Brendan Byrne ‘22
One of the greatest and most helpful ways I’ve found for coping with the numerous stresses of life during quarantine, family troubles, stifling closeness, overwhelming anxiety about the world, and so on, is music. Music has always been something that I, along with many others have relied on in order to deal with life as a whole. To me, a special type of music, the music outlined in this article, is what helps me deal with anxiety, and I feel as though it could help you as well. I wanted to share some of my favorite albums and artists which I have been listening to in the recent months that have let me relax and feel free in my own way.
Gregory Alan Isakov
Upon my discovery of his music, Gregory Alan Isakov quickly became one of my favorite artists thanks to his fascinating folk stylings, his excellent lyrics which touch into the mundane and small parts of modern life exploring their true beauty, his excellent composition of peaceful and atmospheric acoustic music, and so much more, all intertwined with such great inspirations of Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen. I feel that very few artists capture the beauty of simply being alive without necessarily overcomplicating the ideas of life itself. He manages to explain and capture the simple fact of existing rather than becoming overwhelming in his meaning. All in all I feel that he is a wonderful musician who has helped me deal with a lot of stress in the recent months. Two albums of his that I would recommend in particular are That Sea, The Gambler (2007), and This Empty Northern Hemisphere (2009). Each of these albums appeal to a sense of freedom in nature away from all sorts of overwhelming claustrophobia in the stifling world that we unfortunately live in.
Iron & Wine
Iron & Wine is a small and relatively unknown band whose music is much in the same vein as that of Gregory Alan Isakov’s. With an appeal to the beauty of nature and the fascinating ability to make you really feel as though you are there, this album is truly a virtual experience. What I like most about Iron & Wine, is their excellent use of acoustic stringed instruments like the banjo, mandolin, and of course the guitar. With slight twinges of country and bluegrass found deep within the folksy and bright sounds of the band themselves, they create a very unique identity for themselves and are an easy and enjoyable, listening experience. My personal favorite album of theirs is Our Endless Numbered Days. This album explores topics of futility and morality in a way that almost comforts you, instead of the usual trains of thought that we end up following in such dark times. It explores the beauty of being alive and the parts of life that can truly be enjoyed and reflect on with both pride and a sense of warm nostalgia.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a band that is made for those of us who sometimes wish to escape off into our own minds and simply explore our thoughts and ideas, isolated from the world around us. It enables us to truly come in contact with ourselves and our natures. A band that produces purely instrumental music is something that many might shy away from, however this band is not to be overlooked. With an absolutely awe-inspiring composition of a cacophony of instruments, this band creates a truly awe-inspiring sound that totally stunned me during my first encounter. The albums that they create are designed to be listened to in their entirety, made up of only a handful of long tunes. The style and aura of this band may be hard to listen to for some people, but for those who are willing, it is a worthwhile escape. The first of their albums I listened to was Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, the title alone sending this interesting and almost motivational message of triumph in the face of defeat.
The Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats is a band which I personally have been infatuated with for the longest time. I was introduced to them by a friend years ago and started listening to much of their music. I was intrigued by their unique sounds compiled by a fusion of both heavy and soft use of many different instruments, the nasally yet endearing voice of their lead singer and lyricist John Darnielle, and their absolutely captivating lyrics. In my opinion, their lyrics could be some of the greatest poetry I have ever heard. John Darnielle is a true storyteller as his voice may imply and through his lyrics, the entirety of his albums portrays entire lives and worlds with struggles that many of us may relate to in our own ways. With albums like The Sunset Tree, he explores the dark topics of abuse and living in such an abusive household, along with the process of overcoming this dark past and becoming yourself in the midst of it all. Albums like Tallahassee that follow the story of some of Darnielle’s characters in the form of The Alpha Couple, lean into the darker senses of storytelling. The album encapsulates a story that shows us the deepest reaches of toxicity that love for the sake of love, and spite in face of others as well as the one who you claim to love. Albums that I would particularly like to recommend for the purposes of this article would be The Sunset Tree thanks to its numerous different sounds all compiling into one complete piece of art, along with their album Heretic Pride that shows the proof of willpower in the face of defeat, and gleeful acceptance of your fate along with pride in it as well. All of this music is ideal for getting a new lease on life if you feel that music can be a way out of a dark path that you might have taken during these endlessly stressful times.
Contrary to their name, The Weepies are going to do anything but make you weep. They are arguably one of the best feel-good bands I’ve come across in recent months, recommended to me by Salesian’s very own Mr. Dwyer. What I love most about this band is again that ever so peaceful folksy sound that I am so fond of. Opposed to other types of folk bands and musicians however, The Weepies put a very bright spin on their sound and really have a knack for making you feel happier. Their innocent vocals and bright compositions make for an excellent album to listen to in order to come down after a long day, and are overall generally enjoyable. The album of theirs which I enjoy most is Hideaway, which I believe is truly the epitome of the sounds which I enjoy most from them.
Gregory and the Hawk
Continuing on in the realm of lesser-known folk bands that have helped me deal with anxiety, we look at Gregory and the Hawk. The singer-songwriter Meredith Godreau stands out for her young and innocent, almost childlike voice in her songs. She still possesses enormous singing talent however and puts across a message again of tapping into the sweetest and most memorable parts of life and love and everything which we as people may deem important. My own particular album recommendation, and what I’m actually listening to as I write this, is the album Moenie and Kitchie.
While of course I listen to more music than just this, I wanted to make sure I recommended new music that many of you may not have heard of before. Hopefully something here was able to help you in at least some capacity, and I hope you all enjoy your summers!