‘Aphex Twin pours water on my meltdowns’: Guardian readers on the songs that soothe them

Donald Trump is reportedly calmed by a blast of Memory from Cats – but our readers prefer Radiohead and Miles Davis

Stephanie Grisham, Donald Trump’s former press secretary, claimed this week that on occasion, in order to calm the president’s fury, an aide would be brought in to play him his favourite music – including Memory from the musical Cats.

In light of the revelation, we asked our readers which songs they used to calm themselves in moments of high stress.

Daniel Jack Paproth
Daniel Jack Paproth. Photograph: Craig Sillitoe

Brian Eno’s Discreet Music

The first is Brian Eno’s Discreet Music, from a 1975 album of the same name. It’s half an hour long – I’ve often used it at night when I’m unable to fall asleep. It’s like climbing into a large, warm bed of gorgeous synths. The second is Kid A by Radiohead, with Thom Yorke’s vocals talk-sung through a vocoder and those intricate synths. Also, U2’s Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World, which sounds like someone, still slightly drunk, maybe a little high, in the early hours of the morning, surrounded by loved ones. Daniel Jack Paproth, 31, Melbourne, Australia, communications manager

And Dream of Sheep by Kate Bush

My go-to song in times of stress. In addition to her exquisite voice and the simplicity and soothing impact of the piano and tin whistle, this song is a call for tranquillity. It’s a call to step back from the glare of life. Enda McCaffrey, 60, Belfast, retired academic

Christie Abraham
Christie Abraham Photograph: Handout

Om Mani Padme Hum

I mainly listen to new age music or old rock’n’roll, but I’ve always enjoyed chanting. Om Mani Padme Hum is my favourite calming song and sometimes I listen to it on a loop; another is Dean Evenson’s album Ascension to Tibet. Christie Abraham, 73, Long Island, New York, retired

Julianna Calm Down by the Chicks

I can’t normally stand anyone telling me to breathe when I’m stressed, but in this song the words “just breathe” really work. Plus there are lyrics about just remembering that this is a temporary situation. Good advice! Natalie Hardiman, 32, Hertfordshire

Chew Valley Song by Kev Daly and Abbey Pearson

A song that evokes memories of childhood for me, and of dear friends who are no longer with us. It makes me remember a time when hopes were high and dreams were thought possible to achieve. It claws, albeit gently, at one’s heart and somehow sadly yet soothingly calms the soul. Kevin Bailey, 64, Bath, retired plumber

Meagan Newhart
Meagan Newhart Photograph: Handout

Ordinary World by Duran Duran

My soothing song is Duran Duran’s Ordinary World. In addition to the ethereal music, the piece’s words remind me that despite how overwhelming things feel sometimes, it’s not a unique experience, and that what I’m feeling is temporary. It also reminds me I have agency, and that I can work to get to a place that feels more comfortable. Meagan Newhart, 50, New York, interior designer

Abusey Junction by Kokoroko

Abusey Junction by Kokoroko. I’m a psychology student and used to volunteer for the Body & Soul charity, which helps those who’ve experienced childhood trauma. When I was facilitating group sessions I would always start them with this song. It’s such a warm, calming piece of music. Siobhan, 39, Camberley, Surrey

Julien Beghain
Julien Beghain Photograph: Handout

So What by Miles Davis

The one that always has a soothing effect on me is So What from Miles Davis’s 1959 album Kind of Blue. It’s like a warm blanket, and it has been a part of my life since the day I was born as it was one of my parents’ favourite tracks. It reminds me of quiet and warm evenings at my childhood home. Julien Beghain, 37, Norwich, software engineer

Everything in its Right Place by Radiohead

A song that stops me in my tracks every time I hear the opening notes. It makes me close my eyes and take a deep breath. I often turn to Radiohead when I can’t think of what else to listen to but this particular track makes me shut everything else out and I just let it wash over me. Jerry Ahern, 40, Dublin, IT worker

Lisa Heledd Jones
Lisa Heledd Jones Photograph: Handout

Worried Now, Won’t Be Worried Long by Huw M

It is so soothing. Just that lyric over and over reminds me that this bad feeling – whatever it is – will pass. I listen on my way to events that scare me, like parties and work events, and whenever I feel overwhelmed. It’s a cover of an old song by Sidney Carter. Everyone should have it in their back pocket (or ears). Lisa Heledd Jones, 41, Glyndyfrdwy, North Wales, digital storyteller

Avril 14th by Aphex Twin

If pressed to choose just one track that can in its opening few seconds pour water on the meltdown mood, I can always rely on Avril 14th by Aphex Twin. For all the countless songs whose lyrics move and calm me, Avril 14th says just as much in an instrumental, by way of its gentle plink-plonking piano letting the listener fill in the gaps. I have heard it covered what must be hundreds of times in different styles and on different instruments, but that deceptively simple but genius little shifting riff and loop never lose any potency. An extraordinary piece by an artist whose speciality is surprising their listeners. Sean Willcox, 28, Bath, commercial property law

Venezuela Riddim by Hak Baker

This differs so distinctly from his other body of work – the opening bars of a lo-fi beat are followed by a simple piano riff and relaxed, calming vocals, which, for me, inspire feelings of warm evenings spent on a balcony as the sky slowly darkens. It reminds me of the time we were coming out of lockdown in June 2020 – it was warm and we spent a lot of time on the balcony. The vocals later turn almost sickeningly upbeat and a little nonsensical, backed up with horns. Can’t be beaten for vibes. Joe Coyle, 27, Isle of Man, chartered accountant

Richard Storey and his wife Sue
Richard Storey and his wife Sue Photograph: Handout

Peace Piece by Bill Evans

Peace Piece by Bill Evans. A supreme pianist who played on the seminal Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. His introspection is almost palpable in his chord arrangement. Quiet, thoughtful. Brings the blood pressure down in seconds. Richard Storey, 82, Bristol, retired, with aspirations to become a DJ for care homes


Guardian readers, Ben Morris, and Clea Skopeliti

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