Vampire Weekend, Fiona Apple celebrate Valentine’s Day for Starbucks

‘Sweetheart 2014'
Vampire Weekend and Fiona Apple are among the acts featured on “Sweetheart 2014,” a new set of covers of love songs released by Starbucks.
(Starbucks / Hear Music / Concord)

Talk about dumb Starbucks.

For its latest compilation album, the coffee chain commissioned covers of love songs from 13 artists just in time for Valentine’s Day,  which sounds like a delightful idea, until you realize how much of “Sweetheart 2014” is wasted on frightfully dull indie-roots acts such as Phosphorescent, Valerie June and the Head and the Heart.

Is “Always on My Mind,” the self-flagellating ballad popularized by both Willie Nelson and Pet Shop Boys, a “tried-and-true expression of ardor,” as the album’s liner notes describe these tunes? For sure. Here, though, in a sad-sack piano-and-voice rendition by Bahamas, the song’s title feels like a threat, not a promise.

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Other disappointments include Ben Harper’s similarly glum take on Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” and a sprightly but pointlessly faithful version of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by the Brooklyn soul revivalists Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

And yet, “Sweetheart 2014” isn’t completely unlovable.

Fiona Apple and her cabaret-singer sister, Maude Maggart, harmonize “I’m in the Middle of a Riddle” with the spooky precision they brought to their duet on Apple’s 2012 album, “The Idler Wheel…” Vampire Weekend’s resident magpies, Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij, home in on the beautiful melody of “Con te partirò,” the pop-classical anthem popularized by Andrea Bocelli.

And though it’s an odd choice for an otherwise-sappy Valentine’s Day set, Brandi Carlile sounds great growling “Damn your love / Damn your lies” in a foot-stomping surge through Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”

Enjoy those highlights -- and endure the rest -- in the album stream below.


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Twitter: @mikaelwood