Your lunchtime friends lie and abandon you. Your family is presently in pieces ideologically, separated by invisible walls between which the Christmas cards only barely got through. Things you knew — or thought you knew — have revealed themselves as falsehoods. One could turn very hard and bitter at times like these.
A large portion of the nation woke up on Monday morning, did their morning rituals, breathed that heavy sigh and said, “So this is it, huh? This is how it is going to be.” It is incredibly easy to let this pull you down. The Popdose Staff would like to offer a different tactic. You’re not going to get “happy,” per se. Fake it ’til you make it is only half-right and very half-wrong. You will make it, provided you don’t lie to yourself. The key is to engage in things that actually make you happy, and this often includes music that gets you out of this toxic headspace, even if the environment is still poisonous. The sky above the rain is always blue if you allow yourself a chance to get through it.
Here are some of the songs that we find bring us back to clarity in bad times. This is not a protest. It is survival, but at least it is survival with a smile.
Ann Logue – Billy Bragg’s “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward” is my soundtrack these days. The single best all-occasion song for uplift is Bruce Springsteen’s “Rosalita.” “Rosalita” makes everything better!
Rob Smith – For me, what I listen to in the depths of emotional muck depends on whether I want to work through it or be lifted from it. If it’s the latter, I’ll start with arena rock to see if rousing choruses and WEE-diddly guitar solos can rescue me. If that doesn’t work, I usually go with Joe Walsh or the J. Geils Band. Can’t listen to Geils live and feel bad. Little Richard records are the same way.
Jack Feerick – The songs I keep coming back to are School of Seven Bells’ “Face to Face on High Places” (“It’s safe to say, saving you saved me”) and, cliche though it may be, U2’s “One” (“We get to carry each other…”)
Dw. Dunphy – Where to begin? I live in a particular world where my circle of friends is tiny. This needs to be, and I don’t allow many new faces into this close and trusted community. When I do, I am almost always disappointed. My real friends never let me down, they never turn their back, and when they say, “You can talk to me,” they mean it. They don’t disregard my emails to them and fashion excuses later to cover up the fact that they just didn’t feel like responding. They never cause me to feel foolish for having trusted them, and they know I know when they’re sincere or not. They don’t disrespect me and I don’t disrespect them. It’s rare. And when I find myself on that wrong side of a false friendship it puts me in a tailspin for weeks.
I have found ways to combat that sense of overwhelm, and can manage better than I did when I was younger, back when friends had so much power over me and the whole “peer pressure” dynamic was just living life. One of the major things I learned to do was to avoid sad music. I don’t care what Neil Diamond sang. “Songs Sung Blue” don’t get you feeling good. And stay far, far away from Radiohead’s “Harry Patch (In Memory Of).” No, I have found that the best route is big, loud, punchy pop-rock.
There are times when that big, loud, punchy pop-rock masks some dark emotions, but that’s true of most music when you dissect it. I would kick off the playlist that breaks up the pity party with a bit of Sugarbomb. This was the band that should have been the legend you know by heart. Instead they barely are spoken of outside of circles that revere Jellyfish (more in a moment). But this band had it all: great sound, smart lyrics, and their influences were firmly on the sleeve. “Motormouth” channels Squeeze in a ’90s vibe and sounds terrific when you’re driving around in 70-degree weather (also a mood lifter).
Two albums and they were done-for, but the cult that grew from the band Jellyfish is mighty. Here we found the angst of the ’90s wrapped in a Swedish Fish surface, a ’60s perfume, and the shiniest foil wrapper left on the shelf. Pure pop for dour people.
A recent addition to the pantheon is the insanely fantastic band The Ravines. This isn’t the most kinetic music video, but this song doesn’t actually require it. Play it early, play it often.
There are more songs, of course. But my real friends know that, and I’ll be over here with them, thank you very much. The fakers can find some new fool to fool.
Rob Ross – From the moment the national results came in on Election Night, it was a certainty that January 20th would be cast as one of the darkest days in our history as a nation. Before Donald Trump was declared the winner, the idea of him becoming President was described as “a cataclysmic event, equaled only by Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and the Civil War.” As a New Yorker, I’ve always loathed Trump as a scourge and an embarrassment of my city and now, he’s both a blight and a national shame. And true – there’s been a vibe; an air mixed with sadness, anger, resentment, confusion, fear, callousness, arrogance and rampaging suspicion. Right minded, rational, reasonable individuals (both Democrats and Republicans) have now seen one of the single most insufferable human beings go from a general pain in the ass and a media gadfly to the most powerful man on the planet (unless you second him to Putin).
I have to maintain common sense, balance, rationality and stay grounded in reality – just on the pretext that I have to get up and go to work everyday. But part of my own dealing with all this around me – never mind the basic strains of daily life is aside from reading, exercising and living, is (of course) music. Listening to and writing/recording/performing it. But sad occasions like this aren’t the only time I sought refuge in music. There are moments of abject joy where there are certain songs/albums that I will turn to because I already know and anticipate how it will make me feel.
Case and point – on the very personal side, about six years ago, I watched the most important elements of my life collapse (and for a control freak like me, this was completely unnerving since I was forced to be only a witness to this). The facts: my father died after suffering for a long time with several illnesses that slowly robbed him of everything; my friendship with the person I’d considered the brother I never had came to an end after 20 years, thanks to his showing his deviousness; my 12 year marriage (at the time) was over and the person I was involved with on the heels of my separation abruptly left me. Dominoes fell and there were things I needed in order to get back control – I stepped outside myself and surveyed the ruins and made a quick checklist – start working out (daily), become sociable again, rather than be the recluse I’d been turning into and music – I began writing again after a dozen year layoff. Everything I chose to do was to stave off any form of cliche, frankly – when your life is in disarray, you may start drinking or drugging or overeating or any form of inevitable self-harm just to feel better. And in that need to make music, there would be inspiration as well as healing power. It wasn’t conscious but organic – what I chose to listen to when things were at their lowest ebb. Most frequently, anything Husker Du related: the Huskers, Bob Mould solo, Sugar, Grant Hart solo, Nova Mob. The various songs with the lyrics that could be threaded together to tell my own story with was of great comfort and release:
The elements of anger, energy, pain, and perspective were in these songs and helped me purge the unhappiness.
After a while of working through all of this, of course, the light begins to come through the clouds again; akin to the seasonal shift from a dark, harrowing winter into a warm and hopeful spring. And when those days started to become reality and I could FEEL it, the spiritual uplift was equally embraced (if not more so) with some very comforting pieces of inspiration – both psychologically/spiritually and on the creative level:
The good vibes were there; they’d come back. As did the ability to write songs (which never went away) and those came fast and furious, along with the desire to write (in general, as I do now). And I should say, as a post script, my marriage came back on track after a proper and healthy separation, and this coming October, it’s 19 years still married…
So to tie the two together, on a day like this Inauguration Day, I spun the wheel on the iPod and landed with:
Dan Wiencek – (There are) non-musical sources of comfort too; if I need to elevate my mood, any one of a dozen favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes invariably does the trick.
Beau Dure – I have a Spotify playlist called “Uplifting.” It has some protest-ish songs like “Free Your Mind” and “Finest Worksong,” Rush’s triumphant “One Little Victory,” a wonderful tune by The Sounds called “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake,” a comedy bit from Kyle Kinane, some random funk …
Justin Vellucci – Shots of bourbon.