Even if things end up a bit too heavy we'll all float on alright
March 21, 2016 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Comfort music sought; minor details under the fold.

I am having a bad time. Many of my loved ones are having a bad time. I could really use some non-saccharine comfort music recommendations.

All genres are acceptable; my one criteria is that it's not saccharine or overly cheery or over the top inspirational (which I know is a nebulous concept here). Modest Mouse's "Float on" is the gold standard, and the only song that comes to mind here. Basically, I'm seeking "just keep swimming" for adults - songs that say "yea, this sucks, but we'll get it done".

Thanks, hivemind.
posted by joycehealy to Media & Arts (82 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
My current fave is This Too Shall Pass by Tyler Stenson.
posted by cecic at 10:35 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Peter Gabriel, "Don't Give Up"
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2016

Oh man. Thank you for this question. My suggestion: Do the Right Thing by Ages and Ages
posted by mmmbacon at 10:39 AM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

how about no one said it would be easy? it's a bit "living with a spoilt rich boy sucks," but the chorus is pretty good.
posted by andrewcooke at 10:40 AM on March 21, 2016

"Life is Still Sweet" by White Hassle is the one that does it for me.
posted by neroli at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2016

Opelousas (Sweet Relief), Maria McKee, from the amazing, under-rated, eponymous Victoria Williams benefit recording.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2016

It's older but K'naan's Waving Flag always makes me feel better; "when I get older/I will be stronger/they'll call me freedom/just like a waving flag". You might also poke around 8tracks.com; I found this "Stay Strong" playlist (featuring Float On and songs like "The Show Must Go On" by Queen) that seems relevant but there's lots others that look like they'd work too, just click on the tags to find more.
posted by stellaluna at 10:42 AM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Beta Band - Push it Out is also really good for this purpose. In fact, the entire Three EPs album is what I play on repeat (along with Modest Mouse and Fever Ray) when I'm in this kind of place in my life.
posted by ourobouros at 10:51 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pearls Before Swine, These Things Too: The Frog in the Window. Hard to find.


Helps me in many moods.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:54 AM on March 21, 2016

Bob Marley and the Wailers No Woman No Cry, everything's gonna be alright.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:09 AM on March 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Bishop Allen - Things Are What You Make of Them

The Flaming Lips - Bad Days

Not only are these very positive/non-saccharine songs, I think they might be extremely amenable to your specific tastes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I will second Beta Band! Both songs recommend are great for what you're looking for. My new personal favorite is Frank Turner - get better. It might be a little more aggressive sounding, but it helps get me out of bed when I'm exhausted from life
posted by Attackpanda at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also, try Take That - Shine. Yes, Take That was a UK boy band that mostly sucked. This is from a record they put out years later and this song has a pretty pronounced Electric Light Orchestra feel. It's unexpected and weirdly terrific.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:25 AM on March 21, 2016

How about uplifting gospel music by the Staple Singers, Somebody Saved Me.
posted by readery at 11:30 AM on March 21, 2016

McAlmont & Butler - Can We Make It is "just keep swimming" for adults.
posted by merocet at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2016

The Clash's Revolution Rock.

everything gonna be all right
posted by scratch at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2016

Sorry to hear that you are having a bad time. My thoughts are with you. Try the band Lights & Motion.
posted by jbickers at 11:33 AM on March 21, 2016

Mountain Goats, Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1
posted by babelfish at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

A song that always helps me out in similar moments is This Year, by the Mountain Goats.
posted by chicainthecity at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2016 [16 favorites]

Monty Python's Galaxy Song always cheers me up. Also, if you want a slightly darker shade of cheerful, there's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. And for more unambiguously uplifting, I always go to Johnny Cash, Get Rhythm.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

also, the Polyphonic Spree catalog.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:55 AM on March 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is Blues, so not sweet, but I find it gritty and comforting: Ain't Gonna Give Up On Love, Stevie Ray VaughanI cue'd it up at 3:00 which is where the song starts. It's a clip from a sound check.
posted by effluvia at 11:57 AM on March 21, 2016

Dawn by Cloud Cult. My favorite line is, "All our anxieties are in a box I mailed to Pluto." If only.
posted by BrashTech at 12:08 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Different comfort music genre, performer on Hang: Rafael Sotomayor Supersonic Hang.
posted by xaryts at 12:10 PM on March 21, 2016

My go-to "shit's going bad around me" song is The Mary Ellen Carter as sung by Stan Rogers. I don't *think* it's too over-the-top inspirational.
posted by hanov3r at 12:18 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

* Pulls up chair and sits down *

The following are all from a motivational/comforting playlist that I made for myself some years back which I called "Quiet Strength and Perseverence, Dammit". Some of these are upbeat and some are quieter.


