Top 5 Sad Songs (by Claire)

There’s something really satisfying about sad songs, when you need them. Remember that sketch on SNL last season where everyone uses “Someone Like You” to trigger a much needed crying jag? I thought that sketch was weirdly brilliant. Like a good cry, a good sad song can be cathartic. Give these a listen, but maybe just one: I went on a sad song, re-listening bender with these and ended up a big blubbery mess.

 “The River,” by Bruce Springsteen

The harmonica here will break your heart. It wheezes through the intro like a man’s death rattle gasp. The narrator doesn’t physically die; neither does his teen love and wife, Mary. But all the heady, wide-eyed stuff that made them alive is swiftly murdered, verse by verse. I’ve heard  “The River” a 100 times. The part where Springsteen sings “Well I got Mary pregnant”? I still jump and think “Oh no!”

It’s a story you’ve heard before. Unplanned pregnancy, shotgun wedding, dashed dreams—two people trapped in a marriage, sharing a life they never wanted with a partner they wouldn’t have chosen. This is, oddly, classic Americana stuff. What’s less classic and more spellbinding is the unadulterated anguish of the final verses. He reflects on the old days at the river, with simple, perfect images of young love: “But I remember us driving in my brother’s car/Her body tan and wet down by the reservoir/At night on them banks I’d lie awake/And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take.” We see that his last flicker of happiness wasn’t the hopeful beginning we all think young love is; it was the end of everything. “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true,” he asks, “or is it something worse?”

Love is poisonous and life is hard and things might not work out—so says “The River,” which is why I offer you this advice: If you’re very sad and up late at night, don’t listen to this song more than once. You will blow your tear ducts out.

“Keep Me in Your Heart,” by Warren Zevon

I don’t remember listening to Warren Zevon before I saw “Warren Zevon: Keep Me In Your Heart for a While.” But I didn’t need to be a Zevon-phile to realize that I was seeing something special. Documentarian Nick Reed captured Warren Zevon’s last project, the recording of his album “The Wind,” which he began right after he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember it being that kind of joyful that makes you tear up. Here was an artist making a conscious choice to spend the end of his life making a beautiful album with all of his friends, creating his last musical mark on the world while saying goodbye. I listened to all his albums. I cried when he passed away.

There are a couple things people say after someone dies, and one of them has always irked me: The too early declaration that life is for the living, and it’s time to move on. “So and so would want it that way,” is always the argument. By too early, I mean in the first week or so, and it’s always delivered with a measure of defensiveness, like death is a disease that you can outrun. What good does it do working hard to erase the people we love? Why would they want that? “Keep Me In Your Heart” for a while feels like the answer to that.

“Breathe Me,” by Sia

I’ve never gotten over the end of Six Feet Under. I’ve never watched it again. Once was enough. Let me set the scene: I’m over at Joshua’s apartment. It’s blazing hot. I’ve just decided, out of nowhere and to everyone’s surprise, that I’m not going back to my college town in a month, that instead I’ll go to school somewhere close to home. Which is what I’m saying, instead of turning right and acknowledging, to anyone, the tidal wave of depression that was rising in slow motion, just waiting to suck me under. I go over to my friend’s house to watch the finale of my favorite show, and every single character dies while this song plays. We all cry, but I just keep crying: Hysterical, jagged crying, the kind where you wonder if it’s ever going to stop. It did, after a while, and then Joshua and everyone else went back to schools in tiny towns. I stayed in Baltimore. I listened to this song a lot. I watched the wave speed up.

“I’ll Be Seeing You,” by Billie Holiday

Someone you love is every where other than right in front of you, which is exactly where you want that person to be. This song illustrates that deep heart ache, where a face appears in wishing wells and carousels, where time or distance makes it impossible to run into that person’s arms, even though there’s nothing you’ve ever wanted so much. Pair all of that with Billie Holiday, whose voice here rests in that lovely strange space between happy and sad, hitting joyful notes, then dipping into deep wistful valleys. It never gets any better, and then the song ends.

