Breakup Music Assistance.
March 27, 2009 8:29 PM   Subscribe

What music has helped you get through a breakup?

I'm going through a breakup of a 5 year relationship, practically a marriage. I am somewhere in between the stage of depression and acceptance, going back and forth. I still feel sad on some days, but have days where I don't want morbidly depressing music but also not sugary pop music.

I have been listening to: Bat For Lashes, PJ Harvey, Emily Haines, Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, Mirah, Bon Iver, and Iron and Wine. I'm sure there are others.

I am specifically looking for any albums that you think will help me through this time, but not be morbidly depressing. I've seen a few other threads on this topic, but nothing specific to what I have been looking for.

Only looking for full albums.
posted by E-Boogie to Human Relations (64 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen
posted by downing street memo at 8:34 PM on March 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

No, no, no. Don't wallow in it. Go the other way. Get funky. Get happy. Get over it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:49 PM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Miss America, Mary Margaret O'Hara.

I don't know anything about the woman as a person, but many of the songs on this album seem to come from just this kind of state of mind. It helped me when I was where you are. It's out of print, but can be had through the usual means.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:49 PM on March 27, 2009

Best answer: Scissor Sisters.

You just had a break up. Dance a little, cry a little, fantasize about feeding them poisoned birthday cake, dance some more, and have sex with a stranger or two. That is the Scissor Sisters patented break up recovery program and I swear by it.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:53 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Elgar's "Enigma Variations"
posted by goalyeehah at 8:55 PM on March 27, 2009

Mr. Bungle - Mr. Bungle

Helped me immensely when my very long term relationship went ka-poof.
posted by zerokey at 8:56 PM on March 27, 2009

The Coldplay album X & Y
posted by sadtomato at 8:56 PM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: I know I probably should listen to happy music, but I am not there yet. But Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville angry angst is great. I can do that kind of music.
posted by E-Boogie at 9:03 PM on March 27, 2009

When I was in a similar situation about 10 years ago, Sleater-Kinney's "The Hot Rock" was indispensible.
posted by rhizome at 9:10 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nyles Lannon, Chemical Friends
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:22 PM on March 27, 2009

A Perfect Circle's 3 Libra's was a song I played over and over following the break-up of one of my past relationships. I also listened to Evanescence's My Immortal, Pearl Jam's Black and Audioslave's What You Are.

I also listened to Sum41s Praise Chorus, which I found to be a good break-up song in the sense that it started to help me actually move on from the break-up;
"Someone's gonna ask you what it’s all about.
Stick around nostalgia won't let you down.
Someone's gonna ask you what it’s all about.
Whatcha gonna have to say,
For yourself?

I’m on my feet I’m on the floor I’m good to go.
Now all I need is just to hear a song I know.
I wanna always feel like part of this,
I wanna fall in love tonight."
It helped me move on, anyway.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:28 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Neko Case has basically gotten me through the past several months of moving past an extremely harsh breakup. I recommend both Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and her new effort, Middle Cyclone. Both strike this weird alchemical balance where both the instrumentation and lyrics (and her voice, dear lord, her voice) offer you all the commiseration and shared hurt you could ask for, but listening somehow leaves you stronger and better able to get up and keep walking on your own.

My two cents, anyhow.
posted by teamparka at 9:28 PM on March 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

Be sure to check-out these previous AskMe threads:
Songs for impending heartbreak.

I want suggestions for really depressing break-up songs!
posted by ericb at 9:29 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

P.S. The added benefit here is that neither album is really strictly "down and depressing" music. Plenty there to put extra swagger in your step.
posted by teamparka at 9:30 PM on March 27, 2009

Del Amitri, Change Everything.

Dire Straits, Making Movies.

These have served me well.
posted by stargell at 9:44 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The now-defunct Stretch Princess's self-titled album (1998) has gotten me over many a breakup. It's just the right combination of wistful wallowing and 90's alt-punk riot grrl that it's proven to be the fastest path through the trauma that ripping someone out of your life can induce.
posted by SpecialK at 9:45 PM on March 27, 2009

Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap

A lovely cover here:
Original here:


Where are we?/ What the hell is going on? /The dust has only just begun to form crop circles in the carpet, /Sinking... Feeling...

