Random Asides

Three Albums for the Moody


Life is stressful and excellent in equal measures, and I realised recently that that also describes some of my favourite albums. I believe myself to be melodramatic, having extreme high joy times and equally extreme down days (a shade bi-polar perhaps, but I’m high-functioning and fun so I don’t think I need to worry). My mood can change at the flip of a switch, and nothing cheers me up or pulls me down so much as music. Below are three albums which contain extreme high and low points for me, emotionally. You are welcome to laugh at my choices, agree, or simply offer your own. Individual songs don’t count, it has to be an entire album which takes you through the full gamut of emotions. Let’s hear ‘em.

Poses – Rufus Wainwright

High point: Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk
Cry point: Poses

The first time I heard Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk was a few days after I’d met a guy I would go on to have a six-year relationship with. During our first meeting, I purchased two items for him. Guess what they were? Coincidences are always exciting, although the song is awesome anyway. Lots of people find Rufus depressing, and Poses (also the name of the album) is a good example of why. It’s quite droney, but I really like that quality in his voice, and the lyrics tell the story of a fall from an essentially shallow grace: “I did go from wanting to be someone now I’m drunk and wearing flip – flops on Fifth Avenue”.

Honky Château – Elton John

High point: Think I’m Going to Kill Myself
Cry point: Think I’m Going to Kill Myself

This album is brilliant (although the best EJ album is Tumbleweed Connection, of course), and Think I’m Going to Kill Myself is both the emotional high and low point. High because it’s upbeat, it makes me want to move, it contains a tapdance solo by Larry ‘Legs’ Smith and is massive fun to sing along to, low because it’s about teenage suicide. The jolliness is ironic or something.

Something – Shirley Bassey

High point: Spinning Wheel
Cry point: Yesterday When I Was Young

I realise that my music choices are a little…camp, but camps are where the best emotional rollercoasters are to be found. Shush, it doesn’t have to make sense. Shirley Bassey is amazing, and Something is one of my favourite albums of all time. I dare you not to jump up and start grooving to Spinning Wheel. From the opening bars it sparks a little happy in my heart and whichever part of my pants the soul resides in. By contrast, Yesterday When I Was Young depresses the hell out of me. I’m protesting aging every step of the way, and this song takes the worst of old age (and none of the greatness like free bus travel) and wrings out every drop of sentiment like a musical Miss Haversham. “The friends I made, all seemed somehow to drift away, And only I am left, on stage to end the play”. This is true melodrama. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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  1. ah, rufus. love love love him.
    i, too, am an album person at heart. i like the idea of letting an artist take me for a full length emotional ride, especially when said album is well crafted and sequenced. singles alone feel a bit shallow to me.
    a few of my favorite musical emotional gauntlets, offhand:
    yoshimi battles the pink robots ~the flaming lips
    high: do you realize
    cry: do you realize
    hotel ~moby
    high: lift me up
    cry: slipping away
    victory for the comic muse ~the divine comedy
    high: count grassi’s passage over piedmont
    cry: a lady of a certain age

  2. yay Rufus! I’ve seen him several times but now he’s really famous it’s not the same, I’m not keen on huge venues. The best gig I ever saw him at was about 200 people on wooden chairs in a small room. He, his sister Martha, his cousin who sings backing for them both, and his mom and aunt (famous folk singers Kate & Anna McGarrigle) sat on stage and improvised two hours of singing. It was like being at their house for the holidays. They’d chat a bit, laughing and joking, then say “what shall we sing next?” and decide by asking the audience or by bringing up old songs from their youth. Amazing gig.

    Not explored the Flaming Lips, but I do enjoy vintage Divine Comedy, I saw them about 6 years ago but stopped buying stuff just after that.

  3. Gorecki Symphony #3 (Sorrowful Songs)
    I’ve never heard anything more powerfully emotive and sad in my entire life.

  4. I saw Rufus in concert before I knew who he was. He did an awesome cover of George Michael’s “Foolish Whisper” with Ben Folds.

