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For those allergic to gush-filled love songs right now.


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I put on my records and prayed. I was, we could say, sitting in music. I wasn’t wired. I was wire. The sound waves were wire, and the air in the room was wire, and the walls were wire, and the books in their shelves were wire, and my body was wire. I found my communion with others who were alone. And I might notice, when I felt you near me, that I was tapping my foot, and that my thoughts were, for the moment, clear, and that I could smile, a bit.

A soundbite from a brilliant New Yorker article on how music can bring relief during these anxious times. It’s true: music has a transcendent power, it can stir up past memories, it can motivate (according to recent research). A well-curated playlist can make you fall in love with some people, even. This is music on a good day. The rose-tinted version. Though, as much a song can elicit the happy, it can also do the complete opposite. It can piss you right off. Christmas songs, for instance: the cherry on top of December, for some, painstakingly awful, please don’t even mention Mariah Carey, for others.

Your reaction is often simply a matter of context. Take love songs. For those in the throes of a newborn romance, stomping down the street listening to Dusty Springfield’s The Look Of Love can feel, well, almost majestic. Or as DJ Fat Tony so eloquently spelled it out in a meme recently, featuring actor Jonah Hill appearing to be in a state of entrancement/high: when song lyrics hit you so hard that you don’t understand if you’re listening to the song or the song is listening to you.

Though if you’re feeling heartbroken, heart-bruised or just not in a PS. I Love You state of mind, these soundscapes are irritating at best, painful at worst. And overplayed more times than Friends episodes on Dave come February 14th.

So. With this in mind, we called on fashion designer and artist Elizabeth Ilsley to curate an alternative 17-song playlist exclusively for readers. An anti-Valentine’s playlist if you will. Some highlights: Joy Division’s tribute to a dying relationship and The Buzzcocks’ perfect summation up the unruliness of attraction. “Cate Le Bon, Baxter Dury, The Slits and Nick Cave are huge heroes of mine,” Elizabeth says of her choices. “I could've picked many of Cate Le Bon's anti-love, heartbreak songs but I chose Love Is Not Love for its lyrics: ‘I won't let you sing my name again.’ My favourite Tame Impala song is Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind? They are by far my number one band (and this song is as wet and pathetic as I am therefore it's on the list [laughs].” Elsewhere, I’m His Girl by Friends is on there, which she describes as “a forgotten, sassy, important pop song.” Though, regardless of your relationship status, this is just a damn good playlist.

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