Instant Disassembly: Music for Anxiety


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By Ronan McGuire

“Fall back into place,” Victoria Legrand sings on Beach House’s “Space Song.” Those four words served as a mantra for me that Thursday night in January. Over and over, Legrand chanted those words, and I repeated them, out loud, the incessant refrain, until I really did fall back into my natural state. I never thought that music would help me come down from a panic attack, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

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For me, it’s Beach House. The dream pop duo’s music is lyrically and sonically perfect for grounding myself back in reality. Their songs are so real and true to life that they make me feel my very existence is authentic. And something about that makes the anxiety just melt away. But it’s not the same for everybody.

Consider the bona fide self-assurance that comes with listening to “Lemonade.” “Take what’s mine, I’m a star,” Beyoncé declares on “Formation.” On Freedom, she sings, “A winner don’t quit on themselves.”  We don’t tend to think of anxiety as a function of a lack of self-confidence, but that’s really what it is, isn’t it?

If the soft sounds of Beach House work for some to relieve anxiety, maybe blasting Beyoncé to drown out the self-doubt works for others.

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Regardless of genre, music works toward releasing anxiety because it helps to know that someone feels the same way as you and is able to articulate it in a relatable way. More overtly, the music of bands, like Parquet Courts describe anxiety in vivid detail. Perhaps no band does it better.

On “Instant Disassembly,” Andrew Savage, the lead singer of the New York City based rock band’s, sings,“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, it’s hard to inhale. ‘And it’s worth repeating’,” he says, before singing the line eight times over, one after another in the seven minute masterpiece.

One might think that hearing music like this could trigger anxiety in some, but the notion that anxiety is universal and felt in the same quantities by so many can be incredibly helpful.

But back to “Space Song”, the song that got me thinking about all of this in the first place. “Who will dry your eyes when it falls apart?” Legrand asks us. It’s unclear how aware Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand are about the healing power of their music, but for me, they are the ones who are credited with building me back up again.

It’s an incredibly personal level to be on with members of a music duo who I’ll likely never meet, but it’s a testament to their music’s ability to affect change. And for those of us whose anxiety has been helped by music, that personal connection that we feel with musicians doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

“I’m on your side,” she sings later on “Space Song.” And she is.

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