When the days grow long, and my body is exhausted from the mental and physical labor, the opportunity to relax becomes a sacred time. My mind yearns for an escape from the daily grind of classes, homework, and socializing. I want to plug in headphones and travel on a sweet musical ride through the peaceful sound waves. I hate opening my eyes to find another song and searching for that perfect instrument to soothe my weary thoughts. So, I create playlists; the songs, the artists, and instruments that bring me solace and fit my particular emotion.
For my first Soundscape, I wanted to compile some of my favorite tunes that give me peace within and with the world. All the songs chosen have different reasons for taking part of this list. Some are here for their simple styles, others for their instrumental rhythms and emotional reassurance. I hope these songs can bring you an aspect of peace during your busy week.
Cosmic Dancer – T-Rex
I first heard Cosmic Dancer watching “Billy Elliot.” The beginning of the movie opens with Billy jumping on a trampoline listening to this tune. That opening scene is so aesthetically pleasing and beautiful. I was instantly hooked on the soothing melody and simplistic lyrics. The loveliest aspect, for me, is the violin; the strings guide the full rhythm.
Bloom – The Paper Kites
The soft guitar intro and tuneful melodies are what attracted me. I learned how to play the guitar riff in-between the verses on my ukulele and was amazed at how the sound brought the lyrics together. The singer wants to be close to someone and remember all the details of their encounters through his writing. The sweet message accompanied by more delightful sound makes this a tranquil haven.
Dreamin – Rayland Baxter
Dreamin is about his walk-through life: where he is, where he is going, and what is to come. The verses are just Rayland’s voice and guitar. Then at the chorus, other instruments make an appearance. The lyrics provide a distraction, which is what we sometimes need to recollect our thoughts and find that peaceful feeling.
America – Simon and Garfunkel
America reminds me of going on a road trip, which is exactly what Paul Simon had in mind when he wrote the song. It’s about his journey with his then current girlfriend and the people and sights they shared together. The song is best appreciated with closed eyes and an open mind; you can picture yourself taking this journey with him.
Lua – Bright Eyes
Bright Eyes singer, Conor Oberst, paints a beautiful picture of struggling in love and loneliness. Sometimes the most peaceful songs are the ones that speak directly to your insecurities and wishes. It’s a good listen when you feel broken hearted or lonely. The only instrument is a guitar faintly played in the background, so there are no distractions from the lyrics.
Rivers – The Tallest Man on Earth
The Tallest Man on Earth’s voice is unique and original. His sound did not attract me, that is until I heard Rivers. The music is intimate, the lyrics poetic, and his unique voice makes the song feel genuine. The instrumental aspect of the song is the most peaceful to me; the guitar sound is amazing.
Daylight – Alison Krauss
This song reminds me of a memory from my childhood: driving through the corn fields in Illinois, semi-lost and aggravated. We sat in silence while my mom played Daylight. The memory seems like one I would try to forget, but I love remembering this moment; the aggravation settled by Krauss’ calming voice. The bluegrass instruments remind me of my childhood and her lyrics of peace through hard times. The song involves self-discovery and finding one’s way through the “big parade.”
Porcelain – Tow’rs
Tow’rs is a local band from Flagstaff, Arizona and I got the privilege of seeing them in concert this past summer. Their music has the standard instruments (guitar, bass, piano, and drums), but also adds cello and harmonica to the mix. Porcelain was written by the cellist and offers emotion evoking lyrics. Sometimes peace can come from asking questions and pondering on life. This song lets me close my eyes and find that peaceful state; asking myself what is the “hidden place” for me and what will it take to break the glass?
Feeling Good – Nina Simone
Nina Simone blasts a powerful voice behind powerful lyrics. While this song differs from most of the songs on this list, it has always made me feel what I call “joyful peace” – when you can be content and let it be. Simone uses her surroundings as a metaphor for her feelings. She sings about what she sees: rivers, birds, and blossoms. My favorite line is “sleep in peace when day is done, that’s what I mean.” All the lyrics can be summed into this one phrase, being at peace when the day is finished. I believe after listening to this song, you’ll be left feeling good.
Awake My Soul – Mumford and Sons
The calming voice of Marcus Mumford alone gives this song its peaceful tone. Awake My Soul speaks to the vulnerable aspects of my consciousness. The lyrics are truthful, yet calm. At my lowest points, I need to be honest with myself; admit that I can’t be everything for others or myself. We have one life that we can choose to love or hate. This song makes me soul search. Not every obstacle has to be dealt with in harsh ways, but can be taken care of through honesty.
From Eden – Hozier
Hozier’s music is incredibly soothing. Even if you aren’t listening to his lyrics, close your eyes and listen to his guitar and voice. That alone can put me into a relaxing state of mind. The opening guitar riff in From Eden creates a serene image in my head. While the listener wrestles with the antagonistic lyrics, the hypnotic melody in the background quiets the song’s meaning.
Because – The Beatles
I always imagine laying in a field of tall grass or flowers, isolated from the rest of society when I hear this song. That image mainly comes from the movie Across the Universe that uses Beatles songs to tell a fictional story. The characters are left in a foreign state and decide to unwind and sing Because. The scene paints a picture in my head of what the song wants to depict: peace and unity. The instruments used are mellow and calming, and the lyrics are few. One of my favorite lines is “Love is old, love is new, love is all, love is you.” Think about that line while listening to the whole song.
Intertwined – Dodie
The first time I heard this song, I was not digging the sound or lyrics. I didn’t even give it a chance, but for some reason, I kept re-listening. Now, Intertwined is the song I listen to when I feel unsettled by the world, and need an anchor. The soft strum of a baritone ukulele is featured in the song, but mainly as an accent to the contrasting lyrics. The song focuses on love; the senses and feelings that cling to our mind after we experience something emotional.