Spin me 'round again and rub my eyes; /This can't be happening. /When busy streets a mess with people/ Would stop to hold their heads heavy

Hide and Seek/ Trains and sewing machines/ All those years; /They were here first.

Oily marks appear on walls /Where pleasure moments hung before the takeover, /The sweeping insensitivity of this still life

Hide and Seek /Trains and sewing machines (Oh, you won't catch me around here) /Blood and tears (huh) they were here first.

Mm what you say/ Oh that you only meant well, well of course you did
Mm what you say/ Mm that it's all for the best, of course it is
Mm what you say/ Hmm that IT'S JUST-a-what we need, you decided this (we, you)
Mm what you say / Hmm what did she say?

Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth / Mid-sweet talk, newspaper word cut outs (paper word cut outs/ Speak no feeling no I don't believe you (I don't buy it)/You don't care a bit, you don't care a bit
posted by anitanita at 9:57 PM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

oh damn didn't register the full album bit. Sorry!
posted by anitanita at 10:01 PM on March 27, 2009

The worst thing you can do is play music that reminds you of your current problems. Play something energetic and rocking, whatever you're into. Energetic bands I've been listening recently include 30H3, Brazilian Girls, Cadence Weapon, El-P, The Envy Corps, Lily Allen, The Veronicas, etc.
posted by delmoi at 10:04 PM on March 27, 2009

Radio by Alkaline Trio
posted by xdeliriumx at 10:23 PM on March 27, 2009

posted by princelyfox at 10:30 PM on March 27, 2009

The Mountain Goats. Duh.

And if you feel close to the point where you might try something happy, track down Circus Contraption's "July Like a Dog," which is the silliest, bounciest song about being cheated on that you will ever hear.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:39 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just off the top of my head (and seeing the bands you've listed, I'm sure you'll like these):

Great Lake Swimmers - Moving Pictures Silent Films
Cat Power - Colors and the Kids
Beach House - Apple Orchard
posted by blithecatpie at 10:41 PM on March 27, 2009

Oh, full albums. Okay. In that case, the Mountain Goats album you want is probably Tallahassee. You might also like Get Lonely-- though that's about being heartbroken in a squashed-and-whispery way, as opposed to being heartbroken in a boiling, thunderous way. I definitely prefer the thunder.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:44 PM on March 27, 2009

You may not be into jazz, but Billie Holiday has some great vintage songs.
posted by ragtimepiano at 10:48 PM on March 27, 2009

Best answer: Just going through my after my last break-up:
Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness (think metal kids who got tired of playing metal and started a Joy Division cover band. This was on HEAVY rotation)
Tallahassee by the Mountain Goats
Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing (music without words is whatever you make it)
Hrsta - Ghosts Will Come and Kiss Our Eyes
The entire Converge discography (leaning towards their 3 newest LPs), you know for when I got to the angry phase, and just wanna scream.
Flying Lotus - Los Angeles (for when I got tired of moping and wanted to dance)
Beach House - Devotion
Tim Hecker - Harmonies in Ultraviolet
Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country (both for when you want to just close your eyes and escape)

So, I covered a lot of genres in there, and I'm guessing that's probably enough for now.
posted by azarbayejani at 10:55 PM on March 27, 2009

69 Love Songs, by the Magnetic Fields.
posted by dreamphone at 10:56 PM on March 27, 2009

Beck's "Sea Change" album.
posted by ThirstyEar2 at 10:57 PM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: No words. No words. No words.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:00 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also, I'll throw out Same Oul' Town by The Sawdoctors.

The album includes tracks both lively and melancholy, and one of the stand-out songs-- World of Good-- is probably the sweetest, most peaceful, best-adjusted breakup song I've ever heard. Years ago, that album helped me get through some pretty damn bleak times, relationship-wise.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:00 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

whatever it was you were listening to 6 years ago. it sound crazy, but before you met him/her you were a fully formed person who had plenty of good times. put on whatever evokes that time.
posted by swbarrett at 11:26 PM on March 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

Oh, sorry, you said albums only:

Cat Power - Moonpix
Great Lake Swimmers - ST
posted by blithecatpie at 11:35 PM on March 27, 2009

Joni Mitchell "Blue"
Richard and Linda Thompson "Shoot Out the Lights"
Al Green "Belle Album"
posted by doncoyote at 11:43 PM on March 27, 2009

Best answer: Frightened Rabbit's "The Midnight Organ Fight" (2008) is practically a song cycle about the lead singer's recent breakup.

