So we broke up.
Here's what I've been listening to...
20. The Beatles - Let It Be (The Long And Winding Road)
Listen, this isn’t a break-up album. This is The Beatles’ break-up album, and let’s set the record straight: Yoko Ono did not break The Beatles up. John and Paul’s squabbles did not break The Beatles up. George Harrison not wanting to play live shows anymore did not break The Beatles up. Phil Spector’s remix of The Long And Winding Road fucking broke The Beatles up. Okay? I hope Phil Spector goes to jail forever. Not for shooting some dumb-ass wannabe actress, for breaking The Beatles up. There…
19. Hezekiah Jones - Hezekiah Says You’re A-OK (Nothing’s Bound)
My good friend Hezekiah Jones (aka Raph Cutrufello) would probably say that this isn’t a break-up record, but this album has been a huge part of my collective consciousness for over a year now, so to me it’s really an everything album. But to me, this album captures longing like few others. Probably the greatest “unknown” singer/songwriter in the world today, take a look at a few of these couplets:
Agnes Of The World: “you were grounded for the summer/ trouble with your mother/ I couldn't have been much dumber/ so I left you for another/ now I only wonder…”
Postpone: “do you really miss me/ do you miss me the way I miss you/ to have you haunt my dreams/ and not my bed seems to really make me blue…”
Nothing’s Bound: “you’re not in my world but still in my heart/ sorry I left without explaining my part/ but I thought you knew me/ I thought you knew me/ things really have changed so much/ you were always gone/ and I missed your touch/ all those nights and that lonely ache/ the rip in my heart you managed to make…”
18. Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days (Passing Afternoon)
“…There are names across the sea, only now I do believe/ Sometimes, with the windows closed, she'll sit and think of me/ But she'll mend his tattered clothes and they'll kiss as if they know/ A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone.”
17. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness - Fear Is On Our Side (Last Ride Together)
Dark, moody, unrelenting. Fear Is On Our Side captures so perfectly the mournfulness wrapped up in that final good-bye, those letters never sent, all the where are you now? ponderances that break-ups produce, only to offer no answers, no conclusion, no resolve. Because a lot of times, that’s exactly what you get when you say good-bye. You say it, and you mean it. And sometimes good-bye means forever.
16. Coldplay - Parachutes (Trouble)
This record got me through the worst, most toxic, shittiest mind-fuck of a relationship I’ve ever known, back in 2002, courtesy of Satan herself. She was pure evil, but the craziest thing about it: she made me feel like I was the one who did her wrong. This was at a time in my life where I had a few allies, it seems as if everyone involved “chose sides“ and those aligned with this Jezebel started a smear campaign against me. I‘m not the least bit paranoid, this is all completely true. Ask anyone associated with this fiasco. But that line from Trouble: “They spun a web for me”, was so fitting, never mind the rest of the song.
15. Feist - Let It Die (Let It Die)
Oh, Leslie Feist, you do sing so beautifully, and your lyricism is unrivaled. You are truly a treasure, and this bit of your pen seals the deal: “The saddest part of a broken heart/ Isn't the ending so much as the start/ The tragedy starts from the very first spark/ Losing your mind for the sake of your heart/ The saddest part of a broken heart/ Isn't the ending so much as the start…”
14. Bonnie “Prince” Billy - I See A Darkness (Raining In Darling)
“Darling, I can stay awake all night/ But I would make mistakes alright/ And the body asks so much/ Sweet thing/ I give you what I reach/ Taken what I had to teach/ And re-rendered it with such/ With such/ With such/ Oh, it don't rain anymore/ I go outdoors/ Where it's fun to be/ And I know you love me/ I know you do…”
13. Beck - Sea Change (Lonesome Tears)
Here’s an album with track titles like Guess I’m Doing Fine, Lost Cause, and Already Dead, chronicling Beck Hansen’s split with his long-time love. When those sad and lushly orchestrated strings appear on Paper Tiger and again and again throughout the length of the album, I‘m reaching for the Kleenex. It’s such a real and heartfelt piece on the emotions dealing with good-bye, it’s hard to listen to this album. “Lonesome tears/ I can't cry them anymore/ I can't think of what they're for/ Oh they ruin me every time/ But I'll try/ To leave behind some days/ These tears just can't erase/ I don't need them anymore.” Beck’s most “human” album, which is probably why no one likes it.
12. R.E.M. - Automatic For The People (Everybody Hurts)
I ran my list by a friend today and I had mentioned R.E.M.’s Reckoning as a break-up record, but he was like, “Dude, no way! Automatic For The People!” and he’s from Athens, GA, so I should heed his advice, right? I figured the chorus to So. Central Rain (Michael Stipe’s repeated pleas of “I’m sorry” over and over…) was the ultimate in relationship screw-up sorries. So I get home, play Automatic For The People (my iTunes tells me I haven’t listened to this album since November of last year, another “dark” time in my life) and it immediately hits me: he’s right, this is a much better break up album. “Sometimes everything IS wrong…”
11. Stars - Heart (Don’t Be Afraid To Sing)
Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan’s harmonies come together like a church choir, which can either sound charming (as in wedding bells) or morose (like a funeral dirge). The way these two combine their respective voices is strangely the antithesis of splitting up, but on the album’s closer, Don’t Be Afraid To Sing, few other songs compare to Torq’s heartbreaking good-bye to his love: “I won't pretend, that I can see the end, but Its far away, its in the distance/ We'll find a place, there isn't room for two of us/ The minutes drag, then there's a world between us/ And I'm too afraid, much too afraid to fall for anything/ And I'm too afraid, much too afraid to sing, to sing/ We all come to an end/ And we all end together…”
10. Elliott Smith - XO (Waltz #2)
I’ve been listening to more and more Elliott Smith lately, and I’m convinced he’s the fifth Beatle, born way too late. And Waltz #2 perfectly captures the essence of love and eventual loss, because that’s what breaking up is, it’s a waltz; you dance around the facts, all the hurt, all the pain. And you eventually dance away from each other: “That's the man she's married to now, that's the girl that he takes around town. She appears composed, so she is, I suppose, who can really tell? She shows no emotion at all, stares into space like a dead china doll. I'm never gonna know you now but I'm gonna love you anyhow…”
9. Death Cab For Cutie - We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes (Company Calls Epilogue)
Classic tales of heartbreak, Ben Gibbard style. Tracks like 405 and For What Reason outline a bitter break-up, leading up to the eventual coup de grace of Company Calls and its Epilogue, which is related to us from the ex-boyfriend’s perspective, wondering why he was invited to her wedding in the first place; “You were the one but I can't spit it out when the date's been set. The white routine to be ingested inaccurately.” He knows what they shared, he knows that it should be him, but he gets drunk and disorderly, “crashing through the parlor doors” and stealing the plastic figurines atop the wedding cake.
