To be completely honest, it was a lot easier to compile this list of songs than it was compiling the “happy” list.
Maybe because these songs feel a lot more relatable, maybe because they feel a little more honest. This isn’t to put down the meaning of Valentine’s day but rather for all those of us who get bombarded by everyone with red and pink and hearts and sappy stuff, and for all those who need to listen to their friends telling them it’s not just a day for couples, it’s a day to share the love (*barf*).
So here’s my list of anti-love songs, of break-up songs, of songs that remind me of everything I’ve ever learned.
1. The Gaslight Anthem – Break Your Heart
One of my favorite sulk songs. Slow melody plus Brian Fallon’s low voice equals instant goosebumps. “Oh my, my, it would break your heart, if you know how I loved you, if I showed you my scars. If I played you my favorite song, lying here in the dark.”
2. Basement Tapes – Kansas City
Okay, we all know Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes and what a mind-blowing album it is. Well, a few years ago a bunch of talented musicians got together to recreate the circumstances (minus the accident) and came out with a few ridiculously good songs. One of them is Kansas City, written by Marcus Mumford. I have an odd obsession with his voice to start with and sprinkle on the chilling lyrics – instant winner. “And I love you dear, but just how long, can I keep singing the same old song?”
3. Anna Nalick – Breathe (2am)
Does anyone remember the movie A Lot Like Love with Ashton Kutcher? If you haven’t seen it, you should watch it (okay, maybe not today). This underrated masterpiece is from the soundtrack. The intensity of this song is everything you need when you’re feeling a little low and is actually quite a great song about anxiety. “Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable and life’s like an hourglass glued to the table.”
4. Emily Barker & Frank Turner – Fields of June
This one is also a little hidden gem. Emily Barker’s folk skills are obvious to anyone who’s ever seen her live, but this collaboration with fellow folk (rock) singer Frank Turner. What I love about this song is that it really has two sides of a conversation.
5. Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright
It may be slightly passive-aggressive but it’s one of the best. “I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind. You could have done better but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time. But don’t think twice, it’s all right.”
6. Brian Fallon – Low Love
Oh boy, this is my personal all time favorite, best ever love song written. The guitar picking is heavenly and the lyrics are heart breaking, and so relatable. All. The. Chills.
I don’t wanna be the one you lose
Run back into the night
I am broken and selfish and cruel
Don’t drag it out, don’t hang in the heat
Put your keys in the car, kiss the rearview mirror and leave…
7. Imogen Heap – Speeding Cars
Speaking of chills. Imogen Heap is one for emotionally charged songs. Definitely don’t play this obe if you don’t want to cry.
8. Aerosmith – Hole In My Soul
You can’t make a heartbreak playlist without Aerosmith. Steven Tyler’s voice and those guitar riffs are a dreamboat of a combination. And this 1997 belter is one of the best bawl-your-eyes-out, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind of song.
9. The Horrible Crowes – Cherry Blossoms
In 2011, one of Brian Fallon’s side project The Horrible Crowes made their first record. Elsie is wonderfully dark and depressing. One of the most beautiful and eerie tunes of the record is Cherry Blossoms. It’s so melanchonicly slow and mellow. Then comes the bridge and my heart sinks into my knees every single time: “See all I can do is think about you, and miss all your kisses like the spring. If I had a sign, that one day you’d be mine, oh no, if I could hold you right then as the chill in this season sputtered and spit and died with…blood on my teeth.”
10. Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High
When talking about genius lyrics, you can’t forget Alex Turner. In fact, he should be at the top of the list. It is mind blowing how incredibly talented that man is when it comes to words. And Why’d You Only Call Me When you’re High is no exception. Plus, it’s catchy song if you’re currently upset that your love isn’t texting you back.
11. The Gaslight Anthem – Here Comes My Man
This is a bit of personal choice (although this list is pretty personal as it is). For me this song holds a lot of reminders, to good and bad times, but mostly just to a time that wasn’t fun on any level and listening to this song made me strong. I love how The Gaslight Anthem sing it from the perspective of a girl rather than the usual guy perspective. It’s empowering and on point. It feels like your favorite band telling you: Girl, he’s not worth it, you deserve better. And hell yes, we do! “Maybe time will tell you why I got so much hell to sell you. Please, please understand me, oh you can’t just dance around me. Maybe your work will love you, when I’m just not there to hold you, maybe your pride can be your companion, Oh, but I just won’t be there to stand for it.”
12. Frank Turner – Redemption
When it comes to break up songs or sulking about your none existing or messed up love life, Frank Turner is always one of the best to turn to. While currently in a happy relationship (and we wish him all the best!!!) that wasn’t always the case. The man has had his fair share of failed or screwed up romances. Redemption is one of the greatest break up songs Frank has written if you ask me. Not just for the subtle but endearing Springsteen reference, but for the fact that not many love songs deal with the fact that sometimes you just f*ck it all up yourself. “The sound comes clear and brings the awful truth that I can’t stand what I’ve done to you.”
13. Arkells – My Heart’s Always Yours
Alright, let’s debate on this one. At first sight the Arkell’s My Heart’s Always Yours sounds like a declaration of love to someone you’ve been with for a long time. But take a second look at the lyrics, especially towards the end and it all has the hint of love lost. And that’s what makes it so beautifully tragic. “You know, I’ll be waiting for you. You know, my heart’s breaking for you. It’s yours, my hearts always yours”
14. All-American Rejects – Gives You Hell
“Revenge body” may be one idea but I say revenge songwriting is more effective. Blast this out loud for every douchebag and tool in your life who couldn’t appreciate you. “Now where’s your picket fence love, and where’s that shiny car, and did it ever get you far, you never seemed so tense love.”
15. Nancy Sinatra – Bang Bang
Leave it to Nancy Sinatra to make a break up song so subtly psycho you’d still absolutely invite her in for dinner with a gun in her hand.
16. Gwen Stefani – Early Winter
Couldn’t finish this list without the most kick-ass woman in pop-rock and personal hero Gwen Stefani.
It’s Valentine’s Day, sulking is allowed and encouraged. Let me know what your favorite sulk songs are!