In the sometimes hyperbolic world of music, people are often quick to pigeon-hole songs and songwriters into camps; she’s a political songwriter, he writes confessional songs, that album’s about travelling, they only write sad songs. The reality is of course, that like most things in life, music is a spectrum; a song can be melancholic and miserable one day, empowering and joyous the next.
We’re sure anyone reading this site has been told at least once, “how can you listen to that, it’s so sad, are you feeling okay?” It’s normally aimed at Radiohead, or possibly Sufjan Stevens. The reality is of course that sad songs don’t necessarily make you sad, just like listening to happy hardcore doesn’t make you happy, or, to the best of our knowledge, hardcore. It was the instrumental Scottish, “miserablists”, Mogwai who tongue in cheekily entitled their album Happy Songs For Happy People, as if poking fun at the idea that being Scottish and making a hell of racket makes you instantly sad. Music, like the people who make it doesn’t necessarily fit into neat little boxes.
So here’s to all the songs that are happy being sad, or sad about being happy, or just contentedly drifting through life, leaving their meaning in the mind of the listener. Sometimes you can mean the world to someone, when you never really meant anything at all.
Arriving into the world with an ambitious and fully formed debut album, Sit Down Be Small, moonweather are a somewhat mysterious trio from Cincinnati. Featuring contributions from a further twelve musicians, Sit Down Be Small is a record that goes from the minimalist, introspective folk of Sufjan Stevens or Bon Iver through to the wistful, sun-drenched pop of Avi Buffalo or The Sleepy Jackson. The instrumentation is spectacular as twinkling electronics, fluttering drums and gently plucked guitars are accentuated by strings, horns and woodwind, giving the album an almost chamber pop feel in places.
Even better news- the album isn’t only free to download – if you’re in the Cincinnati area they’ll give you a free copy of the vinyl as well. Celebrating their album and all that is good with the world, moonweather have today put down a mixtape of “happy sad songs”, featuring the likes of Cate Le Bon, Jessica Lee Mayfield and Mutual Benefit. Read their explanation and listen to the tape below.
“A playlist of ‘happy sad songs’, for me, they are the songs that wake you up the morning after a good night sleep. It’s really nice outside and you’re feeling motivated. You don’t really have plans per say, but a lot of things you want to get done. It’s not quite the same playlist that you blast before going out for the night, and not quite the same as the one you put on when you’re in a bit of a mood. It’s somewhere in the middle”.
1. Alex G – Snot
Billy got me really into Alex G when we were writing the album last summer. I think it heavily influenced how the whole thing turned out. This one is from the album that was played during his son’s nap time / breaks from recording.
2. Jessica Lee Mayfield – Out Hearts Are Wrong
We’re notorious for playing this one on repeat at the tavern down the street.
3. Boy Scouts – Deans List
Not sure where I stumbled upon this one, but really love the simplicity.
4. Jodi – Remember
Another stripped down sound that is somewhere on that hazy line between happy and sad.
5. R.L. Kelly – Feels Real
This is absolutely one of my favorites, and I think it really defines the mood of the playlist. A little upbeat, a little melancholy, a little lo-fi.
6. Mutual Benefit – Desert Island Feeling
It’s just soooo pretttyyyyy.
7. Ojai – All I Can Ask
This one hits a little harder than the others, and brings you back to your highschool Weezer-loving self.
8. Katie Dey – Fear o’ The Light
This song terrifies me in all the correct ways.
9. Sam Evian – Summer Running
Is this what happy-sad felt like in the 50s?
10. Cate Le Bon – Are You With Me Now?
The second person in the history of music to make pottery look sexy, after Lionel Richie of course.
11. Simon & Garfunkel – The Only Living Boy In New York
Billy would kill me if I didn’t put Simon & Garfunkel on the list, not that they don’t deserve the spot. The perfect end to the not-so-perfect playlist.
SECRET TRACK: Sedna’s Not Alone – Faucet
The perfect addendum to the not-so-perfect playlist.