A VD playlist for the down-on-love | Music | Indy Week

A VD playlist for the down-on-love

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Image courtesy ilovememphis on Flickr

There's not a lot of hope right now for an indie kid in love. Blame it on the divorces of several prominent indie couples: Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore shattered our faith in true love when they announced that their 17-year marriage wouldn't make it to 18; Zooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard forced us to wonder if even the unreasonably good-looking dorks are doomed in love too; and Jack White and Karen Elson made their divorce into a star-studded fête before White, dishearteningly, broke up with his former ex-wife Meg for a second time (but this time professionally). So, there are many more reasons to mourn this Valentine's Day than to celebrate it, whether you're single or attached.

Heartbreak has always been a fruitful topic for musicians; sadness and rage often make for more interesting songs. Breakups, after all, brought us the heroic ballads "I Will Survive," "No Regrets" and "Piece of My Heart," not to mention the best case for misery loves company, "Love Will Tear Us Apart." We compiled a list of recent indie songs about lost love to nurse you through this Valentine's Day. As you read along, remember: If you're single and not loving it, you're not doing it right.

"Let It Die," Feist

Who hasn't Feist eased through a breakup? Let It Die reads like a separation manual with chapters entitled "Lonely, Lonely," "Secret Heart" and the standout title track. Feist recounts her breakups with poise, though, and her agency beats throughout each song. Backed by a withering snare and trombone, her unrelenting croon carries "Let It Die," and when she sings "We don't see eye to eye," it's clear that she's mourning her failed relationship—not hanging onto it. Her acceptance is convincing as well as uplifting when she reminds us that optimism, too, underlies a breakup.

"The Last Goodbye," The Kills

Few contemporary bands have penned more down-on-love tracks than The Kills. Due in part to their bluesy sound and in part to their personal travails in love (the duo have sparked and extinguished their romance nearly as many times as they've released a record), Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince have a volatile chemistry that uniquely charges their songs. "Love Is a Deserter" owes its success to their dysfunction, which erupts across the savage, bar rock jam—but their finest lovelorn track comes when they cool down. "The Last Goodbye" is a graceful farewell, with dreamy organs and a tender video accompaniment, for the couple that's perpetually breaking up. Emotional instability is at a peak, but Mosshart's voice never falters when she asks "How can I rely on my heart if I break it with my own two hands?"

"Marvin's Room," Drake

We can all thank Drake for elevating a drunk dial to an ex to official song status. "Marvin's Room" is selfish, insecure and self-justifying, but its unapologetic entitlement at least earns him empathy. (Especially for those who are chronically on his side of the line.) After admitting that his ex is "happy with a good guy," Drake badgers, guilt-trips and whines to her that he's a better catch than her current beau. His rosé-sopped reasoning and attempt to absolve himself reeks of bias when he slurs "I don't think I'm conscious of makin' monsters of the women that I sponsor until it all goes bad." Drake's case is also crippled by the lawsuit that pursued the release of "Marvin's Room," wherein his ex seeks rights to the song, but we're all guilty of victimizing ourselves at some point—and some nights you just need to cry for yourself because no one else will.

"Call Your Girlfriend," Robyn

"Love is hard, it ain't a fucking holiday," Robyn said to her crowd last Valentine's Day at a Chicago show. If you didn't already know, Robyn is the second coming for the forsaken and perpetually single. Her breakup songs out-pulse her narratives of devotion; she's sang from every point of a love triangle; and her romantic tenacity is both humbling and inspiring. So when she plays the other woman in the synth-motored workout "Call Your Girlfriend," you're going to root for her team. With sportsmanship and a warm embrace, Robyn guides her man to end things with his ex. "You tell her that the only way her heart will mend is when she learns to love again and it won't make sense right now, but you're still her friend," she chants, and her composure is why we clap along.

"Willow," Field Mice

If you trace the telephone wire from "Call Your Girlfriend," you'll arrive at the Field Mice's wispy, twee ballad "Willow." The originators of Robyn's lovelorn beat capture the moment when a lover breaks up with their partner for another. Singer Annemari Davies soars with Robyn's suggested grace when she says to her ex "Don't you go thinking I never did love you ... There are so many moments from when we were together that I do treasure." Her gentle words are packaged alongside tightly plucked acoustic guitar chords, yet the song soothes with its candor and reassurance.

"Knife," Grizzly Bear

Contrary to its title, "Knife" is not an aggressively bitter breakup song—which is one reason that it breeds catharsis. (Learning how someone copes is a much better use of five minutes than watching a tantrum unfold.) Tempered by harmonies, a breezy core melody and a veil of distortion, "Knife" is a level-headed song that only beams betrayal when its lyrics can be unearthed. "I want you to know, when I look in your eyes. With every blow, comes another lie," Ed Droste sings between guitar jabs. "Can't you feel the knife?" Like most Ed Droste-led songs, it's wrought with loneliness but will rule your heart.

"You Always Hurt the Ones You Love," Ryan Gosling

Grizzly Bear's lost-love balladry comprised the bulk of the Blue Valentine soundtrack, but lead actor Ryan Gosling's vocal contribution is the fastest way to an emotional enema. Covering the Ink Spots' "You Always Hurt the Ones You Love" with a ukulele and a baritone that begs to be cuddled, Gosling's performance summons the great question: "Are all relationships supposed to be this hard or is it just mine?" Listening to his voice trail off as he sings "It's because I love you" is an early clue that his relationship with Michelle Williams will never work, but if we're all bound to the same grim place, why not try to savor love's pleasantries while they last?

"Fuck the Pain Away," Peaches

Enter Peaches' "Fuck the Pain Away," an anthem for raw desire with emotionless vocals and a swelling bass. Her robotic vocals chant the song title with a mechanical repetition, stray voices moan in the background, and the sweaty track gyrates for four-and-a-half minutes. Are you enjoying being single yet?

"Walk in the Park," Beach House

Beach House's tambourine bells might seem inviting when they open "Walk in the Park" but they're delivered tongue-in-cheek to set the tone for Victoria Legrand's rocky ballad. Urging her lover to let her move on, she sings "In a matter of time ... you would slip from my life." Legrand sounds on the verge of collapse when she says "cannot hold you anymore," but the gush of guitar chords and jingly synths pushes her back onto her feet. Sometimes a massive chorus yields the strength we need to push through.

"Coming Down," Dum Dum Girls

"'Coming Down' is not a breakup song unless you're breaking up with life," Dee Dee tweeted over the summer. Yet, the clean lyrics—which aren't nearly as impressive on the page as they are when she belts them—are vague enough to support an array of emotional distresses. "You abuse the ones who love you," she sings in the song that she penned as a tribute to her late mother. Her voice soars in the widescreen song, punctuated by crashing percussion and her grieving guitar, especially when she hits "There I go." Dee Dee never surrenders or edits her experience into a song that'd resonate with anyone else, and that is the beating heart of any breakup song.

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