“How Dark It Is Before The Dawn” by Starlings, TN is easily the most crushingly sad album I’ve heard this year. It’s also on the shortlist for “Most Depressing Album I’ve Ever Heard,” right up there with every one of Elliott Smith’s records and “And Now That I’m In Your Shadow” by Damien Jurado.
Starlings, TN’s folk, Americana and alt-country mix skews toward the stark and empty school of arrangement, but that’s not what makes this a mega-downer. Plenty of guys are optimistic with nothin’ but a guitar. What makes this so devastating is the brutal, effective lyrics and overall sense of doom that permeates the words and music. Even with the scant glimpses of optimism throughout (see the title), this is almost unbearably sorrowful.
For example, I’ve heard the first track 13 times, and the play count decreases down to the last track, which I’ve heard four times. I’ve only been able to make it through this album four times out of 13. Ouch. And that’s not because the music is bad; it’s very good. It’s just … okay, I’m beating a dead horse. —Stephen Carradini