Songs for Black Days: DED's Joe Cotela | Revolver

Songs for Black Days: DED's Joe Cotela

Singer shares seven songs that help him in dark times
Joe cotela DED 2020 PRESS, Travis Shinn
photograph by Travis Shinn

Earlier this month, Arizona-based alt-rock outfit DED released the two-song EP Mannequin Eyes, featuring the radio single "A Mannequin Idol (Lullaby)" and its anthemic counterpart "Eyes Sewn Shut," providing an early taste of the group's forthcoming sophomore LP. "These songs are both about awareness of self," singer Joe Cotela said at the time. "What are you supporting? What are you consuming? Are you acting out of experiences that have manifested as truths that you accept because it's all you've ever known? Are these truths obsolete now?"

With these questions in mind, we asked Cotela to participate in Revolver's Songs for Black Days series, in which artists highlight the songs they turn to in dark times. See his picks and commentary below.

Procol Harum - "A Whiter Shade of Pale"

Something about this song pulls nostalgia from me from a time that I wasn't even alive for. It's one of my father's favorite songs. A song I grew up enjoying but at some point it spoke to me on another level and really engulfed me in all of its moody simultaneous sorrow and beauty. I put this on and usually watch the music video to truly experience it when I'm feeling a certain way. 

Pantera - "Hollow"

This song was always a favorite for me from one of the best metal albums of all time, Vulgar Display of Power. I was probably too young to really be listening to Pantera at the time but I was an early music bloomer. To this day, the album gives me strength and makes me feel invincible on days when I need someone to remind me how powerful I am. But "Hollow" was a song that took on new meaning for me when I had a friend die when I was around 11 or 12. It was my first experience with death and I remember how surreal it was that such a young person could lose their life in an instant. I remember not really knowing how to deal with it. The lyrics "mad at God" and "I want to come in after you" resonated through me as I would thrash around in my room moshing and getting this confusing energy out of my body.

The Postal Service - "Such Great Heights"

I will give the track "Such Great Heights" the credit here, but it draws into these two albums [the Postal Service's Give Up and Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism]. The song was put on in a car by my friend Mike one night and it blew me away. I was hooked and I had to know more. Something about Ben Gibbard's voice was comforting and just, the lyrics felt honest but hopeful in a "not fooling yourself" kind of way. The soundscapes were soaring and gorgeous with such amazing re-playability. These two albums became the soundtrack for my long sleepness nights as I was first encountering true anxiety and panic attacks. These two albums quite possibly saved my life. Who knows?

Beck - "The Golden Age"

This song and this album Sea Change is second to none when you're in the dark days. But it doesn't necessarily offer any hope other than the comradery of knowing someone else has been down in the similar dumps. Beck nailed this album. My friend Marty calls it "sad bastard drinking music" and that always stuck with me. This album is timeless. Listen to "The Golden Age" and then let it play ... 

Bobby McFerrin - “Don’t Worry Be Happy”

This is my favorite song possibly ever. The lyrics are such great reminders of a good healthy thought process. It's constantly in my head, like a "whistle while you work" kind of vibe. This song eases my mind when I need it to. This or "Imagine" by John Lennon are probably the two best songs lyrically ever written. The music video features a young vibrant Robin Williams in his comedic prime and adds so much to the meaning of the song and maybe an irony being that he committed suicide years later. The video is endless fun and puts a huge smile on my face every time I watch it. I adore this song. 

Huey Lewis and the News - "Hip to Be Square"

Their early work was a little too New Wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor. In '87, Huey released Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to Be Square," a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself. But seriously ... I love Huey Lewis and the News and they get my vibes going.

Pink Floyd - "Time"

Not many bands can take me to such a cold industrialized winter feeling like Pink Floyd can. Dark Side of the Moon is arguably the best album ever made, if you ask me. The song "Time" really drives the blunt perspective of an overview of life into my chest. How fleeting it all is. How all of us experience change and age. No one is safe from it. How perspective evolves through our lives — infinite time when we're younger and at some point your mortality comes slowly into focus. Time is behind you, some life is behind you. It used to all be out in front. This song puts me in a heavy existential mindset, both comforting and concerning. It's just truth and brilliant lyrics.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to for a list of resources.