    Sad album that I love: “Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground” – Bright Eyes. Some of the songs like “Love I don’t Have to Love” and “Nothing Gets Crossed Out” are the most depressing yet touching songs ever. The last song is a freakin’ hoot though. It always manages to cheer me up.

  5. @tkingdoll: i’ve seen rufus once…i think he was opening for tori amos. just him and a keyboard on stage and it was great (though not as awesome as the one you saw sounds). i’m with you on big venues. i’d much rather hear music in a small bar or club than a big arena.
    and definitely check out the latest divine comedy…i had seen him open for ben folds at first avenue about 7 years ago, loved him and promptly forgot about him. then, like 5 years later, my husband brought home a promo of victory for the comic muse, and i nearly wore out the disc in a month.

  6. @tkingdoll: I think I love you! LOL I love Honky Chateau (and a lot of Elton’s other early work).
    That being said…

    Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
    This album grabbed me the first time I heard it in 1973 and has never let go. I had never even heard of the group before this album came out. If they had done nothing else for their entire career, their careers would have been assured. My emotions bounce up and down throughout the album, which to my ear sounds like one long, interrelated song and is the ideal album for CD, since there is no “side flipping” required.

    Santana Abraxas Carlos Santana
    Some of my favorite songs and one song that, because of Carlo’s magical playing, never seems to leave me dry eyed: Samba Pa Ti.

    Rhapsody in Blue – George Gershwin
    I’ve never forgiven United Air Lines for using this in their commercials. This piece sums up Chicago for me, which is where my life started…

    There are many more, but these will do for now.

  7. Speaking of Ben Folds:

    Rockin’ the Suburbs

    High point: title track, Not the Same, Fired (all awesome live)

    Cry point: Still Fighting It, The Luckiest.

    I talked my wife into using The Luckiest in our wedding. I cry every single time I hear it now.

  8. @ChaoSkeptic: ben folds is fantastic. i’ve lost count of the times i’ve seen him. i never miss a show when he comes through (and have traveled as far as manchester to see him–ok, we were going to the uk anyway, but still).

    @QuestionAuthority: rhapsody in blue is quite possibly the most perfect piece of music in existence.
    (also, incidentally, bohemian rhapsody :p )

  9. I can only think of one album that does that to me.
    Twelve Deadly Cyns – Cyndi Lauper

    High Point: Hey Now

    Low Point: Sally’s Pigeons

  10. Oh Teek, it’s times like these I KNOW we share a brain. But I’ll go with:

    Good News For People Who Love Bad News – Modest Mouse

    High Point: Float On

    Low Point: The Good Times Are Killing Me

    Surfer Rosa – Pixies

    High Point: Gigantic

    Low Point: Where Is My Mind?

    How It Ends – Devotchka

    High Point: Such a Lovely Thing

    Low Point: How It Ends

  11. @Rebecca:

    Good News is certainly a good choice but I would go with:

    High Point: Float on

    Low Point: Bukowski (which coincidently just came on my ipod)

    But my personal favorite is:

    Sky Blue Sky – Wlico

    High Point: Walken

    Low Point: Hate it Here

  12. Ok, ok…. can’t resist pitching in here (first Skepchick post, everyone – woo-hoo! And hello!) Anyhows, here’s three…

    The Queen Is Dead – The Smiths
    High Point: Bigmouth Strikes Again
    Cry Point: I Know It’s Over

    The Soft Bulletin – Flaming Lips
    High Point: Race For The Prize
    Cry Point: Feeling Yourself Disintegrate

    Want – Rufus Wainwright
    High Point: Oh What A World
    Cry Point: Memphis Skyline

  13. For my musical moodiness I like to turn to Tom Waits. Coincidentally, I just finished listening to his album Closing Time which puts me into nostalgic reverie every time I listen to it.

    Lows: Grapefruit Moon, I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You

    High: Ice Cream Man

    I love everyone’s choices and the few that I am not familiar with I will give a listen — even Elton John. (This says a lot about the high regard I have for a recommendation from Teek, as I typically loathe Elton John — Levon was on the radio today and while I did listen to it, it was mostly for the sake of dissecting why I dislike EJ so much!)