“Landslide,” by Fleetwood Mac

Landslide is a perfect, jolting reminder of your own mortality and the rapid passage of time. Stevie Nicks reflects on the current of fear attached to growing up and moving on. Nothing monumental or scandalous happens in the song’s narrative; it’s full of the strangeness and discomfort that exists in ordinary life. Nicks wrote this while she was debating whether or not she should go back to school, and if she should keep working with Lindsay Buckingham. She said her life at the time felt like a landslide, but her worries didn’t stem from anything splashy or strange—who hasn’t contemplated going back to school, or mulled over whether or not they should leave their job? If you’ve been anywhere or with anyone for a lengthy period of time, you’ve definitely related to “I’ve been afraid of changing/Cause I built my life around you” at some point.

I’ve listened to this song 10 times in a row to write this blurb. I feel like I need to go sit by a window and reflect. I think my heart might just break in half.

Mixtapes for Celebrities: Warren Zevon and Lindsay Lohan

Claire: We’re kicking off our month of mixtape madness with mixtapes for Warren Zevon and Lindsay Lohan. Through the power of playlists, we’re hoping to show Warren Zevon the music he’s been missing while we’ve been missing him, and to make Lindsay Lohan’s recent comeback her last.

Joshua’s List: Dark Songs for a Dark Motherfucker (A Mixtape for Warren Zevon)

Dear Mr. Zevon,

We miss you here on earth. We just don’t have anyone like you anymore.  And while you’ve been kicking it in Rock and Roll Heaven, there have been some songs that you would just love. They’re right up your alley.

“Holocaust of Giants” by Rasputina          

Ok, so, maybe I lied. I’m not sure how you would feel about cellos as the main instrument. But it’s cellos that are often played through distortion pedals. And Melora Creager is almost as deviant as you were. This song recounts finding the bones of a giant on the banks of the Ohio, who “slaughtered each other in a meaningless war,” which she thanks god “we don’t do that anymore.” It’s exactly the kind of humor I think you’d be down with.

“Gardening” by Spoke Ensemble

I understand this may be a little lo-fi and stripped down for you , but it’s a song about domestic abuse and murder set to simple, easy, down-strummed guitar chords. With an accordion. And amazing harmonies. I have to think this would worm its way into your head just like it has mine. Maybe you’d even cover it. Yeah….Oh, I think I just got an erection. To murder. Hot.

“People II: The Reckoning” by Andrew Jackson Jihad

His voice is tough for you, I know. But man, he’s for realsies, isn’t he? I have a feeling you would love the lines about there being a child pornographer and a Nazi inside all of us (especially “and a politician too”).  And I think you’d really love their re-imagining of “Mrs. Robinson.” They are very sick and twisted, no?

“How a Resurrection Really Feels” by The Hold Steady

At this point you’re asking yourself, “Ok, this list is pretty good so far, but where’s the power? Where’s the oomph? I mean, really…Where’s the fucking guitars?” Here they are. The Hold Steady know how to deliver an amazing song about a homeless prostitute and heroin addict dying in a church with badass guitar lines and ridiculous solos. And Craig Finn’s voice makes him sound perpetually drunk, something I know you’d appreciate.

“A Cautionary Song” by The Decemberists

This song came up on my shuffle at work the other day and inspired this list. The Decemberists have lots of dirty, dark songs, but this one takes the cake (also, it seems that prostitution and the accordion are running themes in this list). It recounts the tale of a woman who goes off to sell her body to sailors who pass her around like a ragdoll and then throw her back ashore with a couple dollars and the promise to kill her if she tells the tale. And, oh wait, it’s your fucking mother. She does this to put food in your grubby little mouth. It’s all sealed with the wonderful musical and lyrical footnote at the end, “Remember what she does when you’re asleep.” You’d hear this song and smile to yourself, I know.

Well, Mr. Zevon, I hope you’ve liked my list. Rock and Roll Heaven must be awesome, with the Tupac, the real Paul McCartney, and Otis Redding. But hopefully this list has made you smile and laugh. If you liked it, maybe you could do me a favor and put in a good word with the Rock and Roll God to just kill Nickelback already? Thanks. We miss you!

With musical love,

Joshua

Claire’s List: Career Advice for the Prodigal Comeback Kid (A Mixtape for Lindsay Lohan)

Dear Ms. Lohan,

Look at you! Done with your probation, getting your red-headed groove back on, popping up on TV…yeah, we’ve seen this before. Linds Lo, I’ve been rooting for you since “The Parent Trap,” and I think you can make this your last comeback, but it’s going to take some work. So I made you a mixtape that’s better than Oreos dipped in peanut butter. Enjoy.

