I have a saying: “When in sheer agonizing self-doubt… put on some music.” Music has been an extremely therapeutic tool for me (like, actually sitting down and listening to music and nothing else), even more so nowadays. Sometimes music weathers the mood, other times encompasses it. These are some very solitary days we have ahead of us and so full of uncertainty. If we’re gonna be stuck in our homes for a while, then I’ll need a soundtrack to blot out the gloom of the news.
Fortunately, I freakin’ love making playlists full-stop. (Back when we used to burn CDs, I was your guy.) I’ve stuck by a select set of songs these past two weeks that I’ve since dubbed as my Comfort Playlist and I felt like passing them along. Not to brag, but I’ve been told I have TERRIBLE taste in music. Here’s a current collection of songs that have helped me allay some of today’s dread.
Help Me – Joni Mitchell
I was graciously given a turntable for Christmas and among the first records in my collection was Joni Mitchell’s. “Help Me” comes off of Court and Spark, decidedly one of Mitchell’s more mainstream albums. The cascading retort of the song’s title just gets me. And the line, It’s got me hoping for the future/And worrying about the past. Like, that’s my whole anxious deal. Not to mention the entire track is breezily efficient. This is Feel Good 101.
2. Hard Times – Paramore
All that I want is to wake up fine/Tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die. Paramore’s fifth album After Laughter is certainly their most dance-y, but not many people have taken note of their lyrical juxtaposition. This is the freakin’ opening line of “Hard Times,” the album’s lead single and current cultural MOOD. Only Paramore can make drowning in melancholy a wonderfully good time. We’re gonna get to rock bottom.
3. Everywhere – Michelle Branch
Yes I still listen to Michelle Branch what about it? My girl ranks as the undisputed champ of the 2000s teen movie soundtrack. There’s something so damned soothing about the song’s carefree sound, albeit one that’s ultra-nostalgic for the golden days of the music video. Also, isn’t it comforting to see Michelle Branch with an acoustic guitar? The song’s inclusion, mind you, is NOT a comment on where I think COVID-19 will be, so kindly take those interpretations elsewhere please and thank you.
4. Walking in Circles – Dead By Sunrise
Dead By Sunrise is the Chester Bennington side project you’ve never heard of. And it’s a shame because Out of Ashes, the group’s debut and only album is pretty fucking great. Bennington’s typical growl is polished to a sheen here, Chester’s angst ever self-evident: Alone in a world with millions of souls/Walking in circles. Yeah, that’s all of us right now isn’t it?
5. Still Sleeping – Jai Wolf (feat. Georgia Ku)
What most of us are doing past 10AM, am I right? I stumbled upon Jai Wolf via “Starlight,” which you’ve probably heard from that one YouTube video or that one Hulu ad. “Still Sleeping” hails from Jai Wolf’s debut album, The Cure To Loneliness (go figure!) sporting a vocal assist from Georgia Ku. This song is so refreshingly ‘90s yet so modern in its rendition that I can’t help but submit to the melody.
6. Somewhere in Between – Colleen D’Agostino
Not many of you have heard of The Material AND IT SHOWS. They’ve been off and on since 2007, with vocalist Colleen D’Agostino pursing solo ventures here and there. “Somewhere in Between” comes from D’Agostino’s recent EP Sleepwalk, and I simply cannot shake them synthesizer waves, man. A jazz-inflected drum track with D’Agostino’s soulful vocals taking center-stage. This is exactly the kind of song you play while chillin’ out on the balcony at 2AM.
7. Ruling Me – Weezer
Hurley is among the most divisive of Weezer albums… according to one of my college roommates. I couldn’t care less because it gave us “Ruling Me,” which easily ranks among Weezer’s best tracks. It’s the kind of anthem that I wish a.) had more airplay and b.) were produced more often. It’s catchy, feels hella good, and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
8. Somebody Else – CHVRCHES (cover)
“Somebody Else” is originally composed by The 1975, but CHVRCHES’s cover of the track is simply and subtly sublime. It’s essentially a song about cheating, but the way it’s rendered here is as relaxing as a lone day at the spa. I love listening to this in mornings when the frenzy of anxiety starts wending its way through my brain. I’ve played this cover so many times that at this point, it IS a CHVRCHES song.
9. A Real Hero – College (feat. Electric Youth)
Any self-respecting cinephile will recognize this as “that one song in Drive.” But this song has an added resonance for me. Back when I was new to being a father, I had NO IDEA how to get my daughter to stop crying. One particularly hectic day, I strapped the both of us into the car and headed for a drive across South Kihei Road, the coastal road and tourist trap of my hometown. I remember this track coming on, and, as the chorus hit and the sun ignited the interior of the car, I saw a sudden smile emerge on my daughter’s face in the rear-view mirror then watched as she slowly drifted to sleep. “A Real Hero” has since become my go-to comfort track. I listen to it before job interviews, when I’m stressed out of my mind due to work, or whenever I’m feeling low. If there’s one track on this playlist you ought to take with you, this should be it.
10. A Place We Set Afire – Yellowcard
This was Yellowcard’s last music video off of their farewell album, yet I find the whole thing stirringly hopeful? We don’t have to say goodbye/But we can’t get lost in time. The chorus strikes a sorrowful yet optimistic tone and I can’t do it any justice. This track deserves a lowered heart-rate and a listen. It’s true that endings suck, but the opportunities presented by new beginnings are always exciting.
11. Move Along – All-American Rejects
Are you groaning at me yet? Say what you will, but I find “Move Along” exceedingly relevant. I want nothing more than to lie in bed and drink everyday until I fall asleep and wait for all of this to blow over. But there’s something about AAR’s defining single that has always stuck and beckons me to do otherwise. Way back in high school, this was a breakup song that encompassed all the feels imaginable. Now, it’s an adult song about moving on. Do I even need to quote the lyrics for you?
12. Mixed Feelings – Anuhea (feat. Sammy Johnson)
I told myself I wasn’t gonna drop a reggae track but screw it. This song does it for me as I can’t help but smile with it’s lush reggae vibes. This island duet is just so damn vibrant and catchy! Anyone looking for a taste of Hawaii without traveling here (which you better not do ☝️), this is the perfect gateway track. Anuhea is practically a Maui treasure so, you know, REPRESENT 🤙
13. Together – Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor literally just dropped 2 free albums three weeks ago and some of y’all are just carrying on like it’s no big deal. “Together” feels like Trent sonically telling us we’ll weather this storm somehow, and I can think of no better ending track (or sentiment) than that. There’s no greater force of nature than Trent and his keyboard.
Feel free to share some of your go-to comfort songs below 😃