  14. High Point:
    (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding by Elvis Costello
    Ma ‘Tit Fille by Buckwheat Zydeco

    Low Point:
    Wall of Death by Richard Thompson
    Walk on the Ocean by Toad The Wet Sprocket

  15. When I need a pick-me-up, I go with TOOL, 10,000 Days. I still like Zep and Floyd but IMHO I haven’t heard any new music that compares to TOOL.

    High Point: “The Pot” because it mocks pot heads and I imagine all my former pothead friends rocking out to it without understanding the mockery.

    “Foot in mouth and head up ass
    So whatcha talkin’ ’bout?
    Difficult to dance ’round this one
    ’til you pull it out. boy,” lol

    Low Point: “Vicarious” Although it’s a super rocking song, it really points out lazy people who live out their lives vicariously via the TV. Lots of death in this song.

    “Killed by the husband” …
    “Drowned by the ocean” …
    “Shot by his own son” …
    “She used a poison in his tea,
    Then (she) kissed him goodbye”
    That’s my kind of story
    It’s no fun til someone dies.”

  16. @carr2d2: Talk about enchanting, definitely see them live. One of my fave shows: a midnight set in an 18th century-style Belgian Spiegeltent at the Fulton Fish Market in Manhattan, complete with fog and an acrobat inside the (relatively tiny) tent. Sigh.

  17. One of my fave examples of back-to-back high and low songs is on the Young Liars EP by TV on the Radio. Song number 2, Starting at the Sun (also included on Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes) is awesomely upbeat, especially at the end when it gets downright danceable. Then song number 3, Blind, comes on and is a 7+ minute sock in the gut. Good stuff!

  18. Bone Machine Tom Waits

    High Point: Goin’ Out West

    Low Point: Little Rain (For Clyde)

    Plus this album’s high point and the Low point from Rebecca’s Surfer Rosa – Pixies suggestion are both in the film Fight Club.

  19. I would’ve considered throwing in an emo album along with (like something by Dashboard Confessional, Fall out Boy, etc.) but they tend to have significantly more lows than highs.

  20. I’ve been on a 90s kick lately …

    U2 – Achtung Baby
    – The High: Even Better Than the Real Thing
    – The Cry: Love Is Blindness

    Chris Isaak – Speak of the Devil
    – The High: Flying
    – The Cry: Black Flowers

    Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
    – The High: Are You Gonna Go My Way
    – The Cry: Sister

    Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Toward Ecstasy
    – The High: Ice Cream
    – The Cry: Ice

  21. Elyria by Faith and the Muse
    Highs- “All Lovers Lost” and “Vervain” (one of my favorite songs of any genre.)
    Cries- “Iago’s Demise” and “Heal”

    Blues Traveler by Blues Traveler
    Highs- “But Anyway” “Warmer Days” and “Sweet Talking Hippie”
    Cries- “100 Years” and “Alone”

    Into the Labyrinth by Dead Can Dance
    Highs- “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” and “The Spider’s Stratagem”
    Cries- “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and “Tell Me About the Forest (you once called home)”

    Toward the Within by Dead Can Dance
    Highs- “Rakim” (another of my very favorite songs) “Oman” and “American Dreaming”
    Cries- “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” (a remake) and “Don’t Fade Away”

  22. @QuestionAuthority: I’ve been a Floyd fan since my youth in the 70’s. While I give Dark Side some mad props for being a great album and for breaking a few records, my favorite is still Animals. I’ve never met anyone who agrees with me.

  23. I’m here to spread more Rufus love!! Aside from creating beautiful music, Rufus’s homosexuality and the disgusting way that those around me reacted when they learned about it was the first step toward my de-conversion from fundamental Christianity. I owe it to Rufus for opening my eyes to the hypocrisy around me.

    I’ll give another shout-out for The Divine Comedy, who I love every bit as much as Rufus.

