Make Me a Melancholy Mixtape
March 21, 2011 7:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm tired. I'm cranky. I want to dance.

There's an AskMe post welling up in me about my whole life situation and how utterly hopeless it is, but I realize the impossibility of drawing words from the bottom of my weltschmerz and that even if it's not enough (and right now, I feel it's not enough), I'm doing everything I can to improve my life.

Sleep and music are the only realistic consolation prizes at the moment, and I'm currently quarreling with dreams, so:

I want music to wallow in. Songs soaked in loneliness and bitterness, with maybe a glimmer of hope shining somewhere in the muck.

I don't care about genre. I don't care to list a bunch of songs or artists expecting similar recommendations. Let's start with a completely blank slate--give me music draped in despair; symphonies of sorrow; anguished howling in the middle of the night et cetera.

Show me the saddest music in the world.
posted by byanyothername to Media & Arts (70 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
Billie Holiday's version of "Gloomy Sunday."
posted by pmdboi at 7:40 PM on March 21, 2011

My partner finds OK Computer by Radiohead sends him into a similar state of despair so perhaps it could also be a good accompaniment?
posted by soymilk at 7:42 PM on March 21, 2011

A few Violent Femmes tunes that come to mind are Confessions and To the Kill.
posted by davey_darling at 7:44 PM on March 21, 2011

Lots of things by the Mountain Goats might fit what you want.
posted by jellywerker at 7:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pink Floyd -- The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon. I was an angsty teen and I spent a lot of time curled up in a ball listening to these. And OK Computer -- soymilk's right on about that.
posted by imalaowai at 7:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Recently discovered My Brightest Diamond's "To Pluto's Moon" (available for listening on their site) and, kind of relatedly, Sarah Kirkland Snider's Penelope, based on the Odyssey, which includes "The Lotus Eaters."
posted by mlle valentine at 7:48 PM on March 21, 2011

Best answer: A few that come to mind before going to bed...
Samuel Barber - Adagio For Strings
The Microphones - The Moon
Julie Doiron - The Longest Winter
David Gray - If Your Love is Real
Arvo Pärt - Fratres
A Silver Mt. Zion (quite a few songs)
posted by ddaavviidd at 7:48 PM on March 21, 2011

You could do worse than putting some Elliott Smith on.

It Ain't Easy Being Green

I get along without you very well...

TMG is a good suggestion, I'd recommend This Year in particular for something that's really heartbreaking and woesome but lined with hope.

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

I took a few of these links from this article, it's in six parts so maybe there's some more for you in there.
posted by carsonb at 7:51 PM on March 21, 2011

Jeff Buckley's album Grace should do the trick... esp. Hallelujah.
posted by Term of Art at 7:52 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tool, Lateralus
Neil Young
posted by cerebral at 7:52 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I got my copy of Peter Gabriel's "Scratch My Back" I started listening to it at work, and I had to stop halfway through when I realized that I had been staring off into space for how knows how long as every bit of worry, stress, and despair came to the surface. By this I mean to say that it's a very good album. (Radiohead pulled out of the second phase of the project because his cover of them was too damn depressing)
posted by mkb at 7:52 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also, Ryan Adams Love is Hell
posted by Term of Art at 7:53 PM on March 21, 2011

Sonora's Death Row by Leo Kottke.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:54 PM on March 21, 2011

If romantic loss is part of the angst, here's something by Peter Gabriel.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 PM on March 21, 2011

Beth Nielsen Chapman - Sand and Water (that's a live recording, not great quality.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:57 PM on March 21, 2011

Best answer: I want music to wallow in. Songs soaked in loneliness and bitterness, with maybe a glimmer of hope shining somewhere in the muck.

You need some The The.

