This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Freelance writer Houghtaling initially defines “miserabilist” music by scrolling through some of the artists on his iPhone: David Ackles, Patsy Cline, Joy Division, George Ligeti, and Radiohead, among others. All of them share what Houghtaling calls “a natural affinity for melancholy, an elemental leaning towards the sour side,” and he describes their music—as well as that of more than 70 other artists—in this enlightening collection of short descriptions. A random dip in and out of this alphabetically arranged survey reads like the list on a really, really good mix tape/CD, one that includes Samuel Barber and Frank Sinatra alongside the Shangri-Las and the Eels. But Houghtaling has a bigger agenda: he wants “to coalesce disparate artists separated by time and traditional genres into a new system based on emotional cues (sad is the new jazz).” To this end, he attempts to show connections between melancholy artists from all ages in a few longer essays on Miserabilist themes such as heartbreak, cheating, depression, and disease. However, any guide to melancholy musicians that includes an essay on Morrissey but not one on Joni Mitchell has to be seen as highly idiosyncratic—although overall, Houghtaling is highly entertaining. (Sept.)
Rob Sheffield
“For the meticulously melancholy music fan in all of us, a celebration of songs with a dark side. This Will End in Tears gathers the downest, doomiest sounds in rock, soul, jazz, the blues, and any music that can put a serious chill in your evening.”
Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum
“Sad sacks of the world: Rejoice! Adam Brent Houghtaling has ingeniously compiled the ultimate guide to this cruel world’s maestros of miserabilism. The feel bad book of the year!”
Leslie Simon
“Breaking up is hard to do, but not when you’ve got a book like this to help you make the saddest playlist of all time. Now, someone pass me a Kleenex...and that Elliott Smith album.”
Mark Yarm
“Sad songs say so much, but Adam Brent Houghtaling has a lot to add to the conversation. This Will End in Tears is a book well worth wallowing in.”
Kirkus Reviews
A comprehensive, sharply written journey through the music of sadness, of every stripe and from every genre. 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. Whether read straight through or dipped into at random, in times of despair or not, this is a most helpful musical sourcebook through every kind of blue.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061719677
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 808,754
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Brent Houghtaling is an editor, writer, musician, and digital consultant living in Brooklyn, New York.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Introduction 1

Song Essay: "Lush Life" 19

David Ackles 20

American Music Club 24

Angels of Light 26

Antony and the Johnsons 28

Arab Strap 29

Samuel Barber 31

Song Essay: "Adagio for Strings" 33

William Basinski 36

Andy Bey 37

Are You Ready to be Heartbroken? Heartbeats, Heartbreaks, and Artificial Hearts 39

Black Tape for a Blue Girl 45

The Blue Nile 47

Jacques Brel 49

Bright Eyes 51

James Carr 54

Johnny Cash 55

This Will End in Tears: Teardrops, Sob Songs, and Crying in the Rain 61

Cat Power 68

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 71

Vic Chesnutt 74

Gene Clark 76

Patsy Cline 78

Leon and Cohen 80

Song Essay: "Hallelujah" 83

The Cure 86

Song Essay: "Killing an Arab" 88

Breaking up, Breaking Down, Cheating, and Divorce 93

Dead Can Dance 105

Depeche Mode 108

John Dowland 110

Nick Drake 112

East River Pipe 115

Echo and the Bunnymen 116

Eels 119

Born to be Blue: The True Color of Misery? 123

Mark Eitzel 128

Marianne Faithfull 130

Felt 134

The Field Mice 136

Galaxie 500 137

Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki 139

Richard Hawley 141

Oh, The Humanity! Disasters and Depressions 145

Song Essay: "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" 156

Hayden 159

Billie Holiday 160

Song Essay: "Strange Fruit" 164

Skip James 168

Jandek 169

George Jones 171

Joy Division 174

Song Essay: "Love Will Tear Us Apart" 176

Lambchop 179

Seasonally Affected: Falling Leaves, Falling Snow, Falling Tears 183

Mark Lanegan 190

Low 192

The Magnetic Fields 193

Morrissey 196

The National 200

Mickey Newbury 201

Nico 204

Decay, Disintegration, Disease 207

Song Essay: "dlp 1.1" 217

Stina Nordenstam 220

Will Oldham/Palace/Bonnie "Prince" Billy 222

Roy Orbison 223

Pedro the Lion/David Bazan 227

Allan Pettersson 229

Edith Piaf 230

Portishead 234

Radiohead 237

Song Essay: "How to Disappear Completely" 239

Murder Ballads and Death Discs 245

Johnnie Ray 254

Red House Painters/Mark Kozelek 258

Lou Reed 260

Amália Rodrigues 264

Jimmy Scott 265

The Shangri Las 267

Jean Sibelius 270

Nina Simone 273

Suicide, It's a Suicide: Self-Harm and Song 277

Song Essay: "Gloomy Sunday" 286

Frank Sinatra 290

Elliott Smith 293

The Smiths 295

Smog/Bill Callahan 298

The Sound 301

Sparklehorse 303

David Sylvian 305

Keep Me in Your Heart for a While: Laments, Sung Weeping, and Deathbed Songs 309

Song Essay: "Taps" 320

This Mortal Coil 322

Tindersticks 324

Townes Van Zandt 325

Scott Walker 328

Song Essay: "The Electrician" 331

Hank Williams 335

Robert Wyatt 338

Don't they Know It's the End of the World? Songs from the Apocalypse 343

The 100 Saddest Songs 357

Acknowledgments 399

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