Friday, September 10, 2010

Heartbroken, in disrepair: Songs for the lovelorn and lonely

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"
-Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

Unrequited love isn't the biggest injustice in the world, though those suffering from it may disagree.  Previously, I posted on songs written from the perspective of the person leaving a relationship.  Today we look at the flip side of the coin: songs about being dumped or never even noticed in the first place.  Since nothing inspires art like heartbreak, the pool of songs for this list is considerably larger.  There is seemingly endless supply of songs and albums devoted to love gone wrong.  So while being spurned may sting, there is certainly no shortage of stuff to listen into while you are wallowing in disquietude.  Below are some of my current favorite rejection-inspired songs.

Walk in the Park- Beach House:
The song title sounds like a romantic date, but this song actually seems to be about getting over a break up.  It highlights how much a partner's physical absence can affect you once you've grown used to having that person around:

The face that you saw in the door isn't looking at you anymore
The name that you call in its place isn't waiting for your embrace
The world that you love to behold cannot hold you anymore

Found on: Teen Dream (2010).  Find it in the catalog! 

Eid Ma Clack Shaw- Bill Callahan
Bill Callahan has a dream about an old lover that makes him wish he could shake the memory away.  Later he dreams up the lyrics to a perfect song to help him get over his grief, which he scribbles down in a half-asleep state:

Eid ma clack shaw
Zupoven del ba
Mertepy ven seinur
Cofally ragdah 

Found on: Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (2009).   Find it in the catalog! 

The Lengths and Remember When (Side A)- The Black Keys.
There is something so spare and lonely sounding about the steel guitar.  Perhaps that is why Dan Auerbach chose to use it in two different break up songs: "The Lengths" from Rubber Factory and "Remember When (Side A)" from Attack and Release.  It's not so much the lyrics of either song, which are cryptic but appropriate, that make both songs excellent break up songs.  Rather, it's the mood.  Placed in the middle of the otherwise rowdy Rubber Factory, "the Lengths' feels like the heart of the album.  "Remember When (Side A)" reminds me of the classic Beck break up album Sea Change, but distilled down into one perfect track. 

Found on:
Rubber Factory (2004). Find it in the catalog!
Attack and Release (2008).  Find it in the catalog!

Maple Leaves- Jens Lekman
When he played the Empty Bottle in Chicago last winter, Lekman referred to this as the "most important" song he's ever written."  It certainly is his most popular.  The song is darker than Lekman's light tone and humorous references to homeless kitties and the Fall's Mark E. Smith make it seem.  The girl in the song is incredibly insecure and depressed, but Lekman is so in love with her that he doesn't understand what she is saying and makes light of her unhappiness:

She said it was all make believe
But I thought she said "maple leaves"
And when she talked about a fall
I thought she talked about a season
I never understood at all

The Swedish version of the song "Men jag tyckte hon så lönnlöv" (Trans. "But I thought she said maple leaves") is more explicitly dark. Rough translations are in parentheses:

Så vi pratade i timmar (So we talked for hours)
Dina tårar i mina lakan (You cried into my sheets)
Du sa att du tyckte du var ful (You said that you thought you were ugly)
Jag fatta' ingenting (I didn't understand at all)
För det där är skitsnack, och det vet du  (For that there is *hogwash*, and you know it)
Du är det vackraste jag har sett ju (You are the prettiest that I have seen)
Jag har förlorat mig själv i dig (I have lost myself in you)
Förlorar jag dig, så förlorar jag mig (I lost you, so I've lost me)
Hon sa att allt var lönlöst (She said that everything was futile)
Men jag tyckte hon sa lönnlöv (But I thought she said maple leaves)

Found on: Oh, You're So Silent Jens (2005). Find it in the catalog!

I Don't Wanna Get Over You- Magnetic Fields 
Magnetic Field's mastermind Stephin Merritt writes some pretty insightful songs about love.  This song captures the early stages of a break-up, where you don't really want to leave the relationship behind.  You either want the person back or you want the relationship to be the sinking ship that you go down with:

I could listen to all my friends
And go out again
And pretend it's enough,
Or I could make a career of being blue
I could dress in black and read Camus,
Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth
Like I was 17
That would be a scream
But I don't want to get over you

Found On: 69 Love Songs (1999).  Find it in the catalog!

Midlake frontman Tim Smith seems like someone who'd like to hide away in a forest somewhere.  So, no surprise that he brings Emersonian touches this otherwise pretty straight forward unrequited love song:

I saw she was living under some branches
I saw she was happy in her circumstances
I also live under branches
I'd rather not live in these places
We won't get married
'Cause she won't have me
She wakes up awfully early these days, these days
And there's no-one else so kind
There's no-one else to find
It's hard for me but I'm trying

Found on: The Trials of Van Occupanther (2006). Find it in the catalog!  

Astral Plane- the Modern Lovers
Ladies, even if you ignore Jonathan Richman in life, he's just going to track you down in the afterlife...sort of  It's kind of hard to explain exactly what the Astral Plane is without a hearty knowledge of Ye Olde Science.

Well I don't see you and it's getting dark
Today we should have gone to Central Park
Well don't you want to see me ever again?
If not I'll meet you on the astral plane
The astral plane for late at night
The astral plane or I'd go insane

Found on: The Modern Lovers (1976).  Find it in the catalog!  

Graceland- Paul Simon
A song about divorce and redemption.  This is one of my all-time favorite songs.  The part of the song where he describes his ex-wife returning briefly always breaks my heart a smidge:

She comes back to tell me she's gone
As if I didn't know that
As if I didn't know my own bed
As if I've never noticed
The way she brushes her hair from her forehead
And she says that losing love 
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

Found on: Graceland (1986).  Find it in the catalog!

Dancing on My Own- Robyn 
Written from the perspective of a teenager, this song describes a love triangle between Robyn, a boy, and his new girlfriend.  It's a best of both worlds break up song- it's sad and you can dance to it.  Robyn's with "With Every Heart Beat" is good choice for heartbreak RX too.

I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her
Oh, oh, oh

I'm right over here, why can't you see me
Oh, oh, oh

I'm givin' it my all, but I'm not the girl you're takin' home
Ooh, ooh, ooh

I keep dancin' on my own

Found on: Body Talk, Part 1 (2010). Find it in the catalog!

Cry Me A River- Justin Timberlake
 JT definitely goes for the drama with the string arrangements on this song.  The message here is essentially "Girl, you did me wrong and now I won't take you back."  A message he repeats later on Justified with the  supremely whiny "Never Again.But he got it right the first time.  "Cry Me a River" may not have brilliant lyrics, but it's a finely crafted pop song with an insanely catchy chorus.

Found on: Justified (2004).  Find it in the catalog!

BTW, the song in the title of this post "Heartbroken, in Disrepair" can be found on Dan Auerbach's stellar solo album Keep It Hid (2009)Both the song and the album are 100% Heather Approved!