Around the time that iPod docks were becoming ubiquitous in hotel rooms, I was traveling a ton. First thing after check-in into a new hotel room, I would fire up the iPod and put an album on. And as I started to notice, it was almost always one of the same few albums. I’m not a foodie and never much went for comfort food, but I began to think of those albums as my comfort music, necessary to settle into a strange place for the night. Everything was better when I had my music playing in the background.
I found little rhyme or reason to my choices — some albums dated to the early 70’s and have been on my playlist for years, others were brand new. Most came from the singer-songwriter genre that makes up a large portion of my collection but one of my mainstays was a recent album from Radiohead, a band’s band if ever there was one. If I were going to sit down and take a shot at the music I might expect to be on a list of comfort albums, I’m not sure any of them would have consciously made the list.
Because much in the same way that many comfort foods aren’t exactly the most healthy, most of my comfort albums really shouldn’t be comforting. In fact, if there is any common theme to my comfort music, it would be broken hearted alienation and loneliness. I’m sure the therapy industry has a term for this, but for some reason listening to other people’s unhappiness makes me feel happy. Or at least comforted.
So here are my comfort albums:
Just to emphasize the point, Sea Change is Beck’s break-up album; Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is Lucinda Williams’ tour de force journey through her unhappy childhood, friends’ suicides and the song “Joy” (which has very little to do with being joyous); Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory are — like most of Bowie’s early work — all about alienation; Lost in Space is the Aimee Mann album that Aimee Mann has said makes her depressed to listen to. I have no idea what Radiohead’s In Rainbows is about, but nothing Thom Yorke sings sounds happy.
On the other hand, they are all amazing albums. I feel good just staring at that graphic. Excuse me… I have some listening to do.
This post first appeared at https://medium.com/world-of-music/13bcce22ad46Share
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