Horrible holidays (make pretty songs): A.V. Club Milwaukee’s anti-Valentine’s Day playlist
If you’re the type of person who still turns on the radio and indiscriminately flips through the stations, you’re in for a nasty shock today. Yes, in honor of Valentine’s Day, radio stations across the country are dusting off their sappiest, most barf-inducing love songs. But what if the thought of love, Valentine’s Day, and all things good and pure turns your stomach and sends you searching for the nearest dive bar? What if love just isn’t your thing? Isn’t there a sad-bastard anti-Valentine’s Day playlist for the rest of us?
Of course there is. In our ongoing mission to keep things both local and depressing, we’ve rounded up eight songs from Milwaukee bands and artists that deal with heartbreak, loneliness, and bitterness—you know, the finer things in life. So while the rest of city spends Valentine’s Day basking in the warm, soft glow of sappy love songs, feel free to cue up our playlist and wallow in some good old-fashioned misery and despair. It’s the least we can do.
(Note: While it’s possible to enjoy these songs free of charge via the magic of the Internet, we highly recommend purchasing these tracks and/or albums from these deserving Milwaukee artists. Go ahead: Support depressing local music!)
Jaill, “Horrible Things (Make Pretty Songs)”
Our anti-Valentine’s Day playlist takes its name from this beautifully dejected Jaill song, one of the highlights from the group’s 2012 album Traps. “It happened so fast / Devastating crash / I wanted to settle down / You wanted to be free,” sings Vinnie Kircher over a lilting acoustic guitar and a strangely mocking drum machine. But those heartbroken lyrics are nothing compared to the song’s hopeless refrain: “No one to take care of / No one to take care of me.”
Trapper Schoepp And The Shades, “Ally”
It’s somehow fitting that Valentine’s Day arrives in February, a.k.a. the most depressing month of the year. The otherwise upbeat Trapper Schoepp stumbles upon the dreaded winter dregs in “Ally,” a song about a relationship put on hold: “We met in the spring / You let me right in / To a place I could call my own / Now I’m buried / It’s February / And I’m staring at melting snow.” To top it off, this Run, Engine, Run deep cut includes a shout-out to one of our favorite anti-Valentine’s Day activities: day drinking!
Heidi Spencer And The Rare Birds, “Hibernation”
Heartbreak can take many forms (anger, depression, the aforementioned day drinking), but it can also manifest itself in an overpowering desire to bury oneself under one’s covers for 8,000 years. Heidi Spencer conjures up this lonely, wintry feeling in the gorgeous “Hibernation,” a highlight from 2011’s excellent Under Streetlight Glow. It’s a song about stepping back and getting away—even if you’ve become “so used to something, you just can’t quit.”
Milwaukee MC and producer Klassik may have had career pressures and aspirations on his mind when he wrote “Escape” for 2012’s award-winning In The Making, but the song’s call for a much-needed respite (similar to Spencer’s) can be applied to a tumultuous and nerve-fraying relationship, too. “E-S-C-A-P-E / Get away so you can find your dreams,” Klassik rattles off in a chorus that’s filled with equal parts motivation and desperation.
Sat. Nite Duets, “Conjugal Visit”
During Sat. Nite Duets’ 2012 “Local/Live” performance on WMSE, the endearingly goofball band claimed that “Conjugal Visit”—from the Torrential Zen split with The Fatty Acids, Dinosaur Feathers, and Radical Dads—was about “getting fired by your girlfriend.” That about says it all, and if the comparison of a life-altering breakup to a corporate HR decision doesn’t warm your black and broken heart, we don’t know what will.
Lisa Gatewood, “Ain’t Nothing Beautiful”
No one does “sad and lonely” quite like Lisa Gatewood, and no Lisa Gatewood song captures those feelings quite like “Ain’t Nothing Beautiful.” Gatewood’s quietly brilliant 2012 album Midway is stuffed with perfectly rendered sketches of longing and loneliness, but this song—and its images of making “sleepy eyes” at bar time—is one of her best.
Jonathan Burks, “No One Left To Date”
Just because you’re alone on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you’re completely hopeless—sometimes it means you’ve simply run out of people to hook up with. “I messed up / I messed around / There’s no one left to date in this town” sings Jonathan Burks on the somewhat tongue-in-cheek “No One Left To Date,” from the singer’s wickedly enjoyable 2012 album How I Roll. Burks isn’t one for sad-sack breakup songs, and this track’s inclusion on our list is a nice reminder that a Valentine’s Day without a valentine doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
The Promise Ring, “All Of My Everything”
Heartbreak can be overpowering and all encompassing, but it’s the little things that really make it hurt. On the final track of The Promise Ring’s underrated 1999 album Very Emergency, Davey Von Bohlen sings, “By the time you read this / This house will have changed / Hands one more time again.” That image of a house being abandoned and turned over to new owners is a perfectly mundane metaphor for a previously happy life left behind. Say goodbye good.