“Bad Reputation,” by Freedy Johnston

I think denial is part of what makes the closed door on your wild ways a revolving one. The message from Freedy is solid: I know I’ve got a bad reputation, and it isn’t just talk talk talk. After years of weak excuses and rebuttals, isn’t it time to be upfront about what you’ve been doing for the past few wasted years? Look at Demi Lovato—you were definitely her Disney prototype, right down to the post-fame boyfriend (Wilmer Valderrama, you’re gross. If you end up dating Elle Fanning in a few years, I will personally come over and punch you in the head) and she’s following the Tao of Freedy and thriving.

“Bloody Motherfucking Asshole,” by Martha Wainwright

Oh Michael Lohan, you tabloid-celebrity-chasing buffoon. Look Linds, you did not draw winners when it came to picking parents. The same logic goes for whoever managed your music career.

Once upon a time, every child actor didn’t have to sing. Mini-pop superstardom wasn’t part of the Disney deal. You’re from that time; your musical talent was legitimate and not just an auto-tuned part of your Disney package. But whoever managed you decided to focus more energy on selling you as a Top 40 sexbot instead of a legitimate singer.

Throw the world a curveball and make a good album. Cease and desist your current contact with Pitbull. Again, take a note from Lindsay Lohan 2.0, Demi Lovato, who seems to be trying to make decent music outside of the Disney mold. Kick off your album planning with some Martha Wainwright listening. She wrote this song about her terrible father/daughter relationship with Loudon Wainwright III. Consider this a higher-brow “Daughter to Father.”

“Bette Davis Eyes,” by Kim Carnes

I have a theory that everyone wants you dead. Listen, not me, but really: You’ve been marketed as an impending tragedy since you were about 20. I don’t think photographers keep thrusting you into high profile shot for shot remakes of Marilyn Monroe because you’re her look-alike—you’re not, and there are teams of young actresses who have taken her style cues and mannerisms for years without this level of Marilyn association. I think it’s because it was decided a long time ago that you were a tragic beauty.

And this isn’t just about past slipups: No one marketed Robert Downey Jr as James Dean. When Charlie Sheen fell into a whirlwind of substance abuse and mental illness, he wasn’t overwhelmingly linked to tragic, deceased male actors. But you fell into your own whirlwind and were suddenly associated, constantly, with a beloved actress who ODed at a young age.

I know the reference in this song is to Bette Davis, but I see it as your send-off song: Listen to it, and say goodbye to the tragic seductress with the big old movie star eyes. And the next time I see a photo shoot of you, I hope they style you to look like you. Or Ann Margaret, who makes way more sense as an old movie star doppelgänger.

“You Don’t Own Me,” by Lesley Gore

When you’re working your ass off to change the public’s opinion, relaunch your career, and get that Oscar by the time you’re 30 (yes, I’ve watched your interviews. But we’ll be 30 in 5 years kid, so pick up the pace!), you need a “Fuck everyone, no one can stop me!” song. Here it is.

“Come a Long Way,” by Michelle Shocked

You hosted SNL, you showed up sober and put together for loads of interviews, you did all your community service, you’re playing Elizabeth Taylor in a Lifetime movie….you have come a long way, and you haven’t even left LA.

Good luck with everything, Lindsay Lohan. One day I want to see you with a Robert Downey Jr. Type of fame, where you get solid parts and no one talks about who you were or what you did when you were young and troubled.

xoxo,

Claire

Top 5 Album Closers

Claire: We’re closing out our month long amble down record collection lane with album closers. Joshua and I had a long discussion about this post after I admitted that post by post, it’s come to my attention that I skip out on the end of most albums. Even some of my favorite albums contain mysterious final tracks that I’ve never reached. Why? Boredom sometimes, but more often it feels like the rhythm and narrative of the album got lost in the last few tracks, and after the penultimate and pre-penultimate, I can’t sit through another assault on my mini musical experience. Leave your favorite album closers, and closer criteria, in the comments! Maybe this post and your suggestions can end my stint as an album closer novice.

