Thursday, March 24, 2011

30-Day Song Challenge, Day 22 - A Song that you Listen to When you’re Sad

I've tried to avert the climes of sadness a lot lately. The surging and chaotic tumult of life brings scary alien bouts of change; and those surges of unrest alternately hurt, terrify, and exhilarate. But plumbing deep into sadness--looking squarely into it--is a whole lot harder.

That's why when you hear music that truly taps into it, it can almost be too much to listen to.

For some reason, a cloak of sadness has been hanging over me pretty persistently today. Part of the credit's due to some exotic strain of something that's been hanging on far, far too long. And when your body doesn't feel well, the mind makes that same stretch easily. So when I got home from a co-worker's farewell party, I threw on Nick Drake's Pink Moon.

Nick Drake, in case you didn't know, was an English folk singer whose haunting, airy voice and sophisticated acoustic guitar playing wrought a massive influence on a lot of musicians. If you're a fan of the emotionally-naked songwriting of Elliott Smith, you're hearing the doomed spiritual progeny of Nick Drake.

Drake fit the portrait of a doomed spirit himself, passing away at the painfully young age of 26 in 1974. Before dying, he committed three full-length albums to posterity, all of which walk some very dark pathways.

The most harrowing of them, 1972's Pink Moon, is less than thirty minutes long. It presents Drake at his most stripped-down and chilling-to-the-marrow sad. All eleven tracks are deceptively tranquil--just Drake's spectral croon and his densely-plucked guitar--but beneath that lull of a voice is a melancholy of incalculable depth.

The title track was (stupidly) used by Volkswagen for a commercial a few years ago. It's understandable, I suppose. The soothing sonics probably seemed perfect for a bunch of hippie kids parked sentimentally under the stars. Volkswagen (wisely) omitted the full brunt of Drake's lyrics; a tale of the world ending, delivered with narcotic inevitability. If that ain't sad, I don't know what is. 

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