Your friendly neighborhood slacker. Chill Clinton likes to write about film, music, collectibles, and more.
We Can All Relate to the Feeling of an Aching Heart
Whether due to the end of a relationship, or longing for someone who does not feel the same way about us, the feeling of an aching heart is one that almost everyone can relate to.
Like a heavy blanket, an aching heart is enveloping and often paralyzing, leaving us ridden with anxiety and pain, wondering if we'll ever recover from the sinking feelings in our chests.
I can absolutely relate to this feeling, but have found that listening to music that can find the words, that I simply can't, to express the way I feel is extremely cathartic.
If you've stumbled on this article because you're looking for support during a difficult time in your life, I hope you can find some some comfort in knowing that so many others relate to how you feel. So many, in fact, that there are thousands of songs dedicated to this topic alone.
Below, I've compiled some of my favorite alternative songs that discuss the subject of heartache from a variety of perspectives, both positive and negative.
1. Free Throw- Good Job, Champ
In this 2014 song from Free Throw's first full length "Those Days are Gone", the narrator discusses a relationship that is long over. And unlike many songs, where the lyrics only discuss the subject of the speaker's infatuation in positive terms, the lyrics to this short song paint the picture of a complicated relationship in which the speaker felt as if his lost love never really loved him in the first place as he says, "I'm uncertain that you ever cared or thought that love was real."
However, we still understand the difficulty the speaker has letting go, as he recalls all of the mementos from their relationship that he can't bring himself to get rid of, like "the letters that we wrote your first semester in the Fall, or the pictures in my closet that used to hang upon my wall." Even though he acknowledges that the subject of the song probably wouldn't care that he still has those items saying, "You didn't expect that, did you? I can't blame you. I never thought I'd keep them after all."
2. Modern Baseball- Your Graduation
"Your Graduation" was the single that launched emo-revival outfit Modern Baseball to stardom in early 2014. It opens with the speaker drunk and alone one evening as he recalls the events of a graduation party where he listens to a girl he likes drunkenly profess her anxieties about her current relationship, and where they finally parted ways before going off to college.
And as he painfully recalls this memory, he implies that they each knew they had feelings for each other saying, "You weren't the only one who thought of us that way. I spend most nights awake, wide awake."
But over the course of the song, he grows to accept that they've both moved on and are living separate lives, ending the song as if speaking to the memory of his lost love by saying, "I never thought that I would see the day where I just let you go, let you walk away. Go ahead and walk away."
3. Two Knights- It Sucks When You Hate Everyone
Two Knights is a lesser known indie band from Denton, Texas that put out a few albums throughout the 2010's with A Lot of Bad Things Have Happened, released in 2013, being perhaps their most popular for its rawness and vulnerability.
"It Sucks When You Hate Everyone" is the final song off of that album, in which the narrator talks longingly about a relationship that he didn't want to end, saying "You made me feel like I had something to offer. I don’t think I’m ready to be alone again."
But rather than trying to convince the other person to stay, he accepts their decision, ultimately acknowledging that, "I know this is what you want. And I love you, so I'll just let go."
4. American Football- Never Meant
Perhaps one of the most recognizable indie rock songs of the late 90's, American Football's "Never Meant" is a poignant reflection of how to deal with the emotions that follow a breakup.
As if wishing for the closure he knows may never come, the narrator says, "Goodbye to the Autumn night when we realized we were falling out of love."
However, the song ends with a painful realization that any attempt to convince himself that he and his love interest were never compatible would be a lie, but a lie he wants to tell himself anyway, saying "I just think it's best, 'cause you can't miss what you forget. So let's just pretend everything and anything between you and me was never meant."
5. Tiny Moving Parts- Sundress
In "Sundress" by mathrock trio Tiny Moving Parts, we begin with a long description of a dream in which the narrator recalls a cabin vacation where he and a former love shared fond memories, hanging out and partying with their friends: "Grab my hand, let's dance like we used to in high school. These are the golden years, let's spend them holding beers. One hand on the can, one hand in your hand. That's my idea of romance."
But soon the dream ends and the narrator wakes up to find that those days are long gone. Still desperate to be with the one he loves, he proclaims that, "I'll row my boat a million miles west just to brave this rapid current, meet you up ahead."
But acknowledging that this would be a futile task, he ends the song with the image of himself rowing so long that he would end up dead, with a final raw admittance of his feelings: "The irony of dehydrating along the sea. I miss you. That will never change."
6. Monuments- Park Jefferson
"Monuments" is one of the more popular songs from Park Jefferson, a short lived midwest-emo band that only produced one full length album in the early 2010's.
