“This is probably what we hear when we die.”
After 2016’s Wabi-Sabi, Cross Record frontwoman Emily Cross got divorced, embraced sobriety, and embarked on a new path as a death doula—a complex undertaking that entails guiding the dying and their families not only through the logistics of funeral planning, but through all the accompanying emotional and spiritual considerations. It’s no coincidence that the Austin rock project’s ethereal new self-titled album is so concerned with the end of things.
Cross Record finds her voicing anxieties that could easily apply to the approach of death: “Why can’t I bring the world with me?” she asks on “I Release You,” pairing soft, airy vocals with plodding piano and muted strings. “Why do I stay in the lines? Why am I afraid to leave what defines me?”
This fall, Cross will both tour the new record around the country and lead a select string of dates of “living funeral” ceremonies, at which participants will stage their own memorials. Ahead of this unique tour, we asked Cross to share some of her favorite songs around death and dying. “This is a playlist of songs that deal with the contemplation of mortality or give me a feeling of weight that’s also somehow light,” she told AdHoc via email.
- Aldous Harding – “Horizon”
I first heard this song with its video accompaniment and assumed it was her mother in the video (I was correct). It made me think about past selves, future selves, and selves that live in some kind of way in our parents and loved ones. The line that resonates with me regarding death: “And every now and then, I think about / When you’ll die, babe / There’s a fall in my head / It floods what you said into the room, babe.”
I interpret this to mean that death has the power to drench past actions or words in new meaning. I looked up this quote from Hannah [AKA Aldous Harding] about the song: “Good-bye — and not necessarily for any reason at all other than … I’ve got to go. I’m showing that person two things; their life, and their life with me. And I’m taking one of them away. And that’s me.”
- Tetsu Inoue – “Karmic Light”
This is probably what we hear when we die.
- Tim Carleton & Darrick Deel – “Opus Number 1”
If it’s not “Karmic Light” when we die, it’s this.
- Mount Eerie – “Real Death”
I think a lot of people had a tough time listening to this record, and this song in particular. It is just so real and raw—it teaches me about vulnerability and healing through art even during times of extreme pain, sadness, and loss.
- Lomelda – “M for Me”
“What if I die before / I ever get to know you more / When I sleep am I still me to you / When you sleep you are still you to me.”
Simple, beautiful, and direct lyrics.
- Björk – “Unravel”
This song reminds me of when I first started making music—when I was beginning to think about trying to sing in front of people. I was listening to it a lot around that time. I don’t know that it has to do with death and dying, but it does leave me with a feeling of loss, not in an unpleasant way.
- Post Malone – “Too Young”
The lyrics to this song are pretty clear. Post Malone doesn’t want to die “too young.” It’s kind of surface level in a way, but it makes me feel good to listen to.
- Tierra Whack –“Mumbo Jumbo”
I don’t fully understand what’s going on with this song, but as I understand it, the lyrics are either nonsense, or sung backwards, or both? I looked up the “transcript” and there’s this line: “I don’t drink or smoke, but I’ll probably get hit by a bus, so that don’t mean shit.” I love that a lot. I don’t drink or smoke, either, but I still think about all the other ways I could die, haha! Love how fun her songs are, her melodies—how she doesn’t seem to take it 100% seriously, but it is still seriously good.