Alright, so you just broke up with your significant other. Maybe you were dating for a few months, maybe a few years, but no matter the duration, it’s clear that your life is basically over at this point. Despair not, however, because there is one huge silver lining: the next few weeks will probably be the most you’ll ever enjoy music. Also, take a shower, we’re all worried about you.
One of you moved away: “My Boy” by Car Seat Headrest
We’re kicking off the list with a late-teens/early 20s classic, both in category of breakup and category of song. Car Seat Headrest has been re-recording their release Twin Fantasy (2011) over the past few months, but the raw instrumentation and lyrical minimalism of the opener on the original version can’t be beat. Will Toledo, the only member of Car Seat Headrest at the time of recording, tells a whole story without saying much at all, and more than makes up for the lack of lyrical complexity with instrumentation that abruptly surges in intensity as Toledo’s murmur is replaced by a scream. “My Boy” provides the perfect prelude to a lo-fi bandcamp masterpiece, and the perfect backdrop to crying yourself to sleep in the dark.
You think it was your fault (even though it probably wasn’t): “Good News” by Julien Baker
Everyone loves a good blame game, and what better way to foster a melancholic indie aesthetic than blaming yourself for the demise of your relationship. Julien Baker’s “Good News” is probably the sweetest description of self hate ever penned. As the final progression plays, Baker sings “My mouth like a wound/ as I stay up and throw my voice about you/ or less about you, and more about how I ruin/ everything I think could be good news,” a feeling we can all empathize with in the wake of dating some asshole. Baker still plays this song, but she prefaces it by saying she’s since changed her point of view on the song, and that now she thinks it’s ridiculous to think that you ruin everything. But if your heart just got broken and you’d prefer to wallow in self pity, feel free to ignore what she said and take the song at face value.
You don’t wanna fight anymore: “Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes
Sometimes, all you need to know is in the title. This song is also probably the least “indie” on the list, but Brittany Howard’s emotional vocal performance makes “Don’t Wanna Fight” just as powerful and heart-wrenching as any of the other songs on this list. While one guitar plays long, reverb drenched chords, the other keeps a staccato rhythm throughout the majority of the song, creating a huge breadth of sound and making the instrumental feel full without being cluttered.
They cheated on you: “Why” by Together PANGEA
It’s time to forget whatever society told you about emo music and listen to a grown man scream about his emotions. Together PANGEA’s surf-punk sound might not be the most musically complex thing in the world, but it’s damn satisfying to listen to, especially in times of emotional distress. This is one of the slower songs on the album, but the pacing gives the guitar lead a lot of room to breathe. William Keegan, the band’s lead singer, has an absolutely brutal vocal style that is at times indistinguishable from the guitar and sounds like it hurts his throat almost as much as your ex hurt you.
You cheated on them: “The Ideal Husband” by Father John Misty
Fittingly, Father John Misty is probably the folk scene’s most famous shithead, and the track “The Ideal Husband” describes the anxiety of someone whose secrets are finally coming to light. The anxious howl in the background is reminiscent of an air raid siren as Father John Misty details his sins, climaxing with a description of himself begging his significant other for a second chance. In a genre so inundated with softboys congratulating themselves on their emotions, it’s pretty refreshing to hear such a naked, confessional song that doesn’t try to paint the singer as a great partner.
You were an asshole: “Fuckboi” by AJJ
Okay, maybe you didn’t cheat on them, but you still probably shouldn’t have yelled “your cat is bullshit” after you threw it at the wall. AJJ’s Back in the Jazz Coffin EP (2017) was released in the middle of their last tour, and showed a return to form for the band’s instrumentation. The EP features Ben Gallaty on bass, Sean Bonnette on guitar and vocals and not much else in the way of instrumentation, which is refreshing and leaves a lot of room for some pretty straightforward self-condemnation on the final song.
You were never actually dating: “Yer Killin’ Me” by Remo Drive
Are you 15 years old emotionally? Perfect, me too. With a little perspective, it’s pretty easy to see how dumb the angsty thoughts you have are, but that doesn’t make them feel any less real at the time. Remo Drive, contrary to all the emo bands with perma-scowls, actually has fun with these thoughts, turning them into catchy, upbeat pop-punk songs that look like a blast to play. “Yer Killin’ Me” is a frantic condemnation of a one-sided relationship, making it the perfect song to listen to while you wonder if your barista is single.
Written by Walker Spence