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“Where words fail, music speaks.”

I think I’ve seen that quote pinned up on the wall of almost every music class, every record shop, every performance hall corridor. Maybe because it’s so short and simple; it leaves room for you to think and feel. But for me, perhaps it’s because I know how that quote is true in my own life. I’m definitely guilty of plugging in my headphones and skipping through song after song until I find something that echoes what I need (I do this almost every day). So, I want to share with you a few songs that I always go back to when I need to express something that words cannot contain. Starting with a song for sadness, or, to be more precise: ‘A Song for Zula’, Phosphorescent (2013).

“Oh- but I know love as a fading thing/ Just as fickle as a feather in a stream.”

It might seem a little bleak to start with a sad song, but if I’m going to continue with the so called ‘inspirational’ quotes, “you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain”. When we allow ourselves to feel sadness, that’s where we begin the possibility of every other emotion. ‘A Song for Zula’ is a song about the ending of a relationship, and encompasses every painful aspect of heartbreak within its four poetic verses. It tells the sadness of realising how something once beautiful can fade, lie, trap, isolate, break and drain. For the entire album which this single precedes, the producer and vocalist Houck stated “My life, to be honest, sort of fell apart. And in the process of getting it back together, these songs came. I couldn’t ignore them” (Bevan David, November 2012 ‘Phosphorescent Talks ‘Raw’”). ‘A Song for Zula’ echoes this sentiment beautifully through it’s eerie tones and lyrics. It tells the story of someone crashing and burning, so they can begin again.

“I will not lay like this for days now upon end.”

Sadness. For a seven-letter word it’s such a broad emotion. Feeling lost, broken, betrayed, empty, lonely: sad. And I think, in part, this is where music comes in, with the phenomena of the sad song. The feeling is too complex to truly define by just one word or a simple phrase. It’s with the minor keys, slowed down rhythm, haunting melodies, the exact emotion is able to come alive and be recognised. And for me, when I need to let this emotion out, this is the song I will most likely choose. It takes all of that, all the pain, all the complexities, all the beauties, and allows them to be freely explored.

“You just to stand there in the glass looking at me.”

Then once they are out, when they become free, I can begin to rebuild myself and heal, progress towards happiness and other positive emotions I’d rather feel.