Ordinary Day by Great Big Sea
Sail On, Sailor by the Beach Boys (listen to the lyrics, seriously)
This Too Shall Pass by OK Go


Hold On by Tom Waits
Trouble by Cat Stevens


The Stairs by INXS. I especially love that one because it's a reminder that we are all of us going through some hard shit all the time - it may all be different hard shit, but we are all going through hard shit, unbeknownst to everyone else. And that is actually one of the things that makes humanity ennobling - hard as shit, but ennobling.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Half of the Mountain Goats oeuvre falls into this category, more or less. Probably the best-known is "This Year." Also "Sax Rohmer #1." "Romans 10:9" works, though it helps to know that it's a sort of ironic rendition of Christian contemporary uplift music.

I'm also partial to Amy Rigby's "Rasputin," which is more about love disasters than life disaster but has the same general theme. ("I'm like Rasputin, I get back up again!/ I'm like Rasputin, I keep coming back, coming back, coming back to life!")

On the gentler, but not, I think, saccharine side, the Five Stairsteps' "Ooh Child" and Kimya Dawson's "The Competition."
posted by praemunire at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ooh Child by the Five Stairsteps
Move on Up by Curtis Mayfield
James Brown, James Brown, James Brown
posted by Pearl928 at 12:31 PM on March 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Ooh, speaking of Kimya, Lucky Number Nine by the Moldy Peaches might work. It's mostly their standard gibberish, but the cheerful chorus ("HEY! I'm starting to feel OK!") always makes me feel good.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:32 PM on March 21, 2016

The Shins got me through a lot of those times.

Split Needles (and honestly the rest of Wincing the Night Away)
Caring is Creepy
Young Pilgrims
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:35 PM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Don't worry, It's Only Life (The Feelies).
posted by benito.strauss at 12:36 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

A couple more that came to mind belatedly are the Staples Singers' "I'll Take You There" and--I'm slightly embarrassed to say it, but--the lead track of Hamilton ("Alexander Hamilton"), which is mostly about the hero surviving a spectacularly awful childhood and coming to launch his career in New York.
posted by praemunire at 1:00 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

for now, from 'avenue q'.
posted by koroshiya at 1:02 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

the above is lightly saccharine. but also funny.
posted by koroshiya at 1:03 PM on March 21, 2016

I see a playlist in my future....

The song that hits this spot for me is Shelter from the Storm, by Bob Dylan. I'm not sure if the lyrics necessarily fit but I sang this song to myself during a time where I just needed to get through, and it helped.
posted by lyssabee at 1:17 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

More Mavis Staples! You are not alone.
posted by clavicle at 1:21 PM on March 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Jem, "Just a Ride"
posted by demiurge at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2016

Do You Realize?? by the Flaming Lips is a good one.
posted by Fister Roboto at 1:33 PM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ooh Child - The Five Stairsteps
Ob-la-di Ob-la-da - The Beatles
This Must Be The Place - Talking Heads
The Long Way Around - Dixie Chicks
Young Folks - Peter Bjorn and John
The Way We Get By - Spoon
Bad Kids - Black Lips
Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson
Try - Colbie Caillat
Down So Long - Jewel
Mar (Lo Que Siento) - Bomba Estereo
If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out - Cat Stevens
posted by melissasaurus at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's funny that you mention Float On, because Gravity Rides Everything also by Modest Mouse is my #1 favorite comfort song. It's less "yea, this sucks, but we'll get it done" and more "yea this sucks but everything comes to an end anyway so don't worry about it" though.
posted by coolname at 2:19 PM on March 21, 2016

Mighty - the Planet Smashers
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free - Nina Simone
Blankest Year - Nada Surf (Oh fuck it! I'm gonna have a party)
posted by ChuraChura at 2:23 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

You need Nina Simone. Here's a live version of her song, Ain't Got No (I got life).