Get Dusk and Infected, and when you're ready for a glimmer of hope, get Soul Mining
posted by pompomtom at 7:57 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Hey You, Get Off My Moon - Velocity Girl
Maybe I Can Change - Keene
It's Over - Dubstar
Week In, Week Out - Dubstar
Cup of Coffee - Garbage
Medication - Garbage (lots more from Garbage, too, but these spring to mind)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:59 PM on March 21, 2011

Best answer: I must also include "Song for a Dead Friend", by Kevin Gilbert. He wrote it in mourning for his friend who committed suicide; the song is made all the sadder by the fact that Gilbert himself died not long after this song was recorded. It's possibly the heaviest song I've ever heard.

Also, in less somber tones but equally gloomy in outlook is his song "All Fall Down".
posted by holterbarbour at 8:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like Maximilian Hecker for this. (Don't watch the video; it's not related.)

Also, "No Human Can Drown" from Clan of Xymox always gets me, if you can get past the '80s production.

Switching styles again, here's Timesbold with "Sewn in Seems."

This one from Grandaddy gets sad after the lo-fi electronic intro: "So You'll Aim Towards the Sky."

And here's the Great Lake Swimmers, "This Is Not Like Home."

I guess I'll have a melancholy night too.
posted by xo at 8:12 PM on March 21, 2011

Best answer: Nick Drake: great music -- total downer.
posted by trip and a half at 8:14 PM on March 21, 2011

Pearl Jam - Black
posted by bitdamaged at 8:18 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This thread is wonderful. Gold stars for everyone.

"Song for a Dead Friend", by Kevin Gilbert.

This is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for; the story as much as the song itself. Thank you.

I'm going to cheat at my own thread a little and share some of my favorites.

Moby - When It's Cold I'd Like to Die
Debussy - Le Fille aux Cheveux de Lin
Michael Nyman - Laura's Theme
David Sylvian/Rain Tree Crow - Blackwater
Hayden - I Should Have Been Watching You
Patty Griffin - The Rowing Song
Tenmon - Distant Everyday Memories
Mark Isham - My Wife with Champagne Shoulders
posted by byanyothername at 8:29 PM on March 21, 2011

Response by poster: You need yourself some Waterloo Sunset. Feel better.

This is, honestly, probably my number one pick me up song. I heard it for the first time coming home after one of the most emotionally harrowing weeks of my life, gazing on a sunset worthy of paradise. It was a perfect moment.

Thank you.
posted by byanyothername at 8:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've listened to Morrissey's Bona Drag album about 40 times in the last month because I've felt this way.
posted by oreofuchi at 8:45 PM on March 21, 2011

Peter Gabriel "The Flood"
posted by effluvia at 9:00 PM on March 21, 2011

Holy christ. How has no one mentioned Bright Eyes/Connor Oberst yet?

He pretty much always sounds as if he's on the verge of breaking down into jagged sobbing. Even when singing one of his extremely rare happy songs.

Christ, that video always makes me cry.

Center of the World is - well, you should listen to it.
posted by kavasa at 9:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hold Steady - Slight Discomfort

The Mountain Goats -Get Lonely
all their songs are some combination of 'horribly depressing' and 'hopeful' but this one is pretty damn bleak

The National - Sorrow

Tom Waits - Tom Traubert's Blues

Perry Keyes - Things A Boy Could Do (Australian singer)

Justin Townes Earle covers Sprinsteen's 'Racing In The Street'

REM - Nightswimming
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Joy Division is a good choice for hopelessness, often with an undercurrent of anger: Love Will Tear Us Apart, Disorder. For that faint glimmer of hope, The Smiths are also solid: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, How Soon Is Now; Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.

But if you really want to get deep into the abyss, you might want Xiu Xiu: Sad Pony Guerilla Girl; I Broke Up; Suha; Don Diasco; Apistat Commander... god, almost anything really. Totally fucking bleak.