“The Big Country,” by the Talking Heads on Talking Heads 77

The Big Country is the epitomy of a proper album send-off. After a musical smorgasbord, this track winds you down, but not too much, not too fast. Perfectly paced, and still in pace with the album as a whole, with a solid last track length. If I’ve learned anything from our month of album posts, it’s that you never really want to leave a Talking Heads album. Once it’s on, once it gets going, it’s hard to give it up, hard to let it end. The Big Country is so satisfying it’s downright quenching.  And when Talking Heads 77 is done, you’ll probably replay the album (I know, you can’t help it) but if for some reason you couldn’t listen through again—if there was a tornado or some kind of martian landing— you could walk away and be okay. Until you remember Stop Making Sense, and then wipe out your schedule and cozy up to David Byrne, cause you’re a goner.

 “Jackson,” by Lucinda Williams on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Around the time I turned 16, my family spent a week in St. Cloud Minnesota, the town where I was born. We stayed with my parents’ friend Julie’s house, where we shucked corn in the backyard, ate mole off of plates perched on our laps, and flailed our open, stinging palms through the air, swatting mosquitos. It’s strange to say three cities later,  but everyone seemed so much more alive in Minnasota. My dad was on the radio, bonfires sprung up and filled with my parents’ college friends, and my sister and I ran free. I tasted my first beer that week (and developed a lifelong hatred of Leinenkugels), got my ears pierced, and spent the morning of my 16th birthday walking right down the center of an endless, empty road. I picked up this album at a record store called The Electric Fetus and listened to it relentlessly.

There’s a great line in Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, about listening to “I Will Always Love You” over and over again, and crying because she had never experienced that kind of love. During that week in St. Cloud, I felt ready to grow up and be tumultous, adventurous, and achingly heartbroken, as soon as I could, and “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” was my window into a life I didn’t have yet, but could reach out and almost touch.

“Save Me,” by Aimee Mann on Bachelor No. 2 or the Last Remains of the Dodo

I was in the throes of a bad breakup, and bingeing on sad girl music (…like Fergie) and a newly reacquired cigarette habit, when I got introduced to Bachelor No. 2. I remember that summer as being rainy and constantly dark, though looking back it was so sunny that I came home daily with a pink, scabby sunburn. And I also remember this album being a pitch-perfect ode to heartbreak, so personalized Mann may as well have laced my name through the choruses. But it’s not, not really. It’s heartbreak and growing up and being so strange inside that new love, someday, feels unlikely. I think this is where I ended up five years after I had exhausted Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, when I really was heartbroken and a little more grown up, and it was a lot less delicious than I had imagined.

“One Man Guy,” by Loudon Wainwright on BBC Sessions

Loudon Wainwright III is the world’s saddest man. If there were a “Sad, old guy singing sad songs” version of the Hunger Games, he would win in a heartbeat. He would get a walloping score from the Gamemakers, based on a freestyle ode to his lost loves and distant children. He would pull out a guitar and beat Leonard Cohen death, then melt everyone into a depressive heap with his pretty, lowkey songs, rife with death and loss and major life mistakes. (Oh my glob I want to cast the Sad Old Guy Hunger Games. What are we thinking, guys? Neil Young, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, wild card from District Experimental, Brian Eno…) (I’m reading the Hunger Games and they’re actually haunting my dreams. And this post, apparently.)

“One Man Guy” is an apt ending to a live-ish album: Loudon in concert is a carnival of kooky facial expressions, quips, and goofy smiles, all working together to cleverly mask some of the wrenching sadness in his songs. This song is an exploration of his lodged-in-his-bones-loneliness, and a quick peek behind his live performance mask.

“Murder of One,” by the Counting Crows on August and Everything After

Murder of One is a great big “things are going to change” song. It’s also solid internal montage music: If you need to imagine that things will change, for the better, in a quick, several scene cuts kind of way (instead of in the usual slow, up and down, un-soundtracked way that life works) this is your song. A nice, almost upbeat ending to a brooding, emotional rollercoaster of an album.

Honorable Mentions

“Rock Me to Sleep,” by Jill Sobule on Pink Pearl: Pink Pearl is the worst kind of album: Heartbreakingly sad, and equally catchy. It’s a lovely hummable type of torture, full of failed heroes and cruel lovers and Mary Kay Latourneau. “Rock Me to Sleep” is a pitch-perfect send off—a song about unbearable loneliness masquerading as a lullabye.

“Stumbling Through the Dark,” by The Jayhawks on Rainy Day Music: Another con—the opening sounds lighthearted and playful, but listen to the lyrics for a second and it’s another lovely ramble on sadness and confusion.

