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R. D. Holland


12 Bittersweet Songs to Open Your Heart to the Terrible Beauty of Life

This is in response to episode 843 of The James Altucher Show with Susan Cain. The episode is about Melancholy.

If you assemble this list of songs and listen to it in one siting, please do not hold me accountable for what happens to you. Each of these songs is beautiful and a bit sad, but together they are devastating.


    1. Into My Arms by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

    This is an incredible love song. One of the best.
    Some of my favorite lines:

    I don't believe in an interventionist God
    But I know, darling, that you do
    But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
    Not to intervene when it came to you
    Not to touch a hair on your head
    To leave you as you are
    And if He felt He had to direct you
    Then direct you into my arms

    2. Rock Bottom Riser by Smog

    This is a song about making mistakes, hitting rock bottom, and climbing back up with the help of your loved ones.
    Some of my favorite lines:

    I left my mother
    I left my father
    Left my sisters too
    Left them standing on the banks
    And they pulled me out
    Of this mighty, mighty, mighty river

    I am a rock
    Bottom riser
    And I owe it all to you

    3. Innocent When You Dream by Tom Waits

    Some of my favorite lines:

    We're running through the graveyard
    And we laughed, my friends and I
    We swore we'd be together
    Until the day we died
    Until the day we died

    And it's such a sad old feeling
    All of the fields are soft and green
    And it's memories that I'm stealing
    But you're innocent when you dream
    When you dream

    4. The Park by Feist

    I love this song, especially when Bon Iver sings it. Some of my favorite lines:

    With sadness so real
    That it populates
    The city and leaves
    You homeless again
    Steam from the cup
    And snow on the path
    The seasons have changed
    From the present to past

    5. In the Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

    This is a song about coming to terms with your own inevitable death. It's about appreciating the beauty and wonder of having lived at all.

    Favorite line:
    Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all

    6. Ghost Town by First Aid Kit

    A song about longing for something in the past that is impossible to have now, even if it still exists. It's about "the one that got away."

    Some of my favorite lines:

    And I remember how you told me
    All that you wanted to do
    The dream of Paris in the morning
    Or a New York window view
    And I can see it now you're married
    And your wife is with a child
    And you're all laughing in the garden
    And I'm lost somewhere in your mind
    If you've got visions of the past
    Let them follow you down
    For they'll come back to you someday

    7. Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying by Belle and Sebastian

    Some of my favorite lines:

    Oh, that wasn't what I meant to say at all
    From where I'm sitting, rain
    Falling against the lonely tenement has set my mind to wander
    Into the windows of my lovers
    They never know unless I write
    "This is no declaration, I just thought I'd let you know goodbye"

    8. The Latter Days by Frontier Ruckus

    Some of my favorite lines:

    The Latter-Days are harder than I ever could've known
    Come back to retrieve me sometime soon
    If the Latter-Days are ending then I hope I'm ending too
    And buried someplace where your breath tastes new to me and
    Always blowing, so my body's bent and bowing
    Deep into the day's ending in summer
    The Latter-Days are always panting like a

    9. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song by Fleet Foxes

    This is a song about grief. It's about the curious feelings that come when someone dear is gone and your mind is broken. First Aid Kit did a great cover of this song.
    Some of my favorite lines:

    Dear shadow alive and well
    How can the body die
    You tell me everything
    Anything true


    I don't know what I have done
    I'm turning myself to a demon
    I don't know what I have done
    I'm turning myself to a demon

    10. Willow Tree by Chad Van Gaalen

    Some of my favorite lines:

    Sleep all day
    Just waiting for the sun to set
    I hang my clothes
    Up on the line
    When I die
    I'll hang my head beside the willow tree
    When I'm dead
    Is when I'll be free

    11. Crow Jane by Two Gallants

    Some of my favorite lines:

    But who’s gonna save me from myself?
    Gotta lay the blame on someone else

    Somehow I ain’t got no hope
    'Cause I’m still runnin’ from the sheriff’s rope
    My shoes don’t fit me 'cause they filled with dope
    Crow Jane quit me and I just can’t cope

    12. Hoppípolla by Sigur Ros

    Vindur í
    og útilykt? af hárinu þínu
    Ég lamdi eins fast og ég get
    með nefinu mínu
    Hoppa í poll
    Í engum stígvélum
    Allur rennvotur(rennblautur)
    Í engum stígvélum

    The Wind
    An outdoor smell of your hair
    I breathe as hard as I can
    with my nose

    Jump into puddles
    With no boots on
    Completely drenched(Soaked)
    With no boots on

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