered this dark, ambient, Björk-adjacent reinterpretation I never knew existed. All of a sudden the arrangement has layers, textures, depth, and emotion. Not happy-time frequencies… but believable lived in charts. Gimme the darkness even on Valentine’s Day, cause it’s real.
Al Green, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”
This is the last song you put on at a 45’s Soul party, cause there’s no coming back after Rev Al Green destroys what The Bee Gee’s thought they wrote.
Gloria Anne Taylor, “Jolene”
Sometimes credited as Gloria Taylor, she a made funk, deep crate cover of “Jolene” that bumps, sways, and moves a dancefloor with crazy energy. Built with an arrangement full of mostly non-disco related instruments, Taylor weaves her tale of woe—a full-hearted tear-innit reading—that cuts through with up-front power. All other covers hope and wish to be half as good as this. My joint, fer days. Go ahead, run it back a couple of times, lean in on that congas, piano, and guitar situation. This is the one. This is the way.
The UNITS, “High Pressure Days (Todd Terje Remix)“
So this remix has been around for a second, yeah I know. But strictly on the strength that we do not have legal places to go out and dance, I wanted to give the playlist a “high” note. And YES. The UNITS, a homegrown post-punk San Francisco Band that probably played at a warehouse party on Folsom between 17th and 18th circa 1982. It’s an old neighborhood of mine that some OG residents swear they remember The UNITS making big noise alongside SF landmark band The Tubes in the olden times. More of an acknowledgment of the Bizzaro era we live in than a romantic notion, there is warmth in the hustle-bustle.
Recently the cut popped up in Andy Greenwald‘s USA cable show Briarpatch, with Jay R. Ferguson’s fraudulent, retired arms dealer, Jake Spivey, strutting through his neon-lit mansion to the beat, sky-high on blow.