Daily Music writers on songs for hard times

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - 9:43pm
It’s in times of darkness where art functions as a welcome refuge. It can help us escape the turmoil we experience as much as it can reaffirm our own feelings and provide important emotional insight. Considering the nature of recent events, Daily Music writers felt obligated to share what brings them peace in times difficulty. With the question “What songs have saved you in times of need and turmoil?,” writers hope their answers provide a semblance of light in the face of recent darkness.
“The Tourist” by Radiohead
When things got a bit overwhelming for me during my (oh so endearing) years of teenage angst, music was usually my only suitable refuge. I remember shuffling through my local library's CD collection as an 8th grader and coming across Radiohead's OK Computer (arguably their magnum opus, but that's a separate conversation altogether). Years following that, it was a signature in my high school rotation, being popped on whenever I needed even just a semblance of peace. In those anxiety-ridden moments I had wondering what my future held, if all the time I’ve shed on schoolwork and extracurriculars would actually amount to anything I could show for (shoutout to my melodramatic phase), the album was, if anything, a constant that I could rely on. Among its tracks, "The Tourist" stuck out to me from an early point. In the whirlwind of high school's emotions and obligations, it's message to "slow down" was welcome. — Anay Katyal
“All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem
I remember a particularly dark time for me, personally, were the months that built up to my first year of college. Having graduated from one of the most impoverished school systems in the country, I felt like I was predetermined to fail at the University. I felt unproven, and the statistics tended to agree that I was. I was not looking forward to college.
In the car ride to move into my dorm, I specifically recall one song that set me straight — “All My Friends,” by LCD Soundsystem. Clocking in at just under 8 minutes, it’s almost a lecture. The song touches on the nature of aging, making new friends, and perhaps losing old ones. Just as I was questioning my decision to leave everything and everyone behind in West Virginia, in pursuit of a plan that could very well unravel at a moment’s notice, the song seemed to reinstate a sense of assuredness. It leaves you feeling like you just watched one of those corny “coming of age” cult films, but packaged as a deeply moving and sobering body of music. — Shayan Shafii
“Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine
It’s times like these that really make me understand why art, especially music, is so intrinsically linked to humanity. Musicians put emotions into motion, capturing sentiments that cannot otherwise be expressed. In times of mental trepidation and distress, I have often turned to this track. Listening to Flo remind me that “it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back” always managed to lift some weight from my shoulders. Calling audiences to look forward, “Shake It Out” prompts listeners not to dwell on the tragic, but to aim for a better tomorrow. — Carly Snider
Florence + the Machine's electric anthem "Shake It Out" didn't help me out during one specific time, but it has helped me get through sporadic, everyday moments of anxiety and self-doubt. From the song's swelling organ opening notes to Florence Welch's glorious vocals to the powerful, climactic ending, listening to "Shake It Out" is a cathartic experience for me, as if almost all my fears and worries in my head and tension in my muscles disappear for only a fleeting few moments. Whether I have an anxious thought or concentrate too aggressively on an insignificant but bad memory, "Shake It Out" is there to remind me that I'm not alone in feeling or thinking in this way. — Sam Rosenberg
“Never Catch Me” by Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar
There’s something pleasantly inescapable about this track— it was never exactly my go-to song in one particular time of hardship, but rather a proven remedy in repeated stretches of adversity, effective for times in which I took solace in listening to something that so deftly (and appropriately) amplified life’s ambiguities while simultaneously allowing me to find its most comforting instances of peace. FlyLo, with help from a funky Thundercat solo, provides Kendrick Lamar with a soul-filled jazz backdrop on which to preach. Lamar speaks of life, death, and legacy, exuding a contagious vibe of cool, calm and confidence that fits the production perfectly. It’s seemingly the perfect package for anyone needing a lift, and I’ve frequently found myself thankful for the fact that it exists. — Joey Schuman
“Your Hand In Mine” by Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky, a post-rock quartet hailing from Austin, Texas, make emotionally charged instrumental epics, the most poignant of which is "Your Hand In Mine," their most well known song (and for good reason). Perhaps not uplifting in a direct sense, it's intensely cathartic; if you ever need something to push you into a good cry, this is it. "Your Hand In Mine" (and the album as a whole, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place) has firmly entrenched itself in my heart. From the overly angst-ridden stints in middle school to the death of my dog immediately before I departed for my freshman year of college, "Your Hand In Mine" has provided more emotional support, more relief than any other song, and, perhaps, even any other human. — Sean Lang
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
"A group of anti-Trump college students in Eau Claire concocted the perfect Zen protest: singing and dancing en masse to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” If there’s anything common across the left-right divide, it’s the desire not to come off as tight-assed or anti-rock and roll, and what could the passing Trump supporters do but dance and sing along, a few holdouts scowling at the unfairness of the method?" — George Saunders's New Yorker piece. 
— Adam Theisen 
“Foreground” by Grizzly Bear  
“A Dedication” by Washed Out 
“Twilight At Carbon Lake” by Deerhunter 
I’ve always been of the opinion that the end is the most important part of anything — an album, a movie, etc. (life, if we’re feeling particularly philosophical). It’s always the moment when I’m at my fullest attention. Accordingly, each of these album closing tracks have stayed with me while the rest fell behind. I won’t go into a long self-indulgent explanation on the personal meaning of each one, since I’m not entirely sure of it myself and, frankly, I’m lazy. But while I know what others give and get back from these songs will not be what I did and do, I hope there’s at least some solace in them, like the kind I found. — Matt Gallatin
“Chaos & Piss” by P!NK
A self-assuring ode to strength and perserverence in the presence of adveristy, "Chaos & Piss" doesn't find bliss in ignoring the toughest parts of life, but rather by recognizing the bullshit, taking a stand and maintaining a positive outlook until the storm is over. "I'm a willow tree, you can't blow me over / and my roots go deep in anger / I wanna feel the wind as it whips me like a prisoner / I wanna be here," P!NK wales during the bridge: a reassuring reminder to turn anger into an obstinance that demands change, and that the only option more painful than fighting for love and lives is resigning to the fear and sadness. — Christian Kennedy