It's one of my favourite albums of all time, if only for the tugging of the heartstrings.
posted by sinderile at 11:53 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Screw that. "Hearts and Bones" if you're gonna listen to Paul Simon. That album was pretty much made for this.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:00 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having just gone through a breakup, oh, 15 minutes ago, I can tell you no one, and I mean no one, has mastered the sweet melancholy of loves lost like Dubstar. And with dancy beats!

The Day I See You Again

And When You Laugh (with Ian Broudie of the Lightningseeds)

The Self Same Thing

St. Swithin's Day

The View From Here
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:15 AM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Talk Talk — Life's What You Make It.
posted by panic at 12:43 AM on March 28, 2009

If you like Exile in Guyville and PJ Harvey you might also like Lucinda Williams's "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road." (Not sure, maybe they're similar only to me.)
posted by salvia at 1:06 AM on March 28, 2009

I can't believe no one has listed Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Best breakup album ever. Nails just about all the emotions you're likely to experience: confusion, wistfulness, anger, grief, optimism, resignation, straight-up sadness, etc.

Dylan is a bit of an acquired taste these days, but it's totally worth it.
posted by valkyryn at 4:14 AM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Elvis Costello -- Blood and Chocolate

Lots of the songs were written during a divorce.

"The Next Time Around"

As I stepped out upon the landing my heart was already down the stairs
She's in the bedroom with that boy of hers
Though her face is creased and her eyes seem strange.
There's a second-hand emotion on battered forty-five
My tears were never enough to keep that girl alive
Now she seems contrite will she make the change
posted by bardic at 5:42 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely The Old Ceremony's album Our One Mistake. Especially, their song Papers in Order. It is EXACTLY what you need to hear right now!!

Oh, and don't listen to ANYTHING that the two of you loved or that specifically reminds you of him or events you shared together. Not for a long while.
posted by ourroute at 5:50 AM on March 28, 2009

The Cure- Disintegration (entire record)
Modest Mouse- The Moon and Antarctica
2nding Blood on the Tracks and Sea Change
And for a little anger- Shellac- "Prayer to God"
posted by brevator at 6:02 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not a break-up song in itself, but same topic about comfort of break-up songs on This American Life 339: Break-up. One of my favorite ones ever, since she chats with Phil Collins about such songs. And instead of just listening to songs, Starlee Kine writes and records her own break-up song. Great stuff (with emphasis on Great).
posted by spoons at 6:42 AM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Definitely "Trading Twilight For Daylight" by Great Northern.
posted by King Bee at 6:47 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I do not want what I haven't got - Sinead O'Connor (especially this song.)
posted by schyler523 at 6:58 AM on March 28, 2009

The entire album Us by Peter Gabriel. It has gotten me through two big breakups so far -- one was for a relationship about as long as yours, one was for a relationship about as emotionally significant as yours.

Peter Gabriel wrote it in the aftermath of two breakups himself, as well -- from first his first marriage, and then the aftermath of his rebound relationship with Rosanna Arquette.* So he's got songs on there that fit just about every mood swing you'll be going through -- the full-on wallowing ("Washing Of The Water") the anger ("Digging In The Dirt"), the wistful low-grade melancholia ("Blood of Eden"), the self-analysis "What is it about me that I do this kind of thing to myself" stage ("Love To Be Loved"), the "fuck it all, I don't want to take a break from thinking about this and just dance" moods ("Steam," "Kiss That Frog") and also, finally, the place where you forgive your ex and yourself both ("Secret World"). Frankly, I think everyone going through a breakup should just be issued a copy.

* Yes, I am enough of a geeked-out fangirl to know the details of Peter Gabriel's love life. At least I have the good grace to know that knowing this is also a little creepy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Honestly any record by Antony and the Johnsons. They (he) are so melodramatic that it only seems tolerable when you're in utter despair.
posted by greta simone at 7:55 AM on March 28, 2009

Best answer: Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine. It's really a "oh fuck you you hurt me, I'm going to be better off just to spite you" album.

