Daylight savings time is officially over, which means the sun is setting every afternoon before we even realize it. The shorter days and lack of daylight often produce bleak and forlorn feelings. A good way to combat this seasonal depression is through comforting music.
These five tracks — spanning multiple decades — all provide a sense of solace through their gentleness. With soft vocals, acoustic guitars and candid lyrics, they can ease anyone’s feelings of isolation or loneliness.
“Pink Moon” by Nick Drake
The title track of the late Nick Drake’s final album, “Pink Moon” is a mysterious yet enchanting song. In between stanzas where Drake sings, “I saw it written, and I saw it say / Pink moon is on its way / And none of you stand so tall / Pink moon gonna get ye all,” a soft, sparse piano solo plays over Drake’s acoustic guitar. The sparseness of both the instrumentation and the lyrics brings a layer of enigmatic intrigue to the song.
“Pink Moon” is wistful and intimate, and it is a perfect companion for the cold and dark days of late autumn and early winter. Its simplicity invites the listener to engage with it over and over again, and its mystifying nature allows its charm to never wear out.
“A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album “Blue” was a seminal album for the singer-songwriter genre. The penultimate track “A Case of You” is one of the many songs on the album that perfectly showcases Mitchell’s emotionally vulnerable songwriting. During the refrain, she sings, “Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine / You taste so bitter and so sweet / Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling / Still I’d be on my feet,” describing the conflicting emotions she feels towards a former lover.
Though the lyrics are heartbreaking, the familiarity and relatability of Mitchell’s high-pitched vocals allow the song to be so hospitable — it feels as though Mitchell is a friend of the listener, spilling her deepest and strongest emotions. To a listener of “A Case of You” — or any song on “Blue” — Mitchell is an honest, candid and understanding confidant.
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan
In his song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” Bob Dylan employs the clever and imaginative lyricism he is known for. Like Mitchell in “A Case of You,” Dylan describes a bygone relationship with conflicting feelings. His back-and-forth emotions especially materialize when he sings, “I ain't a-saying you treated me unkind / You could’ve done better, but I don't mind / You just kinda wasted my precious time / But don't think twice, it's all right.”
Dylan’s poetic songwriting adds beauty and eloquence to many other lyrics, such as “I'm a-thinking and a-wonderin' walking down the road / I once loved a woman, a child I am told / I give her my heart but she wanted my soul / But don't think twice, it's all right.”
What is most endearing and comforting about this song, however, is Dylan’s signature fingerpicking of his guitar and his harmonica solos. These two instruments create a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. On the cover of the album this song is on — “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” — Dylan finds warmth by huddling in his jacket and keeping close to his girlfriend. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” can also act as a source of warmth to listeners during these cold and dark days.
“For Emma” by Bon Iver
“For Emma” — a song on Bon Iver’s debut album — has a more sizeable instrumental background than the other songs on this list, but this does not diminish its gentleness. In fact, the inclusion of a slide guitar and brass instruments — with their soft sounds and smooth compatibility — only adds to the dreamlike feel of the song. Moreover, the soft falsetto vocals of Justin Vernon — the man behind Bon Iver — are uniquely mesmerizing and ethereal.
This song is perfect for the cold winter, which probably has a lot to do with its backstory. Vernon — feeling uninspired, frustrated and depressed — isolated himself in a cabin in Wisconsin for the winter months and eventually left the cabin with his debut album. His music liberated him during a dark time in his life, so it is no surprise it feels liberating and comforting to his listeners.
“Say Yes” by Elliott Smith
Unlike most of his songs, “Say Yes” is a rather optimistic song from Elliott Smith. Over the strumming of his acoustic guitar, Smith sings about how his outlook on love has become more positive with soft, beautiful vocals.
The hopeful tone of the lyrics persists despite the uncertainties and self-doubts Smith articulates. Throughout his life, Smith struggled with mental illness and addiction, so Smith’s reassuring lyrics like, “But now I feel changed around / And instead of falling down / I'm standing up the morning after,” can serve as an inspiring reminder that, even during a bleak time, one can still look forward to better days.