Adele’s 25 dropped on Friday and people are definitely buying it like crazy. It will probably be a record-breaking album, even if it left me a little cold. That’s one of the obnoxious things about enormous pop artists who overshadow everyone else–a lot of really talented people are hanging out in that shadow, waiting for their chance to shine. So, now that the thing is actually out, let’s shift gears and take a look at some other artists who put out incredible breakup songs this year.
20. Carly Rae Jepsen — “When I Needed You”
E•MO•TION is the pop album we needed, but not the one we crowned with a sales record. C’est la vie. One of my favorite fuck-you moments of this year is when sweet little pop accident Carly Rae demands in her best Cyndi Lauper voice: “But where were you for ME / When I needed someONE / When I needed someone???” Still wondering, jackass.
19. The Bros. Landreth — “Made Up Mind”
Canadian country hunks (centering female gaze, natch) The Bros. Landreth secretly put out one of the year’s best records — Let It Lie came out in their home country in 2013 and was re-released in the U.S. earlier this year by Slate Creek Records (the label who gave us both Brandy Clark and Angaleena Presley, pay attention). “Made Up Mind” cruises along slow, seductive blues, but instead of getting laid, you’re getting left.
18. Elliot Moss — “Highspeeds”
If you’ve ever cried to Bon Iver, you will also enjoy crying to Elliot Moss. Guaranteed. The just-graduated-college electronic musician blends acoustic auras with electronic sophistication in a way that’s clearly inspired by Justin Vernon, but remains wholly his own. “Highspeeds” is the lead single off his debut of the same name, and it’s one of those ok, ok, I finally give up on chasing you songs. Remember, love shouldn’t be exhausting. At least not all the time.
17. Purity Ring — “Body Ache”
Purity Ring’s new record Another Eternity flew under the radar, mostly because they redefined the electro-pop zeitgeist and now everyone else sounds like them. Megan James’ poetry remains a body of work that bleeds devastation into brilliance, and “Body Ache” is a crystalline dubstep mindfuck of physical, emotional and mental pain. If you haven’t cried until your body aches, I’m sorry for you. Because someday you will. When that day comes, this song is here.
16. Rae Sremmurd — “My X”
If anyone tells you no good rap came out this year, kindly point them to Rae Sremmurd’s Sremmlife, an album of affable and angular dark giddiness. Considering the Brothers Sremm were homeless a handful of months ago, their ability to find obnoxious glee in all luxurious things is understandable. They even make breaking up sound fun. Throw this on when you’re about to stunt.
15. Dilly Dally — “Ballin Chain”
Dilly Dally’s Sore is one of the year’s best — and most overlooked — albums. Post-punk stuffed with bubblegum hooks and enough emotion to crack your heart back open. “I miss you, I miss you / My ball and chain,” Katie Monks sings. But by the time the song splits open into screaming guitar solo and vocals, you can tell she’s feeling lighter.
14. Adult Mom — “Laying On My Floor”
If you haven’t checked out Adult Mom’s debut album Momentary Lapse Of Happily get on it. Released through the ever-excellent Tiny Engines, the record marks Steph Knipe’s first full-length, and they use it to investigate the sadness that comes with being young, confused, lonely. Oh, and of course those of us who feel compelled to “fight for love that always bites.” Knipe isn’t afraid to just lay there and be sad through it. Use this song for the days when you can’t get up. (Also for more on Adult Mom read about them in this excellent Stereogum interview).
13. Beach House — “10:37”
Depression Cherry. It’s all there in the title right? Sweet, red, juicy, dark, gravelly, pitted. Even if you try to savor the moment, it floats up and away. To dust all return. This song honors that moment of effortless love, with full knowledge that it is completely temporary. Every moment of love is still yours, even as affection disintegrates.
12. ON AN ON — “It’s Not Over”
This is a song about wanting to fight against every force on earth to make love work. Hint: If even the elements are against you, it’s probably not going to work out. Remember that terrible Walk The Moon song about love and dancing that got super popular? This is the song that deserved that shine. But life is not fair.
11. The Weather Station — “Loyalty”
Tamara Lindeman is another musician who has been making beautiful music up in Canada without the world’s notice. This year, Paradise of Bachelors helped the world catch up with Canada. “Loyalty” is also the title of her new record, and like most of her songs, it’s a complicated, ever-twisting rendition of a love that didn’t work. Ultimately, “a love that was only ever a kind of distance” is better than any line Adele has ever written. No shots.
10. Tame Impala — “Yes I’m Changing”
I wanted more from Tame Impala’s Currents, but watching them play while I was stoned at Governor’s Ball is probably my favorite live music memory of the year. “Yes I’m Changing” is one of two songs on the album that live up to the hype (the other is “Let It Happen” duh), a blueprint, an affirmation, an epilogue. Or in a better way, a prologue.
09. The Staves — “No Me No You No More”
Criminally underrated, the three Staveley-Taylor sisters put out the year’s best folk record If I Was while fending off stereotypes about folk and sexism. Yes, Bon Iver produced and played on some songs. No, he is not the reason they’re so fucking good. “No Me No You No More” is actually about the loss of an us, an elegant, incisive summary of unspeakable loss — spoken in golden three-part harmony.
08. Palehound — “Dry Food”
Switching gears from music that makes breakups sound beautiful, Ellen Kempner isn’t afraid to show the dark underbelly of the experience. “Dry Food” is a distillation of dank, deep pain, and the brutality that’s in all of us. Kempner just makes it empathetic.
07. Jazz Cartier — “Too Good To Be True”
With Drake out of town all the time negging his ex-girlfriends via text, a new overlord stepped up in the 6. Cartier’s Marauding In Paradise was one of this year’s strongest rap releases, and it was only the Toronto rapper’s debut. The mixtape mainly centers around a relationship’s ups and downs. “Too Good To Be True” is rock bottom, but Cartier is at the top of his game.
06. Gold Star — “Learning The Blues”
Marlon Rabenreither was primarily a painter until Lucinda Williams heard some of his songs and told him to write more. Thanks again Ms. Williams, now we can all sit at his feet and learn how to mourn.
05. Jessica Pratt — “Back, Baby”
At the top of this year Jessica Pratt put out a stunning sophomore record On Your Own Love Again. “Back, Baby” kicked off her return, a deviously simple folk song spiked with lines like “your love was just a myth I devised.” Send that to your old lover.
04. Colleen Green — “Things That Are Bad For Me (Pt 1)”
On I Want To Grow Up, Colleen Green explores growing up (no shit), growing older, and growing to want so much more for herself. Things That Are Bad For Me (Pt 1)” is a resolution to quit engaging in bad habits. Which includes staying the fuck away from you. Bye!
03. Torres — “Son, You Are No Island”
Only Torres could work a John Donne reference into a scathing roast of an imbecile. I don’t know what this dude did, but you can guarantee this song makes him want to disappear. Listen when you need to remember that the ways you were wronged are real and not just in your head.
02. Sarah Bethe Nelson — “Paying”
Sarah Bethe Nelson’s Fast Moving Clouds is another album that got undeservedly sidelined by most major outlets. “Paying” is reason enough for it to get some shine, a resigned rescinding of knows-the-bartender privileges that points toward a deeper cost.
01. Ashley Monroe — “The Blade”
Casting about for songs for her new record, Ashley Monroe was presented with “The Blade.” It struck such a chord that she not only cut the track, she named her whole album after it. One listen and you’ll be stuck too–we all catch the wrong side of love sometimes, but rarely is that injustice put so succinctly.