“Montana,” by Frank Zappa on Over-Nite SensationWeird and fun, like this whole album. Makes me miss the “I might be moving to Montana soon/ To raise me up a crop of dental floss” pin I made in high school. It had a green field on it with tiny boxes of dental floss growing out of the ground.

Joshua’s List:

“Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by Warren Zevon, on Excitable Boy

The first line is so good: “I went home with a waitress…the way I always do.” It begins with a count-off. It’s loud, crass, and mean. It’s the perfect way to end Excitable Boy. Oh, and the music is pretty damn cool too. I love big guitars, both as a wall of sound and actual physically big guitars. And I can only assume this song has both.

“Sad Songs and Waltzes” by Cake, on Fashion Nugget

I may have mentioned this song before, but as Cake is one of my favorite bands they’re going to get a lot of mentions. And they actually don’t have very many good album closers, at least none I’d be willing to put on this list. Except for this song, of course. It’s a great cover of a Willie Nelson song, and it fits in perfectly with the whole jilted lover theme they have running through the album. Plus, it’s a nice slow way to end the album, which is my favorite way to end an album. And it’s a ¾ waltz! Who doesn’t like a waltz?

“Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, on O.C.M.S

Let me preface this song with telling you that I am not a big fan of this band. The album this is on is not very good and the only other standout on the album is a song called “Big Time in the Jungle.” But this is quite possibly the best campfire sing-along song of all time. When I was at St. Mary’s College, it seemed like every single person knew the lyrics to this song and everyone who played guitar knew the key changes. So yeah, it wraps up a bad album, but it does it in one of the happiest ways ever.

“Sons & Daughters” by The Decemberists, on The Crane Wife

I’ve seen The Decemberists three times now, and twice they’ve ended their encores with this song. It’s big, it’s happy, and it’s a sing-along! (Ok, so sing-alongs are a running theme this week.) Every time I hear this song it puts a big smile on my face. It’s the perfect way to end The Crane Wife, which I feel is ostensibly a “winter” album, with the spring peeking out of its hidey hole and giving us hope after a long, dark winter.

“All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints” by Paul Simon, on Graceland

So yeah, I love this album. It’s on three of the four lists we have about albums. But goddamn, this is an amazingly fun song. It’s singy, it’s danceable, it’s balling. Also, props to the many mentions of watermelon. I totally want some after listening to this song.

Honorable Mentions:

“The Hazards of Love 4: The Drowned” by The Decemberists, on The Hazards of Love: Only bumped because of previous mentions and a Decemberists song already on the main list. Otherwise, one of my favorite album closers.

“Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang” by John Lee Hooker, on Live at Café Au-Go-Go: His signature song, and one of the best versions available.

“I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder, on Talking Book: Gets a big positive for closing out the movie version of High Fidelity. But it’s also a crazy good song. Also, the outro is really, really, really funky.

Top 5 Breakup Songs

Joshua: We are so obsessed with breakup songs, we couldn’t leave it at just describing the stages we go through. Here are our all-time, top five favorite breakup songs…plus a few more we just had to mention.

CLAIRE’s List

Etta James, “I’d Rather Go Blind”

Etta James has completed the Love and Stuff Month triathalon: She’s on my Top 5 Love Songs (Sunday Kind of Love), Top 5 Songs for the Grown and Sexy (I Just Want to Make Love to You), and Top 5 Breakup Songs (I’d Rather Go Blind). I’ve never been able to shake the image from the chorus here—”I’d rather be blind, boy, than to see you walk away from me.” An achingly, heartbreakingly beautiful song, one that conveys raw, almost to the point of numbness, pain.


Imogen Heap, “Hide and Seek”

For the blank-faced times, the too many drinks alone time, the finding a song to cry to times. Sort of a theme for  “Speak for Yourself” (the album this song is from), so if you’re looking for a prolonged spell of crying jags and blind rage, queue up “Headlock” and “Have You Got it In You?”

A Fine Frenzy, “Ashes and Wine”

A Fine Frenzy does a couple things we all have to do after a breakup. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Feels nothing. Feels end-of-the-world-depressed. Feels suicidal in a “Yeah, that’ll show you way.” Then feels bad about all that and insists that this will be amicable, damnit.
  • Imagines her ex kissing someone else. Feels alternately ill, guilty about feeling ill because she has no claim on him anymore, sad about the realization that her claim is gone
  • Wonders relentlessly if somehow they’re going to muddle through this breakup and get back together. Asks that pleading question, albeit in a much more poetic way, “Are we going to get back together? Ever?”