Better Version of Me
Oh, mister, wait until you see
What I'm gonna be

I've got a plan, a demand and it just began
And if you're right, you'll agree

Here's coming a better version of me
Parting Gift
Oh you silly stupid pastime of mine
You were always good for a rhyme
And from the first, to the last time, the signs
Said 'Stop' - but we went on whole-hearted
It ended bad, but I love what we started
I was staring out the window
The whole time he was talking to me
It was a filthy pane of glass
I couldn't get a clear view

As he went on and on
It wasn't the outside world I could see
Just the filthy pane that I was looking through

So I had to break the window
It just had to be
Better that I break the window
Than him or her or me
And when you're wanting no lyrics or nonsense lyrics, The Three EPs by The Beta Band.
posted by heatherann at 8:23 AM on March 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Damien Rice's "9" got me through the separation stage of my divorce. The song "Rootless Tree" in particular is very cathartic.

The Mountain Goats "Tallahassee" has the song "No Children" which may just be the greatest break-up song ever. ("And I hope you die. I hope we both die.")

Modest Mouse "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" was another constant during the separation. "Parting of the Sensory" in particular was on repeat a lot - songs about death seem appropriate during the grieving process of a breakup.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:40 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

American Music Club/Mark Eitzel
posted by porn in the woods at 10:16 AM on March 28, 2009

I'll second sarabeth's recommendation of Neko Case, and, acknowledging you only want albums, graft onto one of those albums her "If you knew" -- the guitars at the beginning are a pure call to happiness while the lyrics are a bitter denunciation of bad faith (if you hear them, as I do, as a sort of internal monologue rather than a literal conversation) (lousy youtube video that does no justice to the guitars nor her transcendant voice).

I was also glad to see Mary Margaret O'Hara's Miss America mentioned by Coatlicue -- something about that album is great for breakups, maybe the way it wanders stylistically all over the place, unified by her absolutely bone-chilling voice, e.g. Why You're Happy, Body's In Trouble, fold in the song she wrote for Holly Cole Dark Dear Heart. You can stream a whole concert of hers here, courtesy of the CBC.
posted by Rumple at 10:41 AM on March 28, 2009

Susie Suh's self-titled album. Beautiful and haunting, one of my faves.

Alanis Morisette's new album, "Flavors of Entanglement", written after she went through her break-up with Ryan Reynolds.

Sia, "Some People Have Real Problems."
posted by shannonigans at 11:06 AM on March 28, 2009

Along the lines of Neko Case, Sun Kil Moon's Ghosts of the Great Highway is beautiful and has a great depth of feeling and variety.

If you end up wanting to muffle yourself in something more sorrowful, Low's Things We Lost In The Fire would be a good choice.

Also, I can't nth Frightened Rabbit, and Beach House's Devotion enough.

For some isolated angry-bitter-fast songs:
Papillon by The Airborne Toxic Event
"Wasted hours of this wasted time / Oh, yeah - I've been just fine."

My Life's Alright Without You by No Age

I like Nimrod's Son by the Pixies when I'm pissed and bitter just because it affords the opportunity to snarl "You are the son of a motherfucker." If I were in your shoes right now I'd probably be listening to a lot of Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa.

I'm sorry you're going through this right now. Be kind to yourself.
posted by dorothy humbird at 11:14 AM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh oh oh, also--

Songs: Ohia's The Magnolia Electric Co.*, which opens with the incredible Farewell Transmission.
This was in heavy rotation the last time I was feeling heartsick.
posted by dorothy humbird at 11:28 AM on March 28, 2009

Verdi's Requium. Over and over and over.
posted by Londonita at 12:48 PM on March 28, 2009

Please resist the urge to do anything silly like emailing your ex some of these songs, or otherwise forcing her to listen. Led Zep was ruined for me for YEARS.
posted by sunshinesky at 2:30 PM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Somebody really needs to second (and third, and..) Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Everything valkyryn says is true. Going through hard times in a relationship, nothing is better company. At any rate it really gave me a home on a more than a few desperate nights.
posted by flavor at 3:58 PM on March 28, 2009

Lee Hazlewood's Requiem For An Almost Lady
posted by rfs at 9:39 PM on March 28, 2009

Hecla & Griper EP - Songs: Ohia
Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars and Will You Still Love Me? EP, which has lines like the following, sung with so much simple straightforward emotion and grace:

The best thing for me to do is run faster than you
And if I do, I will make it
If I do, I will grow up a little bit...

