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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.

1. "Broken Love Song" by 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.

2. "Wild Is the Wind" by 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.

3. "The Captain of Her Heart" by 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.

4. "Seven Seconds" by 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"

5. "Unfinished Sympathy" by 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.

6. "Small Town" by 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.

7. "Some Unholy War" by 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.

8. "Sea of Love" by 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.

9. "I've Seen that Face Before" by 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.

10. "Play Dead" by 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.

© 2009 Camlo De Ville


Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on April 18, 2011:

Thanks, Irenebonjour!

Irenebonjour from MA, USA on April 09, 2011:

great hub!! check out mine too :)

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on December 16, 2010:

I find the list especially nice as I've, from perusing the titles and artists, never heard a one of them! (I like new music)

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on August 24, 2010:

Hi Epigramman!

More great suggestions from you - yes, those artists would have fitted perfectly here. I just watched 'Gloomy Sunday' by Diamanda Galas on YouTube, and now wonder why I didn't put anything in by Billie Holiday ... then again, it could also be made into an endless list. Perhaps I ought to do a Part II.

Thank you very much for yet another terrific comment - and all the compliments. You motivate me to do more.

All the best, Camlo

epigramman on August 23, 2010:

..another great hub from you my maestro of song!!!

..nice to see Tom Waits on your list - of course - Nick Cave is pretty dark too - and so is Diamanda Galas - and your new buddy - epigramman!

Another great dark song - DARK END OF THE STREET by Leroy Carr ........ you do great work - me is impressed by your knowledge, love and passion of music - and hubmaking!!!

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on August 03, 2010:

Thank you again, Themist! And I love receiving comments, so do it however much you like :-) And what a great compliment ('Best list ever!').

I actually have another list under construction, but abandonded it months ago - you've inspired me to get it finished.

Thanks again! All the best, Camlo

themist from London on August 03, 2010:

Seven Seconds, unfinished sympathy, a song from station to station. Best list ever! Sorry for commenting on all your hubs, but I love love love em!

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on July 13, 2010:

Thank you the two of you - or which ever one of you is writing :-)

Yes, in these Hubs, I like to bring both well known and less known or fogotten music together.

Glad there are titles here you know and like, and I hope you like the others, too.

Thank you very much for coming by and commenting! All the best, Camlo

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on July 13, 2010:

I don't know all these, but I do like the ones that I know. On that basis, I will have to listen to them all. Thanks for a hub that makes me find new music.

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on March 15, 2010:

Hi Jessica!

I hope you do. There's bound to be something there you like.

Thanks for coming by and commenting!

All the best, Camlo

jessica_alias on March 13, 2010:

I will try listening to some of these. Thanks for posting this piece.

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on February 19, 2010:

Hi Timothy!

Thanks for dropping by, and for the comment.

Yes, there was a time when I was quite addicted to Grace Jones. 'My Jamaican Guy' is one of my all time favourites, but didn't really fit into this Hub.

Thanks again!

All the best, Camlo

Timothy Ward from Bozeman, Montana on February 19, 2010:

Great hub! Introduced me to some new artist. Rekindled my love of Grace Jones

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on February 06, 2010:

Thank you! I'm glad you liked my choice. And my writing style -- great compliment. All the best, Camlo

russiangypsygirl on February 05, 2010:

Great variety! I especially love that you put Morcheeba and Tom Waits in. I like your writing style~

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on December 25, 2009:

Hi Elena!

'Seven Seconds' is one of those songs I played non-stop for about a year -- could never get enough of it.

A friend of mine wanted me to learn 'Sea of Love' for Karaoke -- the Phil Phillips version. I'd never heard of it until then, but did sense an eerie undercurrent without having seen the movie.

Thank you for commenting, reading, and listening. Glad you liked the songs!

All the best, Camlo

Elena. from Madrid on December 25, 2009:

Hello, camlo! So here I have two that I know and like, 'Seven Seconds' and 'Sea of Love', which I actually first heard by Phil Phillips and later saw featured in that movie with Pacino and Hunt. Great songs, good choices :-)

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on December 23, 2009:

Hi ZZron! Thanks for dropping by!

Yes -- I'm attracted to most songs for their music rather than lyrics. I suppose that's what makes these special -- for me. I actually feel a need to listen to the words.

I'm not a religious person, but I'm a great fan of Al Green, and love his religious music.

Music without lyrics -- Santana is probably my overall favourite.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and listening!

All the best, Camlo

zzron from Houston, TX. on December 23, 2009:

Nice hub camio, but for me, I like classic rock from the 60's 70's and 80's. I don't really care much about the lyrics in a song as long as they don't talk bad about God or Jesus. I mostly like music without words. I'm just an old christian guy who likes to ROCK. Good work brother.

Camlo De Ville (author) from Cologne, Germany on December 21, 2009:

Well, you liked the others, and you know these, so you've obviously got very good taste, MBP42.

Thank you for commenting!

All the best, Camlo

MBP42 from have received my official license as a Pastor, praise God on December 21, 2009:

Hi camlo, I actually know more of these than of the last artists you wrote about, what does that say for me? lol