Summer is synonymous with happy days. Everyone has more energy in warm weather, rooftop bars and patios reopen, and the sound of the ice cream truck jingles through open windows. For the sadgirls and sadboys of the world, myself included, summer is also the perfect time to put on your best headphones and spend the day with a playlist that makes you deeply and broodingly sad. It was difficult to sort through the archives of moody artists to compile this list, both because of the sheer volume of heartrending sadgirl anthems and because I had to stop writing to stare wistfully out the window several times during the selection process. Below is a playlist of the top ten songs -- both new and old -- that will break your heart repeatedly. (Best enjoyed while browsing your favorite independent bookstore or gazing into the distance on the roof of your apartment building.)
1. "If We Were Vampires" - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Of course, this playlist starts off with an acoustic track in which two lovers lament that one of them will inevitably die before the other. Former Drive By Truckers frontman Jason Isbell joins the Alabama-based 400 Unit on this track, a single from the group's upcoming third album, The Nashville Sound.
beautifully with Amanda Shires of the 400 Unit to temper the dark reality of every relationship with a touch of humor singing, "If we were vampires and death was a joke/we'd go out on the pavement and smoke." Death and
moody smoking? This is a sadgirl standby. Watch out for the scheduled release of The Nashville Sound
on June 16.
2. "Song for Zula" - Phosphorescent
The first few seconds of the string chorus that opens "Song For Zula" lets you know that this song is going to leave you with that facial expression that encourages friends and co-workers to ask 'What's wrong?' Matthew Houck's voice cracks emotionally over lyrics that describe his experience with love, which he characterizes as a beast intent upon destroying him. I don't know who Zula is, and after listening to this song, I would bet that Houck wishes he didn't either.
3. "Liability" - Lorde
"Liability" has none of the bounce and synth-y pop feel of "Royals," "Tennis Court," or other popular tracks from Lorde's debut album Pure Heroine
. The second single from upcoming album Melodrama
is mainly Lorde's raspy voice accompanied by simple piano chords throughout, and the track's honest songwriting is all the more powerful as a result. Lorde's anger is palpable on the chorus's climax and her promise that "You're all gonna watch me disappear into the sun"
is a mantra for anyone who's intensity can be off-putting at times or for the misunderstood in general.
4. "Enter, Rejoice, and Come In" - Slothrust
Every sad playlist needs a little bit of angst, and Slothrust is the perfect source. Honestly, so much of this band's work should be included in this list, but "Enter, Rejoice, and Come In" is a bit of a deeper cut that definitely deserves to be featured. This is one of the group's heavier songs with Leah Wellbaum's rough, emotionless vocals building to a full out throat-rattling wail before giving way to a simple and suspenseful guitar line. Only to come crashing back down in full force at the song's conclusion of course.
5. "Boots of Spanish Leather" - Bob Dylan
Like so much of Dylan's work, "Boots of Spanish Leather" is a more like a long, lyrical poem than a song. This acoustic number from The Times They Are A-Changin'
relates the downfall of a long distance relationship as one half of a pair sails away, offering to send their love a token from a far off country. The song's structure is pure, simple folk, which is Dylan's best look. I'm not going to ruin it with a quote, but if this song's last verse doesn't make your eyes water I don't trust you.
6. "Adeline" - alt-J
If you have the rare and enviable ability to decipher alt-J lyrics by ear, you will find that this song isn't lyrically sad. According to a Tweet from alt-J, it is about a Tasmanian devil falling in love with a swimming woman, which is odd but not heartbreaking by a long shot. "Adeline" has an overall sense of melancholia about it, however, and the way it builds and expands to fill all available space transmits a dreamy, thoughtful mood. I listened to this song on the D train at four in the morning while my friend took a nap, and I felt alone in the best possible way.
7. "Empty" - Ray LaMontagne
This is the song to listen to while you wander dejectedly down a deserted city street or stare out over a body of water, perhaps vacantly holding a lit cigarette that you have completely forgotten about in the midst of your thoughts. Seriously, this song is gorgeous and exemplifies the best of Ray LaMontagne's intricate songwriting. With the help of sliding guitar riffs, LaMontagne's breathy folk vocals evoke a world of hopelessness as he wonders, "Will I always feel this way? So empty, so estranged."
8. "BRB/Kiss" - LANY
Once, while walking in the West Village I came upon a poster on a building bearing the sadgirl sentiment "I kinda just wanna listen to LANY." I stole the poster, began listening to LANY out of curiosity, and found that the poster made complete sense. LANY is the kind of band you listen to while laying on your couch after making an excuse to avoid plans that frankly just sounded exhausting. Including this track in the playlist is kind of cheating because it's technically two sad songs in one. Between "BRB," in which LANY casually announce plans to cry themselves to sleep, and "Kiss" which takes a 'you'll-be-sorry' approach to a breakup, this double-feature track perfectly embodies the emotions of spurned love.
9. "Brooklyn Baby" - Lana del Rey
This wouldn't be a sadgirl playlist without a Lana del Rey song. The pop sensation is credited with popularizing a dreamy, brooding aesthetic among millennials, but which Lana del Rey song is the saddest? My first impulse was to go with "Video Games" because of its personal connection to my high school love life (or lack thereof). In the end, I decided to let the spring dance from junior year go and went with this ironic track from Lana's 2014 album Ultraviolence
. Lana's persona in this song is a jaded woman thriving in the competitively hip culture of Brooklyn. The absurd markers "Brooklyn Baby" mentions as evidence of stereotypical "coolness" plus Lana's always-haunting voice make conformity to the infamously cynical hipster subculture seem empty and pointless even while Lana seems to consider her status an achievement.
10. "Draw Your Swords" - Angus and Julia Stone
This is the song to throw on the cue if you really want to disrupt the mood of any gathering. Even the title hints at a last resort. If life was a sad romance movie, the minimalist instrumentals of this track, featuring acoustic guitar and piano, would play during the end credits. Julia Stone sighs continually on backup vocals while her brother, Angus, scratchily shouts, "Come on love, draw your sword. Shoot me to the ground." Angus and Julia Stone consistently produce beautifully sad music, but they outdo themselves with "Draw Your Swords."