If you’re like us and basically everyone else in the world — unless you don’t drink, in which case we’re happy for you — you probably greeted 2013 with a fairly sizable hangover yesterday. There’s a surprising amount of complexity to be found in waking up and feeling like shit after a big night out, and it’s a subject that’s been addressed by a host of songwriters over the years. So we thought we’d welcome 2013 with an exploration of musical renditions of the morning after the night before, from the quietly contented to the morbidly, morbidly hung over. We hope the way you’re feeling roughly 36 hours into the new year falls somewhere toward the former end of the scale.
Kris Kristofferson — “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
We’ll start with a classic, the one song that appears on every one of these lists that anyone’s ever made — and with good reason. Kristofferson’s lyric does a beautiful job of capturing that awful empty feeling you get the morning after a colossal bender, when you find yourself questioning anything and everything. The moment where Kristofferson sings of how the smell of frying chicken “took me back to something that I’d lost somewhere, somehow along the way” is one of the most desperately sad moments in all of music.
Mick Harvey — “First St. Blues”
Also on the “evils of alcohol” front, this song — originally by Lee Hazlewood, although we’re particularly partial to Mick Harvey’s cover — depicts the complexity of the alcoholic’s relationship with his poison. It’s sung from the perspective of a drunk begging for change on a street corner, but takes a decidedly non-didactic tone, spending most of its lyric painting a vivid picture of the world to which alcohol transports its abuser… until the denouement, of course, where you’re snapped back into reality and the pathos of the bum’s request: “Just one drink/ And then I’ll leave.” There but for the grace of god, and all that.
The Chemical Brothers — “Dream On”
In your correspondent’s humble opinion, The Chemical Brothers’ 1999 album Surrender is the single best musical representation of the trajectory of an MDMA experience, from the heady rush of its opening tracks through the trippily blissed-out midsection, the second wind of “Hey Boy, Hey Girl,” and the long, slow comedown. “Dream On” forms the last part of this journey, a gorgeously sleepy coda to the album that conjures climbing woozily into bed as the birds are singing outside. Some nights, everything works out just fine.
Portishead — “Roads”
On a similar but more somber note, Beth Gibbons’ voice here captures every inch of the bleak feeling of being cold and alone of the morning after the night before, sitting in your living room with a spliff for company and nothing to do for the rest of the day. “Stoned in the morning light,” she sings mournfully, “I feel/ I got nobody on my side/ And surely that ain’t right…”
Luna — “Great Jones Street”
Another hazy salute to the sunrise, this song finds Dean Wareham on the roof of an NYC apartment building, contemplating the skyline and promising himself that today will somehow be different. We’re sure this scenario was reenacted plenty of times yesterday morning. (By the way, this song features guitar from Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground — themselves the authors of one of the all-time great hangover songs in “Sunday Morning,” a track that this song greatly resembles.)
The Smiths — “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”
“I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour/ But heaven knows I’m miserable now.” Aw, Moz. Drink lots of water, smash down a greasy (vegan!) breakfast, watch a silly movie on Netflix, and you’ll be feeling better in no time.
The Weeknd — “Coming Down”
House of Balloons is the sound of a man losing sight of whatever’s left of his morals in a blizzard of cocaine, and this is the sound of how that feels when the sun’s come up and you’re not going to sleep for a long, long time and your conscience starts bleeding in through the haze of whiteness. It finds Abel Tesfaye calling someone — an ex? a long-suffering girlfriend? — who’s not picking up, not now, and probably never again.
The Kills — “Goodnight, Bad Morning”
“Good night/ Another bad morning.” One generally goes hand-in-hand with the other, sadly.
Elliott Smith — “Say Yes”
The subject matter is Smith hooking up with his ex and waking up feeling surprisingly good about it, but “Say Yes” has the imprints of a bender the night before all over it: There’s the fact that that’s exactly how one generally ends up hooking up with an ex, for a start, and the song has the feeling of bleary-eyed contentment that comes with being hungover as hell but also knowing that for once things have turned out OK.
Louis Jordan — “What’s The Use Of Getting Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again?)”