A track list for love in the 21st century.

The narcissist in me has always wanted my own theme music. In the spirit of prescriptive living, a new soundtrack is needed for the modern love affair. It would be much too easy to heedlessly provide advice without looking at the totality of our culture and how music can inspire us, but I'm doing it anyway.


Alice Smith

"Love Endeavor"

Historically, soul music is hardly ever satiated with the simple crush, but Endeavor hits all the right intro love vibes with this airy track that hints of Marvin Gaye loveliness. Smith isn't so much a derivation of influences as she is an annotated bibliography and a good enabler for Isaac Hayes' "Black Moses" or Al Green's "Call Me."

Amy Millan

"He Brings Out the Whiskey in Me"

It may sound misogynistic, gratuitous and downright low-rent, but when a hot young woman sings about slinging whiskey when trouble brews, the clothes come flying off like the bargain rack at Penney's. Playing this track while driving is not advisable.

Amy Winehouse

"You Know I'm No Good"

Winehouse is straight-up knee-high boots '60s sassy à la Dusty Springfield and Nancy Sinatra, but with a hip-hop edge provided by Ghostface Killah. This is the perfect track to bounce in your head when entering a room full of strangers.



The chorus for this track goes as follows: "I'm the motherfucker who brought you to this party/I got you in the front door/Now get down on the dance floor." Everybody has had that date: the goober with no adaptable social skills meeting the friends for the first time. Social shenanigans aside, "Mingle" is a good primer for group date scenarios.

Asie Payton

"Come Home with Me"

Contemporary delta blues musicians are the only ones allowed to use the words "come home with me" in a song. Nobody begs for the bumpin' uglies like the blues masters. The lonesome brutality the late Asie Payton casually employs is so honest it can reinvent any pickup line arsenal.

Bon Savants

"Between the Moon and the Ocean"

"Ocean" is the happiest song that begins with "I killed my love in the ocean," which is what every relationship is in one form or another: a soul-sucking monster.


"You Fucked Up"

There are certain ambiguities and feelings in relationships best left undiscussed. The ancillary residue from a bitter breakup is not one of these things. Reveling in dramatic anguish is the closest many of us will ever come to acting on stage, so permission is granted to act unreasonable, childish and generally unstable, with heaps of sophomoric abandon.

Cowboy Junkies

"Cheap Is How I Feel"

The Junkies picked up the slack from Townes Van Zandt by writing the best soundtrack for the hapless barroom loser/romantic since their release of

The Trinity Session

. This song, from their third album, is good for all the things lovers say that they know they shouldn't.

RL Burnside

"Goin' Down South"

Burnside is always good for new beginnings. Like moving across the country for or with someone, and things turn out to be less than expected, but instead of retreating, the instinct to trudge through it like a French pig in search of precious truffles is too strong, so you stick around like a sucker and hope things get better.

Ray LaMontagne

"You Can Bring Me Flowers"

The radio-friendly track complete with Ron Burgundy jazz flute filler is a must for the self-loathing armchair nihilists afraid to reveal the Bauhaus and Joy Division records as part of their general record collection. Feeling sorry for oneself has never sounded better.

Sufjan Stevens

"The Avalanche"

Stevens' outtakes album

The Avalanche

is rich, poignant and indicative of Stevens' pension for metaphor, as well as good starter yeast for the burgeoning love poet stuck in Shel Silverstein mode.

***image2***Tom Waits

"Sea of Love"

The master covers The Honeydrippers' classic. Fugetabouit. The clanking, scratching, noisy begging Waits is known for has been the voice inside my head for years, the devil and the angel on each shoulder. The track is good for reflection. Dating, single, married or unmarried, this "Sea of Love" allows the entire deluded map of love to be seen at once.

Trick Daddy

"Sugar (Gimme Some)"

Music, sex, food. Repeat.