Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I thought it would be, uh, encouraging for you to hear some love songs from Maine musicians. I projected a heart-shaped red bat signal over the state, and multiple artists saw it and responded with songs — one that came with a story about how it basically resurrected a relationship.
Last August, Xander Nelson released the pop-punk gem “In Time” with the lines “With each passing season I keep burying my feelings/I wonder how I ever let you down/Your quirky charm is always fatal / As witty as Miss Maisel / But I didn’t laugh so much without you.
Nelson told me that he and his girlfriend, Alyson Peabody, dated several years ago, but the timing was not right, they broke up and started seeing other people. But it wasn’t really over for Nelson, who said he still thinks about Peabody often.
“Feeling like the time for both of us had passed, I wrote the song primarily to deal with unresolved emotions, but almost as if to give existence a second chance.” It worked! The two had remained friends, and then Peabody heard Nelson perform the song live at a show. “Turns out she felt the same way, and we’ve been together ever since,” Nelson gloated. Love story mic drop moment right there.
Synth-pop duo Forget, Forget released “Staying In” on YouTube in April 2020. It was the early days of lockdown and the song is indeed about the simple pleasures of a romantic evening with a movie, although it was written before all of us had no choice but to stay home. The melody bounces around as Patia Maule (synths, programming) and Tyler DeVos (guitar) swap vocals and occasionally sing together.
In 2020, singer-songwriter Jeff Christmas released the album “Little Universe”, featuring the windy and dreamy song “More of You”.
“I’ve never met someone like you before/Exactly what’s about you, I can’t tell/It could be the freckles, the hair, the nasty way you swear/ Hey, I don’t care, I want to see you more someday,” sings Christmas in a custom-made Valentine’s Day song that features Jamie Fink’s trumpet playing. acted out his longtime wife, Meredith, and what Christmas describes as his crude sense of humor, “rad” curly hair and love for a pinch of bourbon.
Last year, singer-songwriter Sara Trunzo released the EP “Cabin Fever Dream,” featuring two Valentine’s Day suitors on it: “Kind Bone” and “Liberty Tool.” I was particularly struck by the latter, perhaps because I took a trip to the quirky Waldo County shop he refers to in 2020. The song is nasal and honeyed as Trunzo sings about how which she hopes to find someone as wonderful as the you-have-to experience it to believe it: “We can’t make me a farm woman/Trace the tradition, I’d like to carve something again/Trying to find my freedom tool.”
Singer Brit Martin explores the darker side of relationships with her slow “Love Pains.” Martin doesn’t mince words: “So I’m all alone/And I wonder when/I’ll get the kind of love/It’ll never end.” The tempo and vibe are dramatically improved on the other track she sent me, titled “Sweet On You”, which is about a guy in her head, making her feel brand new, against a funky background .
I’ll also mention what I consider a Hall of Fame-level love song from Maine that ends on a surprisingly sour note. “Arrive,” by singer-songwriter Sara Cox, was released in 2003. Cox sings about her partner’s absence and the experience of missing her. It takes place at an airport.
“When you get off the plane in the suit you left / And I know everyone will see the love we’re in / Arrive / Don’t go,” Cox sings to open the song. But as the song progresses, it begins to question, well, everything. And when that guy gets off that plane, everything changed. “Now I’m waiting by the exit and people are coming / And I don’t care if they see the car I’m getting back in / Surprise / I’m gone / Surprise / I’m gone.” Ouch. But how can I love this song? Let me count the ways…
You can find these songs and more on my Spotify playlist, Love Songs in the Key of Maine. In addition to the happy and sour tracks, there are a few covers like Kgfreeze’s version of Taylor Swift’s “Lover”, the OHX version with Loretta Allen of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and Jennifer Porter singing the “The Way” standard. You watch tonight.
Now, if you want to bring your valentine, or even just yourself for some live music on Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Monday this year, Portland Chamber Music Festival has just the show.
“Love Stories” features pianist Peter Dugan, host of National Public Radio’s “From the Top,” with his wife, mezzo soprano Kara Dugan. The program goes far, from Schubert to Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Dorsey and George Gershwin. You’ll also hear a piece by Florence Price, the first black American woman to have an orchestral piece performed by a major American orchestra. Additionally, Grammy-nominated violinist Melissa Reardon will accompany the Dugans on Brahms’ Zwei Gesänge (“Two Songs”) for voice, viola and piano.
Plus, each attendee will walk away with a complimentary “Sweet Heat” beverage infusion kit from Vena’s Fizz House.
Portland Chamber Music Festival: Love Stories
6 p.m. MondayFebruary 14th. Mechanic’s Hall Ballroom, 519 Congress St., Portland, $75 reserved seating, $45 general admission, $25 for new PCMF attendees (limited availability). pcmf.org
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