(2) Eels, "Dead of Winter"
The Eels are not a band, they are just a man named Mark O. Everett, and Mr. Everett is a man who does not shy away from writing sad songs. “Dead of Winter” is, for my money, his saddest work. An autobiographical song about the songwriter’s mother’s death from cancer sets the sadness bar pretty high—yet the song still manages to be even sadder than you expect. It’s just immensely, heart-crushingly sad. The focus on the minutiae of death (“Radiation sore throat got your tongue / Magic markers tattoo you / and show it where to aim”) gives the song a matter-of-factness that rises above the emotional swamp of grief. The moments (like at 1:20) where it starts to rally, briefly, and gets all major-key, only increase the emotional range and make the lowers lower. This is not a song about crying or losing control; it’s about the pure clean sadness of “Standing in the dark outside the house / Breathing in the cold and sterile air.” The amateur video on youtube below is the one we're linking, since the original song had no video and you have to kind of love amateur videos. We'd have loved if the video lost its sepia tone in those brief major-key moments, actually, but hey, maybe we should have made our own video if we wanted to bitch about it. Just listen to the song. This one could go all the way, we think.
(15) Counting Crows, "A Long December"
Man, I know that by the time they released their second album, you'd already decided the Counting Crows kind of suck, and the main guy, the dude with the hair, just seems like an annoying guy you want to hack up with a hatchet attached to a hacky sack on some abandoned campus somewhere, but you know what? We really like this, their second album. Actually, their first album was pretty great too: if you could reverse the degree to which their first album got overplayed in every dorm in America you could listen to August and Everything After fresh and be blown away again. But you can’t. We get that. So give a listen to Recovering the Satellites if you want. Or at least this particular song, which will go real well with your late-90s breakup. Not sure the video will help things along, since it's not dated super well, but at a 15 seed we think this song's underranked, and this will be a closer fight than anyone expected. If you'd asked us in 1996, we would have said this song would go deep. Just maybe it still will.