What We’re Listening To: Music for Spiraling
Here’s what we listen to calm our worries and drop a roadblock mid-spiral. Or, just something that puts to music how we feel inside and fuels our unrest. Check out the playlist here.
By the music team
“Today,” The Smashing Pumpkins
I find a lot of 90s rock weirdly comforting because it reminds me of my childhood—sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car, listening to the radio and watching the pavement bake in the sun. The image of my whole family in the same car feels so far away. This song and the constructed memories it evokes are pain and warmth at once.
“90210,” The Courtneys
What do I like to do when I’m spiraling? “Take a walk down to the river.”
“End of Last Year,” Porridge Radio
In this song, the line “Don’t know how to get it back” is immediately followed by the line “I don’t want to go back.” I feel seen by that, especially when I’m having some internal crisis that’s probably just founded on my fundamental indecisiveness.
“Look To The Rainbow,” Astrud Gilberto
Bossa Nova makes me feel better almost instantly, something about not knowing the language (portuguese) and the classy feel to the instrumentation instantly calms me down. Astrud’s voice is like gold, too. This album carried me through high school and college.
“Baby Where You Are” By Ted Lucas
I found so much solace in this album during the early months of the pandemic. The simplicity of Ted’s recordings and his sweet doubled vocals made me feel like I was in the room with him as he sang. This song in particular brought me back down to Earth anytime I was feeling overwhelmed.
“June,” Florence and the Machine
As summer arrives, there’s mounting pressure to be out and about, busy with activities, making the most of our sunshine. But seemingly everyone is going through it right now, and we’re all trying to treat ourselves with grace in doing enough. I came back to this song as it’s sampled on the new Kendrick Lamar album, and it feels really good to close your eyes and listen to Florence’s “oh oh oh oh” and take comfort that the world will keep turning.
“Soft Meadow,” Green-House
As great lyrics can reassure, they are often too immersive for the mood I’m in, and what I’m trying to process (or not!). This entire album from Green-House is such a soft blanket for me when I want to listen to what peace sounds and feels like. I can stretch my back and feel my feet as pillars to the earth, grounding myself when everything feels temporary.
“Bottle Up & Explode!,” Elliott Smith
The perfect song to listen to when: everything makes you want to cry and you feel your tears on the brink of overflow and you find yourself grieving over every dream put on hold or the person you’ve become vs. the person you wanted to become. I come back to this song time and time again simply because of its reassuring lyrics: “Bottle up and explode over and over / keep the troublemaker below / put it away and check out for the day.”
“Hawaiian Black Sand,” The Black Skirts
I find unrivaled comfort in songs sung in my mother tongue. One of my favorite songs of all time, “Hawaiian Black Sand” reveals a bittersweet tale of memories coming and going, slipping through our fingers like fine sand or holding us hostage to things/people/places that we can never let go of, no matter how hard we try.
“Linger,” The Cranberries
There is something about begging someone to let you stop loving them that is so depressing and out of control, it makes me feel better. Maybe it’s me putting into the universe the sentiment of “I know I am a fool, but please could you let this disaster end”. I am always a fan of asking divine intervention to fix your problems.
“Time,” Pink Floyd
It’s chaotic. It’s moody. It has me lying on the living room floor staring at the ceiling fan wondering who the hell shot the starting gun? If the long, clanging intro isn’t for you, I suggest “this is me trying” by Taylor Swift for a pop alternative.
“Ghost Town,” Kanye West, PARTYNEXTDOOR
As much as I hate to plug Ye, hearing “I put my hand on the stove, to see if I still bleed/ Yeah, and nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free” always, always lets me move on from what’s been hurting me.
As a Boston to NYC import myself, I’ve followed Vundabar from their beginning days in the Boston music scene to their rise in popularity all over. This number opens their newest album and builds beautifully over it’s not quite 3 minute duration. Their lyrics “And now I'm screaming in a stranger's palm/ But I just can't quite place the feeling” constantly wow me listen after listen because of how apt they are describing feelings that at times feel indescribable.
“Sun Bleached Flies”, Ethel Cain
I’ll be real with you, ever since her newest album dropped, you can find me listening to this song at any given point in my day. The time stamp is intimidating (it comes in at just over 7 and a half minutes) but the emotional build of the song is like none other I’ve experienced in a while. I wouldn’t consider myself religious but I genuinely feel like I’m spiritually tethered to something as she signs "If it's meant to be, then it will be/ And I forgive it all as it comes back to me”
“Mirror”, Kendrick Lamar
Don’t come for me but I finally listened to Kendrick’s new album start to finish and was really taken by the soft power of the lyrics in this song. It doesn’t yell, it doesn’t snarl, it just states the facts and makes me less afraid to “choose me” at the end of the day.
“Everything is Embarrassing,” Sky Ferreira
Sometimes all I can do to calm my worries is put my headphones in, lay supine in the grass, and disassociate. “Everything is Embarrassing” is the perfect soundtrack to this activity. When I hear it, I get lost in my thoughts, reminiscing on cool summer nights with my crushes, on driving with the windows down through the suburbs, on getting ready for nights out with my friends.
“Good Days,” SZA
“Good Days” is a song that reminds me to breathe and evaluate. Is it all in my head? Is it even worth the stress? Gaining that perspective often helps me to get out of my own way and find some peace in the humanity of the moment: we all get stressed, we all get overwhelmed, so why don’t we all just take a breath and get some air.