Before Coffee: Soothe the Savage Breast

September 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’ve said much here that is dark and sad and full of storm clouds. Ironically, my last missive was my attempt to counter that with something upbeat; seems it didn’t come off that way.

Sorry about that. Here’s attempt number two. I’ll try to keep it short and light.

William Congreve once wrote, “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast.” I first heard it quoted as “savage beast,” which also speaks truth to me; the heart, like a beast, can become savage when hurt—be it a real or imagined wound.

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately. Most of it helps drive back the world for a bit; some of it, I probably shouldn’t be listening to. My “sad bastard music,” as a friend christened it long ago. But it’s all good music, even if some of it cuts deep.

Some songs become favorites for a short time. They’re cotton candy; good for a few bites, but quickly losing flavor. I munched on Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood for a couple weeks; ditto, Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk. Both fun songs, neither having much depth.

Others were favorites for longer, but have now faded a bit. I used to be a huge Parrothead back in the day, and never missed a chance to see Jimmy Buffett when he played Cincinnati every year. I think I saw him ten years in a row, and there are still a dozen or so songs of his that I know by heart. Some of them still move me, even now, but it’s rare I visit with his music these days. Not sure why that is.

There are other songs that have become old friends. I visit with them from time to time, reminiscing about how they came into my life, what they meant to me at that time, and what they mean to me now. It’s poking at old scars to see how fully they’ve healed. It’s talking to old friends about good times and the importance of syncopation.

Here’s a sampling of music I return to time and again. Maybe you’ll find something new. Maybe you’ll remember an old friend.

Gin Blossoms

Gin Blossoms’ music always reminds me of a long summer, driving around with Amy and talking for hours. Their first two albums are near perfect. Start with “Hey Jealousy,” which is my number one favorite song of theirs. It also has surprising wounding power, even after all these years.

Counting Crows

I’m not a huge fan of their later stuff, but August and Everything After is another perfect album. I will never turn the channel when “Mr. Jones” comes on. And if you’re human at all, “Round Here” and “Anna Begins” will make your heart bleed a little.

Low Millions

I’ve already dedicated a long post about Low Millions. You can find it here.

Carbon Leaf

When I want to hover in between up and down, I put on Carbon Leaf. I love their lyrics, I love their harmony. And though I’m starting to sound like a broken record (ha! music metaphor!), Indian Summer is a perfect album. Start with “What About Everything.” But listen to the rest of their music, especially the magic from Indian Summer and later albums.

Bowling for Soup

Jimmy Buffett was my good time music in the 80s and 90s; Bowling for Soup brings the fun now. Most of their songs are alternative-punk-rock parties, but a few can rip out your heart. For fun, check out their only Top 10 hit (that I know of), “1985.” The video is a blast. My introduction to the band was a song that is still one of my favorites: “Girl All The Bad Guys Want.” And for the feels, listen to “When We Die.” The video has Lee Majors! Okay, just go listen to all their music. They’re great.

Bad Religion

Tracy would kill me if I didn’t include her favorite punk band. Which has become my favorite punk band (it’s a short list, and they’re the only name on it). My favorites: “Los Angeles Is Burning,” “Sorrow” (acoustic version), and “Skyscraper” (also acoustic).


This list has been all male voices so far, but I love a good female vocal, too. Stars is one of the best. Soft, seductive, and just a little melancholy. Start with “Elevator Love Letter.”


CHVRCHES is my newest obsession. I’ve been listening to them nearly non-stop for a month. Maybe longer. They’re Scottish synth-pop, mostly fronted by a woman with a gorgeous voice. My introduction to them was “Bury It.” (Another great video. Comic great Jamie McKelvie did the animation.) My favorite is “The Mother We Share.”

Sad Bastard Music

Some days, you feel low and just want to wallow in it. It’s probably not the best mental health strategy, but fuck it, right? Here’s a few songs to squeeze the wounds:

Okay, this went a bit longer than I’d planned, and I could go on and on. My iPod is a deep well, but I’ll shut up now. Hopefully, you’ve found some new friends to lift you up when you’re down or drink with you when you don’t want to be lifted.

When the world seems full of dark clouds, and the shrieking eels and rabid weasels are rampaging through your brain, listen to good music. Share it with a friend. Listen to what they share with you.

Soothe your savage breast and feed your soul.

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