TOP 10 ALTERNATIVE ROCK LOVE SONGS
While ‘grunge’ and ‘love’ don’t always go together, many of the great grunge and alternative bands did have some grunge love songs, they’re just not so obvious. Whether it’s shrouded in metaphors or distorted guitars, love is love. If you’re in search of a love song that’s a little harder than some of the classics, look no further- Here are some of our favorite alternative love songs.
IF I THINK - MUDHONEY
Off of their debut EP, Superfuzz Bigmuff, Mudhoney’s "If I Think" is a dynamic grunge love song. Released in 1988, this EP helped the band to enter the British indie charts and even go on to tour with Sonic Youth. Don’t be fooled by "If I Think"’s softer start. Full of tempo changes, big hits, and builds, the song is exciting. Lyrics like “I could close my eyes and fall / if I think of you” are recolored by the arrangement, capturing a wide array of the emotions surrounding and related to love.
LAST ONE - PAW
Throughout the 90s, many bands were referred to as “the next Nirvana.” One of those bands was Paw. Hailing from Lawrence, Kansas, their sound was a little different than the bands of the Pacific Northwest. After softening their rock and grunge edges with Southern undertones, Paw released the song "Last One" off of their album Death to Traitors. It’s pretty sweet and direct, stating “It’s good to know there’s someone who cares” and “I won’t bring you down.”
THAT SUMMER FEELING - JONATHAN RICHMAN
After the Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman release a series of solo albums, including I, Jonathan. Known for his poetic nature and vivid imagery, Richman’s "That Summer Feeling" displays these skills well. The feeling being described is the longing for the carefree, almost recklessness of summer love when you’re young. Richman states that “That summer feeling is gonna haunt you / one day in your life.” He asks the hard questions like “Do you long for her or for the way you were?” While not a traditional love song, addressing a partner, "That Summer Feeling" is a love song to a simpler time.
AND I LOVE HER - THE BEATLES, COVERED BY KURT COBAIN
In 2015, researchers for Kurt Cobain’s documentary uncovered dozens of home recordings, including this version of "And I Love Her" by the Beatles. This version was recorded some time between 1987 and 1994. With just an acoustic guitar and vocals, the recording is raw and genuine. Taking darker harmony and melodies to some of the sections, this version has some grungier undertones, while still maintaining the romantic lyrics. This contrast, however, paints the lyrics to possibly have another, less literal meaning. Who knows? “A love like ours / could never die / as long as I / have you near me.”
HEAD OVER FEET - ALANIS MORISSETTE
"Head Over Feet" is a great song for a new, healthy relationship. With words of affirmation, like “You’re the best listener that I’ve ever met / You’re my best friend,” and a huge lift in the chorus, it’s the perfect alternative rock love song. During a live performance, Morissette introduced this song by giving some background on it. She discussed how there’s this idea that relationships that are healthy and long are less passionate and interesting. When writing this song, she found that theory to be wrong. In her own words, “I actually had a glimpse of what it would be like to be in love and have it be something that was inducing of the heart palpitations, yet at the same time I could spend a couple minutes and actually not think about that person. It was very new to me."
SHUT UP KISS ME - ANGEL OLSEN
Just like the contrast in the title, "Shut Up Kiss Me" is somewhere between being angry and being in love. During her Song Exploder episode about the making of "Shut Up Kiss Me," Angel Olsen describes wanting to make something “kind of mean… kind of yelly – but also, like, hey, I care about you.” With a live band sound, and lyrics including, “At your worst I still believe It's worth the fight,” the song masterfully captures the really complicated feelings of being upset with someone, while being in love with them. Maybe don’t walk down the aisle to this one, but find comfort in not being alone with complex emotions. Yay!
FRIDAY I'M IN LOVE - THE CURE
"Friday I’m in Love" is possibly the most optimistic love song to be written and performed by a goth band. In an interview with Spin in 1992, Robert Smith talks about this dichotomy, explaining how “people think [The Cure is] supposed to be [a] leader of some sort of 'gloom movement.' I could sit and write gloomy songs all day long, but I just don't see the point." The first idea for this song was actually the chord progression. After hiking up the tempo and laying down some jangly guitars, it was apparent that the song needed some upbeat lyrics to go along with it. If you’re interested in hearing a slower-tempo, more melancholy version, check out Phoebe Bridgers’ recent cover.
OUR WAY TO FALL - YO LA TENGO
"Our Way to Fall," off of Yo La Tengo’s 9th LP And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, was released in 2000. Each line in the verse begins with “I remember,” as the song tells the story of meeting someone, getting to know them, and developing feelings for each other. The chorus lyrics “we’re on our way to fall in love,” contrast, but compliment the concrete details in the verses. The arrangement really highlights the soft vocals, featuring rolling drums, acoustic guitar strums, and gentle synths.
NO ONE'S GONNA LOVE YOU - BAND OF HORSES
You wouldn’t think that a song called "No One’s Gonna Love You" could be romantic until you hear the rest of the line: “No one’s gonna love you more than I do.” Packed with metaphors, melodies, and reverb, "No One’s Gonna Love You" is beautiful and thought provoking. While the original was released in 2007 on the album Cease to Begin, a new version came out in 2018. The band explained on Facebook that the song was recorded in memory of Chris Bevington, a Spotify executive who was killed in a terrorist attack.
I'LL COME RUNNING - BRIAN ENO
Brian Eno can do a lot of things. In addition to being an innovator in electronic music and producing pop hits, he can write some great alt rock love songs. Whimsical, sweet, and with an awesome guitar solo, "I’ll Come Running" is a must listen. Though the song was released in 1975, in true Brian Eno fashion it still sounds fresh and unique. Hinging on the line “I'll come running to tie your shoe,” the song is about all the things, both big and small, that we would do for a loved one.
See? Alternative rock love songs do exist, and most of them are actually pretty sweet in their own unique way. Whether you’re searching for the perfect songs to add to a playlist, or something to play at a wedding, we hope to have reminded you of some old favorites and introduced you to some new favorite alt rock love songs. Be sure to also check out our favorite indie love songs and top ten R&B love songs as well!
Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash
Arielle Tindel is a Berklee College of Music student from Cleveland, OH. She will graduate in December with degrees in Music Business Marketing and Songwriting. In her free time, Arielle can be found gardening or playing bass.