1. The Rosebuds, “Cover Ears” — OK, so this is pretty much a no-brainer. A married duo divorces, then comes back together for a post-divorce LP, Loud Planes Fly Low. Ivan and Kelly Rosebud give us an intimate glimpse of post-marital desolation, notably when Ivan sings “who’s gonna love you/ when I go?” The rest of Loud Planes is pretty bleak too.
2. The Small Ponds, “Loneliness” — This remarkable Americana-folk duo formed at Raleigh’s annual Love Hangover—an evening dedicated to sad cover songs. So it stands to reason they’d write along those same lines. “Loneliness will be your one true love,” they sing in this one.
3. Mount Moriah, “Only Way Out” — Like the Rosebuds’ record, this one’s loaded with sad songs (see also the Neil Young-reminiscent “Plane”). This opening track hinges on Heather McEntire’s poetic, honest recollection of a long-past romance. When she sings “how I bet you made a beautiful bride,” it sounds like it still hurts. Also: “I can’t seem to throw away/ the letters or the pictures/ for some kind of proof or truth that all of this/ really happened.” Who hasn’t felt like that at some point?
4. Airstrip, “So-So” — “Some people will love each other/ some people will kill each other/ hard to tell what you’ll get into/ hard to tell what you are after.” Holy shit, someone give Matt Park a hug.
5. Mandolin Orange, “Haste Make” — With this band, it was a tough call which song to include. “Hard Hearted Stranger” nearly made the cut (it’s hard to suppress the shiver when Andrew Marlin sings “I’ll be the hard-hearted stranger in your bed”), but “Haste Make” is a love song turned on its head by depression and anxiety. Oh my.
6. The Dirty Little Heaters, “Mexico Way” — Every heartbreak mixtape needs a shout-along moment. This track’s a few years old, but Reese McHenry’s powerful, painful chorus never seems to age. Take a listen and try it with her: The words are “I still love you, you fucker!” That is one hell of a hook.
7. John Howie and the Rosewood Bluff, “Last Great Guitar Slinger” — Obviously, there needs to be some honky-tonk on here, and ex-Two Dollar Pistol John Howie is a local master. This may not be the most obvious track for a Valentine’s Day mixtape, but Howie’s central down-and-outness makes it an essential inclusion. “I’ve been working all night long/ just to get you by my side/ Johnny Six-String comes along/ and he barely even tries.”
8. Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes, “Kissin’ and Cussin’” — And now it’s time for something irreconcilably dark. “I see you smile, the knife behind your back,” Robinson sings in the especially menacing latest version of this track. “Because we kiss and we cuss and we carry on/ until the break of dawn.”
9. Double Negative, “Endless Disappointment” — Heartbreak sucks. Double Negative’s a great hardcore band. This is a damn fine song to hear if you’re pissed off.
10. Hammer No More the Fingers, “Shutterbug” — “Don’t know how hard it’s been/ living without a friend/ in the center of the world.” This song certainly has a sad, lonely core. With this kind of mixtape—especially if you’re one of those people who takes Valentine’s Day personally—you want to close on something upbeat and catchy. And even if most of these jams don’t seem to, Hammer’s track aims to heal old wounds rather than reopen them.
So which tracks did I leave out? What’s on your sad little mixtape? There’s a comments section below, you know. Just try and keep it local.