Beck, “Lost Cause”

You’ve given up. You didn’t want to, this isn’t some big confident show of how over it you are, no. But you’re done trying. And it’s all sad and terrible but maybe a little hopeful, because it can be over now. Not over for real, not yet, but there’s a promise that it will be some day. And that’s something.


Joni Mitchell, “Down to You”

An oddly comforting song that, when you’re in the throes of your breakup, reminds you that this too shall pass. This is my all time favorite Joni Mitchell song. I remember driving around listening to this, about a month after a breakup, and those first lines clicked with me immediately: “Everything comes and goes/Marked by lovers and styles of clothes/Things that you held high and told yourself were true/Lost and changing as the days come down to you.” Also the part where she suddenly shrieks “Love is gone” with a chorus is hilarious. I know it’s not supposed to be, but it’s a much needed laugh. Between Joni Mitchell’s zen-like wisdom and so-serious-it’s-funny-choral-moment, this song feels like a huge relief.

Honorary Mentions:

Billie Holiday, “I’ll Be Seeing You”: Nobody does wistful like Billie Holiday.

Martha Wainwright, “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole”: It’s nice to hear a pretty song turn so filthy. Martha Wainwright is angry, is not interested in hiding it, is about to spend a full minute repeating “You bloody motherfucking asshole.”

Lauryn Hill, “Ex Factor”: If you’ve ever been through a breakup without “There for me there for me, said you’d be there for me/Cry for me cry for me, you said you’d die for me” running through your head at some point, you apparently missed out on the very crucial experience of listening to “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” on repeat for two years. Fix that.

Joshua’s List:

“Sad Songs and Waltzes” by Cake

A wonderful cover of the creator of nasty breakup songs, Willie Nelson. He can’t possibly begin to forgive his ex. She done him wrong. And he ain’t got no one to tell it to but his guitar and the tech recording his song. I hope whoever Nelson wrote the song for (and John McCrea sang the song for) actually heard the song. But it’s almost better if she didn’t, right?

“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” by Jeff Buckley

I’m not sure if this is actually a breakup song or not, I’ve just always used it as one. Maybe it’s the accordion. Maybe it’s the wide open D-chord transitioning to the horrible E-minor. Maybe it’s Buckley’s naturally wilting, wistful voice. You can’t help but wish…no, know, that she should’ve come back to him. He knows exactly what he’s done wrong. He’s a fucking idiot. Can’t he make a mistake? Unfortunately, he knows the answer, and it’s not good.

“Accidentally Like A Martyr” by Warren Zevon

This was a serious candidate for the breakup sex entry for me for a while. The chorus describes exactly that: “Mad love, shadow love, random love, and abandoned love.” Can you think of a better description for sex you shouldn’t be having? But it’s much better describing that period after you finally break off all contact with your ex and then force yourself to remember over and over again all the times you had passionate, uninhibited sex with her/him. It’s torturous, and Warren Zevon knows exactly what you’re going through.

“No Children” by The Mountain Goats

This song isn’t actually written from the perspective of a couple already broken up; rather, a couple that should be ending but can’t bring themselves to kill it. Or each other. Or themselves. I love the line: “And I hope when you think of me years down the line, you can’t find one good thing to say.” I’ve oft felt like this: I know I’ve never done anything to truly hurt someone, especially someone I’ve loved, but there’s a certain romantic charm in being hated in perpetuity by someone who once loved you. Maybe that’s insanity, but I have a feeling I inspire that kind of long-standing revulsion with my exes, and it’s rather comforting.

“So Very Hard To Go” by Tower of Power

After that, I had to end this entry on a positive note. And what better a song than this to express positivity of a breakup? The singer is, unfortunately, deeply in love with the person he’s singing it to, but he’s realized that it’s better for her in the long run if they weren’t together anymore. He can’t bear the thought of his girl being unhappy, especially if it’s because of him. He must make the ultimate sacrifice to step aside, but, in the end, he’s ok with it. It’s hard now, and it’ll get better, but goddamn, if this shit doesn’t suck. I one day hope to be that mature to realize when I should do what he’s doing…Cuz I’ve never done it before.

