This week’s playlist is one of the exceptions. There’s been some really significant things happen to me and those I hold dear in the past few weeks, and in ways that we can all relate to as human beings.
Life isn’t stagnant. It’s always moving, and we have to move with it. In my case, I’m moving on from a city I had come to love, moving on from a friendship that was no longer doing either of us any favours, and moving on to find the new goals I need for the next phase of my life. For others, it was reflecting on the loss of a loved one, be it a recent wound or one that has healed into scar tissue.
This playlist is for those times, when you are so incredibly vulnerable that you’re sure that there is no way you can take that first step away from the past and towards the future. These are the songs for those invigorating moments when you realise you have made a decision that is going to change the path of your life. Some of them are sad tales of lost souls. Some of them are inspiring, motivating and exciting.
All of them are reflections on the past, present and future and the motions we have to go through in order to make them into that incredible phenomenon that is a human life.
1. None Of Your Business Now – Paul Kelly
Taken from his latest album, Spring and Fall, Kelly has gone straight for the jugular with this track. From the gut-wrenching vocal, right through the lyrics and their complete dismissal of the protagonist’s former partner, it is painfully obvious that there is no way this relationship can be mended.
This is the complete cut and run, possibly the most distressing way for a relationship to end. Nobody likes it when life deals out this kind of situation, but sometimes it’s the only way to get on with things (at least, that’s what I’ve told myself in those times I’ve had to do it).
2. The Day You Went Away – Wendy Matthews
This is another one that aims to hit you right in the guts. The lyrics are killer, playing on that hope that even when things go wrong, they will at least have some kind of poetry to them. Unfortunately, life often has other ideas.
Matthews delivers a vocal that is understated yet incredibly powerful in its disappointment, both in her lover and in the weather. This relationship has ended with a fizzle, not a bang, making the next phase so much harder to see. Why? Because it’s so much easier to see the future when the end is obviously finite. This song points out the painful fact that it’s not always easy to see when things are over.
3. Better – The Basics
First of all, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, you do recognise that bloke on lead vocals. Now, can we get on to the bit with the feelings? Cool.
This tune is a bit like a cross between the first two tracks, but with significantly more empathy involved. “If we try to heal each other/We both know that it won’t work,” the lyrics tell us, and it’s true. But if you want to cry with him, and work together to start the grieving and healing process, that’s more than okay. There’s nothing wrong with a mutual acknowledgement of something ending; in fact, it’s probably the most healthy attitude you can take.
And you can’t start afresh until you’ve taken stock of what you’ve left behind.
4. Paper Aeroplane – Kasey Chambers
The concept of mourning is important in this theme, because without the past to guide us, we can’t truly understand where we are going. Then again, sometimes the grief is so much that it holds us back. We don’t want to move, for fear of what we’re leaving behind. Anybody who has watched someone lose a loved one, especially a husband or wife, will have seen the blackness that comes in death’s wake. It’s so tempting to return to old habits, looking desperately for comfort.
If there is any song that sums up the grief of a partner’s passing, it is this one. I don’t even really have words for it. When my grandmother passed away eight years ago, I saw this happen to my grandfather. This song immediately takes me back to that house in the months after she died, and immediately I can feel the emptiness of that time. It was so incredibly shit; but at the same time, this song also reminds me that Poppy got out of the black and back into the world of the living. The black curtain rises, even if it is never truly removed from the rafters.
If you’ve ever ragged on Chambers for being a shit singer, this vocal delivery is going to significantly challenge that notion; I almost guarantee it. Her voice is toned down so far that it becomes delicate and vulnerable, showing a side not often revealed in her work. She manages to hold herself back almost all the way through the piece, finally kicking you in the guts with a burst of emotion in the final verse of the song.
This song, it hurts. But it’s a good hurt.
5. Since I’ve Been Around – The Waifs
Sometimes moving on is a physical thing, and sometimes it’s not finite. This ode to a home town is a beautiful reflection on the way that even though we find new places and new adventures, there are often places we can’t help coming back to. However, this song reminds us that even though we want them to stay exactly as we remember them, home towns often go through changes of their own.
