Welcome to Pop Music Survival Kit: The Perfect Songs for Every Occasion
I’m in a low-key mood today. (Maybe it’s because of the chilly, rainy weather.) All day, I’ve been listening to songs I can get lost in, rather than songs that make me stand up and take notice. Mandolins and pianos. Gentle tempos. Lovely vocals with extended notes.
But just because this music is soothing doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about it. If you need to chill out, then here are three great songs to help you do it. (They’ve been helping me all day.)
(1) “Heart on Fire” by Scars on 45
Scars on 45 sounds like the name of a loud and angry punk band or an eyeliner-and-irony outfit like Fall Out Boy. (After all, the group’s name is a pun on this 80s phenomenon.) But instead, this British band makes sense next to The Fray and Snow Patrol. I especially like how co-vocalists Aimee Driver and Danny Bemrose play off each other in this song. When she sneaks in during the middle of the track, she adds lovely twist of emotion.
(2) “King of the World” by First Aid Kit
I bought this Swedish folk duo’s album The Lion’s Roar when it came out at the beginning of the year, and since then, I’ve fallen for every song. Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg never grab you by the throat, but underneath their intricate harmonies and classic folk sounds, there are big, wide rivers of emotion. Some of their songs, like “Dance to Another Tune,” are dark and sad, and some, like “King of the World,” find resigned happiness in bad situations. Over handclaps and a jaunty guitar, this song tells a striking story about a couple that can’t feel at peace in the world but who at least keep moving along together. (Listen for the guest vocal from Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes!)
(3) “Stars” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Oh, how I love Grace Potter and the Nocturnals! Like Alabama Shakes, they have carried on the legacy of female-fronted blues-rock with incredible skill. Potter was a guest vocalist on a hit song by Kenny Chesney, but don’t be fooled. She’s no country chanteuse. Just listen to her scratchy wail on this song, and note those transcendent electric guitars that support her as she’s singing for the sky. This is late-night, lighters-up, cry-as-your-best-friend-moves-away rock music, and listening to it right now is giving me chills.
Previously: Songs to Make Sports Seem More Bearable
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. In high school, he hugged his two best friends goodbye in the driveway before they all left for college the next day, and a song like “Stars” reminds him how that felt.