Will Toledo, the man behind Car Seat Headrest, is known for his deeply personal songs, often dealing with topics of depression, unrequited love, and teenage anxiety. Many of his best and most loved songs run for over ten minutes. Any of these poetic indie rock ‘epics’ could likely fit in this category – The Ballad of The Costa Concordia, Beach-Life-in-Death, Famous Prophets to name only a few. I decided to pick The Gun Song. Chronicling the breakdown of a relationship, it’s more frustrated than sad. However, don’t these emotions tend to come together? The Gun Song is to me a comfort song, knowing that someone out there feels the same.
Nobody writes sadness like Conor Oberst. I've picked "Poison Oak", the penultimate song off of Bright Eyes' most mainstream album. The song is a classic folk emo tune about a close friend's death implied to be by suicide. Some of Conor's most moving songs are about the deaths of his loved ones, and this one is no different. The song builds up with Conor singing in a more calm and soft fashion, and then crescendos into the climax where he practically yells the last verse. This progression coupled with the visceral poetry that is the lyrics never fails to make me shed a few years.
In the winter of 2006 Justin Vernon broke up with his girlfriend, chucked his recording equipment in his car, and went into self-imposed exile in a cabin in the woods. The following February he emerged with one of the most beautiful, emotionally raw albums of the decade, ‘For Emma Forever Ago’. ‘Skinny Love’ is the song where the emotion most obviously breaks through. His high pitched vocals grow into a roar as he chastises himself, “I told you to be patient, and I told you to be fine, and I told you to be balanced, and I told you to be kind”. The song, like the album, holds nothing back and is one of the most beautiful expressions of emotion in music, it’s definitely one to listen to when you’re feeling down.
Tame Impala was recently described by Q Magazine as “the King of the Sad banger” and this song just emphasises that. One of the most melancholy and sad break-up songs around, the slow drum beat and synth adds to the drama of this song. Kevin Parker’s trademark vocals and some beautifully sad lyrics, (“Life is moving/Can’t you see/There’s no future left for you and me”) make it the ultimate sad banger.
This song means a lot to me. I first heard it in my favourite rom-com, Stuck In Love, a film about writers falling in love, something that resonated with me deeply. The soundtrack is outstanding but this song stood out. It was the first of Bon Iver's songs I ever heard and it opened a new path of music to me. It's an incredibly sad romantic song but at the same time peaceful. Therefore if I'm ever upset it is my go to song to find some peace and calm, in a midst of other Bon Iver songs.
Let's be honest. There are times when you might be feeling a bit glum and need to listen to some sad songs. Songs have the power to make us feel any emotion you can think of, and when I hear Sanctuary by Joji, I can’t help but be moved by it’s combination of mellow Lo-fi and powerful lyrics. It’s narrative is a tale as old as time, with the narrator yearning for someone he potentially has a future with. Joji’s lyrics of “Pull me oh so close, as you never know how long our lives will be” very much reminds us to take in the moment, so while the narrative is somewhat sad, there is a strong message to be learned.
Originally written by Leonard Cohen, Buckley brought the song to the limelight, the reason that I find this song so sad, is he did so after his death in 1997. The true tragedy of the song is the reminder it serves to the talent that was lost when Buckley died aged 30. To me the song is about a struggle to understand the world and your role in it, a hauntingly beautiful son, although sad it is one of my favourite songs. A fun and weird fact about this song is that it is broadcast at 2 A.M. every Saturday by the Israeli Defence Force.
A lot of people will know The Verve for the anthem that is ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, but ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ is another superb track and one that is intensely emotional. This song is stripped back musically, giving precedence to Richard Ashcroft’s pained lyrics, which he delivers with such incredible power. Ashcroft‘s vocal performance conveys perfectly the sense of resignation and anguish that is at the core of this song, ensuring that ultimately, the impression left on the listener is one of overwhelming sadness.
When I think of sad songs there's a few artists that come to mind, one of which is Elliott Smith. 'Miss Misery' is one track of Smith's that stand out as "sad". The song is a self reflection, comparing the relationship someone has with depression to a relationship with a partner. Smith asks 'Miss Misery' if she misses him like she always says, almost like he is not the same person without his sadness. The way that Smith writes about his depression can seem beautiful, even romantic. Romanticising sadness and depression can be dangerous, but its accurate. So often we can cling to our darkness just to feel something and the feelings that we hate can feel safe and comforting because they're the only things we know. 'Miss Misery' is a stunning but poignant reminder that some relationships aren't supposed to last, especially the ones that we share with our demons.