8. The Cure - Disintegration (Pictures Of You)
This album got me through every break-up in 8th grade, because as an eighth grader, you break up with someone every 3 weeks. “Looking so long at these pictures of you/ But I never held on to your heart/ Looking so long for the words to be true/ But always just breaking apart/ My pictures of you…” It’s still completely relevant to me, as songs like Closedown, The Same Deep Water As You, Disintegration and Homesick can attest to Robert Smith’s lovelorn good-bye to a former flame.
7. Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights (The New)
I’m just going to print the lyrics to the entire song.
I wish I could live free/ Hope it's not beyond me/ Settling down takes time/ One day we'll live together/ And life will be better/ I have it here, yeah, in my mind/ Baby, you know someday you'll slow/ And baby, my hearts been breaking/ I gave a lot to you/ I take a lot from you too/ You slave a lot for me/ Guess you could say I gave you my edge/ But I can't pretend I don't need to defend some part of me from you/ I know I've spent some time lying/ You're looking all right tonight/ I think we should go
6. Morrissey - Viva Hate (I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me)
Moz’s first post-Smiths album, and in my opinion one of his best. He still used Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke as part of his touring band supporting the release of this album, so odd-man-out, Johnny Marr, draws Mozza’s ire with tracks like Little Man, What Now? and Break Up The Family, being that The Smiths were the closest thing to a real family that poor Steven Patrick Morrissey ever knew. Even the track Disappointed, the B-side to the single Everyday Is Like Sunday, is a rueful goodbye to Mr. Marr. True, the music was never as good as The Smiths, but Morrissey’s lyrics definitely improved with age. “You can only be strong for so long, it may not eat you but it will beat you- so this is why I tell you, I really don't understand, this time…”
5. Portishead - Dummy (Roads)
It should be Sour Times, with the whole “nobody loves me…” part, but their live version on Roseland NYC is so much better. So, this opening few lines from Roads does it for me: “Oh, can't anybody see? We've got a war to fight, never found our way, regardless of what they say. How can it feel this wrong? From this moment, how can it feel this wrong?”
4. David Bowie - Low (Breaking Glass)
David’s first “sober” album, and his first collaborating with Brian Eno, the greatest “non-musician” ever in the history of pop music. This album chronicles Bowie’s breakup with white lightning, aka Columbian nose Tabasco, aka cocaine. He holed himself up in Berlin and put out one of the greatest albums of his career. "Baby, I've been breaking glass in your room again, listen; Don't look at the carpet, I drew something awful on it. See? You're such a wonderful person, but you got problems oh-oh-oh-oh (I'll never touch you..)"
3. Joy Division - Substance (Love Will Tear Us Apart)
Ian Curtis hung himself for the following reasons: 1) couldn’t deal with fame so he hung himself as the band readied themselves for their first North American tour, just as 2) his marriage was going to shit because 3) he had a lover that he was becoming increasingly dependent on because he 4) suffered greatly from depression and epileptic fits. Makes for great art…
2. Joni Mitchell - Blue (Blue)
That voice, unparalleled. Stark and beautiful piano. And these lyrics: “Blue, songs are like tattoos/ You know I’ve been to sea before/ Crown and anchor me/ Or let me sail away/ Hey blue, there is a song for you/ Ink on a pin/ Underneath the skin/ An empty space to fill in/ Well there are so many sinking now/ You’ve got to keep thinking/ You can make it thru these waves/ Acid, booze, and ass/ Needles, guns, and grass/ Lots of laughs, lots of laughs/ Everybody’s saying that hell is the hippest way to go out/ I don’t think so/ But I’m gonna take a look around it though/ Blue, I love you/ Blue, here is a shell for you/ Inside you’ll hear a sigh/ A foggy lullaby/ There is your song from me”
1. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (Go Your Own Way)
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were actually going through a break-up during the recording of Rumours. This is basically his “fuck off“ to her, done so poetically, but also not pulling a single punch while doing it. And she had to sing back up on this song! So here‘s the greatest kiss off to an ex ever put to two-inch tape: “Loving you isn`t the right thing to do/ How can I ever change things that I feel? If I could maybe I`d give you my world/ How can I? When you won`t get it from me…” So many tunes from this album chronicle the break-up, witnessed in duplicate by Christine and John McVie’s failing marriage, also happening at the exact same time.
There it is.
My definitive list of how to fall out of love, break-up, grieve, pick up the pieces and move on.