Welcome to our favorite Speakers in Code list of the year.
The 10 Best Sad Bastard Songs of 2015.
It’s our highest honor.
In years past (2012, 2013, 2014), we’ve chosen 20 songs, but this year we’re trimming the sad. And this year, I wrote about every song.
You can listen to each individually below, or you can subscribe to the list on Spotify HERE.
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Speakers in Code
“Sprained Ankle” – Julien Baker
A sad song doesn’t have to be completely obvious that it’s sad. Julien Baker’s “Sprained Ankle” warns of danger in its title, but if you’re not listening closely, you may even miss the first line: “I Wish I could write songs about anything other than death.” And then it does become obvious, all the way to the finish line: a long-distance runner who must limp to reach her destination.
“No Me, No You, No More” – The Staves
When we have what we want, it often isn’t obvious. So we leave, hoping the grass is greener somehow. And yes, love sometimes decides to returns. But often, it does not. “And I am tethered to you now…”
“Fourth of July” – Sufjan Stevens
Most of these songs are about love, but Sufjan Stevens’ “Fourth of July” is about death. And death almost always results in sadness. Because there is the death of a human being, and there is the death of love. Maybe this is really about love, too.
“Hold On Magnolia” – Glen Hansard (Jason Molina)
Jason Molina is no longer with us, but “Hold On Magnolia” was resurrected beautifully earlier this year by one of our favorite songwriters, Glen Hansard. A slow burner that doesn’t fade away — it bursts at the end with Hansard repeating, “I think it’s almost time…” Time for what, though? You decide. That’s the beauty of the song.
“This Love” – Ryan Adams (Taylor Swift)
I’ve read so many reviews of Adams’ version of 1989 that describe “This Love” as “not as sad” as Swift’s version. Although both are wonderful and beautiful, I gotta say that Adams’ is infinitely sadder than Swift’s. I mean, listen to him sing the following:
Tossing, turning, struggle through the night for someone new
And I could go on and on, on and on
Lanterns burning, flickered in my mind for only you
But you were still gone, gone
“Waiting For Your Call” – Dawes
The modern version of this song would be “Waiting For Your Text,” but that would be ridiculous, right? (But you know it’s true.) Anyway. What’s sadder than waiting for something that you know is unlikely to arrive? (Note: starting around 2:05, there is this beautiful solo that deserves to be played loud on vinyl. Trust me on this. Tonight. Do it tonight.)
“What A Good Woman Does” – Joy Williams
There is context that makes this sad. It’s because Joy Williams is no longer singing with John Paul White, and there is no more The Civil Wars. And then there’s the way Williams sings “Everyone’s wounded, nobody’s won.” This is the reason why she is one of my favorite singers.
“Traveling Song” – Ryn Weaver
Again, context, because you must watch the video above to feel the sadness. Otherwise, there is plenty of hope in this song — which is the point of this list: to find hope in what is lost. And as Stephen King once said, “Nothing is ever lost. Nothing that can’t be found.” Or, as Ryn Weaver sings, “Everywhere I roam, I’ll see you on the road…”
“You Never Asked Me” – Patty Griffin
It’s taken me a long time to realize that people don’t think about love the way I do. And even the version that I want (or think I want) often changes in my mind. Because when I hear Patty Griffin sing this, it must:
I don’t believe in love like that anyway
The kind that comes along once and just saves the day
I think of it more like the rocks the waves chip away
As they become the sand
“Back Home” – Jill Andrews
Jill Andrews released a terrific album in 2015 called The War Inside, and this song closes it. What I find most exceptional is the long outro, which says to me that Andrews finds the beauty and strength in taking her time. And good things take time.