Look, I'm not gonna lie: I'm in a bit of a depression right now. I lost a job that I loved and tried damn hard


Pop Therapy: How Do You Treat Depression With Songs?

Look, I'm not gonna lie: I'm in a bit of a depression right now. I lost a job that I loved and tried damn hard to figure out how to do well; I moved from a nice solo apartment on Capitol Hill to a shared quadplex in the Central District (it's all right); I've been hung up on an ex for way too long, embarrassingly so. I'm a mess. Worse, when all I have to do with myself these days is write for a few outlets, I've spent the last few days feeling totally blocked, procrastinating, running unrelated errands or watching The Complete History of SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy instead of working.

I've also been posting a steady stream of sad-bastard songs to Facebook via YouTube. It's some trite, adolescent bullshit: expressing yourself mixtape-style with just enough ambiguity for plausible deniability later. ("No, no, that Pulp song's not about you or anything, it's just a good song I got stuck in my head or whatever.") But it got me thinking (at least enough for a post here): What's the best way to deal with depression via music listening? Wallowing? Avoidance? Something else entirely?

After the jump, I examine some options (and continue to overshare!) . . .


"And all I want is your pity/And now all I want are your bitter tears"

This tends to be my favorite approach: digging in, doubling down, and just soaking in your depression. Healthy! The upside of this angle is that I (and I suspect most music fans) have a MASSIVE library of sad songs to choose from to soundtrack this sort of thing--probably 90 percent of my music collection is made for wallowing. Some of my selections lately (just working backward through my Facebook feed):

Modest Mouse: "Heart Cooks Brain"

The Shins: "Phantom Limb"

Why?: "By Torpedos or Crohn's (Dntel Remix)"

Adult: "Nausea"

Mount Eerie: "Moon Sequel"

Big Black: "Kerosene"

The Hold Steady: "Certain Songs"

Sleater-Kinney: "One More Hour"

Joy Division: "24 Hours"

The Weeknd: "Loft Music"

Los Campesinos!: "Miserabilia"

urial: "NYC"

The Smiths: "The Queen Is Dead"

Smashing Pumpkins: "Bodies"

The Rentals: "She Says It's Alright"

Cold Cave: "Confetti"

Xiu Xiu: "I Love the Valley, OH"

The Weeknd: "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls"

Superchunk: "Foolish"/"Like a Fool"

Pulp: "Like a Friend"

LCD Soundsystem: "All I Want"

Arrange those in reverse order, and you have a mixtape of my head circa the last few weeks. Enjoy! Or whatever.


OK, this tactic--listening to upbeat or happy music to take your mind off things--I don't really know anything about personally. Not my steez. But here's how it's supposed to work as I understand it:


Here I'm thinking of songs that are themselves explicitly about depression and dealing with it. Obviously, a vast swath of pop music is about therapy-ready emotions, but only some songs deal with it in therapeutic terms. That said, in the same half-century-plus that music was going pop, so too has psychiatry, from the freshman-level Freudianism of the Beach Boys' "Hold On to Your Ego" (one of my old boss' favorite songs, and one which I suspect he was trying to teach me a lesson with) to Tyler, the Creator's possibly less-than-sincere visits to his therapist to the mid-career oeuvre of Of Montreal, especially Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? with its psych-pop meditations on anti-depressants:

"Are you far too depressed now/To even answer the phone/I guess you just want to shave your head, have a drink, and be left alone/Is that so much to ask?"

(You could also maybe edge LC!'s "Miserabilia" into this category, in that it's sort of a spoof about holding onto your misery too dearly, but maybe not.)


So on some level, this is what wallowing tries to achieve but doesn't quite, right? You go into a song glum, work through some shit, and come out the other side feeling strong. I'm not sure what makes a sad song cathartic rather than just a wallow, but I suspect it has more to do with the listener than the music, really. Like, any of those above songs could do it--and in fact "All I Want" regularly crosses this threshold for me--it's just a matter of being ready and willing. This one does the trick for me lately, too:

Anyway, that's way more of my shit than is seemly to post on the Internet. Feel free to suggest other musical approaches for dealing with depression in the comments, or just tell me to "get a fucking Live Journal already" and I totally will.

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