    As for my emotional roller coaster albums:

    1. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
    High: Wouldn’t It Be Nice
    Low: Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) and God Only Knows

    My husband introduced me to this album, which is simply one of the best ever recorded, while we were dating. It reminds me so much of our relationship and the love we have for each other. While it makes me sad, it makes me sad in a calm, nostalgic sort of way. Not to mention the songs are perfect. PERFECT.

    2. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
    High: Suffragette City
    Low: Five Years

    The album beings with a song about the impending end of the world, and describes people’s various reactions to the news. Hearing it always reminds me how much I enjoy being alive, and how sad I would be if I was in the positions of the characters in the song. From there we meet an amazing alien who has come to blow our minds, rock through space and time, and end with the immaculate Bowie shouting, “You’re not alone!,” as if offering comfort to the inhabitants of earth, letting us know that even if life on our planet ends, it will continue still.

    2. The Divine Comedy – Victory for the Comic Muse
    High: To Die A Virigin and Births, Deaths, and Marriages

    First we hear witty banter about loosing one’s virginity from a bicycle, which leads into a bouncing song about a young boy desperate to pop the cherry. A few songs in we are introduced to the saddest character, an aging socialite who in her hay-day “holidayed with kings, dined out with starlets,” but then settled into a loveless marriage in order to maintain her pleasurable lifestyle, and now as an old widow, has nothing but the memories of her faded glory. (Okay, that might not sound that sad, but trust me, Neil sells it.) Despite a few more tragic characters, like a farm boy disillusioned with religion who takes up with political radicals and begins a life of crime, the album ends on a high note with the song “Births, Deaths, and Marriage,” about how wonderful it is to be alive:

    Births and deaths and marriages
    Cabbages and kings
    Slugs and snails and e-mails
    Other precious things
    Cherubim and seraphim
    Go green with envy for
    All the births and deaths and marriages
    Mortality affords

  24. the other day on shuffle I heard 2 of my favorite songs in succession.

    Ben Lee – What Would Jay-Z Do?
    (which is exactly the kind of song it sounds like)

    Red House Painters – Have You Forgotten
    (which is a red house painters song, so, yea)

    I mean, I love uppers and downers, too, but that was just awkward. Like listening to U2 and Rage Against the Machine back2back.

  25. @orDover:

    1. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
    High: Wouldn’t It Be Nice
    Low: Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) and God Only Knows

    I nearly chose Pet Sounds, but couldn’t decide whether Wouldn’t It Be Nice & God Only Knows would be the high or low since Wouldn’t It Be Nice has sadder lyrics but a peppier beat than God Only Knows. But anyway, those are two of my favorite songs ever.

  26. Black Flag – Damaged
    High: TV Party
    Low: Depression

    The Band- Greatest Hits
    High: Up on Cripple Creek
    Low: It makes no Difference

    Dogzilla: All iz God
    High: Lunch with Ed
    Low: Juju

    Frank Black and the Catholics: Dog in the Sand
    High: If it Takes All Night
    Low: I’ll be Blue

  27. QuestionAuthority: Santana Abraxas Carlos Santana, recently got it in my quest to listen to Rolling Stone’s top 500 of all time. Just an excellent albun. Carlos at his best.

    Rebecca: Yeah Surfer Rosa!

    Briarking: Animals is for sure my favorite. Pink Floyd just exceptional in the 70’s.

  28. I’d pick The Cure – Disintegration off the top of my head.
    High and low point: Plainsong
    When you have the album on repeat in your car at night, driving down empty streets, it’s happy and sad, depending on how you approach it.

    Animals is my favourite, too :)

  29. orDover: I always wondered about the logic of those that don’t listen to the music of gay artists. Why not? You’re listening to their music, not sleeping with them.

    @Briarking: You know, I’ve never heard “Animals” all the way through in one sitting. Must put that on the “To Do” list.

    @Rebecca, teek, etc. I must be getting old. I’ve never heard of most of the bands you reference… :-(
    This thread may change my mind on rejuvenating technology.

  30. @ Rebecca & orDover:

    If you’re going with Pet Sounds, which I indubitably would, I think the cry song absolutely has to be Caroline No.