6. Somebody New – Little Birdy
Katy Steele really hits me in the chest with this one, not just because it signals the end of a relationship, but because it reflects on the idea that perhaps the protagonist wasn’t good enough after all. She can’t make a move until her partner does. She says, “I am alright with that”, but she’s not. It’s just that she can’t handle the thought that she’s holding her lover back, stifling him. She knows it’s time for him to move on to somebody else, and she knows that she can’t do the same until he’s happy with that other someone. It’s a doomed love song if ever there was one, and one that cuts incredibly close to the bone.
7. Moving On Up – M People
I tossed and turned on this one for a while – to go with the camp 90’s dance track, or be a little more traditional and put in ‘Would I Lie To You?’ by Eurythmics?
It was a big call, but finally my obsession with Miranda Hart led to this one winning out. That, and the fact that this list needed to pull itself out of the doldrums with a tune fueled by resilience and significant dose of self-righteousness. She’s been done wrong, but damn it, she ain’t gonna dwell on it. That ex-lover of hers? He can just piss right off, because she’s 100% done, and ready for the next phase.
From the saxophone line to Heather Small’s powerful vocal delivery, this tune is full of sass, the ultimate anthem for any woman ready to take the future by the throat and throttle all the good stuff out of it.
8. Want It Back – Amanda Palmer
WARNING: this video is NSFW!
Again, we have another tune that is uplifting and empowering and… wait, what did those lyrics just say?
This release is a mass of contradictions. Its 80’s influences let you fall into the trap of thinking it’s an upbeat, happy song, but as soon as you listen to the words, you realise that it’s actually about a relationship situation that is really a mash-up of ‘Somebody New’ and ‘None Of Your Business Now’. Palmer is not only angry at the other party, she’s also reluctant to let go until they’ve found their new path in life. Neither side seems ready to take the first step into their new, single life, yet that’s exactly what the lyrics seem to be pushing for by the end. “I will let you go if you will let somebody love you like I do,” Palmer cries, proving once again that the act of moving on isn’t always as simple as walking away; sometimes it’s like tearing off a band-aid. It has to be done, but knowing how much it’s going to hurt makes you delay it as long as you can.
9. A Little History (A Homage To My Dad Two) – Clare Bowditch
This is the third song Bowditch has released about her father, the previous ones reflecting on his love of ABC radio, and his battle with Parkinson’s disease. Tragically, this song is the last chapter in this musical trilogy, written after his passing, taking us on a journey through a life filled with love and admiration from his daughter.
Often, when talking about death, we suggest a celebration of life rather than a period of grief. This song reconciles the two perfectly, acknowledging the loss of a parent while also pointing out that a life such as this lives on in those left behind. Bowditch reminds us that we may not be able to be perfect, but doing the best we can is always enough for those who love us.
10. Goodbye From Tomorrow – David McCormack & the Polaroids
The album this song is taken from, McCormack’s The Truth About Love, is easily one of the best break-up albums in my CD collection. It rolls through so many different stages of breakdown that it can leave you winded. McCormack sweeps us through bitterness and rejection of the concept of love, murderous anger, loss and confusion, and the hedonistic chasing of new love (or rather, lust).
This particular track, however, demonstrates a willingness to move on before anything has even been achieved; a disbelief that anything could come of this relationship, because it is doomed before it has begun. Sure, everything is fine now, but it’s bound to go wrong eventually. This song argues that maybe it’s better not to even bother in the first place, and save everyone the inevitable heartache.
It’s a terribly pessimistic note to close on, but it allows me to make this final reflection: when the time comes to make a move, you have to acknowledge that while there is always a chance of rain, there is always opportunity for a brighter future. The hardest part of the process is recognising that you’ll never know how good it could have been if you don’t take that first step.
So go on, take it. Pick up your present and your past and wrap them up in a blanket, so it is safe, cosy and warm. Once you’ve done that, get up off the ground, dust yourself off, and start walking towards the new day, because you’ve only got one shot at this life. You don’t have time to stop moving.
As usual, you can find the full playlist on Spotify. If you have a song that’s helped you move on from a relationship, a situation, time or place, then we’d love you to share them with us in the comments, on Twitter or Facebook.