And, of course, I can't fail to mention Jandek's haunting Nancy Sings, which I discovered here on MeFi (thanks griphus).
posted by en forme de poire at 9:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Augie March - Cold Acre

Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland 1945
you think you've got it bad? try being in love with the ghost of Anne Frank

The Gaslight Anthem - Navesink Banks

Johnny Cash covering The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:16 PM on March 21, 2011

(oops, messed up that last link to the other Ask post!)
posted by en forme de poire at 9:20 PM on March 21, 2011

Joaquin Rodrigo - Concierto de Aranjuez - Second Movement

Paco playing it
posted by stubby phillips at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2011

Sorry. That was a terrible recording. It ended too soon. I won't even try to link to:

Ruggero Leoncavallo - Vesti la giubba (from Pagliacci)
posted by stubby phillips at 9:50 PM on March 21, 2011

Nick Lowe What lack of Love Has Done
Anything by George Jones.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:59 PM on March 21, 2011

Randy Newman - Louisiana 1927 (I blubbered all through Katrina's devastation and I'm crying now. I hope this helps.)
posted by stubby phillips at 10:00 PM on March 21, 2011

You need The Smiths:

I Know It's Over

To name a few...
posted by SisterHavana at 10:12 PM on March 21, 2011

LvB - Sonata 8 - 2nd movement (k. I'm done)
posted by stubby phillips at 10:14 PM on March 21, 2011

Anything Little Jimmy Scott.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 10:49 PM on March 21, 2011

Alejandro Escovedo's album 13 Years is partially about the suicide of his wife of 13 years in my understanding.

Bonnie Prince Billy, "Death to Everyone" --
every terrible thing / is a relief
even months on end / buried in grief
are easy, light times / which have to end
with the coming / of your death friend

posted by salvia at 1:42 AM on March 22, 2011

The saddest Willy Nelson song (a crowded field) is My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys who "...die from the cold in the arms of a nightman, knowin well that [their] best days are gone."
posted by salvia at 2:14 AM on March 22, 2011

Mark Hollis made a beautiful melancholy solo album which highly worth checking out.
posted by charles kaapjes at 3:40 AM on March 22, 2011

nthing Samuel Barber's Adagio, here's 3 more.

Elbow - Crawling With Idiot
Regina Spector - Chemo Limo
Clinic - Mr. Moonlight
posted by bricksNmortar at 4:33 AM on March 22, 2011

Big Star covering VU's Femme Fatale (or really, almost anything off Third/Sister Lovers)
The Wrens - 13 Months in 6 Minutes
The Blue Nile - Easter Parade
Vienna Teng - Pontchartrain (odd fan-made video, but the god...)
nth-ing Elliott Smith, especially my current obsession, Waltz #1.
posted by anthom at 5:43 AM on March 22, 2011

My go-to for despair is PJ Harvey, she who was once described as "a genderfucked miasma of unbridled desire and wasted obsession". Fun stuff!

Rid of Me
To Bring You My Love
Hardly Wait

posted by the cat's pyjamas at 5:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

The song that made me feel the most unmitigated despair, for no reason in particular, the first time I heard it was Gillian Welch's The Revelator.
posted by pineappleheart at 6:19 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Decemberists: crane wife 3

God that song gets me.
posted by bilabial at 6:22 AM on March 22, 2011

Judy Garland, performing Over The Rainbow live at Carnegie Hall in 1961. You can hear the weight of the past 20 years in her voice and it gives the song this eerie, nostalgic sadness that it didn't have in the original. Her voice falters a few times but she still nails it.

Otherwise, for me, nothing says melancholy like some good piano in a minor key.
Amanda Palmer -Have to Drive
Amanda Palmer -Another Year
Ben Folds -Kylie From Connecticut
Lykke Li -Tonight (amazing video).
posted by castlebravo at 8:27 AM on March 22, 2011

Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers is an insane mess of emotion and I find it really cathartic, because it's so strange and jarring that it feels like real feelings. Try Nighttime, for one, but pair it with Thank You Friends for a sense of how strange the album is.
posted by carbide at 8:33 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

No Mercury Rev? Deserter's Songs is my gentle-melancholy go-to: Goddess On A Hiway.

also the second or third Arcade Fire albums: Neon Bible has a general sense of 'oh god the world is fucked', especially Intervention. The Suburbs is more mourning/wistfulness for lost childhood - maybe Suburban War from that one.
posted by corvine at 8:57 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Despair and Hope - a veritable mixtape.

