In search of Beautiful Instrumental Music to Live By
October 18, 2019 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever heard an instrumental song and thought it would be perfect for a soundtrack over a montage clip of your life? That it just captured a mood of a period of time or helped you sink further into the moment? Either way, more info on the instrumental songs I'm seeking is inside!

I’m looking for instrumental songs that fit some vague criteria. The main requirement is that the song has a strong “mood” or feeling to it. For example, the Jose Gonalez song “Vissel” makes me feel RELAXED/SOOTHED, like I’m all cozy on a rainy autumn afternoon in a seaside village. The Yann Tiersen song "Summer 78" makes me feel UPLIFTED/HOPEFUL, like maybe I'm wandering around a beautiful European city on a sunny summer afternoon.

So which specific instruments or genre doesn't matter so much as that the song is beautiful, fairly simple and not overdone BUT interesting or captivating enough to hold your attention, and somewhat contemporary sounding. Often, they have a repeating melody but morph over the course of the song.

Some actual soundtracks that have a lot of these songs that I love: Dan in Real Life, and Little Miss Sunshine. So suggestions of songs from soundtracks is fine, as long as it's a song that can stand alone and isn't too specific to the movie.

Other instrumentals I would say fit these criteria, if more examples are helpful:

Lumineers: Patience
David Bowie: Warszawa
Devotchka: The Winner Is
Ben Harper: Three of Us

I hope this all makes sense, but if it's too confusing... let me just ask it this way: do you have any favorite instrumental songs that are so beautiful you could listen over and over and savor them each time? I would love to hear your suggestions. Thanks MeFi friends!
posted by carlypennylane to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians

There was definitely a time in my life.
posted by billjings at 5:31 PM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

And then, at a very different, angrier and more frustrated time...

Mission of Burma - Tremelo
posted by billjings at 5:38 PM on October 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

California Guitar Trio, Melrose Avenue, and well, everything.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:51 PM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Song for Bob

The lyrics I hear to this are "God only knows if I could, if I should, if I would... "

Nuvole Bianche

The Heart Asks Pleasure First

Canon in D

The Mission

Jeux Interdits

Entends-tu les chiens aboyer?

Requiem for Father Kolbe

To Go Beyond This one may not count as an instrumental as there is a choir and a soloist but they lyrics are "Rah-rah-rah-rah -dah-dah-dah-dah -ooo-ooo-ooo..." so if you want to avoid words this one is fine on that creteria.

Ecstacy is on Maple Mountain

The Time to Run

Beethoven's Silence is not by Beethoven. It's by Ornesto Cortazar

posted by Jane the Brown at 7:12 PM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Joe Hisaishi - Summer (from the Kikujiro soundtrack)

Both are to differing degrees uplifting schmaltziness tinged with a kind of nostalgic melancholy.
posted by juv3nal at 7:57 PM on October 18, 2019

Evgeny Grinko (etc., etc.).
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:00 PM on October 18, 2019

Stromae- merci
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:05 PM on October 18, 2019

This is the song I have always thought of as the theme song for the TV show of my life. I'm not sure I can express how it makes me feel -- It just sounds like me, and my life. As an added benefit, I use it to test the bass response of speakers.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:06 PM on October 18, 2019

posted by jessca84 at 8:28 PM on October 18, 2019

song for happy: Cliffs of Dover is a guitar hero song but it doesn't really sound like one to me, it's got a melody of blue crystal dopamine and a groove that actually kinda bumps.

song for the scene in the film where you get your cool strut on but also your narrator goes on about your imposter syndrome because there is no goddamn way you are possibly cool enough rock this song in a soundtrack scenario: Chameleon.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:01 PM on October 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

song for hopefulness: Hope
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:09 PM on October 18, 2019

Ryuichi Sakamoto, energy flow?
posted by huimangm at 10:45 PM on October 18, 2019

The soundtrack for Walter Mitty - the instrumental songs anyway.
posted by freethefeet at 11:15 PM on October 18, 2019

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Cambridge 1963
posted by snez at 11:39 PM on October 18, 2019

Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part is a bit like the calm after the storm and I have pretty much had it on repeat for the last two years.
posted by kadia_a at 5:39 AM on October 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

"Cucumber Slumber" - Material (Weather Report cover) - this is a happy flow song for me. There's sort of an instrumental call and response dialog going on in a lot of the song that I love.

"Nocturne (Prelude and Demise)" - Robyn Hitchcock - a very autumnal piece. Well, two pieces. Somebody on youtube spliced the two tracks together and it works nicely. Pair with "Heart Full of Leaves" from the same album for a really nice fall feeling.

"Sun Will Set" - Zoë Keating. Just dreamy and beautiful without being boring. It carries me like a wave.

"Working on It" - from Wag the Dog soundtrack by Mark Knopfler. This is a summertime breeze song in my mind. If you needed a track for Huck Finn floating down the river on a raft, this is it.

"The Tale of Room 620" - Ehren Starks (with Kate Gurba). Piano and cello, wistful and haunting. Post-breakup montage. I highly recommend the entire album, The Depths of a Year. It's the audio equivalent of a fine novel.

"Big Metal" - Secret Drum Band off DYNAMICS. Has the same energy as "Run Fay Run" by Isaac Hayes to me, kind of an "on the run" vibe.

