Sometimes you’re just so damn sad that words don’t seem sufficient to describe your pain, and that’s when these 10 best sad instrumental songs come in handy. Why put the time into expressing your pain verbally when you can just turn on your stereo, play one of these songs, and nod along in silent appreciation?
- “Untitled 2” by Sigur Rós. If you were from Iceland, you might be inclined to write oppressively sad instrumental songs in the vein of Sigur Rós. Not all of their songs are sad—some of them are downright uplifting—but the collection of untitled songs in their ambiguously titled album “( )” are about as depressing as you can get. For some, the vocals may disqualify this track as an instrumental, but since they’re made up of a mostly gibberish fake language we give it a pass.
- “Chains / Strings” by The Late Cord. The chains in this song’s title must be metaphorical because we didn’t hear them, but the strings are definitely there and man they are a bummer. The Late Cord traffic in some fairly melancholy post-rock, and it makes for some of the best sad instrumental songs.
- “1 Ghosts I” by Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor has put Nine Inch Nails on hiatus and there’s no telling if it’s permanent, but the band had been putting material out at a rapid pace before he put the kibosh on it. The album “Ghosts I-IV” was two CDs full of haunting instrumentals that were a change of pace from the band’s usual aggressive industrial rock, and this opening track was the best and most melancholy song in the collection.
- “In Silence” by Thursday. Thursday are known for their mopey, sad sack lyrics set to loud, post-hardcore instrumentation. This slightly obscure track off the split EP they did with Japanese band Envy is more post-rock than post-hardcore and has no lyrics to speak of, yet is still one downer of a tune.
- “Slight Night Shiver” by M83. This sad instrumental song is best understood in the context of the track that came before it, which is about a mother and daughter trying to escape by car from some unknown aggressor. The car ends up screeching off the road and all we are left with is this track, which features mournful synthesizers playing over the sound of crickets and passing traffic.
- “Haunting and Heartbreaking” by Angelo Badalamenti. The title of this song off the “Lost Highway” soundtrack says it all. David Lynch films aren’t exactly known for being upbeat, and Badalamenti’s contributions play a big role in the oppressive atmosphere of “Lost Highway.”
- “Summer Overture” by Clint Mansell. There aren’t many movies more depressing than “Requiem for a Dream,” and pretty much any song off its soundtrack is likely to ruin your day. “Summer Overture” is its most recognized song and has been reused quite often in commercials for other movies (and sometimes videogames).
- “Nanou 2” by Aphex Twin. How you interpret this song depends largely on your own mood. If you’re feeling just fine, thanks, then it can be a beautiful, relaxing song to listen to. If you’re already feeling down, though, its unaccompanied piano sounds considerably more melancholy.
- “Prologue” by The Antlers. You could probably guess by the title, but The Antlers’ “Hospice” is a really, really depressing album. The lyrics focus on a tumultuous relationship between a man and his dying lover, but before we get there we’re treated to this sad instrumental intro.
- “Elegia” by New Order. That’ll do, New Order. That’ll do.
Listen to a playlist compiled by actor and musician Christopher Mintz Plasse.
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