    I’d like to do a spectrum of happy-sad of all the tracks on pet sounds.

  31. Here is the track listing from PS, ordered from happiest to most cry-ey:

    Wouldn’t it be nice
    Let’s go away for a while
    I know there’s an answer
    Don’t Cry (Put your head on my shoulder)
    God only knows
    Pet Sounds
    You still believe in me
    Here Today
    Sloop John B
    Waiting for the Day
    I just wasn’t made for these times
    Caroline No

  32. mully@18- right on!

    This is reminiscent of all those “if you could only have 3 albums on a desert island…” type questions.

    Pink Floyd- The Final Cut

    High and cry points one after the other, but try on track 4, When the Tigers Broke Free, then track 5, The Hero’s Return for a cry then high.
    Those familiar with the movie The Wall, know the first song is in the movie, but not on The Wall album. Every time I hear it, I remember the gun cleaning scene from early in the movie.

    Dream Theater- Awake
    Track1, 6:00- drum like you really mean it, high
    Track11, Space Dye Vest, contemplative, great piano, cry
    “This is not how I wanted to live…
    And I’ll never be open again…”

    Queen- Classic Queen
    The last 2 tracks-
    Who Wants to Live Forever, from the Highlander soundtrack
    The Show Must Go On
    Both of these have highs and cries within.

    Damn, there appear to be many more where these came from…

  33. @Mully410: I’d’e picked “Right in Two” for the low, personally. It’s a great song, relating the in fighting amongst humans, quite nice and perennially relevant.

    Orphans – Bastards, Brawlers and Bawlers, another Tom Waits album
    High: Waits’s cover of “Hi Ho”

    Low: Two Sisters

  34. @dmikeyj: Man, you think The Hero’s Return is a high? I found that whole album rather cry-ee. (That’s not to say I don’t really like it, of course!) It starts with the futility of war of ends with a nuclear holocaust. Not Now John is kind of fun, I guess.

    s’cusi dove il bar?
    Oi! Where’s the fucking bar, John?

  35. David Bowie (Hunky Dory):
    High: toss-up between Oh! You Pretty Things and Queen Bitch
    Low: Life on Mars

    The Postal Service (Give Up):
    High: Brand New Colony
    Low: This Place is a Prison

    Regina Spektor (Begin to Hope):
    High: That Time
    Low: Lady

    I have lots more, but since we’re sticking with 3…

  36. I’m 100% with you on Rufus and Elton! I’ll have to check out Basse. Thanks for the suggestions, teek! Other awesome suggestions were Postal Service, Wilco, The Cure, and The Pixies. Good stuff, folks. You make me want to go spend all my money on CDs.

    I’ll add Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha to the ever-growing list of suggestions. The song “Dark Matter” is a great high and low. It has the added bonus of sciencey nonsense lyrics, too: “A noose is loosed around our necks made of DNA, and every day it’s growing tighter no matter what they do or say. And you can shoot right through it with rays of dark matter
    just before they kick out the ladder.”

    Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Beck’s Mutations should also be in this list!

    P.S. I’ve enjoyed Dream Theater for years, but what is it about fans of theirs suggesting their music to everyone at all times? A progressive metal band for “Moody” music? Are you going to listen to it going down the aisle and have it played at your funeral, too? Come on! Though “Space Dyed Vest” is quite moody and reminds me of another great suggestion:

    Chromakey’s “You Go Now” and “Dead Air for Radios”!

  37. Album: ABBA (1975)

    High: Bang-a-Boomerang,
    “Love is a tune you hum-de-hum-hum
    So give it away, I think you’ll learn
    You’ll get love in return
    So bang, a boom-a-boomerang is love
    A boom-a-boomerang is love…”

    They don’t write lyrics like that anymore!

