It’s the long-awaited return of my Five Songs series!
“Your what series?” you might ask.
My Five Songs series, in which I pick five songs within a rough theme that I choose based on a whim. It’s fun and you can hear some cool songs if you’re interested.
This time, the theme is songs about sleep in some way.
Porcupine Tree – Sleep of No Dreaming
This song is a downer, but that’s Porcupine Tree for you. Also, overly happy songs are rarely of much value. There are references to considering suicide and the idea of giving up all of your dreams and settling for an ordinary but unsatisfying life. Musically, it is solid mid 90s PT, slow, simple bass and organ, dreamy lead guitar, a little heavier edge in the second half, a lot of reverb.
I think the Sleep of No Dreaming is not literally sleep or death, but a figurative coma-like state that comes from the meaningless crushing normality of adult life.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – Sleep is Wrong
(from Grand Opening and Closing)
This is the first song on the first Sleepytime Gorilla Museum album, and it is the perfect introduction to what that band did so well. Angular metallic riffs, awkward crunchy jerky rhythms, piercing violin, deep bellowed vocals, a twisted vaudevillian aesthetic, abstract poetic lyrics about small specific ideas.
Sleep is Wrong is something of a thinly disguised mantra against mortality. Sleep as death. In addition to its delightfully crunchy texture, it’s also surprisingly catchy. The overlapping vocal parts at the end are wonderful.
maudlin of the Well – Sleep is a Curse
(from Leaving Your Body Map)
I don’t understand what the lyrics of song are about really, probably because this whole record and its companion release Bath are lyrical puzzles that I am ill-equipped to decode. Musically, it’s very acoustic in nature, kind of dreamy and half-formed in a way. It’s incredibly melodic, mellifluous even.
“I killed myself, because I was stupid.”
Regarding those lyrics, there appears to be that notion of obsession, and a quest for knowledge, along with the romantic imagery that I associate with Jason Byron’s lyrics.
The Flaming Lips – Sleeping on the Roof
(From The Soft Bulletin)
This is an instrumental that closes out The Soft Bulletin, and it is dreadfully painfully sad. Led by calamitous piano chords and synthesizer over a backdrop of crickets at night, the song only becomes more acutely haunting by its end as it dissolves into nothingness.
It is apparently an excerpt from “Should We Keep the Severed Head Awake??” and based on this excerpt, I would dearly love to hear what that actually is in full, if it actually even exists.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Sleep
(From Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven)
“They don’t sleep anymore on the beach.”
You know that Godspeed thing, the kind of vaguely unsettling sense of living in the decaying corpse of Western civilisation, watching everything that once seemed solid and permanent crumble into ruin and desolation. Yeah, that’s here on this song. A collage of crescendos aplenty, shrieking and howling guitars, relentless loop-like live drumming, field recordings and simple powerful melodies repeating themselves until they unravel. Godspeed have made a career of this, and this song is pretty much exactly that.
The middle of this track is brutally angry, but the last section, “Locks of Love” is sweet and beautiful and lovely.
I’m not sure that this song is about sleep, per se, but it’s called Sleep, and the word sleep is in it, so that’s good enough for me.