Mineral - Parking Lot
Tori Amos - Winter
Kate Bush - This Woman's Work
Laura Veirs - Where Gravity Is Dead
Rainer Maria - Atropine
Pedro the Lion - Simple Economics
Anne Heaton - Where Your Scar Is
Jets to Brazil - Rocket Boy
Cloud Cult - Living On the Outside of your Skin
Eels - Dead Of Winter
The Verna Cannon - Flies
Elvis Costello - Alibi
Matthew Ryan - Time And Time Only
Owen - Bad News
Jennifer O’Connor - Today
Aimee Mann - This Is How It Goes
Xiu Xiu - I Luv The Valley OH!
Elliott Smith - Some Song
Osker - Disconnect, Disconnect
Bright Eyes - A Song To Pass The Time
posted by (The Rt Hon.) MP at 9:19 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

D'oh - Some Song links to the youtube screencap, not the actual video - click here.
posted by (The Rt Hon.) MP at 9:22 AM on March 22, 2011

Another: the almost unbearably sad Funeral Dress by William Fitzsimmons.
posted by (The Rt Hon.) MP at 9:29 AM on March 22, 2011

Simon and Garfunkel, if not depressing per se, has that kind of melancholy I think you are looking for (I least for me), without being TOO depressing

If you want something more intense, "Dip" by THC (and also "overfire" and "need to destroy") are pretty good (I heard them first on Buffy, if you saw the series you might remember the songs, they were sung by Veruca, the she-werewolf)

other ideas:
-blonde redhead
-the besnard lakes
-bob dylan
-joy division
-Keane (classic...)
-the knife
-the postal service
-she wants revenge

I actually really like all these bands, most of them are some of my favorites. They're not all so depressing you want to kill yourself when you listen to them, but I do have this taste for melancholic music, and I'll think these fit with what you're looking for. Also, they're pretty much all independent bands (and again, really good music imo), so if you're into that (concept, it's not really a style I guess...), you'll like it :)

take care

ps: haha I'm actually in the opposite music is generally too gloomy for my taste now, and I've recently realized I don't know really good uplifting/happy music. you're making me want to post my question as well now :) )
posted by kitsuloukos at 5:29 PM on March 22, 2011

A lot of stuff by Within Temptation would fit, if you can get past their over the top goth/emo aesthetic. The singer, Sharon Den Adel has a gorgeous voice. Try Somewhere, which seems to be about a missing loved one.

A lot of Celtic music is very very sad. Ailein Duinn is in Gaelic but it's still the saddest thing you'll ever hear. Also try Kilkelly, Ireland.

More recently, Impossible by Shontelle is pretty damn sad.

Feel It Now - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
River of Sorrow by Antony and the Johnsons
posted by katyggls at 9:59 PM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: The saddest song in the world is 30k Feet by Assemblage 23.

I'd say you're welcome, but...
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:26 AM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Pretty much all of Tom Waits' excellent album Heartattack and Vine, especially Ruby's Arms. Don't be fooled by the gentle strings at the beginning; it's a heartbreaker.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2011

Trouble in Mind - Nina Simone

And super-duper-ultra-seconding All the Umbrellas in London, it's perfection.
posted by moons in june at 5:04 PM on March 23, 2011

Also New Partner by Palace Music has never failed to make me cry.
posted by moons in june at 5:13 PM on March 23, 2011

Peter Gabriel; My Body is a Cage.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:44 PM on March 25, 2011

Ann Beretta - Long Distance
the entirety of Bon Iver's album "For Emma, Forever Ago". Here's the title track.
Sun Kil Moon's album "Ghosts of the Great Highway" is one of my favorites for wallowing in sadness with a glimmer of hope. Glenn Tipton
posted by namewithoutwords at 3:21 PM on March 26, 2011

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