Music for the depressed

A couple new ideas emerged from writing my last post, the first of which came from my commentary on George Orwell's third motivation for writing. In it I skirt the edges of existentialism, but held back so I wouldn't detract from the topic at hand. But I wouldn't mind going full existentialist mode some time in the future, addressing the heavy subjects, the big questions about life, love, religion, death, time, space, and so on. I'm pretty easily swayed by philosophy, but could never really get into the big name philosophical authors, as eventually I discovered they were all generally pretty terrible writers. Most of my knowledge about philosophy comes second or third-hand, from more accessible authors, but personally I want to avoid name-dropping as much as possible and just focus squarely on heavy concepts.

The second idea came from the opening paragraph, where I talked about some music I listened to while depressed. I thought this would make a good idea for a post (or even a series as there is a lot of music out there). In the second paragraph I talked about music I listened to while happy, which could itself make an interesting post as well, but for now: let's get on down to Frown Town, and listen to the sounds abound in our down-time! However, before we get on to the music, I'd like to take the time to ask: just what is depression?

The answer is simple: depression is a survival mechanism, naturally developed through millions of years of evolution, so that you can be here now, reading this blog. It's the result of chemicals in your blood, your mind interpreting signals, the sway of the moment. "But why is something so awful so necessary to live?" you may ask, but then maybe you should ask yourself: How do we know what to avoid, if it didn't make us feel so awful? And what is joy without sadness?

What is the cure? All moods will come and go, like rain or sunshine, it's beyond our control. Granted, some people experience depression worse than others, mostly due to a vicious cycle of despair, brought upon by bad parenting, peer pressure or even initiated by one's self (the worse you can do is try and control your moods). You may not have any control over your mood, but you have control over your actions, and the only way to get through depression is to ride it out, like a storm blowing over. It's during this period, however, there is no better time than ever to listen to some sweet, depressing music. And here are some suggestions I have already prepared, just to start you off...

In my last post I mentioned Type O Negative, and three songs from their World Coming Down album. World Coming Down is an acquired taste, if you like fuzzy guitars and a certain low-fi quality, not to mention the slow-paced rhythm of a drum-machine. It's not for everyone, but occasionally I still find myself singing the chorus to the title track:

And I know, I know, I know that my world is coming down, coming down, coming down.
Yes I know, I know, I know that I'm the one who brought it down, brought it down, bring it on down!

Too true, too true. But for a more accessible sound, I would recommend their album October Rust, which has been like my best friend at the worst of times. It has a much softer, fuller sound, like a warm embrace to melt away the icy pangs of loneliness. That is, until the album is finished, and you haste to play it again, or something else, before the cold sets back in. Their last album, Dead Again, also has one particular song I highly recommend giving a listen (depressed or otherwise), called "September Sun".

Another band I mentioned was Khanate, whom I would not recommend listening to while depressed, as they they are a little bit too depressing. All of their songs play like a suicide letter, and only serve to make you feel worse about yourself. Their music is also very much an acquired taste. I only listen to them because I'm rather esoteric and I'm totally into that kind of stuff, but here on I'll stray from the heavier bands and keep my suggestions to the more calmer sounds of melancholy.

A band I've recently grown into is a wonderful bunch from Liverpool, England, called Anathema. They started out making a kind of gritty doom metal, then gradually changed their sound to something more cleaner and atmospheric, retaining their doom-ish qualities. The one album I've listened to time and time over and over again, and willingly go back to in my drearier moments, is A Natural Disaster. It was the track "Closer" which initially caught my attention, where the vocals are filtered to sound somewhat mechanical, and repeats the following lyric:

The dream world is a very scary place...when you're trapped inside.

Ain't it so, Anathema, ain't it so. And after the build up to the big crescendo of "Violence", and the final calm that follows, perhaps the mood is right for the more haunting atmosphere of Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter.

My Introduction to Jesse Sykes was from the collaboration album, Altar, by SunnO))) and Boris. Jesse Sykes' voice was featured on the song "The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)", singing in her trademark husky voice, blending with the smooth, tingling overtones within melodies within melodies. Members of The Sweet Hereafter (which sounds like a nice name at first until you realise they are referring to being dead) also contributed greatly to the album. Altar, once again, is an acquired taste, but I recommend seeking out "The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)" as it is generally a lovely song, and is what made me seek out Jesse Sykes and her own music.

In my search I found her latest album at the time: Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul. Kind of a mouthful of a title, but musically a perfect spoonful of sugar to one's ailment of discontent. Jesse Sykes sounds like she's blowing smoke into your face with every breath, not with the foul stench of a cigarette, but rather like the haze of a daydream. The way she pronounces "s" like "sh", and her whispery voice only compliments the sweet melodic guitars and the haunting background ambience.

The last I have to offer is Life For Rent by Dido. This album didn't have as much impact as her debut, No Angel, which remains to this day one of the most beautiful albums I've ever heard. Life For Rent, on the other hand, is a rewarding experience after a few listens, and I can't help but conclude that Dido is a sad little lady. Even with her most intimate songs, like "Mary's in India" or "See You When You're 40", she addresses broader themes, like the insignificance of us all here on Earth compared to the vastness of the universe. It's a horrible thing to feel so worthless, but when listening to this album, you realise just how worthless everything is, and everyone, and you can feel content that we're all worthless together. At least I do anyway, or is that just me?


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