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Music Heals: KEXP Community Sound-Off on Songs That Give Them Strength

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Music heals. Not only has it been scientifically proven to calm anxiety and ease pain, but below, we share anecdotal proof of the power of song. We asked members of the KEXP community to share the songs they turn to during tough times. Check out their picks below.

“Marrow” by YOBProbably one of the most important songs that helped me cope the best with my depression and anxiety. A very long, slow, somber song, especially for metal. I rarely look up metal song lyrics, because let’s be honest, even the best ones are kind of hokey. But the last verse in Marrow, “Restless souls, flickering light, painted in gold, tearing at the seams” really struck me as trying to persevere despite being surrounded by darkness.

  • -- Reeves Richards // Traffic Assistant, Board Op, Overnight DJ on Tuesdays 1-6 AM
  • “I'll Keep Coming” by Low Roar
  • The one song that helped me get out of recent OCD/anxiety flare was "I'll Keep Coming" by Low Roar. "Wipe those tears off and make your heart proud. / Soon, I'll come around."
  • "Answered Prayers" by David Sylvian
  • It came to me during a very difficult time and has consistently lightened my emotional load at every listen. It's magic.
  • -- Darek Mazzone // host of Wo'Pop on KEXP, Tuesdays 6-9 PM
  • "Can't Stop The World" by the Go-Go's
  • Not only has the message never failed to snap me out of a funk, but the drums always knock me right out of my chair.
  • -- Mike Fuller // host of Shake the Shack on KEXP, Fridays 6-9 PM
  • Literally any song by Hammock
  • DJ Alex turned me on to this Memphis post-rock duo. When I am feeling stressed about making deadlines or writing, I just put these on and before I know it, am calm and inspired. I have to be careful when I listen because they can lull me to sleep. Here’s the title track off the new album Mysterium -- a heart-wrenching dedication to one of the member's sisters who passed away.
  • -- Mr. West // host of Sonic Reducer on KEXP, Saturdays 9PM - 12AM
  • "Victory" by Janelle Monae
  • There are so many songs to choose from, so I went to iTunes to see what my "most played" songs were. "Victory" from Janelle Monae's The Electric Lady LP. The lyrics and the feel. The reminder that nothing is permanent but to cherish every moment, and to find glory in the little things.
  • -- Gabriel Teodros // Overnight DJ, Friday night / Saturday morning from 1-6 AM
  • "For Kalaja Maria" by School of Seven Bells
  • I have "gifted" this song to many friends who needed to hear it. For me this track has helped in moments when I need to separate from my pain, process, and move forward without it.
  • -- Scotty Hayton // KEXP Donor
  • "Cranes In The Sky" by Solange
  • A go-to this year for me has been Solange's "Cranes In The Sky." Sometimes I don't wanna feel those metal clouds either, and this song lifts me and reminds me we all have complex emotions and ways of coping with them. I love the poetry in the way cranes are used to symbolize both the heaviness of pain and the weightlessness of a bird flying across the sky.
  • -- Leisa Smith // KEXP Donor
  • "Headache" by Grouper
  • The world can feel like too much a lot of the time and I don’t know if anybody takes that anxiousness and turns it into something beautiful quite like Liz Harris. You can feel the hurt aching in her voice underneath the reverberating guitar in this song, but it’s just part of the cosmic vision she’s weaving together. This song gives me peace and reassurance when I feel weak against the forces weighing on me.
  • -- Dusty Henry // Upstream Programming Liaison
  • "The Big Payback" by James Brown
  • "The Big Payback" always gives me a burst of energy, if I'm feeling like I don't know what to do, I think of the big bad cruel world as the person in the song who's about to get their comeuppance --
  • "that's a fact - you better get ready, for the big payback." Also, this song has my personal favorite scream in all music, its that "hey, hey wooooooow!" Scream along and let out some of the pain.
  • -- Julian Martlew // Audio Engineer
  • "Oh You Pretty Things" by David Bowie
  • It wasn't long ago that all at once my darkest fears came true and I was thrown into crisis. I'm grateful to come out of that spell stronger, and this song definitely helped me face the nightmares that were here to stay and look into myself to find my homosuperior. Now it's become my theme song for waking up in the mornings.
  • -- Alaia D'Alessandro // Video Producer
  • "Don't Give Up" by LAKE
  • Some songs carry an uplifting sound, others an uplifting lyrical message. "Don't Give Up" from Olympia-based band LAKE -- off their wonderful 2009 album Let's Build A Roof -- manages to have both and it's a constant go-to track whenever I'm struggling and need a sonic pick-me-up.
  • -- DJ Alex // Expansions DJ, Midnight in a Perfect World booker, Variety fill-in DJ
  • "Somewhere Over the Rainbow\What a Wonderful World" by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo`ole
  • It’s a song that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard on KEXP, but IZ’s (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow\What a Wonderful World." Something about the combination of ukulele, his voice, and him singing about hope and love never fails to lift my spirit.
  • -- Andrea Valenti // Help Desk Technician
  • "Coming Down" by the Dum Dum Girls
  • I have a really tough time letting myself cry, but oh the tears I’ve shed to this song over the years. Whether during a tough breakup, my brother’s death, or a bout of sadness that can’t be explained. It wrecks me and heals me at the same time.
  • -- Lisa LeClair // Guest Services
  • "William, It Was Really Nothing" by The Smiths
  • "William, It Was Really Nothing" by the Smiths was like no other piece of music I'd ever heard when I first discovered it and it remains two minutes eleven seconds of otherworldly beauty for me. The song sounds like a Yeats poem colliding with layers of virtuosic guitar jangle to create a portrait of small-town ennui. Somehow, it made me feel like everything was going to be fine, and, more importantly, that I wasn't alone. Just checked and it still works like a charm.
  • -- Ari Rosenschein // Development Communications Manager
  • "Hope" by Kristin Hersh
  • The song may be titled "Hope," but the lyrics and Kristin's impassioned performance capture the exact opposite, a feeling I've endured many times throughout my life. When she sings "I feel broken and miles away," I know what she means, and am oddly comforted to know someone else feels the same. As the song crescendos towards the end, she almost hiccups as she belts, "Nobody told me..." -- and then her voice breaks and softens -- "this would be so hard" -- closing with a defeated, "Not again." Yup. But, then I remind myself, Kristin titled the song "Hope." And it's something this song reminds me to hold on to, even when I'm feeling broken and miles away.
  • -- Janice Headley // Digital Content Manager

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