Music for the better times

I don't write about it much here, but I love music. I played viola in youth orchestras when I was growing up, and from that time I retain a love for Beethoven, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, Sibelius, and Mahler. But I also love bossa nova and fado and American folk music, West African music and tabla music from India, obscure Baroque masters and modern Cape Verdean geniuses. Music gets me through the day, from the moment I wake up to the hour I go to bed; it's rare for me to make it through the whole day without listening to something, and more often than not my iPod battery is worn out by the time I get home at night.

I even think that music has played a role in my recovery from my eating disorder. Sometimes, when things were really bad and I was avoiding the urge to throw up, I would shut myself up in my room and listen to my favorite songs over and over again, grounding myself in the music so that I could focus on something besides food. Nowadays, when I am in a bad mood, feeling lonely, or simply bored, I can find so much meaning in music.

Take Leonard Cohen's "Anthem." I don't care so much for the honky arrangement (if you've heard it you know what I mean), but I love the words:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in...

This winter, when I was dealing with all of the drama and humilliation at work, I listened to this song almost every day before I headed out. It did me good to remind myself that I needn't be perfect -- nay, that my very imperfections were what made me human, made me beautiful. I clung to this song like a lifeline, as it indeed was.

What songs get you through the day? What songs do you listen to when you want to celebrate the good things in life? What songs fill you when you are feeling depressed? Please share them with me -- I am always looking for good music!

Lately, these are the song that have made their way onto my "Feel good list" on my iPod:

Joni Mitchell -- Come in from the cold, Carey, California, All I want
Cry Cry Cry -- Cold Missouri Waters
Cristina Branco -- Há palavras que nos beijam
Jewel -- Jupiter
The Be Good Tanyas -- Lakes of Pontchartrain
Ceumar -- Pra la, Dindinha
Clara Nunes -- Canto das tres raças
Luciana Souza -- Eu nao existo sem voce
Roberta Sá -- A vizinha do lado
Abigail Washburn -- Song of the traveling daughter
Leonard Cohen -- Anthem

Please, let me know what you're listening to!

~Ai Lu


Kristina said...

Ai Lu,

I'm a bit on the lazy side when it comes to organizing music, but a few singers/albums that I've just *loved* recently are:

- Vampire Weekend
- "Raising Sand" by Allison Krauss and Robert Plant
- Jesca Hoop
- "Fox Confessor Brings the Food" by Neko Case (she has a new album but I haven't listened to all of it yet)
- "Valencia" (Song) by The Decemberists

Songs/albums that I've enjoyed for a while and keep returning to are:
- "Central Reservation" (Album) by Beth Orton
- Anything by Lucinda Williams
- "Chutes too narrow" by The Shins
- Lyle Lovett (in general)
- "Jump the Line" (song) by Henry Belafonte - this ALWAYS puts me in a good mood!
- Maná when I feel like 'rocking out'

I don't know what that list says about me; it's not very eclectic but it sure isn't pop.

Carrie Arnold said...

Hmmm...a list of feel good tunes. Here are a few of my standbys:

Anything by Gaelic Storm, although the fiddle solos tend to be the best.
"Lukey" and "Something Beautiful" by Great Big Sea
"Le Valse a Huit Ans" and "Les Amants du Saint-Laurent" by Le Vent du Nord
"Breathe" by Anna Nalick
"Another Mystery" by Dar Williams
Anything by Natalie MacMaster
"Humble Me" by Norah Jones

There are more, of course. :)

Have you ever heard of Hevia? His stuff strikes me as something you might like. He made a set of electronic bagpipes, and he plays music that is this wonderful blend of Celtic, Arabic, and Spanish (he's from Spain).

Thanks- this was fun.

Kim said...

I love music, too. I'm convinced it's helped in my recovery. I'm a classic rock girl at heart. Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Paul Simon. For some reason, I've also been gravitating to old Ben Folds and Pete Yorn. Also, I really love Fiona Apple and Rachael Yamagata. Those are some favorites for now :)

Micaela said...

When I'm upset I'll listen to "Heal Over"by KT Tunstall over and over. If I want to calm down, I like "Come Away With Me" by Norah Jones and "I Will Follow You into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie. "Let it Be" is always good too. In general I've been listening to a lot of Sonya Kitchell, Fleet Foxes, and She & Him lately.

Anonymous said...

Ai Lu, like you I rely on music to get through the day and only wish it were socially acceptable to slip away to my iPod more often.

Some of the songs I crave to help me face the day are silly, some are upbeat, and some speak to me about the things that upset me, which seems to be cathartic in and of itself. Here's my list:

All this beauty - The Weepies
Young James Dean - Girlyman
Code Monkey - Jonathan Coulton
Here it goes again - OK Go
All that's known - Spring Awakening
Decatur - Sufjan Stevens
Engine Driver - The Decemberists
Parentheses - The Blow
I don't want to be - Gavin Degraw
I hear the bells - Mike Doughty
Why you'd want to live here - Death Cab for Cutie
Don't dress your cat in an apron - Free to be you and me
Widows walk - Suzanne Vega
New shoes - Paolo Nutini
Samson - Regina Spektor
Les voyages en train - Grand Corps Malade

I could go on and on, but that's a pretty good list... Now I'm going to go look up your and others' suggestions and see if I find ones to add!

Lisa said...

Things that went through my iTunes today:

"Any Given Day," Carbon Leaf
"Red Right Ankle," the Decemberists (one of my all-time favorites)
"Boy with a Coin," Iron and Wine (gorgeous video)
"New Slang," the Shins
"Can't Get Away," Third Eye Blind
"Taxi," Harry Chapin

The most beautiful song ever written, however, is "Kathy's Song," by Simon & Garfunkel. I cried when I saw them perform it live ... both times.