Music That Makes Whatever You're Doing Feel Heavier Than It Is
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because we're all stars of our own movies.
By Eugene S. Robinson
You’ve been there, and if you’re saying you haven’t, no one here will believe you. Specifically that place where, while behind the wheel of a car or stepping out into a crowded street (way back when we had crowded streets), you realize you’re fully in place and in full embrace of the movie about YOU.
Causes? Any mad mixture of breakup drama, family hassles, infidelity or maybe just a desire to lose 10 pounds. Whatever. You’re in the grips of it and you don’t care. You press play, and for the length of whatever it is you’re listening to, you feel like the heaviest person on the planet. You are the music and the music is you, and your earbuds are afire with the sound that’s got you temporarily forgetting that there’s a million people out there just like you with their own soundtracks and own problems.
Yeah, for this moment in time, it’s all about the heaviness of you.
“I’ve hurt myself to the theme from Rocky,” says former sports agent Sal Russo in a candid admission of real life meeting film life and colliding with real world consequences. “One-handed push-ups with claps off of a porch in Philly landing in a face plant? Not what anyone would hope for.”
So forthwith the completely unscientific take on the music that does the best job of making you feel like a cinema star of heaviness.
Tindersticks, Curtains: Maundering around in some Soviet, pre-fallen wall, East German shithole? Or embodying the word “louche” over late-night bar crawls? This is your soundtrack for it. Maybe best embodied by the song “Let’s Pretend.” A friend got backstage into their dressing room and was shocked to discover a music truism: The mildest bands on stage are the wildest off. And the wildest on? The mellowest off.
Irène Schweizer, Piano Solo Vol. 1: Free jazz is usually such a noisy affair, but the Swiss stylings of pianist Irène Schweizer make it known that “tickling” the ivories never sounded so damn … sorrowful. And glad to be so. Listen to this while rereading for the hundredth time that letter that let you down “easy.”
Incoming Cerebral Overdrive, Controverso: Italian quasi-screamo that sounds for all the world like it was made for the end of the world. If you don’t believe that there’s much emotional coloration in heavy metal music? You’d be very, very wrong. How wrong? The singer was sobbing when he sold me their record. That wrong.
Interpol, Marauder: Yeah yeah, there were all of those early-stage Joy Division comparisons, but Interpol are worth way more than the interpreter tag would lead you to believe, and finally by 2018 were making this known. Aggressively resistant to letting the light in and if you don’t feel better for this we don’t think you’d have read this far.
Lions Are Eternal, In Heaven: I’ve never heard anyone else ever talk about this group that I think hails from Belgium, but if you were going to be busy today doing some work on what you and your pals were calling The Manhattan Project? Yeah, just about that heavy.
Survivor, Eye of the Tiger: There’s a famous story about some songwriters who thought they’d write a song so schmaltzy that even a talent like Al Jolson would stumble over it. It’s about a father and a son. Complete dreck by their lights. But when Jolson recorded it? Everyone lost their minds and not a dry eye in the house. Survivor is like that. If you’re not smiling about their placement on this list, you’re lying about walking along with this in your head because you were about to “show” somebody! Something! Probably something heavy.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers: “One of the most dramatic sounding bands ever. This album makes me feel like I’m about to lead an oligarch to the guillotine even when I’m just at work or cleaning the house or whatever,” said Graham Scala, a cook from North Carolina, about the Canadian masters of orchestral gloom. Fun fact from a trusted source? One of their favorite artists? Weird Al Yankovic.
Diamanda Galas, The Plague Mass: “She’s a sonic deepener of despair,” says Sacramento-based singer Percy Howard. “She describes elements of my internal and external darkness with more precision than I’m capable of, generating hugely depressive ‘aha’ moments.” And the video we chose? The oft-covered “Gloomy Sunday” is a song so evocative it shut down countries like Hungary because people were killing themselves to it.
Most Honorable Mention
Rocky: Anything from Rocky. Really. The aforementioned “Eye of the Tiger” or Maynard Ferguson’s trumpet-fueled “Gonna Fly Now,” but Decibel Magazine editor-in-chief Albert Mudrian chose? The Vince DiCola training montage songs from the Rocky IV soundtrack that still gets him “FUCKING PUMPED” when he hears them. This despite more than 30 years dealing in extreme metal.
“You’d think I’d be slightly desensitized having ingested it daily for the past 30 years. But no,” says Mudrian. “The gallop of death metal, the crush of doom metal or the hyper-speed of grindcore still have the power to take me from static position and literally help propel me forward.” And yet? “Vince DiCola.”