Call it escape. Call it denial. But sometimes (read: basically every single day in 2016) when you wake up and discover that something even more despicable, repulsive and terrifying has happened on Planet Earth, you need a moment of levity. Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that somewhere out there, you can still offer a stranger a piece of gum at JCPenney, that Andy Samberg is having trouble keeping his seed in check and that grandmas are pretty awesome. So even as the apocalypse seems to be upon us, here are 10 songs that are sure to make you smile.
The crown jewel of Beck’s hilarious, freaky, Prince-indebted masterpiece Midnite Vultures, the slow-burning “Debra” is both as quotable as your favorite episode of Arrested Development, and just as likely to give you little fuzzies of joy. In an odyssey that could only take place in Los Angeles, “Debra” finds Beck meeting a lady at JCPenney before inviting her to step inside his Hyundai and soon confessing that he wants to get with her, yeah, but also her sister Debra. Sparks fly as high as Beck’s falsetto.
“Panda” (not to be confused with this “Panda”) consists largely of Satomi Matzusaki singing the word “panda” intermittently while herky-jerky blasts of guitar ricochet all over the place and Greg Saunier smashes his drums with his standard reckless abandon. Like most Deerhoof songs, “Panda” offers opportunities for laughter and violent head-banging in equal measure.
Oakland’s KOOL AD, formerly of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell connoisseur crew Das Racist, has made one of his most blissful tracks to date with the horn-laden “Hickory,” from 2014’s WORD OK mixtape. Summoning the stoned tranquility of an afternoon on Oakland’s bucolic Lake Merritt (minus any trace of invasive tech industry douchiness), “Hickory” is a statement about doing your own thing and not listening to the haters, captured through the lens of one of hip-hop’s most delightful goofs. Plus, you get to hear Talib Kweli rhyme “trust” with “two girls one cup.”
There’s just something comforting about knowing that deep down, Miley Cyrus is a total weirdo. If Ms. Wrecking Ball herself can get this weird, maybe there’s a ray of hope that the Republican Party can find its soul.
An 11-minute fictional account of Weird Al’s childhood in the city of the same name, “Albuquerque” is packed full of scenes, characters and ideas that most of us could never conceive with the aid of any mind-altered substance. Almost 20 years after its release, the image of Weird Al battling a one-nostriled man with a Flock of Seagulls haircut over possession of a lucky snorkel is just as perplexing and wonderful as it was at the end of the 20th century.
The sweetest ode to grandmothers? Check. A sugary rush of major-key horns and plinking keys? Check. One of the best R&B vocal hooks of the century? Check. “Sunday Candy” has it all, and then some. It’s so earnest that if Donald Trump heard it, he may, against his own will, grow a heart.
Is it the funniest thing Mr. Samberg and crew have done to date? It’s certainly up for debate. Is it so ridiculous that you’ll forget anything else happening in the world for a hot second? Definitely.
Witty Australian rocker Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener” manages to find humor in a day when having an asthma attack and being driven to the hospital is preferable to another boring Monday. “The paramedic thinks I’m clever cause I play guitar,” she deadpans. “I think she’s clever cause she stops people dying.” Barnett reminds us to look for the humor, even when it’s hard to find.
From the blues mainstay’s 1971 album of the same name, “Happy to be Just Like I Am” is three minutes of reggae-tinged joy, a window into a world of happy days and peace. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but it’s hard to listen and doubt that it’s possible, if only for a moment.
In this playful ode to musical legends of the ‘90s like Aaliyah and Nirvana, soul diva Kimbra makes a decade full of its fair share of war, death and doom seem innocuous by comparison to today’s world. Here’s to hoping we never find ourselves nostalgic for what’s happening today.