Fortunately for us, there is an apparent multiplicity to life that frames the human condition. Unfortunately for us: it has a whole lot of relentless sorrow, and melancholy. There are times when things just don’t work out the way you’d hoped and it manages to tint everything in life. But it’s okay to rest in it for a little bit—to let sadness in for a little bit. There’s quite a lot of music to accompany you through as you dull your sorrows with frequent use. Here are some of my favorite albums that should help keep you company in that time:
The Antlers – Hospice (2009): This may be perhaps the saddest album on this list.
A concept album revolving around the tumultuous relationship between a hospice worker and a terminally ill bone cancer patient, spanning the stages of her descent into death. There’s something so unbecomingly raw about viewing a death over an album: it’s exactly like dissecting a past relationship. It’s filled with rage, and tantrums, and bargaining, and it blunts into disappearance. It captures all the mania and the self-loathing behind the end of a relationship.
“In that hospital bed, being buried quite alive now / I’m trying to dig you out but all you want is to be buried there together”
2) Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak (2008): This—to me—is the most important album in my discovering of rap music. Not because of the oft quoted ‘bare minimalism’ of the album, or even the tragedies that bled on the album. No, it’s because of the relentless themes of artistic unrest behind it. It’s a peek into the humane in the rampant narcissism that crests and falls throughout the fallout of life. It’s unflinchingly bleak and unflinchingly unapologetic. But ultimately I think it’s a relatable concept of the triumph of the soul—even in the darkest of times.
“There is no clothes that I could buy / That could turn, back in time / There is no vacation spot I could fly / That could bring back a piece of real life”
3) Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon (2015): Surrounding the album are themes of unfamiliarity, and heartbreak. Sometimes how both are intertwined and refuse to come apart until there’s a different context to life. Well, that’s what Goon embodies. In all it’s croons and creaks there’s a space between the artist and the listener, and an innocence and naiveté to the lyrics. We all need that in life, though, the wondrous innocence of a child—or even just the ignorance could suffice.
“I would say anything to you / But you would have a light to my deep dark insides / I would build us a home for two / And, if we needed more, then there’s more time”
4) Heems – Eat Pray Thug (2015): This album speaks to me a lot about the racial and personal turmoil in post 9/11 America. It provides a uniquely Indian experience to the event. It brings to mind an oft-quoted poem “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” and although it seemed then that this was the kind of arrest to humanity to ensue. It wasn’t—I think. It was the indomitability of the human spirit against such a backdrop that ensued. And that’s why this album ‘works’, it’s not purely an issue for brown people. The thematic content represented is eternal: a struggle of spirit against adversity.
“Those giant metal birds in the sky brought my parents near and made things confusing / And then crashed into those buildings and made things confusing”
5) Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass (2015): It’s hard in life to succeed when your significant other believes in the inevitability of your lack of success. It’s belief Natalie Prass really needed when she completed this album, but all she got was an immediately slipping connection to another human. A toxicity that keeps bleeding into everything she accomplished, but refuses to leave her.
“Your sight, it will not tire / Until you have me / And I love you, oh but no / Oh, you will not let me go”