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Songs to be sad with
Active Listening

Active Listening: Songs for sad times

Things are bad. Listen to these songs.

When was the last time the world didn’t feel like it was irredeemably fucked? It’s a tough question to answer, especially given the tumult of the current moment. On Sunday, a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing dozens of people. The President of the United States, whose previous job was reality television star, lashed out at the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a city that, like the entire island of Puerto Rico, has suffered catastrophically as a result of Hurricane Maria. The IRS awarded a $7.5 million contract to the very company that suffered a data breach exposing millions of Americans' personal information to hackers. The list goes on.

As such, there hasn’t been a better time to hunker down and soak in some sad music. Sad songs don’t necessarily have to feel sad, either. The original version of “Mad World” by the British band Tears for Fears, for example, sounded like any other pop song of the era, despite featuring lyrics like “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I ever had.” This week, some melancholy songs that’ll match the mood without sinking you too deep into despair.

Everything Is Recorded, “Mountains of Gold”

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Sampha’s presence on a track is enough to make it a moody dreamscape for which you can sink all of your deepest, darkest feelings. On the track “Mountains of Gold” taken from the the XL Recordings compilation of the same name, Sampha is joined by Wiki and Ibeyi for a melancholic romp about the lingering effects of colonialism. It’s a heady track that invites you to embrace the gloom that surrounds you.

Jorja Smith, "On my Mind"

Jorja Smith makes better breakup songs than any other artist out right now. Her latest, “On My Mind” takes cues from a significantly less melancholy genre, UK garage, courtesy of the British producer Preditah, but she’s as sullen here as ever. Smith pleas to no longer have a crappy guy on her mind. It’s a sentiment that’s easily transposed on current scenarios. “I don’t want to feel you,” Trump, America, Equifax, “I don’t want you on my mind.”

King Krule, "Half Man Half Shark"

King Krule’s husky roar is reminiscent of Tom Waits, a fitting inspiration for the wise-beyond-his-years musician who records under a number of monikers, including his real name, Archy Marshall. The 23-year-old artist has a penchant for wide-ranging observations about life, love and the universe. On “Half Man Half Shark,” the latest single from his upcoming record The OOZ, he muses on the impossibility of connection. “Body and head are empty, even when we’re toe to toe,” he croons. “Well I suppose, I’ll forever be the only one who knows.”