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Alternative Irish songs for Valentine’s Day

TO MARK St Valentine’s Day, we’ve created a mixtape of alternative Irish songs about love. We hope we’ve shied away from the obvious. Let us know what we’ve left out….

Hear all the tracks on Spotify

What tracks have we missed? Tweet us your songs @theirishpost

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Bell X1-f


Bell X1 – Next To You

QUIRKY indie-pop lifted from the Co Kildare band’s very fine second album, Next To You was revisited for their recent acoustic shows and still stands the test of time. Singer Paul Noonan has a knack for a great lyrical couplet – and there are many in evidence here in this track of a jilted lover feeling out of sync following a break-up, (I’m a little all over the shop/ Like those holy souvenirs from Knock/ That come all the way from China). Its closing, repeated line of “I’m not over you, can I get back under” is lovingly, cheekily, very Irish.

Get it on: Music in Mouth (2003)
Lyric for a lover: I’m not over you, can I get back under

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Emmett Tinley – Comfort Me

A SONG about doubt and dysfunction in relationships, the opening track from Emmett Tinley’s debut solo album, Attic Faith, is one of the great under-appreciated Irish singles of recent years. Despite the album being nominated for the inaugural Choice Music Prize, few have been exposed to this powerful track fuelled by Tinley’s tenor voice. The song’s melody echoes the rushed confusion of its despairing lyrics before exploding in its call to love and be loved.

Get it on: Attic Faith (2005)
Lyric for a lover: If you be with me forever I will pull myself together/ I will try to calm the river, I will try to love you better

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Ash – Sometimes

FRONTMAN Tim Wheeler brushed up on the master songwriters ahead of the recording of Ash’s finest album, Free All Angels – and it shows throughout the run of perfect pop songs. From Candy through to Shining Light, the guiding hand of some of pop’s finest love-song writers Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector is evident as lush strings guide the melody. No more is it enforced than on Sometimes, Ash’s perfect summer song of love, heartbreak and reminiscence complete with Rick McMurray’s Spector- like 60s drumming to a song modelled on the classics.

Get it on: Free All Angels (2001)
Lyric for a lover: Good morning sweet thing you’re safe in my hand/ I am no saint, but I understand

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The Smiths – I Won’t Share You

WRITTEN, allegedly, as Morrissey and Marr’s friendship was petering out, with the latter itching to pursue projects outside of The Smiths, I Won’t Share You might be seen as a love song to an artistic collaborator. The closing track on The Smiths’ fourth and final album (all members were second-generation Irish), it is made all the more vivid in that it features only a ghostly vocal from Morrissey and Marr strumming a 12-string acoustic guitar. And though Marr would eventually leave his cohort, it’s fascinating to hear a defiant Morrissey sing from the point of view of someone experiencing the end of a relationship.

Get it on: Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
Lyric for a lover: I won’t share you/ With the drive/ And the dreams inside/ This is my time

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Mundy – Linchpin

A BEAUTIFULLY finger- picked song by Birr’s finest, Linchpin encapsulates what it feels like to end a toxic relationship that, in truth, was already dead. Among one of the best lyrics Mundy has written, the opening line (“I’ve noticed that you can’t even bare to look and see / take out those drunken eyes and learn just how to be”) captures succinctly how an individual no longer recognises a drink- soaked lover.

Get it on: 24 Star Hotel
Lyric for a lover: You got to let me in, to pull the root/ You got to let me in, to find the truth and pull the linchpin

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions – I Want You

ONE of Costello’s many misinterpreted songs, this mini- masterpiece has been regarded by some as written from the viewpoint of a stalker. In fact, it’s a brilliant, dark and subversive take on possessiveness, obsession and jilted love. The title, which stirs around Dylan’s classic Blonde on Blonde track, is repeated before and after each line to dark and chilling effect with Costello’s wounded vocal nestling through all the emotions relationships can lay bare – lust, love, obsession, anger and regret.

Get it on: Blood & Chocolate (1986)
Lyric for a lover: Oh my baby baby I want you so it scares me to death/ I can’t say anymore than “I love you”/Everything else is a waste of breath

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Paul Brady – Beyond the Reach of Love

NO one in Irish song has written as vividly and convincingly about human relationships with such consistent results as Strabane man Paul Brady. And though The Long Goodbye might be his best known tune, Brady has many, many gems in his extensive and rewarding songbook. Cut from 2005’s Say What You Feel, he describes the circular patterns of a failing relationship that is in continual meltdown (“Thought it was just the familiar patterns of love/We hurt each other the we kiss and make up”), before an urgent pre- chorus of realization (“After tonight/ nothing can ever be the same/there in your eyes goes the last flicker of the flame”) following with a chorus that remains as one of Brady’s best (“I had a shift in vision, I saw a little too much/Is this a condition/beyond the reach of love?”). Brady remains a talent whose writing about people remains under- valued.

Get it on: Say What You Feel (2005)
Lyric for a lover: But after tonight, nothing can ever be the same/ There in your eyes goes the last flicker of the flame

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Luke Kelly – Raglan Road

A GENUINE classic of Irish song, Paddy Kavanagh’s lyric, written for his then- girlfriend, Dr. Hilda Moriarty, works both as a love poem and a poem about the process of writing (“I gave her gifts of the mind, I gave her the secret sign that’s known/to the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone”). Upon meeting Kavanagh in a Dublin pub The Bailey, Kelly set Kavanagh’s lyric to ‘Fáinne Geal an Lae’ (‘The Dawning of The Day’). And while many cover versions have kept the song in the public’s conscience (Billy Bragg is known to often cover the song, live), Luke Kelly’s version remains definitive.

