I like music. You like music. Most people like music. Well, I would assume that most people like music. It’s possible that only a vocal minority of earth’s 7 billion plus people actually like music. But, one category of music has really struck me as something worthwhile as of late. It’s not necessarily a genre but rather a style that transcends genre and is seen across cultures.
It’s music that is tragically beautiful. Songs and tunes that pierce your heart, captivate your mind, and knock you on your butt. These songs aren’t typically chart toppers and they are seemingly shunned from time to time, but they’re songs that have value. And so, I’d like to give some of these songs some of the recognition that they are due.
So, each week, I’m going to go through and award a song the weekly designation of Ethan Lee’s Tragically Beautiful Song of the Week.
This week’s song? Benjamin Tod of Lost Dog Street Band’s “Using Again.”
Lost Dog Street Band is, well, a band composed of Benjamin Tod (the man mellowly pouring his heart out in the video above) and his wife Ashley Mae, an incredibly talented fiddle player from South Dakota. Their story is one that has seen no shortage of heartbreak. Most notably in the past few years, the loss of their best friend and fellow band member, Nicholas Ridout, paired with, as they describe, “years of lonely tramping” gives the inspiration for such haunting and captivating songs.
This sort of pain and agony is seen in Tod’s song, Using Again. Openly stating in his chorus, “I wish I was who I appear/cuz I despise the man in the mirror,” gives just a taste of the shame and self-loathing that the narrator feels.
The lamenting of a wrecked path and wasted potential due to naivete and hope is woven with the pangs of rage that Tod’s protagonist (possibly Benjamin Tod himself) feels. The open acceptance of condemnation and wistful yearnings for a better self paints a picture of a tortured man whose soul is burdened and weighed down.
And this openness, this transparency, this pain, is what makes this song to be tragic. The authenticity and alluring musicality mixed with the aforementioned qualities of tragedy make it tragically beautiful. Though I cannot understand the true depth of Tod’s pain or the entirety of his refusal to repent (nor can I get behind this refusal personally), I still fully appreciate his song’s portrayal of his struggles and his sharing more than a glimpse of the anguish that he feels.
Because of that, Benjamin Tod and “Using Again” win the title of this week’s Ethan Lee’s Tragically Beautiful Song of the Week.