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Heavy Rotation

Heavy Rotation: 10 Love Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

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Heavy Rotation is a monthly sampler of public radio personalities' favorite songs. Check out past editions here.
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Shlohmo & Jeremih

Fresh off 2012's weird and rapturous "F--- You All the Time," Chicago crooner Jeremih has extended his one-off collaboration with Los Angeles beat-wizard Shlohmo on last year's "Bo Peep (Do U Right)." "No More" is the first single from their forthcoming joint EP, and it's edgy, 3 a.m., come-down-after-the-club music, more avant-garde James Blake and Miguel than club-friendly Trey Songz or Ron Brown. With its forlorn melody, pent-up atmospherics and pitch-bent vocals, "No More" is full of dread and drift, like the soundtrack to a David Lynch film set in a seedy black strip club. Jeremih still makes great baby-making music; check first, though, to see if monsters are lurking underneath the bed. — Jason King, I'll Take You There: R&B From NPR Music

• Download "No More" (Right-Click and Save Link As)

The Juan Maclean

New York duo The Juan Maclean has just returned with "Get Down (With My Love)"; with its playful bassline and four-on-the-floor rhythms, it'll make you want to "get down," indeed. The final track in a three-part "dance-floor trilogy" (including last year's "You Are My Destiny" and "Feel Like Movin'"), the duo's latest seven-minute song was inspired by what Maclean calls "Saloon House," after Holy Ghost! member Alex Frankel started galloping around the control room on an imaginary horse yelling "GIDDY UP!" The Juan Maclean is currently mixing its next full-length album for a summer release, but in the meantime, take a ride into the sunset with this track. — Kevin Cole, KEXP

• Download "Get Down (With My Love)" (Right-Click and Save Link As)

Vampire Weekend

A potential disaster: one of the greatest love songs of all time, made iconic by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, covered by Vampire Weekend? It's the last song I'd expect Vampire Weekend to cover. But the band (which recorded it for the Sweetheart 2014 compilation) makes it work because it treats the source material with the respect it deserves. The result still sounds like Vampire Weekend — the light touch, the worldly beat — but the song is allowed to breathe; this version, though not as hefty as Bocelli's, is a gorgeous re-imagination. Plus, I would argue that even though Ezra Koenig is no opera singer, he hits the modulation at the end with the same spirit. — Anne Litt, KCRW

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Mary Lambert

The bittersweet hook Mary Lambert sang in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" (click here to see their Tiny Desk Concert) merely hints at the depths of emotion the proudly out Seattle native expresses in her poetic, genre-defying songs. This gospel-blessed piano ballad from her new EP, Welcome to the Age of My Body, confesses a love so deep, it penetrates the flesh. "You are Sanskrit on my skin, peel me open," Lambert murmurs, the calm of her delivery contrasting with the intensity of her expressed passion. Share this with your loved one when you're ready to go to the next level. It's serious. — Ann Powers, NPR Music

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Jhené Aiko

Jhené Aiko is all set to launch. Since 2010, her name has been muttered throughout the industry — until last year, when she took center stage in features with Big Sean ("Beware") and Drake ("From Time"). Before she could be coined the next "it" girl for hooks, Jhené dropped her EP, Sail Out. In "Stay Ready," she trades verses with frequent collaborator Kendrick Lamar, spawning something sensual yet perplexing. Her silvery tone and firm delivery, paired with Fisticuffs' production, captures chemistry that's undeniable. — Robert Carter, NPR

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Childish Gambino

Love songs in hip-hop are rare: We're more accustomed to hearing our favorite MCs break down where love went wrong. That's what makes "Telegraph Ave." so compelling. Donald Glover, aka actor and comedian turned rapper Childish Gambino, teams up with the soulful R&B singer Lloyd in this modern variation of "Midnight Train to Georgia." Gambino buries himself in the melody, rapping about his love for an unnamed woman and his decision to move to Oakland for her. He's self-deprecating, yes, but love is about compromise; while Gambino isn't happy about being uprooted, he'll do it for her. — Cedric D. Shine, Microphone Check

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Planningtorock

Planningtorock takes an unusual approach to a love song in the title track to her most recent album, All Love's Legal. Musically, it may sound a little dark, but the words are as clear as a greeting card: "All love's legal. You cannot illegalize love. Love is the one thing that gives life its purpose. Take your love wherever it leads you. Fall in love with whoever you want to." That's about as romantic as it gets, and it's relevant to the times, as well. — Dave P., WXPN's Making Time RADio

• Download "All Love's Legal" (Right-Click and Save Link As)

Gina Chavez

"La dulce cancion de tu nombre / envuleve mi corazon." The poetry of a love song written in Spanish has always reminded me of the subtly intense beauty of a Miles Davis ballad. It's one thing to say, "I love you." If you say, "The sweet song of your name surrounds my heart," you get a little closer. For my money, the words quoted above hit the same spot as a haunting Davis solo, with its hint of pain and ecstasy. Gina Chavez understands that: Her writing doesn't waste a syllable, and she gets right to heart of the matter — with a voice that knows its way around painful ecstasy. — Felix Contreras, Alt.Latino

• Download "The Sweet Sound of Your Name" (Right-Click and Save Link As)

Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless is a no-nonsense 23-year-old country-punk singer-songwriter from rural Ohio. On her third album, Somewhere Else (which you can stream in its entirety as part of our First Listen series), she continues to make the most of clamorous guitars, bittersweet lyrics and a bruised but indomitable voice. She doesn't write conventional tunes; even her love songs arrive with a twist. In "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud," she equates a relationship to the tempestuous affair between the 19th-century French poets, in which Paul Verlaine shot and wounded Arthur Rimbaud in a fit of jealous rage. Loveless' voice toggles between longing and a snarl, as if to suggest she might just do the same if her lover isn't as deeply committed as she is. — Greg Kot, Sound Opinions

• Download "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" (Right-Click and Save Link As)

Jeremy Messersmith

There's been no overnight success for Jeremy Messersmith, who has spent years toiling away and perfecting his craft in the Twin Cities pop-music scene. Finally, his new album Heart Murmurs is getting a major national push. Messersmith is a classic songwriter; it was the third verse of this cute song that made me decide it would be perfect for a Valentine's Day edition of Heavy Rotation. — David Dye, World Cafe

• Download "I Want to Be Your One Night Stand" (Right-Click and Save Link As)

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