4.28.2012

10 Songs About Silence

In a sort of self-effacing nod to the lack of writing in this space over the last month, I thought it'd be fun to do a post featuring songs about silence. Of course, it seems like an immediate disagreement of terms to have a song, something inherently noisy and evocative, about the utter lack of sound. Luckily, the tracks below do a great job of capturing the unsettling nature of silence, and perhaps even the peaceful aspects, in their meandering strings of chords, vocals and beautiful tones. Since this is the Future, I've created a Spotify playlist featuring each of the songs I've mentioned, so feel free to listen along. Watch out, here comes the breakdown!

The List

  1. Simon and Garfunkel; "The Sound of Silence" - Let's start with the obvious shall we? While it's one of the most disputed songs, even finding the 42nd spot in Blender's "The 50 Worst Songs Ever" list, it set the tone for songs about quiet, and disquiet. Yes, it's a schmaltzy 20-something, "no one understands mine or the world's pain" track, but it's hard to argue it's impact on culture.  
  2. Depeche Mode; "Enjoy The Silence" - Again, here we are with a wanky song about silence, but one that's also insanely fun despite it's ultra-direct mopey approach to the subject. "The Mode" were at the top of their game on Violator
  3. Exitmusic; "The Silence" - The common theme among songs about silence is the tone and energy. We're not talking about uplifting stuff here. Still, Exitmusic's "The Silence" finds a way to be both lilting and complex, but also catchy, especially with a fondness-generating chorus filled with swelling guitar wails.
  4. Crystal Castles; "Year of Silence" - If you know Crystal Castles, and I know you do, you know that they're never silent, or even particularly downbeat. Even on "Year of Silence" the band creates a dense veil of sound so thick that you can't think through it. In a way, the song creates silence because it overwhelms all sound, but more on that in a bit...
  5. Pavement; "Silence Kit" - The post-Joe-Cocker doing "With A Little Help From My Friends" style in this cowbell thumping Pavement track is a red herring because the philosophical ilk of the songs lyrics is what touches most on the theme. It's a song about shutting out all the shit, and also demolishing music, and also... masturbating.
  6. John Cage; "4'33"" - The ultimate song of silence, Cage's exercise in listening to the environment and considering all things music chases the very thing I was hinting at with the Crystal Castles' track. In actually silence we hear too much, but with the fuzzy tone of Cage's experiment, we hear our thoughts and begin to question the very nature of listening, to music, and otherwise.
  7. PJ Harvey; "Silence" - This track takes a more traditional approach to the silence concept. Spare and delicate, Harvey crafts a poetic lyrical environment that's both tragic and beautiful. And it deals with the dark inside hope for silence, even among the world and people we love. Silence is freedom, and a prison.
  8. Matisyahu; "Silence" - I know, the titles are creative here. Matisyahu's slow, beautiful, strum-light song about quiet is one of the best to listen to when seeking a sense of peace. Like Harvey's (above) this "Silence" is its own environment, obsessed with destroying distractions and mistakes, to find a silent place of peace.
  9. Portishead; "Silence" - Another title that's right on the money. But Portishead's version of silence is the most haunting, and not in the emotional way. Instead, the vibe feels dark and ominous, even as the track slowly builds, there's an impending sense of doom. It's invigorating, but also terrifying. The beat is a build up and when it cuts out and the lyrics begin, there's no doubt that this silence is the worst kind of all.
  10. Mazzy Star; "Mary of Silence" - We'll end on a slightly more chipper note. Mazzy Star's "Mary of Silence" has a similar darkness, but this time it's much more sensual, sexy and dangerous in the good way. If something of the horror genre is about to happen, it's going to be in the seductive vampiress variety. Or a hot, sticky, sweaty drug trip.
Thanks for enjoying 10 Songs About Silence. Again, you can find the Spotify playlist here: Songs of Silence

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