Sad music moves us like nothing else, and despite its gloomy nature it also has the curious power to make us happy. In This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music, author Adam Brent Houghtaling explains why, while offering up a compendium of history’s masters of melancholy and the greatest sad songs of all time, featuring artists across genres and through time—from torch songs to country weepers to emo classics. Loaded with recommended playlists and insights into our favorite sob songs, This Will End in Tears is a fascinating immersion into the “miserabilist” genre, a musical marker with increasing resonance.
About Adam Brent Houghtaling
In my early teens, the capes and tights of my comics-bred youth fell away, replaced with an explosion of sound from GUNS ‘N’ ROSES, BLACK SABBATH, S.O.D., INXS, THE DESCENDENTS, and THE MISFITS. In short order I began playing bass and started a staple-bound fanzine (Chinchilla Smile) to celebrate my favorite indie-pop bands. Music has been a passionate part of my life and depressing music makes me particularly happy and I routinely sweep hours away in record stores and online looking for new artists to feed this miserable addiction. I’m a singer and a songwriter and have written for Prefix Magazine and was responsible for music coverage across 8 cities while an editor at AOL CityGuide. I have been an editor for over ten years and was most recently the online editorial director at Gourmet.com, the online extension of Gourmet Magazine.
In his first book, Houghtaling takes what could have been a routine collection of lists and turns it into a highly useful roadmap through musical melancholy. Helpfully arranged by topics that cover everything from heartbreak to death to apocalyptic doom and all the many subcategories in between (divorce, depression, suicidal despair, murder, etc.), the book provides both highly specific playlists (e.g., songs to cover every one of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief) and the context to go with them. Houghtaling delves into the physiology of sadness, such as the way the body responds to sad music and how the aging process enriches a singer’s voice. Mini essays shed light on world-class mopes (Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Nico, The Cure, Townes Van Zandt), fascinating obscurities (16th-century weeper John Dowland, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, East River Pipe, The Field Mice) and key tracks in every genre (Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”). The author also includes a well-annotated list of the “100 Saddest Songs.” Houghtaling can get hyperbolic (anything involving The Smiths), and there are some slight omissions (No P.J. Harvey or Lefty Frizzell?), but the book is buoyed throughout by the author’s thoughtful approach and enthusiasm. – Kirkus Reviews
‘This Will End In Tears’: Soundtracks For Down Days
NPR Book Review – August 11, 2012 (Excerpt)
Even the strongest among us get the blues: You can’t get out of bed, you don’t want to talk to a single other humanoid, and you just want to close the curtains and turn on the music. The songs you choose for those miseries have to be just right.
Adam Brent Houghtaling is something of a connoisseur of the melancholy moment. Perhaps to cheer himself up, he’s put that expertise to use by producing a kind of encyclopedia of the best soundtracks for lonely days and nights. It’s calledThis Will End in Tears: The Miserablist Guide to Music.
The book highlights the many components of a sad song — harmony, melody, tempo, lyrics and more. But Houghtaling says what’s most important is how those elements interact.
“I think it’s a number of factors, but none of those things necessarily by themselves create a sad song. There’s certainly lots of happy songs with lots of minor chords in them,” he says. “Certainly, lyrics play a big part. I think in narrative song, just like reading a novel, there’s an opportunity to plug your own experiences into the song. I think that really helps create a connection with sad music.”
Houghtaling says that’s a special connection that should be celebrated and cherished. At the time he started writing, he says, that opinion wasn’t popular. [Read the full article...]
When all hope is gone, sad songs say so much
The Washington Post Book Review – September 20, 2012 (Excerpt)
Everybody hurts, sometimes. And when they do, it helps to know that there’s a song called “Everybody Hurts” and who wrote it. In “This Will End in Tears,” Adam Brent Houghtaling attempts to assemble a field guide to musical melancholy — a volume that catalogues every sad sack in the record store, from David Ackles to Townes Van Zandt.
An editor and musician who lives in Brooklyn, Houghtaling is not a black-eyeliner extremist, but, by his estimation, our culture undervalues doom and gloom. He explains that depression and melancholy are different beasts. The former is a disease, the latter a tool for reflection and a catalyst for creativity. “Consider this book a small stone cast in the war against chasing the healthy aspects of gloom away,” he writes in an author’s note. “To do battle with that is to struggle against what it is to be human, to misunderstand happiness, and to dismiss the possible catharsis afforded by the artists and songs represented in this book.” [Read the full article...]
DOODLEBUGS & SPITFIRES Memories and Short Stories by Peter Carroll
“Doodlebugs & Spitfires” is a delightful collection of memories and short stories written by Peter Carroll, the author of “Queen of Misfortune,” in his trademark poetic and profoundly thoughtful style.
Most of his stories, previously published in limited form in local English newspapers and magazines, like “Brave New World”, “The Forties Street Tradesmen”, “Doodlebugs”, or “The Christmas of 43” evolve around his childhood in the Northern part of London during and after World War II. He describes the horrors that came with the V1 flying bombs, nicknamed the “Doodlebugs.” Heroic British pilots in their “Spitfire” airplanes would attempt to divert the flying bombs from the populated areas, sometimes successful, and sometimes not.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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