And you're gone, and you're gone
But I'm not
And I'm glad
And I hope you find the one

If you want to stay
If that is what you want
We can work it out
But if you want to leave
I can say goodbye
Never looking back
Simple silence seems to hold me down with you
You don't have to say anything
You don't even have to look anymore
And handshakes are supposed to be good
But handshakes are never good enough

Condescending you
You have some nerve

You better take my heart
And don't bother calling back
No really don't bother
Unless you know Spring has come to me for good

This will be the last time

The Four-Track Demos - PJ Harvey. Almost entirely because it has this song which is pretty much the best "sooo energetic and restless, so restless, dementedly so, and ready for change, including a good rollerskate-crazy shag" post-break-up song ever. Even Aphrodite/She got nothin' on me!--can I get a hell yeah! But it has lots of good "fuck you" post-sexual songs, including The Ugliest, Most Honest Break-up Song Ever, in my very favorite incarnation (vastly prefer it to the more studio-polished famous release): I'll make you lick my injuries/I'm gonna twist your head off see.

Is This Desire? works too, and is much "prettier" and quieter, for the most part. "Catherine" is a great obsessive-lost-love song.

Maybe The Meadowlands - The Wrens. You have to be in the right mood--that song is incredibly whiny--but when you are, it is a pretty perfect encapsulation too.

If you get to the point you want cheering up, More Songs About Buildings and Food - Talking Heads is great sunny music hiding sharp lyrics. "I'm Not in Love" and "Artists Only" are my favorites.

No Light in August by Tami Hart has a song called "No Good" with the following lyrics:

You're no good, you're no good baby
You're no fucking good
A symbiotic structure trying to support itself
I can do everything on my own
I don't need anyone else

If you can manage to track it down--it's been out of print and the one place online promising they had it turned out not to, but out of pity at my desperation burned me a copy for the money I spent--Y Pants' Self-Titled is the best ever for a night of non-cheesy, tongue-in-cheek girl empowerment. They played with toy instruments and were super cool. They have songs that feel like (and one actually is) hiply early-'80s-New-York-Art-scene-covered versions of Lesley Gore-type girlysongs fare, you know, tunes about your jocko boyfriend's phone being off the hook, or how when he acts like a jerk you just tell yourself "that's the way boys are"...with background rockabilly-ish horror screams. And they have a decidedly cynical view of falling in love--Got this feeling for you/I'm gonna beat it down/Gonna beat it! and Love's a disease/Everyone needs. It's hard to describe but it's awesome for times you're fed up with the idea of being anyone's girlfriend. You can MeMail me if you're interested--it's impossible to find.

Following that vein, I think you might wanna check out all those hip New York girl-groups--The Bush Tetras ("Too Many Creeps"--the original, not that remix--is great at capturing that fed-up feeling you get when you're single and just want men to leave you the hell alone on the street), Cut by the The Slits (which has one of the best gender-bending covers around of a famous break-up song), ESG, possibly Lydia Lunch's cynical-at-boys albums, stuff like that.
posted by ifjuly at 12:21 PM on March 29, 2009

The first Tindersticks album (or any of their others, for that matter).
posted by klausness at 3:07 PM on March 29, 2009

rilo kiley -- breakin up
"oooh, it feels good to be free!!"

last breakup, belted this song out repeatedly and pranced around my apartment until the words actually stuck as feelings :) and it's so damn cute, catchy, dancey!!
posted by crawfo at 10:09 AM on March 30, 2009

Response by poster: Neko Case is really doing it for me. For some reason I never got into her, but it is the right combination of slightly sad but still optimistic and moving on. Love her new album. Will move onto some of the others later.

posted by E-Boogie at 5:28 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Colin Hay
posted by Biru at 7:01 AM on August 24, 2009

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