Anxiety in Music: 2019

Driving in my car with Thornhill‘s “Coven” playing, I reflected on how refreshing it is to have this great song capture the raw experience of anxiety. Anxiousness is something that most of us have experienced, whether it’s for a moment or frustratingly and life-changingly ongoing, and music is there to connect and inspire or commiserate.

So I got thinking about some of the songs I’ve heard this year that express anxiousness in their own unique ways. This isn’t a definitive list by any means, and is based on my own subjective experience with the music, but here’s a list of great songs I’ve heard this year which related to anxiety.

Thornhill – “Coven”

In this single ahead of the release of The Dark Pool, Thornhill brought anxiety to life in all ‘her’ witchy glory. In the grips of panic, we hear vocalist Jacob Charlton trying to escape personified anxiety; something that seems hellbent on taking him over, and appearing wherever he is. I mean, these lyrics sum up a breathless and inescapable consumption so well:

“I’m under your bed
I’m in your hair
I’m in your lungs when you need some air
Don’t breathe, I’ll find you”

It’s instrumentally eerie also, with slithering verses and more explosive and terrifying pre-chorus and choruses. There’s two sides presented on the song, where terror comes across with screams and punishing riffs, and the seduction and control of the toxicity persists through the darker and more echoey moments.

Shangrila – “Fade Away”

As one of the coolest standalone releases of 2019, Shangrila’s single “Fade Away” all but pulls the listener into the state of anxiety with them. After a sorrowful introduction, tension swiftly builds, and a quickened pace and sense of confusion from vocalist Devyn Jupp makes it crystal clear that something bad has happened. An instrumental moment at the mid-way part reiterates the inner turmoil being experienced. The disconnect from loved ones that comes from being taken over with fear is so palpable here.

“I wanna run to you again, but I can’t breathe”

Northlane – “Talking Heads”

Ahead of the release of their mammoth fifth album, Alien, Northlane released “Talking Heads”. Almost nausea-inducing in its reality altering capture of someone’s internal experience, “Talking Heads” is a rough ride for the empathetic. The absolutely BRUTAL cries of “I don’t fit into my skin” come like a blast of sandpaper along with the band’s deft instrumental force. With stomping riffs seeming to come like punches toward someone who’s already being bombarded by “the voices in my head”, the song offers a full-bodied and surrounding experience of anxiousness. The cries that hit cloud-level peaks just add to the sense of ache to escape the experience, and the gasped pressuresome ending shows the opposite to have happened. It’s a(nother) moment of sheer brilliance from the ARIA award winning band.

Lotus Eater – “The Fear”

Though the single was released in late 2018, I came across Lotus Eater’s “The Fear” with the review of their Social Hazard EP. The entire EP seemed (to me) to be focused on social anxiety and the sense of not fitting in, explored in different ways over the EP’s seven tracks.  “The Fear” is tense and persistent, two-stepping its way forward with unease and skin-crawling discomfort. This unease is bolstered by pace shifts, striking beats, squeals, and bending riffs. In my review, I described the experience they’ve captured as “Attention that comes loaded with hate or rejection. It’s a pained reveal of suffocating social anxiety.” Feel it.

She Cries Wolf – “Love Trader”

As well as literally describing the quest to feel or numb, and swinging between anxiety and depression, She Cries Wolf’s “Love Trader” is a wild and oppressive immersion into a chaotic atmosphere. Blatantly dark and exploring blame and wrongdoing, the push and pull of doing the right thing and fighting demons from perceivably all sides makes for an impactful journey through this song’s duration.

Dream State – “Primrose”

“God, just give me some release” is immediately understood in Dream State’s “Primrose” by anyone that’s desperate to shake the grips of mental mess. The song from the Welsh band’s Primrose Path album gives a clear impression of queasily moving through layer upon layer of ways in which their outer world failings reflect their internal struggle. Having let the demons in her head, vocalist CJ Gilpin describes drinking and smoking too much and vulnerably feels defeated by it all. The fight for change comes along with thumping beats and a searching chorus, as well as the tense repetition of “Why do I keep falling back on myself?” and bone-trembling roars.

The Comfort – “Pain”

Perhaps more specific to depression than anxiety, The Comfort’s “Pain” captures a heart-breaking mindset of being done after having been under mental pain for a considerable time.  It’s a mood of ‘what if’ on the doorstep of ending it all, which is pretty brutal to take in as a listener, let alone consider the mindset that would inspire creating it. The dire circumstances are beautifully captured by the Brisbane four piece. We are so glad you’re here, The Comfort.

“Time will take all I’ve done and all I know”

Diamond Construct – “Submerged”

Another one where the single released in late 2018 but the album this year is Diamond Construct’s “Submerged”.  Unsettling and urgent, I took this song as someone (vocalist Kynan Groundwater) capturing the weight of inadequacy and pressure that threatens to take them over. Reinforced by pummeling drums and angular riffs, the experience is severe and seems to reflect a war within. The darkness of isolation at the hand of overwhelm or anxiety is well captured in “Submerged”, and has this incredibly relatable lyric:

“You’ll never know what it’s like for them to be there
while I’m drowning in the next room”

What would you add to this short list? What songs had you feel the anxiety along with the band? Feel free to tell us by commenting here or on our social media. 🙂

[Photo of Thornhill courtesy of Liam Davidson]
Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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