Despite the jingles, sparkles, and the prospect of stuffing oneself with cake and being showered with presents, December is not necessarily as bouncy as the stuff played continuously on radio stations. For many of us it also means stress, time worries, financial worries, complicated-family-situation worries, first-Christmas-without-so-and-so worries, another-Christmas-as-a-single-gal worries and many others sources of anxiety. For me, it’s the cold — indoors in Portugal (learning to speak Portuguese is nowhere near as challenging as getting used to the lack of central heating in Portuguese flats!) and outdoors in Poland (Polish flats are thankfully very well heated). Christmas or no Christmas, I’m really not a fan of winter and often wish I could spend it in hibernation like animals. This year, I’ve also had all sorts of health issues and a mountain of logistical issues making my head about to explode.
So what can you do when you find yourself boiling with tension and anxiety, or crushed by helplessness (“Aaarghhh! I won’t get my presents sorted in time!!”) and sadness?
Well, you can, which I often do, lock yourself in a steamy bathroom on a cold evening and immerse in a hot bath (it’s amazing what the feeling of warmth and comfort can do to one’s mood). But that is not always sufficient. Sometimes you really need to vent your emotions, release the demons, and have a proper cry. And that’s where art and music come in handy. Listening to sad songs, watching sad films and reading sad tales can, by moving you to the core and reminding you that lots of people are trying to find a way out of a dark place at any given time, help you bounce back. So today I want to present a few music clips I recommend watching if you feel you need a good, cleansing cry before Christmas.
(Warning: If you’re the type of person who needs a wicked comedy to get back on track, this is definitely not for you!)
1. Eels: Elisabeth on the bathroom floor
This extremely bleak song comes from Mark Oliver Everett’s second studio album, Electro-Shock Blues (1998) which he wrote in response to his sister’s suicide two years earlier (the name of the album refers to electroconvulsive therapy Elizabeth Everett was subjected to at a mental institution). E, as Mark Oliver Everett is commonly called, attributes his sister’s mental disease and drug addictions to being raised in a household “haunted by the tortured genius of their father” (Dr Hugh Everett III was a famous quantum physicist). In her suicide note, Elizabeth mentioned joining their father in a parallel universe.
I don’t know who created the music video but I love its simplicity. The hand-drawn text and squiggly line have a sense of fragility and vulnerability. The bouncy line, writing the text of the story, which comes from and turns into an EKG line, first with a heartbeat, then flat, is a very poignant symbol of one’s life ending. (I admit I am quite partial to the EKG symbolism, having used it in my Bacon project). It’s one of the most touching tunes I’ve heard.
2. STEVEN WILSON: ROUTINE
If you feel that 2:28 minutes was not nearly enough to release all your tears, now you’ve got a longer shot. At 10:05 minute long, Wilson’s video feels more like a short film than a music clip and it’s bound to make you weep. The beautifully designed puppet with her eyes full of sorrow is a very sad view in itself, and the story of a woman who is trying to deal with the tragic loss of her family by creating routines will get everyone reaching for tissues.
Routine was directed by Jess Cope, written by Tom Kaye & Jess Cope, produced by Tom Kaye, and art-directed by Alison Cross who also made the props . It was the fourth, and the biggest, film made in collaboration with Owl House Studios. Jess Cope described the process: “The themes in Steven’s music are often quite morbid and macabre and when we heard Routine for the first time, Tom Kaye (Writer/Producer) and I knew the story had to be really strong, to do justice to the music.”
As Wilson himself says, “To find poetry and beauty in sadness is a wonderful thing I think”. I think so too.
3. Blur: Good Song
Ok. After an over 12 minute marathon of crying, now it’s time for a little break. This video is much lighter, though not without a substantial dose of dark sadness and melancholy.
Good Song, a name as ironic as everything else about the track, tells the story of a lonely fairy man who is looking for love and falls in love with a squirrel. But the joy of being together doesn’t last very long, and he gets accidentally killed by the object of his affection, which can serve as a metaphor of the common saying that we often hurt the ones we love most. Then there’s the appearance of the leaf blower and things go wrong for everyone in the video, in a humorous and sinister style of its designer/animator Shynola and David Shrigley, whose artworks were the basis for the animation. It’s sad and funny at the same time, so you might have a little giggle while your tears are drying up.
4. G-Eazy – Sad Boy
Even though I generally don’t listen to hip-hip and rap, I really like this track, especially its lyrics. “Gerald what the fuck is wrong, man? Cheer the fuck up, you asshole, yeah” is, lest the swear words, something most people with depression will often hear from “well-meaning” people around. Just like the fact that apparently they have no right to be sad because they’re wealthy, successful, accomplished, etc. — you name it. “Gerald what you so sad for?/ Why the hell you got the blues? / Everybody wanna be in your shoes / Gerald what you so sad for? / Everything ain’t that bad / Name a reason that you got to be mad.” Well, sometimes you can’t name the reason and the fact that everyone is expecting it makes things much worse.
(Also, the line “The mind of a perfectionist is always in pain / Should be happy I don’t have to set alarms to wake up” is one that many freelance artists can probably relate to.)
The video has a raw and grunge’y feel thanks to the joint efforts of illustrator Joonbug and animators from Apple Butter Animated who made another video for the rapper, You Got Me. It feels like sticking your middle finger at those who show little to no empathy and judge you for feeling low. (Chances are, sooner or later, they will find themselves in the same place. According to a study from 2009, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and WHO claims that 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.)
5. Angus and Julia Stone – I’m Not Yours
Now that we’ve dried our tears with Blur and got some anger out with G-Eazy, we’re ready for more waterfalls. Hands up those who can resist crying when watching a cat getting her heart broken! (I know I can’t.) Relationships crisis, loneliness, emotional isolation, leaving or being left by a partner — most of us are bound to experience these things at some point in life, which makes unhappy relationship one of the most relatable themes. This film will bring up past memories for some or illustrate the present for others, and if, like me, you’re a crazy cat person, you’ll cry double tears.
The video was created by Nick Murray Willis.
6. Muse: Exogenesis Symphony Part 3: Redemption
And finally, something for nostalgic musings about life and time. Exogenesis: Symphony is a song featured on the band’s fifth studio album The Resistance (2009), and it comprises three movements entitled Overture, Cross-Pollination and Redemption, respectively, each being a separate track at the end of the album.
According to Anime News Network, Japanese artist Tekken had created a three-minute “manga” animation titled Furiko (“Pendulum”) with Muses’s track for a television program. Afterwards, when the video got uploaded to YouTube and attracted more than 3 million views, it eventually reached the band and Muse decided to collaborate with Tekken, using his footage as the official music video for the song. But since Tekken’s original animation was 3:04 mins, and Muse’s track in its entirety is 4:36 in length, Tekken had to create additional footage which took him another 60 days (his original animation had 1,620 hand-drawn images).
Tekken’s film shows the life of a couple — their high and lows, joys and suffering — from the moment they meet as teenagers until old age and death. It is perhaps a nod to the philosophical memento mori, and for those of us overwhelmed by stress, bad weather and things going wrong, a reminder that time passes, and it passes quickly. As Amanda Waliszewska, a Polish programmer and blogger, recently wrote on her blog (which sadly is only in Polish): If you want to die, remember that even December will sooner or later end.