By Cody Kenner
These songs are merely in alphabetical order by artist. I love them all equally, and they’ve all been an integral part of my life at various points, so I couldn’t bear to rank them! I would’ve absolutely included way more songs on this list if possible, but I did some difficult rationalization and eventually came up with these twenty songs.
“The Bed Song” by Amanda Palmer
This song brings listeners through the various stages of a slowly separating relationship. It’s tragic, lonely, and relatable, and the conclusion hits you in a place that is both painful and cathartic.
“People II: The Reckoning” by Andrew Jackson Jihad
This is possibly the best song for when you absolutely hate the whole world, or when you’re feeling restless and cynical.
“Hope There’s Someone” by Anthony and the Johnsons
This song features a haunting call for companionship in the end. It doesn’t get darker and more beautiful than this.
“Palace” by The Antlers
This is an insanely uplifting song about digging yourself out of the trenches of despair and fully coming into your own.
“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire
This song is a pure nostalgia high. Having lived in the suburbs of Houston (where the Butler siblings lived out their adolescence) my whole life, I can’t listen to this song without vividly reliving my childhood as a suburbanite.
“Escapee” by Architecture in Helsinki
This song is pure joy. To me, it’s a hearkening back to moments of friendship and moments of complete happiness. It makes me feel completely free.
“Flowers” by Born Gold
I get a similar feeling from this song, though the lyrics have a more taking-something-and-trying-to-salvage-the-best-out-of-it vibe, which is nonetheless a pretty uplifting message.
“A Perfect Sonnet” by Bright Eyes
A heart-wrenching love song by heartthrob Conor Oberst. Shout-out to all my unrequited high school loves!
“Dyed in the Wool – Safe Camp Sessions Acoustic Version” by Circa Survive
This song is entirely about accepting defeat. It’s terribly sad, but somehow there is something incredibly comforting about just putting it on repeat and letting it sink in.
“Do You Realize??” by The Flaming Lips
This is the song I want played at my funeral. Fitting of course, as it’s a joyful take on the ephemerality of life.
“The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine
This is a melancholy ballad in which the singer is pleading for remembrance from a lover who has passed out of their life. It is beautifully vulnerable, with some poignant and powerful lyrics.
“Bright Whites” by Kishi Bashi
This is possibly the sound of pure happiness. It is a love song of the most happy kind.
“Daylight” by Matt & Kim
This is another extremely upbeat song. “Daylight” is one of the few things in life that makes me want to get up out of bed and face the world.
“The World At Large” Modest Mouse
This is a hauntingly pensive song about wandering and feeling disconnected. As a brooding middle schooler I wholeheartedly related to this. (Confession: I still do!)
“This Year” by The Mountain Goats
You could be in the very depths of overwhelming depression and this song would pull you out onto dry land. For me this is more than a song, it’s a mantra.
“Two-Headed Boy” by Neutral Milk Hotel
This song feels like company in a fucked up world.
“Sonsick” San Fermin
This is the sonic embodiment of perseverance over general reluctance. “Sonsick” is the feeling of “letting it happen” without “giving in.”
“Glósóli” by Sigur Rós
This song feels like pure passion. It has pretty much the biggest, most beautiful crescendo ever.
“Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens
This is an incredibly vulnerable love song, not just to a friend, but to a concept—literally, a city. This a real nostalgia kick too.
“A Pot in Which To Piss” by Titus Andronicus
This is an ode to never accepting defeat, no matter what shit you’re pulled through.