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I thought that an interesting avenue of exploration for the Tear Blog might be if I made a compilation of the kind of songs that make me feel sad.

Hopefully some passing commenter can point me in the direction of similar songs that might unlock my inchoate tear glands.

The Mega-mix is available as a Spotify playlist here:

The Tear Blog – Melancholy Megamix

I tried not to go for any obvious ballads, because that would probably end up being a bit much. I thought I’d pick a selection of songs that capture a range of different kinds of sadness.

A major caveat is that Joanna Newsom’s songs aren’t on Spotify. Her best songs are intensely sad, but maybe it’s for the best that she wasn’t part of this mega-mix because her songs are usually quite long and would probably weigh the whole experience down a bit too much; and that’s not what a mega-mix should be about!

It was for the same reason that I left off quite a few, really titanic, melancholy songs like “Hope There’s Someone” by Anthony and the Johnsons or “Blame Game” by Kanye West, because they are just too imposing. I tried to go for a selection of less showy songs that hopefully work well together.

As a word of caution, a lot of my opinions are just based off the songs themselves, so in quite a few cases I have probably completely misconstrued what they were even supposed to be about.

ONTO THE MEGA-MIX:

The Tear Blog – Melancholy Mega-mix Tracklist

1. Colour Me In – Broadcast
2. Tonight – The Avalanches
3. Enchanting Ghost – Sufjan Stevens
4. No One Asked Me to Dance – Deerhoof
5.  Mathew 25:21 – The Mountain Goats
6. Replica – Onehotrix Point Never
7. This Night Has Opened My Eyes – The Smiths
8. Surf’s Up (solo version) – The Beach Boys
9. We Were Wasted – The Leisure Society
10. Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying – Colin Stetson & Shara Worden
11. This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush
12. Prospector’s Quartet – Jonny Greenwood

Running time: 43 minutes

MELANCHOLY COMMENTARY:

1. Colour Me In – Broadcast

Thought I would start with a song that, when it was first written, wasn’t that sad but has since gained an unbearable amount of poignance. I only got into this group after lead singer Trish Keenan’s death, due to pneumonia, last year. The song sees Keenan singing to a potential lover, who hasn’t responded to her advances yet, but she is not put off, telling them that “it’s never too late, to colour me in.” It is too late now as she is dead. Unrequited love makes me very sad indeed. I used to get deeply upset at the squirrel scene in The Sword in the Stone, aged 6.

2. Tonight – The Avalanches

Almost all of The Avalanches songs on Since I Left You songs are unabashed concentrated joy, so it is particularly jarring when this song turns up suddenly. The reassembled sound collage approach of the rest of the album is used to opposite ends on this song. The murky salvaged piano melody coupled with the torch-bearing sentiment of the vocals produces a sad, nostaligic feel. It seems to be about one night of happiness simultaneously shot through with sadness because you don’t know whether you will even see the people/person again.

3. Enchanting Ghost – Sufjan Stevens

I am a big fan of Sufjan Stevens’ more arch songs, but for all the conceptual weight and effort he puts into his music, he would be as successful (probably even moreso financially speaking) if he just kept doing the kind of powerful stripped down ballads that he (seems almost ashamed) he can do in his sleep. This song is about being haunted by the memory of someone you continue to love despite their absence.

4. No One Asked Me to Dance – Deerhoof

Despite being one of my favourite bands, Deerhoof nevertheless have very few songs that have any kind of identifiable sentiment to any rational person, unless your children have ever been kidnapped by a man who lives in the clouds (a subject they dedicated an entire album to). No One Asked Me to Dance might be their most direct and simple song ever, a classy Spanish guitar riff, and lyrics about watching people on the dancefloor but not taking part.

5. Mathew 25:21 – The Mountain Goats

Taken from their album based around verses from the bible: The Life of the World to Come, this is Christian music with a rare dignity. If you have indulged me enough to read (and listen) this far, I suggest dedicating your attention to the narrative of this song, because it loses all it’s power otherwise. The song is an autobiographical account of John Darnielle travelling to visit his mother-in-law, who is dying in the hospital. I find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t be moved by his delivery of the line: “And you were a presence full of light upon this earth / and I am a witness to your life and to its worth.” It’s weird to hear someone have something pleasant to say about their mother-in-law, have we finally escaped the Bernard Manning paradigm?

6. Replica – Onehotrix Point Never

After a song as heavy as the previous, I thought I would leave a bit of breathing space with an instrumental. Like the Avalanches’ Tonight, this song is made from various bits of salvaged audio, most prominently a melancholic piano tune. In this song’s case, the audio was sourced predominantly from trashy old adverts that were then subsequently manipulated into something far more unusual. The song/album’s conceptual underpinning is how future generations, or even otherworldly beings might, one day, piece together various disposable fragments of our present day culture but approximate it completely incorrectly. It is a simultaneously depressing and funny concept I think.

7. This Night Has Opened My Eyes – The Smiths

Despite liking The Smiths and Morrissey, I had somehow not encountered this song before last week. Shame on me, because it might now be one of my favourites of theirs. An account of a young girl feeling emotionally blank, neither happy or sad, after secretly giving away a child born out of wedlock. The guitar riff sounds strangely disco.

8. Surf’s Up (solo version) – The Beach Boys

Despite the generally upbeat and chipper nature of their music, the Beach Boys’ story is one that is filled with sadness. Parental abuse, substance abuse, debilitating mental illness and, in the case of Dennis Wilson: drowning in the ocean. This song is taken from an album with one of the most monumentally depressing covers ever:

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It’s not a song I feel like I fully understand, but it is a song I find moving regardless.

Surf’s Up paints a picture of the american aristocracy at a music hall show on New Year’s Eve, before suddenly transitioning into an impressionistic passage about everything being washed away by a tidal wave, letting a new generation begin from scratch. There is something inherently sad about the band who gave surfing such a mythical, good-time vibe inverting that image and using it as an analogy for something destructive, albeit cleansing. The solo piano version from the Smile Sessions boxset is a particularly sad rendition of the song.

9. We Were Wasted – The Leisure Society

This immaculate song is now inextricably linked with the ending of Paddy Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur, which I liked but perhaps laid on the misery a bit too thick. Taken on its own terms, the song turns a wild night of drinking into an analogy for having wasted your life.

10. Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying – Colin Stetson & Shara Worden

A nightmarish reinvention of a Blues standard. Stripped of almost all musical accompaniment other than one rumbling unconsummated saxophone note, coupled with an uncomfortably raw vocal. This is a harsh song, thankfully its atmosphere and emotion stop it simply being an endurance test.

11. This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

First heard this, aged 7, on some kind of feminist compilation CD my mam used to listen to whilst tidying up (called New Woman vol. II or something like that). It is one of my favourite Kate Bush songs, it’s open-ended sentiment means it could be about any number of things, the only thing that is certain is that it is one of the saddest songs ever written.

12. Prospector’s Quartet – Jonny Greenwood

Getting your head around the There Will Be Blood soundtrack means that you get to enjoy repeat viewings of the film, almost, as a musical. This piece of music plays during the montage that establishes the context for the indelible finale. I don’t think there will be a time I can hear this piece of music without getting chills up my spine.

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…and that’s the Melancholy Mega-Mix! Hope you don’t want to kill yourself!

If you can hint me in the direction of any powerful songs you reckon I might like, just pop me a message.

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