Music For Melancholy Moods: Part Deux
October 23, 2008
Music for Melancholy Moods: Part Deux
One of the most popular posts on this garbage heap was Music for Melancholy Moods, a mix of songs designed to drag you into the dumps. The original was conceived amidst a heap of beer bottles and sour intentions and its sequel will be no exception. Being the predictable soul I am, the previous collection stopped at the letter M once my sobriety wore thin like cheap toilet paper. Hopefully, this one will strike the same dour chord.
1. Whiskeytown-Sit and Listen to the Rain (From the Fucker demos)
Never cared much for the band, but like some of Ryan Adams solo debut, but the tape hiss coupled with a hushed ode to ennui and rainy days occupies a dear place in my heart. I love few things more than the greyness and incessant drip of a rainy day in spring. These are moments where you ponder your navel while enjoying the mist and drip.
2. Unrest-Imperial (from Imperial fffr)
This is the song that makes sense of Unrest’s eventual association with the 4ad label. Instead of ethereal balladry ala This Mortal Coil’s take on “Song to the Siren” and Lisa Gerrard’s “Sanvean” we get a pasty indie-rocker who somehow channels the majestic grandeur of the label at its finest. An epic eight minutes that should last so much longer, “Imperial” breaks my heart in all the right places. Awkward falsettos never sounded quite so sublime.
3. Michael Hurley-Tea Song from Blueberry Wine
Never has a song about brewing tea and preparing a meal of honeydew achieved such pathos. His tender description of this snack seems to be the only thing holding together as he speaks of a relationship gone wrong. He tries to play it cool, but this daily ritual of drinking tea along is the only thing tethering him to earth while his emotions are run into the dirt. I had never heard this song until five years ago when I had the pleasure of seeing him live. It left me dumbstruck and found it to be the most moving tale of a man who hugs his humble comforts and sense of humor in times of trouble.
4. Terry Allen-“Cortez Sail” from Juarez
Someday I will pay tribute to this lonesome country concept album. This is not the time for such things. However, “Cortez Sail” is awash in folklore and apocalyptic tales of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. There is something chilling about his portrayal of Cortez as he prepared to attack and something hopeless about the depiction of the Aztecs watching the conquistadors sail onto their shores. It then jumps to a narrative concerning the album’s protagonist as he attempts to escape his own inescapable fate. The song reminds me that certain outcomes simply cannot be avoided no matter how hard we wish otherwise.
5. Neil Young-“Comes a Time” from Comes a Time LP
This ong reminds me of chances missed and those that were taken. The intrsumentation is simple, but perfect as fiddle and a string section duke it out while Neil Yound tackles a moment where life could go horribly wrong or end in happiness. Depending on your mood, you can choose your own adventure with this song.
6. Sunny Day Real Estate-“Every Shining Time you Arrive’ from How Does it Feel to be Something On
Don’t laugh. I always loved this album because it is so troubled and in search of meaning in the world. Many of the lyrics seem so naive and innocent in the face of a world that is quickly becoming claustrophobic. This one sticks with me the most because it mirrors the moment I bought it. I had just broken up with a live-in girlfriend and bought every depressing album that my grubby mitts would hold. I immediately bonded with this song because it dealt with a relationship that nudged a boulder up a hill only to have it roll backwards at the last moment.
7. Steve Young-“That’s How Strong My Love Is” from Rock Salt and Nails
Sometimes it’s just as simple as a perfect country rendering of a soul classic. No explanation is needed.
8. Stephen Stills-Change Partners
He uses a debutante ball as a metaphor for the restless nature of relationships. Love is temporary because eventually someone taps you on the shoulder and your love is dancing with another in front of your eyes. His reassurances that this is natural provide little comfort.
9. Songs Ohia-“Back on Top” from The Lioness
Suppressed violence and testosterone lurk beneath the surface of this one. It deals with a man tortured by the glimmers of hope he sees in his lover’s eyes and the mere sight of her body. He cannot have what he once had, so he keeps reiterating that he will show her when he is back on top again. It is a battle for superiority in a relationship where both parties view love as a competition instead of a collaboration. There is something about that concept that bums me out.
10. Sibylle Baier-“Tonight” from Colour Green
Not much to this but a woman coming home from work to sit with her lover as they gaze at the moon, but there is something spooky and melancholy about her delivery. It reminds me of lying on a roof and gazing at the heavens because it seems like there is nothing more fruitful than simple observations next to the one you love.