That song has helped me out of a lot of hard and lonely places. It starts out:

Ain't got no home, ain't got no shoes
Ain't got no money, ain't got no class
Ain't got no skirts, ain't got no sweater...

posted by colfax at 2:27 PM on March 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

To Live Is to Fly - Townes Van Zandt
New Year's Eve - First Aid Kit
Born - Over the Rhine
posted by 912 Greens at 2:37 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

You with the sad eyes, don't be discouraged ...
True Colours - Cyndi
Plea for a good nights sleep -Devon Sproule
Follow On - Paul Brady
Gone at Last - Paul Simon
posted by smugly rowan at 2:46 PM on March 21, 2016

Ted Leo is good for this vibe. Try the entire Shake the Sheets album and "La Costa Brava" from Living with the Living.
posted by kwaller at 2:51 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If I Ever Leave This World Alive - Flogging Molly
posted by ckape at 3:11 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think Adrian Belew's solo output overs this territory; nostalgia and melancholy are recurring themes but they're balanced by musings/wonder about the human condition and the overall vibe (I think) is positive. More specifically:
Inner Revolution
I Am What I Am (featuring spoken word by The Prophet Omega)
Live in a Tree (Sadly, I can't find an isolated clip. It's on Op Zop Too Wah.)

Really, if I had to point to a single, cathartic-net-positive album of his it would be Op Zop Too Wah, especially the last track:
posted by usonian at 3:17 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Coldplay, "Fix You"
Crowded House's version of "Throw Your Arms Around Me"
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:11 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rival Schools, Good Things and Used For Glue. Hell, that whole album (United By Fate).
Bloc Party - Two More Years
The Streets - Going Through Hell
Jimmy Eat World - The Middle
Radiohead - Lucky

Hm. I have more of those in my usual playlist than I thought.
posted by corvine at 4:31 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I want to second Kwaller's Ted Leo recommendation and offer specific songs.

And if we stay on our feet, we'll make it in our own time
And though the road has got some steep climbs, I believe we'll be fine

Walking to Do

Sometimes it's gonna hurt. Sometimes you're gonna deserve it.
But if you hold on to what you've got, I know you'll keep it steady.

At the end of Little Dawn, he repeats the phrase "It's alright" 149 times and goddamn if some days you don't need to hear every single one.
posted by FakePalindrome at 4:53 PM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Woody Guthrie - Baltimore to Washington. It's comforting because everyone described in the song has their troubles, and they're just doing their best.
Beach Boys - Don't Worry Baby
The Books - The Lemon of Pink (After the long intro, it becomes a song with the refrain "We went through hell, all's well that ends well...")
Sharon Van Etton - We Are Fine
posted by to recite so charmingly at 5:36 PM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

REM: It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)
Badfinger: Baby Blue
Some Arcade Fire and lots of Snow Patrol

Electric Light Orchestra: Mr Blue Sky
Flaming Lips: Yoshimi vs the pink robots (part 1)
David Bowie: Heroes; Changes
Guns 'n' Roses: Welcome to the jungle

Maybe too sentimental or downery: Death Cab: I will follow you into the dark
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:58 PM on March 21, 2016

Also lots of U2, especially the Achtung Baby album and parts of All that you can't leave behind.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:07 PM on March 21, 2016

The Weepies "Can't Go Back Now" was huge for me when I needed that extra push to walk on.
Be inspired!
posted by WaspEnterprises at 6:11 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ain't Go No/I Got Life - Nina Simone
Salvation Song by the Avett Brothers (or Go to Sleep if you wanna go darker)
Don't Give Up and Spirits from Gil Scott Heron (hell, the entire album)
I Believe by REM (a more upbeat alternative to Everybody Hurts)
Happy Birthday by Concrete Blonde
Always Love from Nada Surf (and another vote for Blankest Year)
Sit Down & Ring the Bells by James
Manifest Destiny (has a NSFW lyric) by Guster
Doomsday by Elvis Perkins in Dearland
Taxi Ride by Tori Amos
posted by smirkette at 6:28 PM on March 21, 2016

Midnight Radio, from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
posted by LynnDee at 6:50 PM on March 21, 2016

This is probably not what you're looking for, but this has been immensely comforting to me. Roger Miller: You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

posted by k8oglyph at 8:08 PM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Elton John is good for this.
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I'm Still Standing is my go-to comfort song, but it may be too upbeat for your taste.

