aaaahhhhhhh ...
February 25, 2012 11:35 AM   Subscribe

What is this very pleasant sensation I feel when hearing certain specific songs, and what are some more songs/artists that might produce it?

I noticed this first when we went to see "We Bought a Zoo." The score is by Jonsi, and I noticed that anytime the music would begin, a physical sensation of ... happiness came over me. Like, involuntarily smiling, and a kind of faint wash of pleasure over my brain and body.

I've since noticed that Jonsi's solo work does this to me, as does recent Sigur Ros (not so much the older darker stuff). The new Bon Iver also does this, particularly the song "Holocene."

What's going on here? Is it something to do with the chord progressions, the beat, the key, the instrumentation? And what are some more songs that might trigger the same reaction?
posted by jbickers to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Possibly autonomous sensory meridian response.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:00 PM on February 25, 2012

Off the top of my head, one thing both Jonsi and Bon Iver have in common is to make traditional singer/songwriter style music while subtly adding in samples/synths/other electronic touches. Maybe what you're experiencing stems from that?

In that case you might really like Chad Van Gaalen.
posted by mannequito at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

ASMR-like feelings in response to music are more likely to be a form of musical frisson.
posted by illenion at 12:02 PM on February 25, 2012

Here, some links have been collected on the distinction between ASMR vs frisson.
posted by illenion at 12:04 PM on February 25, 2012

I wonder if Peter Gabriel might give you the same sensation. I am thinking of songs like The Blood of Eden from "Us". It has a similar breathy, spacey feel to the other music you mention.
posted by ericost at 12:06 PM on February 25, 2012

Another recommendation - Daniel Lanois.
posted by mannequito at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2012

For me, I think the key is a specific sort of layering of elements that builds to a crescendo. I don't know nearly enough about music theory to get into specifics, but that's how I would describe it.

How about Travis - Love Will Come Through?
posted by enlarged to show texture at 12:21 PM on February 25, 2012

Heavily chromatic, major-key dominated music with complex instrumentation and a steady, up-tempo rhythm. Very slow-moving tonal modulations (especially with Sigur Ros). I'd be interested in knowing if Debussy's Arabesque's had a similar effect for you. Also, Steve Reich.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 12:23 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might like Sufjan Stevens. I would also add The Polyphonic Spree, who admittedly go a bit over the top at times.
posted by Gilbert at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2012

Check out the aeolian mode too.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2012

Oh yeah, Sufjan Stevens. "Chicago" is beautiful and might be right up your alley.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 12:33 PM on February 25, 2012

I call it an eargasm... My Bloody Valentine's Loveless does it for me... also this song.

Makes me feel like I'm compressing and decompressing like a balloon...
posted by stratastar at 1:00 PM on February 25, 2012

Maybe you just like Chillwave?
posted by londongeezer at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2012

Although more wistful than outright happy, maybe Spiritualized fits the bill?

(also, maybe try some other Shoegaze bands as well?)
posted by stagewhisper at 2:06 PM on February 25, 2012

Completely diatonic, i.e. all notes are in the key and there are no key changes; clear, angelic singing; elaborate instrumentation; steady 4/4 meter (though the drums themselves may be elaborate).

You might like:

Decoder Ring — Fractions (featuring the singer Lenka)

Owen Pallett — The Great Elsewhere

Death Cab for Cutie — Marching Bands of Manhattan

Goldfrapp — Caravan Girl
posted by John Cohen at 2:12 PM on February 25, 2012

Also maybe Air ?
posted by stagewhisper at 2:20 PM on February 25, 2012

Loney Dear, "Ignorant Boy, Beautiful Girl"
posted by neroli at 2:28 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

The xx work magic.
posted by Okapi at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2012

Nicolas Jaar! Everything he's ever touched. (It's something about the sense of space).
posted by kaspen at 9:15 PM on February 25, 2012

M83's Saturdays=Youth.

A lot of chillwave does this for me. I just call it 'shivers'

Also, this may sound obvious but if you loved that Jonsi thing, he has a solo record and also Sigur Ros is pretty much the standard bearer for this kind of thing (other than post-rock bands like Explosions in the Sky)
posted by softlord at 10:57 AM on February 26, 2012

Wow. I have been talking to people for years about this experience, which I call a "glow", and not met anyone who experiences it - exactly as you describe a warm pleasant physical rush that washes over my head and body.

I've made a point of collecting the songs that do this for me, in the hope of understanding the commonality (which I'm afraid I haven't as yet been able to do).

Some of those that do this most strongly for me (amongst a lot of others I've collected).

Bat for Lashes - Daniel
Robert Palmer - Johnny and Mary
The Sundays - Here's Where The Story Ends
Woodkid - Iron
Sigur Ros - Hoppipolla
The Knife - Heartbeats

I've also noticed that other artforms can do this for me, e.g. Hokusai's "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa", and I also experienced it recently reading Haruki Murakami's set of short stories "After the quake". I also remember experiencing it the first time I saw the Pyramids and Taj Mahal in person.

I'm fascinated by the phenomenon and will definitely be watching this thread.
posted by inbetweener at 8:33 AM on February 27, 2012

I get this from listening to progressive house music... Took me ages to find exactly what type of music it was - just had the word "expansive" in my head.

May not be your cup of tea at all, but for me, I get a physical sensation of happiness and am now addicted to the stuff....
posted by guy72277 at 1:07 AM on February 29, 2012

Response by poster: For anyone still following this, I've just discovered that the new Snow Patrol song triggers this stronger than almost anything I've encountered.
posted by jbickers at 10:05 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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