If you took a census of songs that are popular, you would certainly find that the majority of them sing the praises of love. Now, you don’t need a class in Greek literature to know that love is a complex thing, and I don’t think even the Greeks had a term for feelings you have for a beloved when, quite frankly, they are over you. Oh, and to be up front, everything in my personal life is going just fine, thank you very much. “But Ted,” you may be asking, “Why such a melancholy mix?” Well, dear reader, it’s not that I’m in a melancholy mood, it’s that Mix Six theme kind of snuck up on me while riding my bike the other day. Let me amend that and say that while riding my stationary bike trainer the other day, two of the six songs featured in this mix came up on my iPod and I started thinking about how when relationships kind of fall apart, there’s always some kind of residual emotion that really doesn’t go away, and it’s just blossomed into this mix.
“Dreaming of You,” James Perry (download)
This tune is from Jeff Giles’ “My Favorite Songs of 2009,” which he posted in December of last year. Perry’s song about a break-up has a lot going on. Lyrically, it certainly fits the love/loss category, but there’s a whole orchestral thing weaved into a standard guitar, drum, bass song. The opening solo string segment adds a nice spare feel that contrasts with the build up into the major hook of the song. The middle part kind of explodes into a progressive rock tangent, only to bring it back to the major theme that ends the song. “Dreaming of You” is not only one of Jeff’s favorite songs of 2009, it quickly became one of my favorites, too.
“Sometime Around Midnight,” The Airborne Toxic Event (download)
I remember hearing this song on KFOG in San Francisco during a segment of the morning show when they debut new music. I have to admit that initially I wasn’t too taken by the song. But a couple of weeks ago a friend loaned me a copy of the CD — a CD which he said he hadn’t stopped listening to for a good two weeks — and wanted to know what I thought of it. While some of the songs are just okay, I found the tune featured here to be quite the emotional roller coaster. “Sometime Around Midnight” is one of those “It really happened” songs that lead vocalist Mikel Jollett penned after seeing an old flame at a bar. The poor guy, he’s an absolute wreck by the end of the song — walking through the streets, quite drunk, and just plain heartbroken by the encounter.
“Singles Bar,” Tracey Thorn (download)
When this album came out, I was convinced that Thorn (and her longtime partner, Ben Watt) had called it quits. It wasn’t the case, but Thorn’s songs about relationships during those middling years when kids grow older, divorces seem to be more common, and a kind of quiet desperation takes hold are really quite sad (as you might expect). However, they are so wrapped in her gorgeous voice and catchy melodies that sometimes you find yourself singing along to a song that’s just downright depressing.
“Silent House,” Dixie Chicks (download)
Co-written by Neil Finn, “Silent House” could be read as a mediation on a failed relationship, or, more obliquely, as a reflection of someone whose paramour has suffered some kind of mental breakdown. To wit:
And I will try to connect
All the pieces you left
I will carry it on
And let you forget
And I’ll remember the years
When your mind was clear
How the laughter and life
Filled up this silent house
Now, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to read “When your mind was clear” as a comment on someone’s mental state, but whenever I hear this song, I sometimes think Finn, Maines and Robison were writing about a person who lost a beloved to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Raised on Promises,” Sam Phillips (download)
Sam Phillips clearly had some kind of break with her religious upbringing — or her work as a Christian singer/songwriter Lyrically, though, the verses of “Raised on Promises” are very indirect and evasive, but the chorus just screams “betrayed.”
“King of 17,” John Wesley (download)
Ah 17, it was a very good year, yes? For some. For the protagonists of this song, however, their urge to escape with limited means has a kind of sweetness to it, but ultimately one knows that these two characters are destined to end up right back where they started. For a brief moment, $20 buys them a few hours away from all that’s emotionally weighing them down at home.