Girls, Season 3 Episode 11. Read on to learn why this is relevant.
There are a lot of reasons why I like listening to music, not the least of which is the fact that there are a wealth of songs out there that make me feel like a total badass as I walk (strut?) to class. I also really like singing (shouting?) in my car. In fact, I totally got caught singing (shouting) and hand-dancing to Kanye’s “Blood on the Leaves” the other day. The dude who saw was laughing his ass off. I was only mildly embarrassed- cause like, WE COULDA BEEN SOMEBODY. You can’t not shout-jam to that shit when you’re driving solo.
But on a slightly more personal level, music helps me deal with feelings I don’t usually like to admit I have- as in, all feelings. It helps me process and eventually exorcise the not-so-pleasant emotionz- y’know, inadequacy, fear, loneliness, the sudden urge to melt into the ground because that’s how shittily my week is going- and reassure myself that I’m going to be okay, even if that day is a long time coming.
A relatively shitty thing happened to me recently. I was what the kids call “casually dating” another human being… and then, very suddenly, I wasn’t. Most other “casually dating” scenarios I’ve been in have dissolved pretty organically and without much fanfare. But the relative shittiness of this particular dissolution stems from the fact that I was 100% blindsided by it- because things were going so well. I had such a natural rapport with this other person, as well as a stunning level of comfort- I threw up in front of him on our first date, for god’s sake- and quite a few exceptionally fun nights. Things were great; I was happy and under the impression that we were both eager to see where it would go.
And then it went nowhere. So let’s have a moment of silence for the best two-week not-relationship of my life.
Against my not-iron will, I had a lot of feelings about this whole situation, chief among them an unhealthy mix of confusion and disappointment. I was mourning potential. I was wondering what I could have done differently. I was feeling maybe the teensiest bit hurt. I was also riding the rollercoaster of moving the fuck on because I’m a boss ass bitch who does what I want and what I want is something better. I endured this storm of human emotion with music, so much that I spent far too many hours just sitting and listening, trying to get my thoughts in order and trying to get rid of them all at once. Obviously this did not make studying for finals any easier.
I am not going to talk to you about breakup songs. If you want breakup songs, go listen to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors on repeat, and maybe some upbeat fuck-you anthems for good measure. These are all great things that should be enjoyed liberally when one is going through a breakup or other shitty relationship scenario.
But a breakup requires a relationship. I was not in one of those. These are not breakup songs, but rather, songs that helped me deal with shitty feelings created by a shitty situation (we could also say shitty person, but we won’t).
“Cheerleader”- St. Vincent
St. Vincent is one of the handful of women in music I regard as Actual Goddesses, so it’s only natural that her badassery is helping me to embrace my own. I too have had good times with some bad guys, Annie Clark. And I too don’t wanna be your cheerleader. Or anyone’s cheerleader but my own, thank you.
“Where Have You Been”- Manchester Orchestra
I will forever be indebted to my first high school boyfriend for burning me a “Best of Manchester Orchestra” CD that still lives in my car to this day. I’ve cried and commiserated to Andy Hull’s tortured voice too many times to count. “Where Have You Been”- THE ACOUSTIC VERSION, ABOVE- is perhaps my all-time favorite sad song. And I love sad songs- perhaps someday I’ll make a list of them here. But please, if you’re ever feeling feelings like I was, let Andy’s wounded, almost-angry brand of pure despair envelope you and all your troubles in its warm, anguished embrace.
“Fool”- Nadine Shah
To anyone who’s ever gone out with a pretentious asshole, this one’s for you.
“You fashion words that fools lap up
And call yourself a poet
Tattooed pretense upon your skin
So everyone will know it”
“Plough”- Speedy Ortiz
Sadie Dupuis is another Actual Goddess and this is my favorite badass lady anthem of Speedy’s. It’s freaky and witchy and a goddamn roller coaster of PURE ROCK AND ROLL. Or something. The modern, scorned-woman-who-may-or-may-not-give-a-fuck version of pure rock and roll, maybe.
“Bushwick Blues”- Delta Spirit
I’ll admit- the lyrics to this song are kind of inane. But shit, I’m a damaged soul and the rawness of this catchy lil’ angst-ballad really speaks to me. I mean, like:
“So maybe I’m the fool
For feeling used
By the way we kissed that night
I thought you knew”
Excuse me while I think about crying and feel like I’d maybe want to do so if I weren’t a human void.
“Class Historian”- BRONCHO
THIS SONG MAKES ME WANT TO DANCE AND DANCING FEELS GOOD THEREFORE I FEEL GOOD. But really, “Class Historian” is one hell of a mood booster. It can break the spell of an afternoon of brooding, get me ready for a night out, or hype me up before a test. It’s an all-occasions jam that has lifted me out of some serious funks.
“Too Afraid to Love You”- The Black Keys
It’s relevant. It just is. Trust me.
“Revelation Blues”- The Tallest Man on Earth
To me, “Revelation Blues” sounds like the sun slowly working its way back out after a storm. It’s a melancholy-happy acoustic mini-jam that, for whatever reason, has the capacity to both lift me up and remind me that it’s okay to feel a little down sometimes. I like that. I need that. And there’s something about the line “but sometimes it’s just roses dying too young” that resonates with me- maybe it reminds me of a certain not-relationship that I can’t help but feel died too young.
“Bad Girl”- Lee Moses
A couple of weeks ago, fresh from my not-breakup, I decided to take a break from a whirlwind weekend and spend an hour or so camped out on my couch, watching Girls. At one point in season 3, episode 11, Jessa, freshly off drugz, is dancing around Shoshanna’s living room like, well, a person who’s freshly off drugz. The song she’s dancing to is Lee Moses’ “Bad Girl”, an understandably awesome deep soul rampage from 1971. As you could most likely guess, Moses is mourning a lady friend who did him wrong in a super soulful, heart-on-his-goddamn-sleeve kinda way.
I do not identify so strongly with this song because I have recently quit doing hard drugs (I never started either, for the record). Nor does it very nearly bring tears to my eternally dry eyes because my girl cheated on me (never had a girl in the first place, also for the record). No, Lee Moses and Jessa got me through a shitty time because they’re both more vulnerable than they’d like to be- and coping with it in the best ways that they can. When I located “Bad Girl” on the almighty Internets later that day I found myself dancing around my kitchen, cold beer in hand, ready to both embrace my hurt and throw it aside for a damn good night with people I care about. I won’t bother you with context, but the last time I’d shimmied and salsa-d around my kitchen I wasn’t alone. The act of dancing to “Bad Girl” on my own that evening wasn’t a means of erasing what truly was a good memory- it was an act of reclaiming that space and that action from someone who’d hurt me. And for that, I’m grateful to Lee Moses, his “Bad Girl”, and Jessa too.
Check out “Mostly Feelings Stuff” on our Spotify-