Turn Down for Everything: An Annotated Playlist

Molly Brodak


The grief of Pre-Holidays is welling in your throat and your Seasonal Affective Disorder is combing its hair and sharpening its teeth for your long winter dance. You can turn your self way up with your Coping Tools, your loved ones and happy places and Buddhist platitudes. But, sometimes, you must allow your self to turn down, all the way down into the bottom of YouTube grief playlists, so here’s a new one for this new Anguish Season.


1. “Lief Ambon” by George de Fretes

You’re George de Fretes, you’ve just traveled the dark Pacific as a stowaway on the ohan van Oldebarneveldt, landing in Utrecht, and the warm embrace of Indonesia has been replaced by the bite of unfriendly Scandinavian blue-coldness. You write a song in which a guitar noodles away over your crying steel guitar like your homesickness roaming the dark moors of your private pain.


2. “Peggy Gordon” by Fainne Gael An Lae (Dark Patrick)

Not a huge bagpipe fan here but this one simple extended howl works like a gentle silver saw pulled slowly through my brain, like a sonic metaphor for an ache, and any ache is the same ache: Oh Peggy Gordon, you are my darling, come sit you down upon my knee, come tell to me the very reason why I am slighted so by thee.


3. “The Reason Young People Use Drugs” by Abner Jay

They are hungry for love.


4. “I Only Have Eyes for You” by the Flamingos

The crowning glory of the Cough Syrup Doo-Wop genre, the only song that makes me feel drunk when I hear it. Are the stars out tonight? The song asks us. The song doesn’t know, the song is overtaken by a kind of blind love, it admits. A single tender chord presses manically over and over through the gym where you are slowdancing with your crush, who is doomed to never love you back. Back in some haunted corridor comes drifting a doobopshebop delivered as fast, you imagine, as a ghost out of breath can manage. A guitar weeping from the bottom of the sea. You look up into his eyes and see one word: no.


5. “Miserere” by Arvo Pärt

What are the ghosts in haunted houses doing for all of eternity? Are they working on something? Do ghosts work? Of course they do, they’ve been working on this song for eons and will continue to work on it long after we’re gone. Don’t deny yourself the heartattack moment at 5:49.


6. “One” by Metallica (Live at the 1989 Grammys)

I can’t help but think that giving Jethro Tull the Grammy that year in the Hard Rock/Metal category instead of the obvious deservers Metallica had something to do with the specialness of this performance, the best possible performance of “One” you can see on YouTube, just because of the weird sadness. The shortened song is awkward and too fast, and Hetfield’s voice shows his nervousness, alternating between sounding like a scared kid and the angsty unfrozen Viking he is pretending to be. Just for a little extra salt on their wounds, the Grammy people misname the song, then something very strange happens at 1:15 and again at 2:38 to the camera—it wavers and floats in a disorienting way and I cannot understand what it is doing no matter how many times I replay these parts.

It’s all going along fine, a little embarrassed for them all but lost in admiring Ulrich’s shiny hair, until 3:50 when Newsted, poor Newsted, in his Capt’n Crunch shirt, shouts DARKNESS along with Hetfield and the heart explosion I have is the very reason I listen to music at all. There’s a close up now where we are IN Hetfield’s hair and you can see his eyes darting around quite a lot, a pitiable vulnerability there, assessing what must have been a ritzy Grammy audience unsympathetic at best, and I am in the ground at this point, a pool of melted spirit, then along comes Newsted again with LANDMINE and I’m run through with a thousand icy daggers.

Notice at the start of Hammett’s last solo the nonsense words POP OF THE BILL begin floating over his shoulder—that can’t be right, surely that can NOT be intentional—and continue to hover awkwardly like the uncertain words floating in a magic 8 ball, until they fly in correctly as a final act of humiliation.


7. “My Rifle, My Pony and Me” by Irish travellers

I can’t even let this one play most of the time. If it comes on, this little boy, whose name is Andy Cassidy, his voice commands me directly to my coffin. This is the song, wrested from the throat of cornball performers like Dean Martin and into the mouth of a genuine Boy Made of Pure Sadness, this is the very song I lay down to die with, Happy Holidays everyone.