Honorable Mentions:

“Break Your Heart” by Barenaked Ladies: Ok, this is only on here because I’ve never been on this side of a breakup. Move along.

“Where Did Our Love Go” by The Supremes: A shuffle written about dying love. A straight up amazing classic.

“For No One” by The Beatles: Uh…damn, Paul. Damn. This is some fucked up shizz right here. And I’ve been there.

Top 5 Breakup Stages, as Songs

JOSHUA: It has been said that when we lose someone, we go through five distinct stages of grief: Bargaining, Denial, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance. We like to this this extends to breakups as well. You know it to be true. First, you bargain with each other to try to save the relationship (we’ll simplify this process and just call it what we know it to be: breakup sex). Then, you deny that it’s over or you think you can get your partner back. After that horrific part is over, you focus all your anger in the world at your ex: Everything in your whole life is wrong because of that asshole. Then you sink into a deep, dark hole of depression and wish the world was over so you could get away from your feelings. Finally the scotch runs out and you step outside into the sunlight one morning and realize you’re over and done with it. Sometimes this takes days, sometimes years, but eventually you do actually run out of scotch you get over him or her. And for each part of this ordeal, we’re here with songs to describe and illuminate.

 JOSHUA’s List:

Bargaining: “In The Car” by Barenaked Ladies

Ambivalence, repressed anger, hope for the future tinged by the regret of the failure are all what this song is about. And break up sex is filled with every one of these and more. We don’t like that we’re doing this but we’re sure as hell gonna do it anyway. The worst part is that break up sex tends to be pretty awesome. Unfortunately, in this song, it’s pretty terrible.

Denial: “She’ll Come Back To Me” by Cake

What better way to put yourself in denial than a good, old-fashioned country song? Cake delivers with this. The sentiment is right on the money – the speaker is seeing his girl leave him for another dude as he sings, but has convinced himself that she ain’t going nowhere. It’s deluded, it’s idiotic, it’s classic denial.

Anger: “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette

I don’t think there is a better song out there to listen to when you’re pissed off about a break up, namely because it puts everything in perspective: You’re not as angry as Morissette is. Period. Unless your ex killed your puppy, I seriously doubt you have the ability to be as irate as she is in this song. Not only is the music hard and spiteful, but Morissette’s vocals are dripping with rage. She practically spits out every word, especially the line about scratching her nails down someone else’s back. Shit, I didn’t do anything bad to her and I felt those nails.

Depression: “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” by Frank Sinatra

You’ll hit this point eventually. It’s the point where it’s 3:48 am and you’ve polished off most of a bottle of scotch and you’re unable to think about anything else. Sinatra knows that point very well, and this song is both a reflection of being at that point and the perfect musical expression of living through that point. His voice is tough to stomach because it’s just so, so dark and depressing. Be careful using this song, however. If it’s 3:48 in the am and you’ve polished off most of a bottle of scotch and you’re unable to think about anything else, don’t listen to this song. You’ll die of sadness overload.

Acceptance: “Tears Dry On Their Own” by Amy Winehouse

This is the kind of acceptance only Amy Winehouse can do: She’s happy for the time they had and she knows she’s the one who fucked up. She’s dealing with it but it’s tough. But the song looks at the end of relationship very logically and pragmatically and that’s the kind of lack of emotion you want to really get over your ex. You’re never gonna really move on if you’re always listening to Frank Sinatra, let’s be sure; this song actually helps. And it has a badass drum sample from “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which I can only hope is a meta-reference to acceptance: She’s so over it that she’s ready to be in a great relationship where there ain’t no river wide enough to keep her from getting to him.

CLAIRE’s List:

Bargaining / Breakup Sex: Liz Phair, “Fuck and Run”

Right away, Liz Phair gives a pitch-perfect description of that awful feeling of waking up with a start, probably mid-hangover and post-mistake-making (the likes of which you may only remember in bit and pieces over coffee and hash browns). She captures that in between moment of still being in the relationship, at least enough that you’re still falling into bed together, but wanting to move on…except that want for someone new hasn’t trumped the original want for your ex, yet. A really well written whirl wind of emotions—shock, regret, that feeling that this is all things will ever be, forever. I love Phair’s near-monotone voice here, and how it only sounds angry when she sings “I can feel it in my bones, I’m going to spend another year alone,” and later “…my whole life alone.”

