Hello Darling Ones,
Around the New Year, I sent an email to a guy I know thanking him for introducing me to the music of Frightened Rabbit and being very kind to me while I nursed a broken heart.
He was all, “No problem, hope they’re not too sad for you. They are for me sometimes.”
And I laughed.
Too sad? For me? Jodi Chromey the duchess of anguish & misery? The Internet’s favorite bittersweetheart? The woman who is going to change her name to Angrboda, bringer of sorrows, and become the Witch of Ironwood?*
Is too sad a thing?
editor’s note: actually I replied with an email I thought was kind of sweet and super flirty. I never got a response to it, because of course.
This may come as a surprise, but I love sad songs. Sad songs are the best songs. Way back in the olden days when I lived in that shitty apartment in Prior Lake I used to lay on the floor and listen to Jeff Buckely’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and will myself not to cry. For fun. I want songs that crawl into my ice-robot heart and bring their own blanket, making themselves comfortable while using my own heartstrings to manipulate my tear ducts like a marionette.
Most of my favorite songs are sad songs.
Jason Isbell’s “Alabama Pines,” I don’t even need a name anymore. When no one calls it out, it kind of vanishes away.
Neko Case’s “I Wish I Was the Moon,” Last night I dreamt I’d forgotten my name cause I sold my soul, but I woke just the same. I’m so lonely. I wish I was the moon tonight.
Matthew Sweet’s “Someone to Pull the Trigger,” Cause there’s a hole in my heart getting bigger, and everything I’ll ever be I’ve been.
Lucy Dacus’ “Night Shift,” In five years I hope the songs feel like covers, dedicated to new lovers.
Could I go on & on? Yes. I could start going on and continue going on until the sun chars the other side of the world and comes back to us.**
Sure happy songs are great, and sometimes they make you want to wiggle your butt or shake your hips, but sad songs are where it’s at. Sad songs make me feel less alone. It’s like Jeff Tweedy said in his memoir:
. . . when we experience pain or trauma, we’re acutely aware that something is wrong. You want answers. “What is this? How do I get rid of this? Why is this happening to me? I don’t want this.” That’s why so much art, and music, in particular, becomes a great commiserating balm for pain. Joy doesn’t need to be audited. We’re just grateful to have had it at all. But pain, goddammit, we demand to know, Who’s responsible for this?”
Back to that guy I know and songs that are too sad. Too. Too? I didn’t think that was a thing and then Julien Baker came along with her very pain-filled, painful, and excellent record “Little Oblivions” and she said to me, “Jodi Chromey, soon to be Angrboda, bringer of sorrows, duchess of anguish & misery, hold my lemonade while I show you too sad.”
Hoo boy this record is a lot. Is it too sad? What would that even mean? Would too sad be when you find yourself singing the lyrics, I’ll wrap Orion’s belt around my neck, and kick the chair out mindlessly to yourself and then your heart stutters a little when your brain realizes what you’re saying and you think, ouch that is some dark stuff?
Maybe. Maybe it is too sad. But if it were, would I listen to record in its entirety nearly every single day? WOULD I? Could you do something like if something were too sad?
It is some rough going and beautiful in the way that makes you feel simultaneously seen at your deepest and darkest and kind of glad that it’s not you having to work through all that. But too sad? Unpossible. But damn, if Julien Baker didn’t come close.
Blue is my favorite color,
P.S. When I was working on this letter, I listened to Lucinda Williams’ “Am I Too Blue” about 393 times, and then I realized that it comes right after “Passionate Kisses” on her self-titled record. And I decided if I were a 1-2 punch on any album of any time I would be these two songs right next to each other. Damn, Lucinda is one of the greatest of all time.
*Whenever I mention changing my name to Angrboda and becoming the Witch of Ironwood my friend EM hoots with laughter. Hoots. And through her gasps she says “is this before or after you become a glassblower?” And then I tell her to shut up and stop crushing all my dreams. I think I left the glassblowing dream offa these here pages, because I’m juvenile and crass and would never be able to resist the glory hole jokes, but yes for about a month there I was really bummed about not being a glassblower.
**stolen from the excellent and not really sad Soul Coughing song “Screenwriter’s Blues.”