    Low: S.O.S.
    “So when you’re near me darling can’t you hear me, SOS
    The love you gave me nothing else can save me, SOS
    When you’re gone
    How can I even try to go on
    When you’re gone
    Though I try how can I carry on…”

    Says it all, really. [sniffs…wipes single tear]

    I could go on, but I can see the nice man is coming with my pills…

  38. @delphi_ote:

    Armchair Apocrypha is great. No one can turn a phrase or whistle a tune quite like Mr. Bird. I considered putting Noble Beast on my original list, but then I realize that instead of having specific highs and lows, the album as an even tone of melancholy.

    Do any of you have a last.fm account? Want to be friends?

  39. So many good choices already.

    As the three most emotional I would go with:

    1: The Decemberists – Castaways and Cutouts
    High: July, July
    Low: Clementine / Leslie Ann Levine

    A really amazing album from start to finish.

    2: Tom Waits: Mule Variations
    High: Big in Japan
    Low: Georgia Lee

    Tom has been mentioned several times on this list. For good reason.

    3: Les Miserables
    High: This is Victor Hugo… he doesn’t write emotional highs, just varying shades of depressing. Though Master of the House is probably the closest thing.
    Low: Come to me.
    Come to me is actually song twice during the performance. Both of them bring the house to tears.

  40. I’m with SteveT as to ABBA. In fact, I’d say The Visitors album hits pretty much the full spectrum, from Roll-on-the-floor laughter to soul-sapping fear to wistful reflectiveness to gut-wrenching despair.

  41. @Anthony: The Decemberists are an excellent choice… One of my favorite songs could qualify for both: The Mariner’s Revenge. It’s catchy, so that’s a high, but it’s sad to be eaten by a whale so that’s a low. :D

  42. Portishead – Dummy

    High point: Roads
    Cry point: Wandering Star

    I don’t really know if you’d call it a “high point,” as the overall tone of the album is fairly somber and low, but “Roads” gives me a warm feeling of well-being. Wandering Star, on the other hand, portrays a progressively bleak and lonely picture. If it catches me in the wrong mood, it can get me down, though I still love the song.

    Sorry for the late comment. Just signed up. I really enjoy the site.

  43. I would definitely go with Floyd, say Wish you were Here, for both the highs and the lows. Much as I love Final Cut, I don’t see much joy there.

  44. It’s hard to pick just a few……
    I would have to say an excellent moody album is “Fear of a Blank Planet” by Porcupine Tree. There are parts that will make you rock out and parts that will make you cry.

    A few more:
    Muse – “Absolution”
    A Perfect Circle – “Mer de Noms”
    Radiohead – “In Rainbows”

    Music for the perfect rainy day:
    Blackfield – “Blackfield”
    Portishead – “Dummy”
    Travis – “The Man Who”
    Thom Yorke – “The Eraser”
    Marillion – “Marbles” “Happiness is the Road” and “Clutching at Straws”

  45. @delphi_ote:

    P.S. I’ve enjoyed Dream Theater for years, but what is it about fans of theirs suggesting their music to everyone at all times? A progressive metal band for “Moody” music? Are you going to listen to it going down the aisle and have it played at your funeral, too?

    Why not?

    Opeth – Morningrise

    High/Low pretty much everything on this album but specifically Black Rose Immortal (20+ minutes of Black Metal goodness)

    Also here’s another Tom Waits album for you

    Rain Dogs
    High: Cemetary Polka, Singapore

    Low: Time

  46. @physicsteech:
    A Perfect Circle – “Mer de Noms”
    Oooh! In the parlance of Fark, THIS! I listened to that album over and over when making four hour car trips to visit my girlfriend’s college years ago. Maynard should stop messing around with this Puscifer stuff and get back to APC! (Also, the bass line to “Weak and Powerless” on “Thirteenth Step” is totally fucking awesome. With Twiggy going back to Marylin Manson, I’m going to have to get The High End of Low.)

    Andrew Bird is totally awesome live. I saw him playing solo at this tiny music festival in Cincinnati last year. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t keep from tearing up through the whole show. He’s going to be at Bonaroo this year, so get there if you can!

    Why not? Because I said so! Seriously, though, I’ve noticed a lot of DT fans tend not to broaden their musical horizons. Also, I like giving people a hard time. :P

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