The most tragic part of a breakup is figuring out who gets the dog (this is a cold, hard fact) but the most annoying part is just trying to enjoy your damn record collection. Though shared musical interest is great way to build a relationship, when it ends you're left with a catalog of stuff that is imbued with memories, both good and bad.
As someone who is currently going through a breakup, it would be great if I could just blast some Tori Amos and really feel all the feelings, but considering who got me into Tori Amos, this isn't really a viable option. It's not that I've completely quit listening to my favorite music just because it's tainted by a breakup — I'll be damned if I'm going to forgo Belle & Sebastian because of *memories*— but sometimes it can be a bit rough, and it's nice to tune to an album that no man I've ever dated enjoyed. It's freeing to have music that is uniquely mine, and it makes me grateful that I couldn't get "him" into Elvis Costello, no matter how hard I tried.
Here are my top five artists in rotation right now. They're things I'd probably be listening to anyway, but they're getting some extra play because they don't remind of any men. (Well, not men I've dated anyway.)
I actually don't know anyone who is as obsessed with Orange Juice — particularly You Can't Hide Your Love Forever — as I am, and I don't get it because it's a perfect album. I'm obviously not mad about it though, as Edwyn Collins has one of my favorite voices of all the voices, and I'm so glad he exists in this bubble, free from outside influence. "Rip It Up" is also a very good song, but the album of the same title isn't as flawless as the above.
R.E.M. has always been one of those bands that I liked, but never really loved. But then I watched that R.E.M. documentary over Thanksgiving, and I realized that I actually love a ton of R.E.M. songs. I also realized that I kind of have a crush on Mike Mills, which I don't totally get, but it probably has to do with the fact that he is the "chief composer" of "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" (Oh, and if you haven't watched that documentary, you should. It features our very own Jane Pratt!)
Anyway, I've been listening to Green a lot, and it's glorious because no dude has ever played anything off of Green for me ever. Actually, I always think of my college roommate's ex when I listen to R.E.M., but that's because we got into an R.E.M.-centric argument back in the day. This memory doesn't influence my enjoyment either way.
It's totally possible that I've overplayed "Operator" in the last three or so months, but it's also totally possible that people who don't enjoy this song are dead inside. I simply don't understand how its tragic beauty can be ignored, or worse, dismissed as "corny."
I do think that, currently, we as a society are so concerned with being "chill" and so afraid of being genuine and vulnerable that we confuse sentimentality with "corniness." Maybe I'm just getting old.
I also appreciate vocalists whose live vocals sound as good as their recordings, and Croce's never falters. Oh, and if you wish to explore beyond "Operator," "Box #10" is also very good and worth your time.
The only person I know who likes John Prine as much as I do is Kara over at xoVain, which makes sense because Kara is awesome. If you appreciate good lyrics at all, you should appreciate the folky lyrical genius of Prine. If nothing else, "a bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down, and won," from the above song should give you a chuckle because mornings, amirite?
But if that's too goofy, and you need more evidence of Prine's songwriting capability, consider just listen to the first 25 seconds of "Angel From Montgomery" and tell me that isn't the most elegantly obvious way to describe a person.
The Rolling Stones
Oddly, even though the Stones were featured heavily throughout my wedding, they have remained pure and untouched by the influence of others. Maybe because I've been listening to them since I understood what listening to music meant or maybe because they were always so firmly "my thing," but when I put them on, the only men I'm really thinking about are Mick, Keith, Charlie, and sometimes Mick Taylor. (Very rarely, Ron Wood.)
They've just been mine for so long. My first concert was a Stones concert (tenth birthday, the Voodoo Lounge Tour), my dog's name is "Angie," my first tattoo was the tongue and lips. The Stones were my first sonic obsession, the first band I really dove into and studied as a teenager, and all of that supersedes any other associations and memories, no matter how bittersweet.
So this is how I'm navigating the world of the painful associations scattered throughout my Spotify playlists and record cabinet. On the flip-side, I've also been exposing myself to some of the most emotionally-charged music that is rooted in all kinds of wonderful and terrible memories, but that's kind of like a form of exposure therapy, and it's a dangerous game. Is this something you've gone through? What music has been spoiled for you because of breakup associations and, more importantly, what did you listen to instead?