London's Arlo Parks shares a ray of light for dark times with "Black Dog," in solidarity and support for anyone struggling with mental health.

Music and depression, the oldest bedfellows. From Orpheus weeping over his lyre over his lost love, Eurydice, to the proto-sadboy Renaissance madrigals of John Dowland. Sadness might be the second most common emotion in music, only slightly less common than love. This goes for consumption rather than creation, as well. We turn to music in our darkest hours, for a friendly voice and even a hint that it's going to be okay.

The spirit of depression is frequently personified as a "Black Dog," as popularized by Winston Churchill, who used the image as an allegory for his depressive episodes. The image is picked up by Arlo Parks, who uses the shadow of the Black Dog as a way to offer a ray of hope during dark, dark times.

"I would lick the grief right off your lips," opens Parks in her silken soulful way. She goes on to describe all the things she would do to help someone feel better - lure them out of their room, take them to the store, make them some food, give them some medicine. Parks wrote "Black Dog" in support of anyone who might be having a hard time. Which is, quite frankly, probably a lot of us right now.

Parks comes across as a musical Florence Nightingale, a psycho-spiritual-emotional balm during weary times.



For its subject matter, "Black Dog" doesn't sound particularly bleak. Much music that tackles depression veers towards the sad bastard indie rock of Radiohead; the post-industrial dirge of Swans; the misty windswept yowl of depressive black metal. Instead, "Black Dog" is a smooth, sweet, soulful ballad that you'd more likely hear on a lo-fi study playlist than a pitch black bedroom. Arlo Parks is achieving the extraordinary, tackling taboo topics and dragging them out into the sunlight.

"Black Dog" is the soothing balm we all need right now. A cool, healing wind for a scorched Earth. She reminds us that, somehow, some way, everything's going to be okay. We Are: The Guard have hope.

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J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.