"I Will Follow You Into the Dark" / Death Cab for Cutie
Sometimes I do listen to music recorded in the 21 century -- these guys' stuff, for example. Their frontman/songwriter Ben Gibbard has a real ear for melody, consistently churning out tunes that you have by heart as soon as you've heard them; but it's his gift for lyrics that most grabs my attention (once an English major, always an English major).
Take this song. Here's this plaintive tenor voice softly crooning with his acoustic guitar in a folkie mode (just listening to him, you know he must have floppy brown hair and high cheekbones), and you don't notice at first how dark it is, right from the outset: "Love of mine, someday you will die..." My jaw dropped when I finally realized what he was singing. I mean, emo is emo, but this edges toward Goth. . . here he is talking about the white light shining at the end of a tunnel, and saying "the time for sleep is now" . . . Is this song about incurable illness, or about suicide longings, or what? Either way, here's the ultimate proof of love: "If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied/ Illuminate the No's on their vacancy sign/ If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks / Then I'll follow you into the dark." Whoa.
Then I saw the video, which is deadpan funny, with Gibbard looking wide-eyed into the camera while a little hole in the floor of his bedroom keeps getting bigger and bigger and sucking him into it, and he's flailing wildly to escape it . . . well, it's a hoot, and I'm relieved that Gibbard doesn't take this melancholy posing seriously. But he sounds so damn sincere; lilting as the tune is, there's a depressive quaver to his voice. I can imagine legions of college girls dressed in black dying to sleep with Gibbard on the basis of just this song alone. (I could be projecting here, but I remember that 18-year-old mindset and it definitely came with a morbid streak.)
Anyway, this song would be worth listening to if only for this verse: "In Catholic school /As vicious as Roman rule / I got my knuckles bruised / By a lady in black..." Smack dab in the middle of this wistfully morose song, a lyric like that just cracks me up.