11. Scud Mountain Boys-“Scratch Ticket” from Massachusetts
Instead of wasting money in juke joints and barrooms galore, this character wastes his money in a far less hedonistic fashion. The Scud Mountain Boys recast the country weeper and replace whiskey with the scratch ticket as the bane of the working man or woman. Bleary eyed drunks are replaced with desperate souls with quarters instead of shot glasses.
12. Richard Thompson-“Beat the Retreat” from Small Town Romance
Masochism at its finest. It is a song about a man who destroys all he treasures just so he may retreat home to the one he supposedly loves. On one hand, it is a testament to the love of a woman who will harbor her troubled husband no matter what, but it is also about a man who creates a tempest as an excuse to feel needed. From reading about Richard Thompson’s life, I’d bet the house on the latter.
13. Richard and Linda Thompson-“Calvary Cross” from I want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Well, let’s see where this give and take began. I see this song as a bit of a parable for Richard and Linda Thompson’s troubled relationship. This song touches on some of the same themes as “Beat the Retreat” as Richard Thompson again deals with a similar situation where one wrongs the other, but Christian principles are expected from the offended party. There is one line in the song which sums up this fucked affair. He states that “I’ll hurt you til’ you need me” and talks of someone who remians at the station, but refuses to board the train. He almost seems proud of the mistreatment and confuses need with love.
14. Phil Ochs-“I’ve Had Her” from Pleasures in the Harbor
I almost hope this song is ironic. “I’ve Had Her” alternates between one man’s romantic perspective of a certain lady, but switches to that of another man who coldly proclaims that “i’ve had her, she’s nothing.” I cannot figure out if it is a condemnation of misogyny or a narrative of love gone horribly wrong.There is something cruel about this song that sticks in my craw. It is orchestrated as a dreamy melody, but the sentiments are so ugly.
15. Antony and the Johnsons-“hope There’s Someone” from I am a Bird Now
This song unsettles me as it forces you to deal with your last moments and who you would choose as your last visitor. It is a plea for relief and comfort in your dying hours. I first heard it while walking to work and it made me teary-eyed as thoughts of mortality intruded upon my every thought. Not a great way to start the school day, but a necessary evil as the years march onward.
16. The Mountain Goats-“Sahdow Song” from The Coroner’s Gambit
This one reminds me of a time when a relationship cracked, but hope remained that crazy glue and good intentions would reinforce mere shards. It is a song where hope attempts to outdistance the reality of love’s slow demise. Part of me admires its optimism, part of me gets depressed by the reality of the situation.
17. George Jones-“She Thinks I Still Care” from The Spirit of Country Compilation
Where do I begin with George Jones? All of his music has been a destructive buddy in my hours of drink. However, this one is timeless and captures the essence of his masochistic tendencies. There’s plenty of sadism in his love as well, but George does more sulking and sipping than focusing on revenge. However, there is a cruel tinge to his mourning.
18. John Martyn-“Go Easy” from Bless the Weather
I remember the day I bought this album and put it on the stereo. Rarely has an album begun in such a vulnerable position. John Martyn is a fucking wreck. His bouts with addiction and ruined relationships have left him a mere eggshell to cover his heart. The song is a plea for all involved parties to take it easy for a bit because his heart simply cannot take much more. The chorus begs for life to go easy on him, but the optimist in him still hopes love won’t pass him by. Another talented masochist whose losses created great music, John Martyn takes 70s folk to some really painful places.
19. Bauhaus-“All We Wanted Was Everything” from The Sky’s Gone Out
During my teenage years, I sent a package to my girlfriend and wrote the chorus of this song on the envelope. It read “all we wanted was everything, all we got was cold.” The postal service worker stopped me to remark on how she thought the phrase was a witty one. I claimed ownership of this Peter Murphy chestnut, smiled and walked on my merry way. I felt shame afterwards and it saved me from quoting Nitzer Ebb and KMFDM on future letters.
20. The Ink Spots-“I’ll Never Smile Again” from Original Decca Recordings
Every Ink Spots’ song sort of sounds the same, but this one suits this collection best. Lonesome harmonies, pledges of sadness, old-timey innocence and a belief that heartbreak is terminal make this song one where you hang on every sullen word. There is no irony or wit, but a wholehearted belief that this love was the last to be ever experienced. Plus, the baritione breaks down love in such a simple fashion that i cannot believe I was such a conniving clod.