Tom Waits makes incredibly depressing music, for the most part. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t astoundingly beautiful.
His own distinctive, crusty tones sound like they’ve been doused with cheap whiskey and cigar smoke for a decade or 3. The whiskey comparisons come out a lot with critics, although some content themselves with the rather less dramatic “gravelly” adjective.
His tremulous, breathless singing voice is the counterpart to a melodious and sweet guitar here, which plays a sugary little jazz part.
The lyrics are intensely poetic, tinged with a liberal splash of darkness. They speak less to forlorn heartbreak as to bitter regret. As is common with Tom Waits lyrics, the subject matter is gritty, dealing with the sort of outcast who has no romance in them. In other words, real outcasts who get trodden down and ignored by society.
The song is the title track of the brilliant Blue Valentine album, which came out in 1978.