Though summer isn’t usually categorized as a melancholy season, something about going home, lighting sparklers and slipping into cyan swimming pools leaves a nostalgic sensation in its wake. Sometimes every happy summer memory feels fleeting. After the moment ends, you find yourself one fewer summer adventure away from returning to school, stress and responsibilities. It’s easy to fall into the summer blues — and when you do sink into a rut, sad songs are there to comfort you. With the days before fall quickly waning, this playlist of sad songs will let you wallow before easing you back into summer merriment in no time.
“Slacks” by St. South
The softly synthy St. South’s “Slacks” tingles like a chill running down your spine. The vulnerable electronic single is as simple as they come, with only gentle percussion, cymbals and synth ringing below the wispy vocals of St. South creator Olivia Gavranich. While “Slacks” is a declaration of emotional freedom, it is a cautious one. Though longing to “release the ropes and feel the slack,” Gavranich struggles with the same insecurities that anyone does after ending a relationship. Despite this, she finds strength within herself to reclaim her identity. This lugubrious melody will indulge your summer blues while simultaneously inspiring you to rediscover your confidence.
“Fire Escape” by Foster the People
An intimate track wrapped up in an elegant metaphor, “Fire Escape” is one of the least uplifting songs on the list. Los Angeles native Foster the People crafted a somber commentary on the harsh nature of its own city. A single guitar plays sincerely over almost inaudible static for nearly the whole song, only later accompanied by a gentle synth riff in the chorus. Mark Foster’s dreamy yet pained lyrics about observing the death of dreamers are relatable both to those who have suffered and those who have watched someone they care about suffer. Despite the harsh reality of the subject matter, Foster encourages the listener to “save yourself” and fight to stay out of the abysmal Hollywood hole.
“Hero” by Regina Spektor
A bonus track on Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope, “Hero” presents the struggle to succeed in a world that sets you up to fail. The heavy religious overtones of the powerful piano-driven piece set the scene for not fighting against failure, but learning to come to terms with it. The repetition of “it’s alright,” especially toward the end of the song, mimics something one might whisper to oneself in the midst of everything falling apart. Spektor’s piano accompaniment begins softly before her voice, allowing her to step confidently into the song. Her voice and the instrument then become equally powerful in a way that matches the desperation of someone trying to convince herself “it’s alright.” But by the end of the track, the piano fades out and Spektor begins to sing “no one’s got it all” with a sincere confidence. By the end, “Hero” rings with a courage that can convince anyone that they too are “the hero of this story.”
“Moth’s Wings (Stripped Down Version)” by Passion Pit
Another intimately recorded track, the stripped down version of the third track on Passion Pit’s debut Manners transforms the song into something entirely new. The cracks, static and crashes add to the charm of the pleasantly sad “Moth’s Wings” about watching someone you love struggle. With whimsical lyrics to match the playful instrument accompaniments, this song audibly embodies summer nostalgia. The song serves a different purpose than others before it. While the others were written from the perspective of self-suffering, “Moth’s Wings” comes from the point of view of someone who wants to help carry a loved one out of a dark place. The result is pleasant and warm, yet subtle and honest enough to coax the cautious out of hiding.
“Twin Size Mattress” by the Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms finds motivation in anger on the fourth track of Talon of the Hawk. “Twin Size Mattress” is a song meant to be screamed out of car windows on a lonely highway. It’s a song about growing up and remembering the good times in the chaos of the hurdling responsibilities around you. Brian Sella’s crisp vocals promise to “help you swim” despite the murky waters of the future that lie ahead. A highly relatable song for college students, “Twin Size Mattress” pairs candid lyrics with powerful instrumental composition. Though it begins with a modest acoustic guitar riff, the song finishes with an empowering outro that inspires us to defy expectations and “contribute to the chaos.”