Ten Dark Songs: Best Atmospheric Songs
Gothic rock is much darker, but these songs are probably dark enough if you prefer mainstream. You'll find a lot of trip hop in this selection, but also rock, reggae and sophisti-pop.
Music always evokes emotion, no matter what the genre, but these ten songs are particularly poignant.
They speak from the heart about things most of us can relate to at some point or other, like loneliness, separation, rejection, unrequited love, and discrimination. Although somber, songs like these are both comforting and therapeutic; they reflect how we feel when going through difficult times, and reassure that we're not the first to have suffered.
But they're also great to just listen to and enjoy.
"Broken Love Song" — Pete Doherty
This one is from Pete Doherty's 2009 debut solo album "Grace/Wastelands."
Inspired by a spell in prison, "Broken Love Song" is about coping with the loneliness and monotony of life behind bars.
"Wild Is the Wind" — David Bowie
Originally recorded in 1957 by Johnny Mathis, David Bowie covered "Wild Is the Wind" in 1976 and again in 1981.
The lyrics are romantic, but a haunting melody gives the song a strange, jarring edge that Bowie's chilling vocal intensifies.
"The Captain of Her Heart" — Double
A hit for the Swiss group Double, "The Captain of Her Heart" was released in 1985 and reached number eight in the UK Charts, and number 16 in the US.
It's about a girl who spends the night waiting for her lover to return from sea, but her hopes of ever seeing him again steadily erode as dawn approaches.
Cool, undulating instrumentals, sullen vocals and a swaying rhythm reflect the girl's emotions, which alternate between anticipation and disappointment.
"Seven Seconds" — Neneh Cherry and Youssou N'Dour
This one was a European hit in 1994.
Sung in English, French and Senegalese, "Seven Seconds" describes how people judge one another based on what they see and the folly of this; if people weren't conscious of skin color, as a newborn baby isn't, many of the world's problems wouldn't exist.
And when a child is born into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone of the skin it's living in
"Unfinished Sympathy" — Massive Attack
Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy" is a 1991 hit about unrequited love.
The object of desire is compared to a book opened but not yet read; there's a yearning to know more, and although never properly acquainted, the pain of rejection is still acute,
Shara Nelson's vocals express perfectly the frustration and despair of falling in love only to be snubbed.
"Unfinished Sympathy" was covered by Tina Turner on her 1996 "Wildest Dreams" album.
"Small Town" — Morcheeba
"Small Town" is about dealing with small town attitudes after hitting hard times.
The backing track imposes a closed in, oppressive, downcast spirit, while the lyrics describe the misery of the predicament, as well as offering advice—there's nothing left to lose, so flee and explore new horizons:
Make a break
From this sad old school
Across the lake
Lies a place that's cool
From the album "Who Can You Trust?" which was released in 1996.
"Some Unholy War" — Amy Winehouse
From the 2006 album "Back to Black."
Amy Winehouse based the majority, if not all, of her self-penned songs on her own experiences. "Some Unholy War" is thought to be about her then future husband Blake Fielding-Civil.
It describes how she would fight both with him and for him if he were in battle—the "unholy war" may have been the couple's battle with addiction.
"Sea of Love" — Tom Waits
Originally a hit for Phil Phillips in 1959, Tom Waits' cover was recorded for the 1989 movie "Sea of Love," starring Al Pacino.
When "Sea of Love" is played in a never-ending loop (as it is in the movie), it becomes obvious it has no distinct beginning or end. This and its undulating melody gives Phil Phillips' original recording an eerie, haunting quality.
The Tom Waits' version, however, takes things a step further. A murky backing track and sinister vocals turn "eerie" and "haunting" into dark and menacing.
"I've Seen that Face Before"— Grace Jones
"I've Seen that Face Before" is from Grace Jones' 1981 album "Nightclubbing."
It describes the thoughts of a woman being stalked, who, in spite of sensing danger, seems intrigued rather than afraid. Some of the lyrics are spoken in French, which enhances the song's overall air of mystery—although a native French speaker might say otherwise.
The melody is taken from a composition called "Libertango" by Ástor Piazzolla, but uses a reggae arrangement instead of the original tango.
"Play Dead" — Björk
"Play Dead" was recorded for the 1993 movie "Young Americans," and was released as a bonus track on Björk's debut album titled "Debut."
The instrumental arrangement and vocals are moody and dramatic, with lyrics that tell of feigning immunity to emotional pain.
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© 2009 Camlo De Ville