ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The most depressing albums ever recorded (Part 2)

Updated on April 3, 2012

This is a continuation of an earlier hub I wrote which takes a look at some of the darkest, most depressing, dance floor clearing albums written and recorded. As mentioned in Part 1 some of the greatest music ever written has been inspired by tragedy, hard times and sadness. This hub pays tribute to some of the most depressing but nevertheless brilliant albums recorded.


"Famous Blue Raincoat" from Songs of Love and Hate

Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love and Hate

They locked up a man
Who wanted to rule the world
The fools
They locked up the wrong man

Leonard Cohen is not known for writing cheery jingles, so it’s no surprise that he makes this list of depressing albums. In fact Cohen has such a reputation for writing depressing music that he was given the sarcastic moniker (unfairly in my opinion) “Laughing Lenny Cohen”.

Released in 1971 Songs of Love and Hate was Cohen’s third album and his darkest and most ambitious. As the title suggests the album addresses some heavy themes, the songs themselves are mostly paired down acoustic numbers, made even starker by Cohen’s dark baritone voice.

The album received mostly warm reviews and did well outside of the US, peaking at number 4 on the UK charts.

Songs of Love and Hate is is a dark, melancholy album which is not as accessible as some of his previous works. However it is a hugely ambitious body of work which captures some of Cohen’s finest songwriting.

Lou Reed - Berlin

"Staring at my picture book
She looks like Mary, Queen of Scots
She seemed very regal to me
Just goes to show how wrong you can be "

When it comes to depressing albums Lou Reed’s Berlin is legendary. The album has often been cited as the most depressing album ever made. Released in 1973, hot on the heels of one of Reeds most commercially successful albums Transformer, Berlin is a 50 minute rock opera telling the story of a couple’s doomed relationship as it descends through violence, drug use, depression and eventually death.

Berlin was a commercial flop and critics wasted no time in savaging the album. Rolling Stone had the following to say about the album.

“Lou Reed's Berlin is a disaster, taking the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide. There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them” (Rolling Stone Magazine 1973)

The years subsequent to its release have been much kinder to Berlin and many now consider the album to be Reed’s finest work. Reed toured with the album in its entirety in 2008 which received mostly excellent reviews.

Lou Reed - Sad Song (from Berlin)

"Dead of Winter" from Electro Shock Blues

The Eels – Electro Shock Blues

“See this watch she gave me?
Well it still ticks away
The days I’m claiming back for me”

No stranger to tragedy, Eels frontman Mark Everett (more commonly known as E) has made a career out of writing downbeat songs, inspired by tragic events in his own life. Electro-Shock Blues was the Eels second album, released in 1998. Electro-Shock Blues was written largely in response to Everett’s sister's suicide and his mother's terminal cancer. Many of the songs deal with this loss and coming to terms with being the only surviving member of his family (Everett’s father died of a heart attack in 1982)

Given the tragic circumstances around the album it is no surprise that this is a difficult album to listen to. The album starts with the song “Elizabeth on the Bathroom floor” which is about finding his sister, just as the title describes. Things don’t get any easier with the next songs “Going to your funeral”, “Cancer for the Cure” and “My Descent into Madness”. It is not until the second half of the album where the mood lifts, albeit ever so slightly. “The medication’s wearing off” is a hopeful song despite the title, and the final song “PS you rock my world” hints at finding peace and the realisation that it is time to start living.


Bonnie Prince Billy - I see a Darkness

"Well I hope that someday buddy
We'll have peace in our lives
Together or apart
Alone or with our wives"

Bonnie Prince Billy is one of America’s musical mavericks. His real name is Will Oldham and he has released his music under a series of different names including Will Oldham, Palace Music, Palace Brothers, Palace Songs and finally Bonnie Prince Billy.

Released in January 1999, I see Darkness is a collection of morbidly stark and emotionally wrenching songs. It is difficult to describe just how gloomy this album is, the whole things sounds like it was written and performed by a man who has lost all hope. That might not sound like much of a recommendation but each of the 11 songs on this album are haunting, memorable and very affecting.

The album received much critical acclaim, appearing in several best of lists from prominent music publications; including Number 20 of Mojo Magazine’s greatest 100 albums of our lifetime and Number 9 – in Pitchfork Media: Top 100 Albums of the 1990s.

I See a Darkness also caught the ear of Johnny Cash who covered the album’s title track on his American Recordings disc, American III: Solitary Man (2000).

I See a Darkness is not an easy album to listen to, it requires a particular mood to appreciate these songs, but repeat listens are rewarding.


Joni Mitchell – Blue

“Acid, booze and ass, needles guns and grass, lots of laughs”

Following a break from performing Joni Mitchell returned to release her fourth album entitled Blue in 1971. Working with simple arrangements and minimal accompaniment the album is a 32 minute song cycle of love found and lost. It is thought the album was inspired, at least in part, by Mitchell’s relationship breakdown with long-time boyfriend Graham Nash. Either way Blue is a stark, sombre album and a significant departure from her earlier work.

Mitchell said of the album “"At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong."[

Blue was ranked #30 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


Honorable mentions

The following albums nearly made the list , feel free to add your own favourite depressing albums in the comments.

Bob Dylan - Time out of Mind

Joy Division - Closer

Nick Cave - Murder Ballads

Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska

Nirvana - In Utero

David Bowie - Low

Merle Haggard - If I could only fly

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Paul Fisher profile image

    Paul Fisher 

    4 years ago from United Kingdom

    Really interesting selection. I enjoyed this!

  • AlexDrinkH2O profile image

    AlexDrinkH2O 

    5 years ago from Southern New England, USA

    Frank Sinatra "Sings for Only the Lonely" - it's s bit depressing but it's a fantastic album, especially his rendition of "Blues in the Night."

  • Theeyeballkid profile imageAUTHOR

    Theeyeballkid 

    6 years ago

    Great call rubberbandman, Nick Cave Murder Ballads could definitely make the top 10.

  • profile image

    rubberbandman 

    6 years ago

    maybe not entirely depressing as it has some maniacal levity, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Murder Ballads is definitely dark. Lots of fun to sing along with in the car. Alone of course.

  • Theeyeballkid profile imageAUTHOR

    Theeyeballkid 

    6 years ago

    Thanks very much! I was starting to loose hope on this hub. Great to see another Eels fan on hubpages, that album is a classic, although "Blinking Lights" could also be included in a top depressing albums of all times list.

    Thanks again for reading!

  • spartucusjones profile image

    CJ Baker 

    6 years ago from Parts Unknown

    Great hub! You mentioned a couple of albums that are among my personal faves. I really love "Electro Shock Blues". It is a dark album, but as you touched upon PS You Rock My World is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It is pure genius.

    I also love "I See A Darkness", and the title track is one of my all time favorite songs. But I agree it may take repeated listening to get into.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)