"Venus" - The Olympians. Sweet instrumental soul. The entire album (The Olympians) is worthwhile.

"Journey Through the Asteroid Belt" - The Comet is Coming. Pairs well with the next one.

"Surfing with the Alien" - Joe Satriani. The cover of the album features a picture of the Silver Surfer from Marvel Comics, and that's what I think of when I listen to this one - just flying through the cosmos, preferably as drawn by Jack Kirby. The entire album is really worthwhile if you are looking for instrumentals that make you feel. May qualify as "overdone," though, depending on your tolerance for guitar heroics.

"Soothsayer (dedicated to Aunt Suzie)" - Buckethead. Again, depending on your tolerance for guitar heroics, this one is a beautiful piece. It's a little shreddy in parts, but I actually find it calming. Buckethead's phrasing on this one is impeccable, and it's quite a ride.
posted by jzb at 6:46 AM on October 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Explosions in the sky - waking up

I can't really convey how much I love this track.
posted by speakeasy at 9:24 AM on October 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Colleen — I'll Read You A Story

Aphex Twin — aisatsana [102]
posted by scruss at 9:28 AM on October 19, 2019

かかし -Aragon
Bahama Mama -Billy Cobham, Alphonso Johnson, Steve Khan, Tom Scott
Disintegration Loop 1.1 -William Basinski
posted by bricoleur at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2019

Kemuri’s Sunset is a ska instrumental, very relaxing, captures the feeling of being able to stop and enjoy the sunset on a nice day.

As far as soundtracks, the Ocean’s 12 soundtrack is filled with some really pleasant euro pop-esque instrumentals, and the instrumentals on the True Romance soundtrack are pretty awesome, too.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:23 PM on October 19, 2019

The main theme from the Brothers Bloom really is too specific to the movie (although it's amazing) but I find the rest of the soundtrack really compelling; the piece that has stayed with me longest is Penelope's Theme, which I find powerfully wistful.
posted by peppercorn at 8:38 PM on October 19, 2019

Radiohead "Meeting in the Aisle"
posted by secretseasons at 5:55 AM on October 21, 2019

I always think of In The Back of a Taxi by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra as the soundtrack of what my brain is doing when I'm working on something in a "flow" state.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:10 AM on October 21, 2019

Perpetuum Mobile by Penguin Cafe Orchestra has, I think, the vibe you're looking for?
posted by elmer benson at 10:35 AM on October 21, 2019

A Warm Place - Nine Inch Nails. Sad and a little hopeful.
From West Texas - Explosions in the sky . Like the sun coming out over a still landscape after an important night.
posted by signal at 4:44 PM on October 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Honestly, this entire Khruangbin concert is a big mood for me these days.
posted by DigDoug at 5:55 PM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Spiritual State" by Nujabes is like coming home to a warm fireplace on a gloomy, miserable day. Listening to it helps me to reawaken a sense of beauty and optimism when I'm feeling worried or depressed.

I get a powerful sense of mourning from the opening score to Shadow of the Colossus, like the spirits of the forbidden land are lamenting the tragedy to which the protagonist dooms himself, and the calamity he unleashes in the process. I'm probably letting my feelings about the game leak into my feelings about the music, though.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 8:26 PM on October 22, 2019

I really love Clint Mansell's soundtrack to the movie Moon. "Welcome to Lunar Industries" opens the movie with a lonely, mechanical rhythm that ebbs and flows along the lunar surface.
posted by JDC8 at 9:18 PM on October 22, 2019

Max Richter's "On the Nature of Daylight" makes me feel that it is not possible to comprehend the vastness of the world. a simultaneous feeling of wonder and sadness.
posted by sapagan at 3:13 AM on October 23, 2019

New Order, "Elegia" - album version, extended version

Disasterpeace, "Fez OST"

Brian Eno, "In Dark Trees"
posted by the painkiller at 4:40 AM on October 23, 2019

I am very fond of this piece of music from the last episode (FALL OUT) of the Prisoner TV series. You can find it 30 minutes, 28 seconds in.

I often have moments in my life where I wish it was playing in the background.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:14 PM on October 23, 2019

Yo La Tengo, "Green Arrow". The memory of a warm summer evening with the one that got away. A shot of nostalgia straight to the heart.
posted by JohnFredra at 1:47 PM on October 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

These may be slightly off the mark because the below aren’t strictly instrumental - they vary from being somewhat choral to containing vague lyrical snippets that meld into the instrumentals, but they have the same effect for me as purely instrumental tracks, and may for you!

Girls by Death in Vegas soundtracked my part melancholic, part hypomanic teens on loop. 'Gently held by the universe'.

Careen by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is late night flow, when the noise in your head has quietened down and the rest of the world has gone to sleep, and your thoughts can finally take flight. Photosynthesis by Susumu Yokota has a similar effect.

Julianna Barwick in general, though usually best listened to as a whole album. Try Someway as a standalone track (slightly more lyrical than some of her tracks, but its effect is immediate on me - like suddenly breathing in). Think 'transcendental yearning, and it's going to be ok’.
posted by FifteenShocks at 5:24 AM on October 26, 2019

DJ Food, Minitoka
posted by riddley at 2:57 AM on October 27, 2019

« Older Spider Host   |   Staying dry for a season on the slush Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.