The Stealth Approach
Not everyone wants to be completely transparent when it comes to sharing their Valentine's Day intentions. If you're a sly someone who wants to stage your romantic evening as a down-tempo night with no agenda rather than directly proposition your lover, James Blake's 2011 self-titled release is the perfect background music for you.
Best when served with wine, Blake's hollowed-out electro dub-step R&B can spawn an amorous journey that goes from slow dancing by candlelight to passionate petting.
The second track, "The Wilhelm Scream," is wrought with such wounded emotion that Blake's echoing vocals are almost like teardrops. The song is one big crescendo that, by the end, will easily entice lovers into a tightly constructed hug.
From there the album continues on a crafty bedroom-minded path with sultry auto-tuned vocals and deep, almost elusive bass. The true beauty in Blake's music, however, is the negative space. It's the pauses in between vocals and synth beats that tease out anticipation, capable of culminating in a tangled rapture of legs and arms.
If you want to send a clear message to your partner that knockin'-da-boots is on your Valentine's Day agenda, Prince's 1994 album Come should do the trick. But just in case you need more convincing than the album title, the opening lyrics for the first song and title track are: "If you're 18 and over, come here, I've got something for your mind"—case rested.
Come is one of Prince's least-lauded albums as it was a bit of a throw-away release for the artist at a time when he was trying to fulfill his obligations to Warner Bros. and exit his contract. So while it was perhaps unintentional, the result of handpicking songs destined for the Prince vault was a sex-filled opus without equal in his catalog.
The experimental nature of the trance-jazz tracks on Come add to the dangerous vibe that is strewn throughout the album. Songs like "Loose!" feel as if at any moment they could fall apart into a chaotic orgy of instrumentation. Blazing guitar solos traipse atop poppy synth while Prince describes things he wants to do to his lover's body.
There's an uncontrollable, hands-everywhere-feel to the decadent R&B track "Pheremone" while "Dark" is a more tempered back-massage-worthy song. But the album doesn't finish until it peaks with the pounding and rhythmic, almost sweaty, tribal song "Letitgo" and the climactic one-minute 39-second final track "Orgasm." With a pairing of guitar reverb and actual vocal representations of the climactic moment, "Orgasm," as well as the rest of Come, is basically the musical equivalent of a dirty magazine.
Classy Date Night
It's been awhile since Amos Lee broke onto the scene with his self-titled debut in 2005. Since then he hasn't been shy about exploring rock-and-roll. That means that no album since has carried the beautifully subdued acoustic sound of that first album.
This is the record you pop in when you simply want to eat a candlelit dinner with your partner, snuggle on the couch and watch a crackling fire.
Lee's shaky tenor blues voice is enduring and heartwarming. Tracks like "Seen it All Before" and "Colors" feel like home-spun stories told from a cozy rocking chair with a guitar in hand. And the epically powerful song "Arms of a Woman" embraces listeners with the stark emotion of longing. Norah Jones supplies piano for a couple of tracks on the record, and blues organ on songs like "Give it Up" adds whimsy, keeping the album from becoming sorrowful.
There's no innuendo from Lee on this record. No songs about love making. It's just a comforting recording that because of its uncomplicated and honest nature easily becomes just as much a companion as your special someone.