Also Wig in a Box from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
posted by SisterHavana at 8:48 PM on March 21, 2016

Tom McRae - Stronger than Dirt

(this appears to be some sort of fanvid to a fandom I don't know... couldn't find any other free source for the song)

I love the stark lyrics.
posted by Ziggy500 at 8:57 PM on March 21, 2016

This is great! My top three right now are:
Gin Soaked Boy by The Divine Comedy
A Kind of Peace by Faithless ft Cat Power
and Gotta Hoop which is more about the inspirational hula hooping but I like the song very much also.
Ok, I admit, I also enjoy Happy by Pharrell Williams (although this one only in small doses)
and have been known to sing along to Beautiful by Christina Aguilera
Oh, and the cover of Roar by Kate Davis done in the cat shelter. Because I am a cat lady.
And now you know all my secrets.
I hope you feel better.
posted by eggkeeper at 9:47 PM on March 21, 2016

Last one-- the Soul Train remix of Where Do I Begin by The Chemical Brothers.
posted by eggkeeper at 9:51 PM on March 21, 2016

Fugazi: "Waiting Room." Patty Griffin: "Standing."

I don't know your bad situation, but lots of hip hop and rap might work, especially for the "just keep going" message, e.g., "hustlin'," Gang Starr's "Work."
posted by slidell at 10:37 PM on March 21, 2016

Kendrick Lamar, Alright
posted by puddleglum at 10:38 PM on March 21, 2016

Something Good Can Work by Two Door Cinema Club has gotten me through many a rough patch. It's kind of personally empowering, internal instead of external.

It took a little time
To make a little better
It's only going up
Just one thing, then another
You know

(My favorite version is the RAC remix which I have listened to approx 1390329482 times.)
posted by Snacks at 1:00 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I' ve made a public collaborative Spotify playlist with the first 12 songs from this page, see here https://open.spotify.com/user/timbru/playlist/3ijEwGg7ge8eUJKebJ2QE1 Please add more.
posted by Gabriel Radic at 3:25 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your Misfortune by Mike Doughty
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:15 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot one -

Breathe by Anna Nalick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 AM on March 22, 2016

Edge of Living RVIVR
Lots of RVIVR songs have this "finding hope in the depths" kind of feeling. And they definitely aren't saccharine.
posted by littlewater at 12:03 PM on March 22, 2016

Be Calm by fun.

Oh be calm, be calm.
I know you feel like you are breaking down.
I know that it gets so hard sometimes.
Be calm.

posted by one of these days at 12:21 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My instincts are with Sigur Rós' "Andvari." Here are a few others, too...

Themes of gracious acceptance:
Future Islands — A Dream of You and Me
Local Natives — Who Knows Who Cares
Freelance Whales — Generator (First Floor)

Processing it with good melancholy:
The Cinematic Orchestra — To Build A Home
Bombay Bicycle Club — How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep
Simon & Garfunkel — America

Encountering the warmth of catharsis:
Broken Social Scene — 7/4 (Shoreline)
Yo La Tengo — You Can Have It All
Grouplove — Itchin' on a Photograph

*nthing that Beta Band recommendation, too. All my best!
posted by a good beginning at 12:37 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have another one for you! "I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun ..."

Swim from Jack's Mannequin.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 12:40 PM on March 22, 2016

Simon and Garfunkle "Bridge over Troubled Water"
posted by Dolley at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2016

Johnny Nash -- I Can See Clearly Now
posted by Dolley at 1:22 PM on March 22, 2016

For my own shit: Indigo Girls Go

For watching my loved ones deal with shit: Shaina Noll How Could Anyone Ever Tell You (may be too sacharine, I'm not sure)
posted by hydropsyche at 1:48 PM on March 22, 2016

Wilco's Theologians
posted by Majorita at 5:12 PM on March 22, 2016

And Beth Orton's Conceived
posted by Majorita at 5:13 PM on March 22, 2016

I recommend this awesome song in every single thread like this: Unfold, by Jason Mraz.
posted by yawper at 7:46 PM on March 22, 2016

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "Higgs Boson Blues". Mostly for the operative line: "Who cares what the future brings?"

Honestly, the whole album "Push the Sky Away" (where this song is from) seems pretty solid if you're looking for a sort of melancholy keep-on-keeping-on sort of vibe.
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:51 AM on March 23, 2016

Response by poster: Can I mark 82 best answers? You all are amazing and Metafilter is a treasure. Thank you thank you thank you.
posted by joycehealy at 5:25 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ben Howard - Keep Your Head Up
posted by neushoorn at 4:29 AM on March 27, 2016

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