Denial: Warren Zevon, “Reconsider Me”

This is a weird one for me, because I think “Reconsider Me” is also a beautiful love song (and one of my favorite songs, ever). But it’s all pretty heartwrenching–Zevon’s wide eyed optimism is hard to hear; that line “And I’ll never make you sad again, cause I swear, that I’ve changed since then” always makes me tear up. There are people who I wish would sing me this song and mean it. And those are the same people who I probably wouldn’t forgive; because if you really listen to this song, something went seriously wrong. This is not just a “Sorry we bickered!” song.  This is a “Sorry I made a total mess of your life!” song. If you put this on the jukebox and dedicated it to someone you wronged, I’m not sure she would come back to you. But I think she might think a little better of you. I would.  (For all you Zevon fans—in my mind, “Accidentally Like a Martyr” is a sequel to this song. Someone did not get reconsidered.)

Anger: Lucinda Williams, “Joy”

Empowered, feisty, catchy. Lucinda Williams is mad as hell, and she’s not going to take it anymore.

Depression: The Weepies, “World Spins Madly On”

Like Liz Phair, The Weepies get it right from the first line. That image of waking up and having that jolting memory of exactly what’s going on, and how unbearably terrible it is, is so painful that I think we all block it out. Even hearing the beginning of this song gives me a small shudder of awful nostalgia. This song also outlines the experience of being so unbelievably depressed and heartsick, but still having to go on with day to day life. A spot on ode to post-breakup depression.

Acceptance: Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”***

Alright Dylan haters, I know this is a list-killer for you, but hear me out. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”  is an incredibly well written, elegantly composed “screw you” to all exs, awful or otherwise. It reflects on the dismantled fantasy of the relationship. It pairs acceptance that it’s over with a bit of passive aggressive snark. And it acknowledges that even acceptance comes with a twinge of wishing it had all worked out. Also a very quotable song when you’re feeling smug.

***So, why is there a picture of Dylan and not a video? Because I refuse to link to any of the horrible versions of this song on YouTube. But if you need to hear a cover of this song, or if you’re looking for a sign of the apocalypse, go listen to Ke$ha’s cover. Yeah. It’s a thing.

So Hot Right Now—February 2012, 1st Draft

Joshua: You may be asking yourself, So Hot Right Now? Is that exactly what it sounds like? Yes, it is. We all tend to have these songs that are stuck, like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth, in our brains for what seems like a month. I just happen to make them into a playlist with a catchy name (which I totally stole from from an ex). The spin I came up with was to create the list with the limitation that it must be able to fit within a standard length of a burned cd, making it essentially a So Hot Right Now mixtape. I also arrange the songs with some fleeting adherence to the rules of making a mixtape, which are many and more, according to Rob Gordon, so they aren’t exactly perfect. And in that vein, I also tend to revise the lists halfway through the month with what plays and doesn’t play. So without any further ado, here are our first So Hot Right Now lists of the New Year!

Claire’s List:

1. Etta James “My Dearest Darling”

2. Camper Van Beethoven “That Gum You Like is Back in Style”

3. The Smiths “Nowhere Fast”

4.  The Fratellis, “Whistle for the Choir”

5. A Fine Frenzy, “What I Wouldn’t Do”

6. Kate Nash, cover of’ “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You”

7. Best Coast, “Sun Was High (So Was I)”

8. They Might Be Giants, “Letterbox”

9. The Dead Milkmen, “Punk Rock Girl”

10. Taj Mahal, “Corinna”

11. Lucinda Williams, “Firecracker”

12. The Jayhawks, “Angelyne”

13. Liz Phair “Glory”

14. The Velvet Underground “There She Goes Again”

15. Richard and Linda Thompson “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight”

Joshua’s List:

1. Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns, and Money

2. Soft Cell – Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go

3. Barenaked Ladies – Light Up My Room

4. Paul Simon – Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

5. Amy Winehouse – Valerie

6. The Band – Up on Cripple Creek (live)

7. The Decemberists – Red Right Ankle

8. Old Crow Medicine Show – Wagon Wheel

9. The Decemberists – On The Bus Mall

10. Talking Heads – And She Was

11. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)

12. Rasputina – Incident at a Medical Clinic

13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps

14. The Toadies – Possum Kingdom

15. John Legend – Ordinary People