There are nights where the summer heat is insufferable, and the future or present wavers, utterly miserable. Hearts are broken in pieces on an unclean floor, eyes are soaked with tears desperate not to fall, where the only solace may be in the already half empty bottle of whiskey on the table, and never in your life have you felt so, so lost, so alone, so painfully and bitterly alone. Nights where journals run out of pages faster than you'd believe, and paint splatters on canvas with a reckless despair you have become immune to. Those nights, they are not meant to be saved by bright shining false optimism, but cherished for their pain, their beauty. And there are songs that were written just for those moments, until the hour of the night or early morning no longer matter, and instead it becomes a battle with yourself, a struggle with a soundtrack, brittle and tender and quiet and broken-hearted that might eventually deliver you. Here are our favorite five songs to shed tears to, on those painful nights with a bottle as our sole companion.
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The Magnetic Fields- "Too Drunk to Dream"
This is an anthem for those of us drowning our fears, desires, desperation. It is an anthem for the abandoned, the outcast, and the broken. The fuzzy twisted catchy cheerful melody of the song speaks nothing about its subject, where Stephen Merritt delivers the only solution to a lover who won't leave your head. "I gotta get too fried to cry or I'll be crying all night long, I gotta get too high to sigh oh my god where did I go wrong." Because, it's you, you heartless bastard, you're my one and only. The unfeigned need to be swallowed in something that allows you to forget, the pressures and squeaks in the song wraps like the world when there is no way out except this, and this is wallowing, self hatred, denial glossed over by substances that break the mind into pieces. And then only then can we pretend there might be any sort of escape.
Bon Iver- "Skinny Love"
There is immeasurable beauty and sadness in the sparse, weighted acoustics and in Justin Vernon's voice. Strung out and bleeding, broken and desperate, "Skinny Love" proceeds with an inevitable doom that lingers on the tip of every line, every striking deliverance of this beg for the wasted love that trembles within the confines of the song itself. It's a melody so perfectly chopped into these swings of rises and falls, and a voice that captures every writhing, fluttering emotion with a painful honesty.
Elliott Smith- "Between the Bars"
There is no other songsmith that carries the despairing, broken heart in the way that Elliott Smith can. On the deliberate notes of "Between the Bars," the lines are so poignant in their delivery, with Smith's voice acting as a sweet reassurance, "drink up baby, and I'll make you okay." It's simultaneously impossible to believe him and impossible not to. There is this complete destruction swirling in the precious melancholy melody, the impossibly perfect and heartbreaking lines that take you to a dimension of dried rose petals and raindrops against windows, empty solitary glasses and crumbled bedsheets touched by one less indent of a body.
Camera Obscura- "Books Written for Girls"
Tracyanne Campbell's voice is naturally tinged with sadness, even in Camera Obscura's happier pop songs. But it is here on "Written For Girls" that her voice carries the full. The full broken weight of the sadness in a voice so sweet and a slow, the deliberate melody, a piano and guitar, all play in a shy waltz. "Books" is the words of a boy who is not what he promised to be, sentimentality soaked into the spaces between each line, naivety and resignation shattered in a dreamy haze. He'll disappoint you if you see through his perfect smile. Disappointment, bitter and soft touches every trembling second of the song, and its precious, delicate beauty.
Sunset Rubdown- "Us Ones in Between"
It should be late now. So late that it is morning. You should be watching the light filtering from the window, the empty glasses and knocked over bottles on the table. The debris a testament to the night, stories, and disappointments of the previous evening. But you are sitting and watching and it is getting light out. And there is this song, in its grand verses, the bells and whistles, its painting of a world, a creature, like you, like me, pondering all of it, the sadness, the loss, the sense of complete loss of hope. Questioning and weighing, stretching toward something, that you can't quite name as the birds outside begin their songs, and questions like never before fill your head, and then this, this end, this rush, this glorious last verse, this surge of hope and beauty and majesty, the sun that fills to the brim, you are a wrecking ball before the building fell, and you accept it. You accept it like the tragedy, the mistakes, you accept it in its chiming glorious end. And for the first time, maybe it is not all so bad. And it is a new day. And headaches and messes to clean up, sure. But there is also this. This hope, this precious, infinite hope and a world that is all, all yours, if you only let yourself see it.