If you’ve ever suffered a bout of insomnia you’ll know the eeriness of the world at 3:00am. There’s no other time quite like it: everything is dark and still and you feel overwhelmingly alone regardless of who’s around you.
When you’ve been travelling for too long and home is far away the feeling is much more intense; you’re reminded of the vastness of the world and your adventure seems more like self-imposed exile.
It’s also the time when thoughts creep up on you – unwanted thoughts – of things past and things pending, that despite your best efforts to forget during the daylight hours, don’t afford you the same quiet courtesy through those early hours of the morning.
There’s nothing you can do but embrace the feeling, be at one with yourself and listen to music that soothes your soul because somewhere, someone has felt as vulnerable as you.
These are the songs they wrote to appease it..
1. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin
A rambling torrent of acoustic guitar riffs genuinely giving the illusion of movement. When Robert Plant blares “I can hear it calling me back home”, you can almost picture the words on the wind. If there ever was a song that romanticised perpetual restlessness, this is the one.
2. The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King
Nothing says insomnia like a blues song. Despite of the stature of King in the music community and his infinite talent, The Thrill Is Gone is still very raw, perhaps due in part to the vengeful tenor of the lyrics. Nevertheless, the overall tone of the song is oddly soothing, no doubt the result of King’s vast experience.
3. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys
After the disappointment of Suck It And See, I’m ashamed to admit that I thought success had gotten the better of the Arctic Monkeys front man and lyricist Alex Turner – how wrong I was. The man indeed has “aces up his sleeve”. Lyrical perfection disguised as a rock song. Enough said.
4. Crown of Thorns – Mother Love Bone
For those of you unfamiliar with Mother Love Bone, the simplest explanation is that it was the prequel band to Pearl Jam, with Andrew Wood on vocals prior to his tragic overdose. He was then succeeded by Eddie Vedder. Crown of Thorns epitomises the all too short-lived talent and spectacular showmanship that Wood brought to the grunge music scene in the late 1980s in Seattle.
There is a distinct feeling of resignation in the lyrics but without a hint of bitterness. Rare and beautiful – definitely worth a listen.
5. Sugar Man – Rodriguez
The mysterious Sixto Rodriguez virtually disappeared from the music scene after a relatively brief period of activity during the 1970s. Sugar Man is a mellow, trippy ode to Rodriguez’s dealer as in the spirit of Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but without the frenzied spirit we’ve all come to expect from the illicit subject matter.
6. October – Broken Bells
Broken Bells is the side project of Danger Mouse (the producer of Gnarls Barkley fame) and James Mercer from The Shins. October is a coming-of-age story of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. It’s sung with feeling and backed by a simplistically beautiful soundscape.
7. Retrograde – James Blake
James Blake is a rare and astonishing talent. To try and describe the emotion you’ll undoubtedly feel when listening to this song would only discredit its immensity. Just put on some headphones, close your eyes and be alone with him.
8. Asleep – The Smiths
The general consensus on The Smiths is that you either love or hate them. Irrespective, the melancholy of Morrissy’s lyrics are irresistible if you can manage to disconnect yourself from the music and see them from what they really are: poetry in motion.
9. Talk Show Host – Radiohead
The anthem for self-deprecation, as only Thom Yorke could muster, backed up by the classic Radiohead instrumental sound.
10. Staring At The Sun – TV On The Radio
TV On The Radio are arguably one of the most unique sounding bands in the world. Each album has an evolutionary feel. They constantly appear to be challenging the boundaries of their own genre. Staring At the Sun is a prime example of their talent for those who are not yet familiar with their work. In a nutshell: profound lyrics and intelligent production, not to be ignored.