Lesser Known Saint

Sad Bastard Music

Jim and I were discussing Josh Rouse’s newest album a few months ago, and this led to a discussion of his discography in general. We’re both of the opinion that Rouse is at his best when he’s writing sad music. His latest output has him happy and living it up in Spain, and while I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way, the album’s impact as an emotive piece of art has definitely suffered.

One does not make deep emotional connections to booty-shaking, spanish-influenced bass lines.

That got me thinking about other examples of sad bastard music in my collection. I picked four out to talk about, and each of them is a sad piece of music in its own unique way. Most of them have a lyrical phrase that resonates with me, but some just have music that makes me feel melancholy.

This post is going to get really emo really quickly. Hold on to your butts.


Anathema – A Temporary Peace
Lyrics from LyricWiki.

Deep inside the silence, staring out upon the sea
The waves washing over half forgotten memories
Deep within the moment laughter floats upon the breeze
Rising and falling dying down within me

And I swear I never knew, I never knew how it could be
And all this time all I had inside was what I couldn’t see
I swear I never knew, I never knew how it could be
All the waves washing over all that hurts inside of me

Beyond this beautiful horizon lies a dream for you and I
This tranquil scene is still unbroken by the rumors in the sky
But there’s a storm closing in, voices crying on the wind
This serenade is growing colder, breaks my soul that tries to sing
And there’s so many, many thoughts when I try to go to sleep
But with you I start to feel a sort of temporary peace
There’s a drift in and out, drift in and out

Drift in and out
Drift in and out
Drift in and out

This is one of those songs that reminds you of a particular time in your life. Without going into too much detail, I was brokenhearted (or so I thought at the time) and this song (hell, this band) was one of the ones I kept coming back to.

The part that mostly gets me is the third stanza (starts at 2:30). The lyrics, coupled with the melody and the way that it’s sung (I’m not sure if it’s Danny or Vincent Cavanagh singing here, but I’m pretty sure it’s Danny) just make this incredibly beautiful and sorrowful piece of music. Even though I’m prety damn far from brokenhearted these days, it still gives me goosebumps every time.


Cake – Sad Songs & Waltzes
Lyrics from LyricWiki.

I’m writing a song all about you
A true song as real as my tears
But you’ve no need to fear it
‘Cause no one will hear it
Sad songs and waltzes
Aren’t selling this year

I’ll tell all about how you cheated
I’d like for the whole world to hear
I’d like to get even
With you ’cause you’re leavin’
But sad songs and waltzes
Aren’t selling this year

It’s a good thing that I’m not a star
You don’t know how lucky you are
Though my record may say it
No one will play it
Sad songs and waltzes
Aren’t selling this year

This is a cover of a Willie Nelson song, and that version is heartbreaking in its own right. I’m partial to the Cake version, though, for a few reasons:

  1. I grew up with Fashion Nugget and it’s one of my favorite albums of all time,
  2. Willie’s version emphasizes the bounciness of the 3/4 a little too much for my tastes, and
  3. Cake’s version has some of the prettiest trumpet work I’ve ever heard (listen at 1:50 to hear what I mean).

Anyway, the show here is the story told in the lyrics. I mean, read over that and just try not to feel the devastation. Here’s a guy who’s reached the end of his rope. He’s been totally broken by his lady, and he lashes out in the only way he knows how: by writing a song about it. He tells his story in this cathartic piece of music, but the universe isn’t done with this poor bastard yet. Not only is his heart broken, but that cold witch known as the music industry isn’t even going to give him the ability to exact his revenge by unleashing his song on the world, because market forces have determined that his song isn’t going to sell well enough.

Ugh. That poor man. It kills me.


Josh Rouse – The White Trash Period of My Life
Lyrics from LyricWiki.

Careful of words
They are so meaningful
You discover
Like the blues from her breath

His genius is dead
Happy and willing to die
For your love
Happy and willing to die

Back in the bedroom
It’s four A.M.
Hear the clatter
From the neighbors upstairs

Happy and willing to die
For your love
Happy and willing to die

Laid off for weeks now
And feel the sore
Still I’m tireless
From the smell of you

Happy and willing to die
For your love
Happy and willing, still am
So come

I won’t make a sound
I sleep on the floor
Lay on the couch
Put yourself out

I sleep on the floor
Lay on the couch
Put yourself out
Put yourself out

Sounds so absurd
Just to be lying here
One more hour
And I’m gone

Happy and willing to die
For your love
Happy and willing to die

I won’t make a sound
I sleep on the floor
Lay on the couch
Put yourself out

I sleep on the floor
Lay on the couch
Put yourself out
Put yourself out

Say it’s okay
Say it’s alright
Tonight

Say it’s okay
Say it’s alright
Tonight

This is my favorite Josh Rouse song by far. His voice hits a very desolate vibe, and the lyrics are incredibly emotive. When he sings, “happy and willing to die for your love,” you can tell that he meant it.

As much as I love the lyrics, though, it’s the violin at 5:57 that does me in. It’s such a beautiful melody, and played with such feeling. The song could be an instrumental and I’d still feel the sadness pouring out of the speakers.


Buena Vista Social Club – ¿Y Tú Qué Has Hecho?
Spanish lyrics from LyricWiki.

En el tronco de un árbol una niña
grabó su nombre henchida de placer
y el árbol conmovido allá en su seno
a la niña una flor dejó caer.

Yo soy el árbol conmovido y triste
tú eres la niña que mi tronco hirió
Yo guardo siempre tu querido nombre
Y tú, ¿qué has hecho de mi pobre flor?

Here’s a rough translation I wrote.

Upon the trunk of a tree, a girl
Carved her name, bursting with pleasure.
The tree, deeply moved in his heart,
Let a single flower drop to the girl.

I am that tree, moved yet aching,
You are the girl who injured my trunk.
I’ll carry around your beloved name with me forever,
But you, what have you done with my poor flower?

The poetry of the lyrics gets lost a bit in the translation, but you get the gist of it. I think this is one of the most amazing metaphors for carrying a torch I’ve ever heard. Then you have to take the musicians into context: a bunch of old cuban men who simply love their instruments and their cigars, singing in their old and weathered voices. There’s just a sense of history that permeates their musicianship (not just in this song, but on the whole record).

I like to wonder who they think of to inspire themselves to play the way they do on songs like this.

Oh man, that’s way too much emotion for one night. Next up: a cleansing diet of extermely brutal and violent death metal.

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