When I started building this playlist, I was trying to accomplish an aesthetic. I wanted to find songs with sad lyrics because, at the start, Sam is in a very low place, but I didn't want the songs to sound too sad. I wasn't looking for the ballads that make you cry the moment you hear those opening chords (hi, Adele) but instead for the songs that you play on those snowy, dark days when you curl up by your window and look out at the world. Melancholy. That somewhat undefinable feeling of melancholy was my aim.
It should be noted that Sam is the character I voice and we have a great many similarities. As such, this playlist is more specific to my own personal tastes than any other.
1. "No One's Gonna Love You" - Band of Horses
The tone of this song is so interesting to me - it has an upbeat tempo and...sort of sweet lyrics? It is about loving someone very deeply but starts with the lyric, it's looking like a limb torn off, so it isn't exactly an "up" kind of song.
2. "Say it To Me Now" - Glen Hansard
I'll be honest with you guys: "Once" is one of my favorite movies of all-time, so it's a miracle there are only two songs total from it on these mixes. Glen Hansard has such a raw, gorgeous voice that I think speaks to the emotions that Sam so rarely lets herself feel.
3. "Everything'll Be Alright" - Joshua Radin
This one's a bruiser. It's an optimistic lullaby but, gosh, Joshua Radin just always sounds so sad. This to me feels like someone plastering on a smile and telling themselves it's going to be okay, though they barely believe it.
4. "The Water" - Feist
5. "Lost Boy" - Ruth B.
This is a song that has now become really famous, which is great for Ruth B., who deserves success. But I apologize if you're sick of hearing it, because it's a lovely song about lost childhood that I think fits Sam perfectly.
6. "To Build a Home" - The Cinematic Orchestra*
Whoops, this playlist has three keystone songs. That doesn't usually happen, but they are all so perfect in very specific ways.
This is maybe one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I've ever heard. One of my best friends from college, Jarrett, introduced it to me and I had a very visceral reaction when he first played it for me. There's something about it that gets into your gut and shakes things up. I've since payed it forward and introduced it to others, and everyone has the same reaction: they feel something very strongly. Sadness, hope, melancholy, something unnameable, maybe, but something. Those chords just grab onto your heart and squeeze.
This is also a song about home. After I had built the whole playlist, I realized that aiming for a theme of melancholy had let me to an additional through-line - there are many songs on here about home and belonging, things which Sam desperately seeks.
7. "Kid" - Amos Lee*
Don't know how you keep on getting up/from all those ghostly blow
Amos Lee is a beautiful male siren and this song just- ugh, it makes me think of a kid sitting on a curb with scraped knees and Amos Lee sitting down next to them and patting them on the back and helping them be strong. Sam doesn't have Amos Lee knocking her chin and telling her everything is going to be fine, and so this song makes me very sad.
I could honestly write out all the lyrics here, because they are relevant.
8. "They Can't Take That Away From Me" - Julie London*
This is a very common jazz standard about which I have a potentially very controversial opinion: almost everyone does it wrong. I get that it's supposed to be a somewhat upbeat song about always loving someone but letting them go all the same. The original version included the line "our romance won't end on a sorrowful note" - I know that it probably wasn't intended to be a very sad song but, Mr. and Mr. Gershwin, I respectfully disagree.
Once I heard Julie London's version, which evokes a final dance under the moonlight before your love is ripped from you, I couldn't think of this song as the cheerful goodbye it once seemed. It became about losing someone and having only the memory of them to cling to.
9. "Some Folks' Lives Roll Easy" - The King's Singers
This album was a staple of my own childhood and I think I ended up imposing that on Sam. Even if you don't like a cappella music, this album is really worth listening to. It also has the above mentioned version of "MLK".
I nearly put "Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father" on here, but it seemed too obvious. This song fits better with Sam's attitude of, "well, life is terrible and there's nothing I can do about it".