This poppy song first conveys the image of someone who tries desperately to reconnect with a lost love, saying "I thought I'd write to you, and let you know that I'm still dramatic and sixteen. I thought I'd call you, and tell you that I'm still miserable without you."
But as the song concludes, the narrator accepts that he isn't secure enough in himself to know that he won't make the same mistakes he made that led to their breakup in the first place, saying, "Well I'm not who I was, and I think I'm proud of that. But in a few more months, will I still say the same thing?"
Ultimately, the narrator calls back to the first verse thanking his lost love for not indulging his uncontrollable feelings, saying, "And I can't put this into words, but I'm so glad you never wrote back."
7. Foxing- Rory
Like "Monuments" by Park Jefferson, "Rory" by St. Louis rock band Foxing begins with the image of the narrator reluctantly writing to someone he loves saying, "I wrote you a letter. Asked your best friend to send it. But took to the sea before you could have read it."
But what makes this song unique is the sense of immense personal reflection hidden behind the repeated choral line, "I swear I'm a good man. So why don't you love me back?"
Though, at first glance, it sounds as if the narrator is genuinely confused by why his love is unrequited, but there seems to be more going on in this song. Rather than placing misdirected blame on someone who doesn't share feelings for him, the narrator acknowledges his own actions and how they contribute to the pain he feels saying he, "Extracted my heart while it was still beating, but glowing and red. And I swear that sweat would envelop your arms if you broke down and held it."
Ultimately he feels upset, believing that the subject of his infatuation doesn't seem to give credence to his feelings in the line, "And all I could hear was the sound of the wasp nest. My head made a home for the hum of the insects. But my hands shake and shudder at the mention. Of half-written reasons why we'll only be friends."
However, one cannot help but acknowledge the irony in the following chorus, which repeats to the end of the song: "I swear I'm a good man. So why don't you love me back?" following the narrator expounding at length on how he simply can't deal with the concept of not having that belief validated by his love. It's as if the singer is trying to convince himself rather than someone else that he is, in fact, good and worthy of love.
8. Hotel Books- Nothing Was The Same
"Nothing Was the Same" is a song from the post-hardcore influenced spoken word band Hotel Books. In this song, the narrator reflects on a past relationship, blaming himself for being overbearing out of a "deep desire to be needed", trying to convince his love to stay in a failing relationship, "like the captain of a sinking ship, choosing to believe the bottom of the ocean was a better source of oxygen."
By the end of the song, he recalls his love leaving him for another, not blaming her because he acknowledges that he didn't show love for who she was, but who he wanted her to be, saying "I finally feel fine 'cause I spent so long trying to change you, not realizing I was the one who needed to change. I was selfish to assume you loved me more than you loved yourself, even though I never felt the same."
The song closes with a heartfelt message directly to the subject of the song as the narrator shows appreciation for the time he spent with her, and acceptance for how things turned out: "Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey. Thank you for letting me be me, and thank you for setting me free."
9. Mom Jeans- Death Cup
"Death Cup" from Berkley, California indie band Mom Jeans is a poppy rock song about the sense of loss and confusion one feels as they're being broken up with. The narrator begins by addressing his love directly, saying "I think it's about time that I warned you I might cry in front of you, and I don't want you to feel like I'm afraid of the truth."
But while he works to manage his emotions, he can't help but feel hurt by the apparent lack of feeling his love is bringing to the conversation, continuing with, "I didn't want you to feel like it was all your fault, but that doesn't mean that I wanted you to feel nothing at all."
Ultimately, the song provides little closure for the narrator, as he repeatedly begs, "Please tell me how the f*** I'm supposed to deal with losing you.", finally professing a reserved acknowledgement of his disappointment, saying, "You were my best friend. I didn't want it to end."
10. Household- Don't Listen to Me
The final song on this list is "Don't Listen to Me" from hardcore-turned-indie rock band Household from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like other songs on this list, the narrator of the song accepts the role he plays in sabotaging a relationship that meant a lot to him.
As the song begins, he tells his love not to listen to what he says as he searches for the words to ask how rekindling their relationship could end poorly, acknowledging that he "tend[s] to be confusing". But he goes on to proclaim that, "Whenever you're gone, I have a world of love for you, and whenever I'm wrong, I swear that there's nothing that I would not do."
However, he eventually acknowledges that he needs to respect how his love feels saying, "to honor one's volition, means sometimes to let go". But without trusting his ability to move on, he implores his love to not listen to him if he tries to reach out again.