Get it on: Hometown (1972)
Lyric for a lover: I saw the danger, yet I walked/ Along the enchanted way/ And I said let grief be a falling leaf/ At the dawning of the day

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The Stunning – Half Past Two

AFTER Brewing Up a Storm, this brilliantly slow-burning tune from 1990s era-defining Paradise in the Picturehouse, features a subtle, quiet, hushed lyric from singer-songwriter Steve Wall. According to the Wall’s liner notes in the reissue, he actually did pen the tune (written about a girl he used to see around during a rare, sunny summer in the West of Ireland) at half past two in the morning. A unique tune released during a time when every band in Ireland was aspiring to sound like U2, it serves as an example of the band’s distinctive sound and character.

Get it on: Paradise in the Picturehouse (1990)
Lyric for a lover: Every day is grey/ When she’s not in town/ Those grey days are so much brighter,/When she’s around

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Whipping Boy – We Don’t Need Nobody Else

FEW do dysfunctional love songs quite like Whipping Boy. The Dublin band’s incredible second album, Heartworm, is filled with songs about relationships, love, arguments, fighting, reminisce and regret. The record’s most striking songs – (The Honeymoon is Over, when We Were Young, Blinded) – come laced with unexpected, stinging lyrical punches from frontman Fearghal McKee. Just when you think McKee is following a pattern he unleashes a lyric such as that in We Don’t Need Nobody Else: “I hit you for the first time today/ I didn’t mean it/ It just happened…./Silence and you started to cry/That really hurt, you said/Yeah and you thought you knew me.”

Get it on: Heartworm (1995)
Lyric for a lover: We don’t need nobody else/ Just you and me

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The Pogues – Lullaby of London

THERE’S not above plaudits to throw Shane MacGowan’s way. One of the finest lyricists Ireland has ever produced, this love song to The Pogues’ hometown is a gem that, on occasion, gets lost amid the chatter around their myriad of other greats. Pogues member Philip Chevron views MacGowan’s lyric as a “song of love and pain written by a 30-year old boy to his five-year-old self and, as it turns out, to his 50-year-old self too.” MacGowan, always one to downplay the romance in his writing, is typically dismissive of a talent that seemingly comes so easy to him: “It’s basically about a bloke being pissed, corning home and stumbling into his kid’s bedroom. The kid is freaking out, he’s afraid of corncrakes and stuff like that, so the dad is just saying, ‘Don’t get fucked up; that hell and those demons have gone.’ Obviously they haven’t but you’ve got to say that to the kid or he’ll be even more screwed up later on. When we first moved to London my dad used to come up to my room when he came home from the boozer pissed, and sing a lullaby, well he wouldn’t sing a lullaby he would be telling me things would be ok and work out ok, yeah?!”

Get it on: If I Should Fall From Grace with God (1987)
Lyric for a lover: May the angels bright/ Watch you tonight/ And keep you while you sleep

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Hal – Keep Love as Your Golden Rule

WINNERS of The Irish Post Best Newcomer award (2005), Dun Laoghiare’s Hal, who returned last year with their long awaited, very difficult second album The Time, The Hour, crafted one of the most memorable and rewarding debut albums ever to come from an Irish band. This soulful number from the excellent first side of their 2005 Rough Trade released debut has all hallmarks of Hal’s nods to classic songwriting: playful lyrics (“put your hang ups in the closet”), flawless harmonies, as well as a bridge that builds and builds with White Album- era Beatles sound effects and keys, only to retreat at the sound of Dave Allen’s beautiful, understated vocal in the calming, gentle chorus.

Get it on: Hal (2005)
Lyric for a lover: It’s evident, do as you do/ Cause you’re just so beautiful

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The Frames – Santa Maria

WRITTEN, according to Glen Hansard, about a mythical ship buried beneath the sea outside the band’s Co. Kerry bolthole during recording sessions for their 2001 masterpiece, For the Birds, this set staple is as memorable for Hansard’s lovelorn lyric of restlessness and frustration (“Let me off this boat/I’m sick of this ride/the world is heading ever southward/and I can’t stay in here”) as it is for the post- rock explosion in the song’s second half. A perfect example of the artistic collaboration between Glen Hansard and Dave Odlum that so defined The Frames’ best record.

Get it on: For The Birds(2001)
Lyric for a lover: 
And what have we left/ It’s all that we’ve got

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The Frank and Walters – After All

ONE of The Franks’ countless number of catchy tunes, After All seems to encapsulate all that lightness of being brought on by teenage love. A song that no doubt sound-tracked many early 1990s student relationships, it’s jaunty, summery feel no doubt benefitted from the input of both Edwyn Collins and Lightening Seeds mainman Ian Broudie, who both produced the track. “We never wanted to write a love song,” frontman Paul Linehan has said of the song, “but, at the end of the day, we just couldn’t get around it. It’s about realising what you have in life and not taking those things for granted. It’s easily done, especially with something like love.”

Get it on: Trains, Boats and Planes (1992)
Lyric for a lover: I know that we fight/ And our love gets pushed to the side/ Still it ends all right

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Steve Cummins

Steve is the Irish Post's digital media & entertainment editor and looks after the paper's website and weekly entertainment supplement, Rí-Rá. Follow him @steve_cummins

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