Heaven knows our music's miserable now

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The Independent Culture

What with the miserable summer weather and seemingly endless threats of economic meltdown, people could be forgiven for feeling a little down in the dumps. All across the country wallets are being tightened, Benidorm forsaken for Bognor, M&S traded for Primark.

Now, if the former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel is to be believed, it appears the glum national mood is even affecting our tastes in music. According to Gabriel, who runs a music website that allows users to recommend tracks, depressing music is topping the playlists.

Gabriel, below, who became a father for the fourth time over the weekend following the birth of his son, Luc, set up Filter.com to help guide music fans towards the kind of music they might like by making its libraries recommendation-based.

In recent weeks tracks such as Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" or Muse's "Time is Running Out" have been the most popular among music lovers visiting the website. The prevailing trend, it seems, is to err on the side of misery.

This week's top five tracks – Amy Winehouse's "Tears Dry On Their Own", the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", the Smiths' "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now", Coldplay's "Trouble" and The Verve's "The Drugs Don't Work" – all have a distinctly gloomy edge to them

Other music recommendation sites tell a similar tale. Nine out of the top 10 tracks on this week's Most Listened To chart on Last.fm are taken from Coldplay's latest studio album, Viva la Vida or Death And All His Friends.

David Maher Roberts, the chief executive of Filter.com, said he believed credit crunch woes may be affecting people's music tastes. "We're seeing more of our users than ever before rating depressing or slightly miserable tracks more highly than happier types of music," he said. "It's logical to assume that this is a reflection of what's happening in the economy. The good news is that there are a large number of happier, more uplifting tracks out there that can do wonders for your mood."

Anthony Barnes of Q magazinemeanwhile, believes that listening to depressing tracks can in fact help lighten one's gloomy mood.

"Let's face it, everyone has a bad day, and it can be reassuring and comforting to listen to music that either chimes with your mood or makes you feel that although things are bad, they're not as grim as they are for that guy who's singing," he said.

"And a well-written song about the fragility of the human condition may have more chance of becoming a well-worn classic, that people come back to again and again, than a sunny bit of throwaway pop."

What we should be listening to...

'You Can Get It If You Really Want' (1972) – Jimmy Cliff

Born into poverty in rural Jamaica, Cliff acknowledges depression and hardship. That makes their transcendence in this indomitable anthem all the more uplifting, no matter how down you've got.

'Heroes' (1977) – David Bowie

This song about lovers in the shadow of the Berlin Wall was made as Bowie climbed out of heroin addiction.

'Good Day Sunshine' (1966) – The Beatles

Ringo's opening drum-roll and McCartney's breezy, satisfied lyrics are the soundtrack to flinging the windows open, as the British summer finally arrives.

'Good Vibrations' (1966) – The Beach Boys

Brian Wilson's "pocket symphony to God". If its vaguely spiritual lyrics don't cheer you up, you can lose yourself in wonder at its multi-layered structure and supernatural harmonies.

'Hey Ya' (2003) – OutKast

With its giddy beat and erotic exuberance, nothing bad seems believable while it's on.