When people think the Velvets / Lou Reed, they often think noise and craziness. Some of their best known works, or most infamous works, are scrawled masterpieces, loud and in your face: Sister Ray, Waiting For My Man, Metal Music… However, the Lou and the Velvets also pushed envelopes on the other end of the spectrum, penning some of the greatest subdued songs ever recorded. Here is my top list of soft works of genius:
5) Vanishing Act — Lou Reed
This song is really beautiful, arguably the softest song that Lou ever did. It starts out with just single, sustained piano notes. Then, Lou starts singing a repetitive melody very softly in his gruff voice. The effect is incredibly intimate, possibly too much so. I’m not a huge fan of all the spit-y sounds, it sounds like we’re hearing Lou Reed sing from inside his mouth. Also, it really builds at the end, and I’m not really hugely into the sweeping strings at the end. But the meat of this song is incredibly beautiful, fragile, moving.
4) Candy Says — The Velvet Underground
This song is just a gorgeous song with a lilting melody. What needs to be appreciated is that the Velvets blazed their own sound in so many different spectrums. They also blazed their own sound with soft songs, featuring instantly recognizable aspects like the softly chiming clean guitars in high registers, repetitive rhythms and subdued drums. See other great soft velvets songs like ‘Sunday Morning’ and ‘Pale Blue Eyes’.
3) Turning Time Around — Lou Reed
This song is some late period brilliance with a very intimate feel. It has a really pillow-talk vibe, which is surprisingly not a bad thing! It features some of Lou’s most interesting lyrics, at once tender and poetic, philosophical and personal. And the feeling is gorgeous, it messes with your perception of time, slowing the world down a bit, as befits the title.
2) The Gift — The Velvet Underground
White Light White Heat
This is a strange, captivating and unsettling story about an obsessive romance that ends very badly. It stands out from the Velvets other soft tracks in that the music is supplying jagged and angular ambiance to the weird story happening. Really a singular piece of the Velvet’s canon.
1) Sunday Morning — The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground and Nico
This song, the first off of the Velvet’s first album, is a gorgeous swoon through and through, replete with Baroque instrumentation, beautiful pop melody… Simply irresistible, an amazing starting point to one of the most influential albums ever made.