So, I know that Elliott Smith's "From a Basement on a Hill" was released posthumously, and may well have contained material that he never intended the world to hear. I also know there was (and may still be) some debate as to whether the knife-to-the-heart that did him in was self-administered or seen to by a second party.
But still: if there's any doubt that the poor guy was suffering some intense anguish, romantic or otherwise, before his demise, let a few listens to "Twilight" (off the aforementioned album) put it to rest.
The first couple of times my iPod shuffled the song to my attention, I thought, Sure is quiet (as well as Wonder if those are real crickets). Then it came into my ears during a run, and I actually listened to the lyrics. And damn if the combination of the dirge-like pace of the song, Smith's barely-above-a-whisper singing, and the words coming out of his mouth doesn't make for what might be one of the most angst-filled tunes ever.
There are countless downbeat songs out there, of course. (Did not master songster Billy Ocean once declare, "There'll be sad songs/to make you cry"?) But few of them sound like they've been pulled directly and painfully from someone's gut, and fewer still seem to be a desperate (if failing) attempt on the singer's part to stay on the good side of survival. "Twilight" does.
Elliott sings, "Because your candle burns too bright/Well, I almost forgot it was twilight./Even if I think that you are right/Well, I'm tired of being down; I got no fight." You can actually hear the desperate sadness, the achy giving up in his voice. I can't listen to the song now without thinking of it as a sort of unanswerable (and unanswered) plea, or a psalm of regret.