We all enjoy a good love song, but there’s something extra special about alternative love songs. Possessing a bit more raw emotion and edge than what’s typically offered on mainstream radio, here is a list of my favorite love songs by alternative rock singers and bands.
80s Alternative Love Songs You’ll Love
Why don’t we begin with a song by Siouxsie and the Banshees?
“The Last Beat of My Heart” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
This 1988 song by Siouxsie and the Banshees is perhaps one of music’s greatest professions on undying love, vulnerability and angsty turmoil. This alternative jam is filled with the hauntingly slow music the band is known for. The strings and accordion take us on an authentically vulnerable ride through our emotions.
“Reach out your hands. Don’t turn your back. Don’t walk away,” sings Siouxsie, “How in the world can I wish for this? Never to be torn apart. Close to you. Til the last beat of my heart.”
It’s a fragile deep dive into the most central and sacred emotions that come with a deep love connection. It’s beautifully haunting in every way.
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90s Alternative Love Songs
Let’s begin with a song by The Foo Fighters
“Everlong” by The Foo Fighters
The Foo Fighters gave us one of the best alternative love songs when they released “Everlong” in 1997. It’s the fight song of love.A steering wheel banger, a late night song on the bar jukebox, and just a damn good song.
“If everything could ever be this real forever. If anything could ever be this good again,” sings Dave Grohl. “The only thing I’ll ever ask of you. You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when. She sang.”
The song is about loving someone and asking them to not quit the relationship when times get hard. It’s a beautiful ode and oath. If you ever get the chance to see them at a large venue, like Fenway Park in Boston, please go. There is something about a whole stadium singing along to “Everlong” that just might make even the hardest of humans shed a tear.
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“Joey” by Concrete Blonde
Concrete Blonde’s 1990 album, Bloodletting, is a perfect ride from beginning to end. And their hit song off the album, Joey, is a masterpiece of cool.
Lead singer Johnette Napolitano wrote “Joey” about her then alcoholic partner, Marc Morlan (Wall of Voodoo). He died 12 years later from liver failure.
“But if I seem to be confused, I didn’t mean to be with you. And when you said I scared you, well, I guess you scared me too,” sings Napolitano, “But we got lucky once before and I don’t want to close the door. And if you’re somewhere out there passed out on the floor… Oh… Joey, I’m not angry anymore.”
Watching a loved one’s addiction up close and personal is a rough, rough road for a partner. “Joey” is jam packed with driving heartbreak beats and Johnette’s deep dive into fear, hope and quiet devastation. For those of you who have not heard Johnette’s voice, well, it’s solid gold s*** so do yourself a favor and download the whole Bloodletting album. But start with “Joey” first.
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2000s Alternative Love Songs
As we transition to the 2000s, let’s begin with a song by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
“Maps” by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
In 2003, this NYC trio gave us this glorious love song. It’s rumored to be a song lead singer Karen O wrote about her boyfriend at the time. “Made off. Don’t stray. Well, my kind’s your kind. I’ll stay the same. Pack up. Don’t stray. Oh say, say, say. Oh say, say, say,” Sings Karen O, “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you.”
This is the quintessential “don’t-leave-me-I-love-you-more-than-anyone” song. “Maps” is filled with angelic guitar picking, tribal drum pounding, and Karen O’s sweet voice. It’s a love song for sure. We get it. Some of us have probably experienced this moment in our life at least once. Asking someone to stay and to keep holding on.
“Poison and Wine” by The Civil Wars
The song Poison and Wine will tear out your heart and leave it wounded but still beating on the floor. It’s filled with love and hate. This duet gives us one of the greatest songs about love from the indie alternative musical pool ever. The slow piano and guitar together alone are enough to inspire.
But when Joy Williams and John Paul White come into the song, crickets. It’s beautiful, hard, raw, vulnerable and painfully authentic. It’s the love-hate song you want for those nights alone when we miss them. For the last calls when we’ve had too many shots at the bar and our heart is dripping open and we need release.
“I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back. The less I give the more I get back. Ooh, your hands can heal. Your hands can bruise,” sing the Civil Wars, “don’t have a choice but I still choose you. Oh, I don’t love you but I always will.”
This song will slay you.
“Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus
This 2000 song is about watching the girl we like date a complete jerk. Just a mean bully. Sadly, lots of us can relate. In fact, many of us have liked someone who doesn’t seem to know we exist.
Wheatus pulls off a fun, poppy redemptive love song that’s filled with great rock, light hearted and fun lyrics, and a definitive shout out to Iron Maiden. He pines for her, talks s*** about her boyfriend, and just wants to listen to Iron Maiden with her. And towards the end of the song she appears and walks towards him.
And then, she sings back to him, “I’ve got two tickets to Iron Maiden, baby. Come with me Friday, don’t say “maybe” I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby, like you.” It’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes we never know so don’t lose hope. Thanks Wheatus.
“All I Need” by Radiohead
Thom Yorke and the band gave us “All I Need” in 2009. It’s an ode to waiting for someone we want to be with, and truthfully, we kind of wish that Yorke would find a better person to love.
“I’m the next act waiting in the wings. I’m an animal trapped in your hot car. I am all the days that you choose to ignore,” sings Yorke, “You are all I need. You’re all I need. I’m in the middle of your picture lying in the reeds.” Most of us have loved someone who is bad for us. This is a song for that season in our lives.
“I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie
This 2006 indie pop song is about loyalty, unconditional love, and authentic movement within romantic relationship. It’s about loving someone so much you would follow them into the dark which is a metaphor for death.
“If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied. Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy scenes,” sings Ben Gibbard, “If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks. Then I will follow you into the dark.”
It’s a sweet lullaby. A torch song, of sorts. An oath kept forever. This catchy tune beautifully captures the sentiment of “I will love you my whole life and if at the end, if you are alone, I will be with you.” Is there anything more beautiful than this?
“Do You Realize?” by The Flaming Lips
These Oklahoma natives delivered a wonderfully crafted psychedelic love song to humanity in 2002 with “Do You Realize?” This is an indie fan concert favorite, and with good reason.
Lead singer, Wayne Coyne sings, “And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know. You realize that life goes fast. It’s hard to make good things last. You realize the sun doesn’t go down. It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning around.”
This song is a great testament to being present in your life because we never know when this trip of life is over for us.
“Run” by Snow Patrol
Snow Patrol’s “Run” is by far one of the sweetest love songs ever written. This gem off their 2003 album, Final Straw, is borderline a perfect song. This Irish/Scottish band knows their way around deep emotions when it comes to love, and it’s quite clear in this song.
This song is about being in a hard moment, and together leaving behind the darkness and chaos. It’s the “take my hand and lets get through this together” anthem.
“Light up, light up as if you have a choice. Even if you cannot hear my voice, I’ll be right beside you dear,” sings Gary Lightbody. “Louder, louder and we’ll run for our lives. I can hardly speak. I understand why you can’t raise your voice to say.”
It’s truly one of the best love songs about holding on to each other and getting through the messiness of life together.
Whenever you need a great love song about holding on to love, letting it go, or simply being present in your life, these 10 alternative love songs oughta fix you right up. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
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