November 11th is Remembrance Day, which commemorates the signing of the armistice which officially ended World War I. It’s emblem, in the UK at least, is the red poppy, but that tends to just remind me of the somnolent opium-esque fields in The Wizard of Oz.
What I find more, well, memorable about the day is the silence. After all, I think that minute or two of quiet in an increasingly alien concept for a lot of people.
I personally spend a lot of time using my own controlled noise to block out the world around me- I like having music as white noise to allow me to ignore loud commuters, screaming children and confused tourists. Music can be a kind of substitute for seemingly unattainable actual peace and quiet.
While thinking about this I realised that there’s actually a lot of songs about silence, which might seem mildly contradictory. Why would you need to make a lot of noise about a lack of noise? Maybe the desire to get everyone else to shut up is actually the most universal human characteristic?
Anyway, here’s ten of my favourite songs about soundlessness:
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘The Sound of Silence’
You could probably, at a push, describe this song without using the words ‘solitary’ and ‘contemplation’, but I wouldn’t want to try. It’s pretty, mellow and melancholy without being despairing.
The Tremeloes – ‘Silence is Golden’
This cover of one of the Four Seasons’ B-sides is unbelievably twinkly and twee and sixties. Therefore I love it. Also I assume it’s what inspired The Grates to makes this awesomeness, so I’m doubly grateful.
Tori Amos – ‘Silent All These Years’
I think it was this song about domestic abuse, which elucidates just how horrible a story The Little Mermaid is, that made me fall in love with Tori Amos’ music. Plus this version has some bonus Leonard Cohen, which can never really be a bad thing.
Streetlight Manifesto – ‘A Moment of Silence’
This entire album makes me really fucking happy. That is all. (Although I have to admit that every time I listen to this song, I find the word ‘cynicist’ jarring cos I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist. Maybe the thing that’s a moment of silence most is my mind.)
Glassjaw – ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence’
To me this album is the soundtrack to Tess of the d’Urbervilles, just with more screaming and less country dancing. It’s basically all: boy meets girl, boy gets insanely jealous, boy feels really crappy. The title track is clearly about being alone in hospital however (frontman Daryl Palumbo has Crohn’s Disease) which involves a lot less shouting about whores and makes it easier to listen to. (I love this album because it is just raw emotional content, but at the same time it’s so uncomfortably gendered that I understand why people take issue with it.)
Brand New – ‘The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows’
Pure unadulterated cheesy emo pop punk fun. I think Brand New will now always remind me of Dr Ella Mentry and I singing along at the top of our lungs along the motorway while Ms Elaine E Ouse snoozes.
OK Go – ‘Oh Lately It’s So Quiet’
This adorable stick figure video does a good job of demonstrating the juxtaposition between the kind of creepy jealous lyrics and the upbeat music. It works, even though maybe it shouldn’t, cos it’s just so fricking cute.
Deftones – ‘Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away’)
The minimal lyrical content of the song makes it hard to know what exactly it’s about- murder? Adultery? Parking tickets? But the longing to escape is at least crystal clear, and relatable.
Miles Davis – ‘Shhh/Peaceful’
This is side one of In a Silent Way and I guess technically not just one song. But whatever, just shut up, listen and enjoy.
More unadulterated cheesiness, but this song is incredibly sweet and peaceful. And capable of sending me off to sleep. Yawn.
Tell us about your favourite songs about the quiet in the comments.