10 Songs of Comfort
Posted on May 4, 2020
One of the enduring qualities of music is how quickly it can bring joy. And in this time of sheltering in place, we could all use some pleasant tunes. Below are a few of my picks from hoopla. Some are immediately happy, while others feature a narrator realizing what makes life so great. I hope you all enjoy!
Alabama Shakes – This Feeling
Brittany Howard’s voice, moving and powerful, is all the more present above such sparse instrumentation. She sings, “See, I’ve been having me a real hard time / But it feels so nice to know I’m gonna be alright.” Her words are often convincing, and it’s especially the case here.
John Prine – Illegal Smile
Rest in peace to John Prine, the “Singing Mailman” who died recently from complications related to COVID-19. His legacy includes this perfect debut record, flush with beautiful imagery and wry jokes. Prine has said this song is about his ability to find humor in all parts of life. The bouncing rhythm alone on the acoustic guitar will lift your spirits.
Los Campesinos! – You! Me! Dancing!
A slightly adrift riff crescendoes into what can only be described as a wonderfully chaotic glockenspiel line. The track then explodes in delight. This highlight from aughts-era indie blog rock is frantic fun.
Thelonious Monk – Bright Mississippi
To follow Thelonious Monk’s jazz piano playing is to forget your worries. Monk’s quartet shines here as he performs with typical enthusiasm and brilliance.
The Flaming Lips – Do you Realize??
The band that gave us The Soft Bulletin knows a thing or two about embracing life’s joys. “Do you Realize??” is among the newer classics of the genre. This is a celebration of, and for, every one of us. (The live album even features a striking cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You out of My Head.”)
Talking Heads – This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
Like any great Talking Heads song, “This Must Be the Place” is equal parts catchy and nuanced. David Byrne sings (a little less abstractly than usual) about finding happiness.
Amanda Shires – You are my Home
A song slower in tempo but bursting with affection. Amanda Shires is such a strong musician and songwriter. She writes, “You are my home / Wherever you go / Anywhere you stand / Is my piece of land / You are my home.” Joy arises from those with whom we are closest.
Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World
Some songs are so classic – for their lyrics, vocals, arrangement, pacing, everything – that there is little more to be said. This is one of those songs.
Billy Bragg & Wilco – California Stars
From Uncle Tupelo to Wilco, Jeff Tweedy has carved a niche of alt-country and Americana. He may have topped himself with this song. The lyrics are Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl-era ode to the sweet life awaiting in California.
Nina Simone – Feeling Good
Nina Simone’s vocals, and the music itself, build in this song to a great force. Her comforting lyrics now resonate as encouragement for our future once the pandemic is over.
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