Music That Makes Me Happy

I talk about music a lot, exploring distinctions between art and craft, talent versus popularity, emotion versus complexity, etc. This is some of the music that makes me happy. Some of these cuts are actually “good” (i.e. they required real talent to create and perform) while others are just fun things that I like.

Some advice: Don’t listen to these tracks on a phone or with PC speakers. You need headphones with good bass response to appreciate many of these cuts.

“Itche Koutche” by Angelique Kidjo. Love her, and love the instrumental ending to this song, starting about 4:30.
MikeDoughtyCircles“Super Bon Bon” by Mike Doughty. This Mike Doughty song always made me happy. It is a reworked cut of his alt hit from the 1990s.
Morphine_TheNight“Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer” by Morphine. I think I bought every recording that Morphine ever made.
MilesDavid_KindofBlue“So What” by Miles Davis, from the classic album, “Kind of Blue.” Just everything about this: the solos, the walking bass line, the subtle key changes. Cool all over.
“Rah” by Natacha Atlas. When the bass and full rhythm section comes in at 55 seconds, it feels like you’re supposed to stand up, close your eyes, and slowly wave your arms around over your head, right?
“Sho Z-Pod Duba” by DakhaBrakha. A cool folk group from the Ukraine. I always say that I don’t really care about lyrics and that singers are just another instrument. This is a good example. And, I told you, get some headphones or you’ll miss the cool stuff.
juf_muskat“Muskat (Slishal, No Ne Zapisal)” by J.U.F. (Gogol Bordello vs. Tamir Muskat). If I had known that clarinets, tubas, and a tenor sax could be used in this way, maybe I would have kept playing after high school.
“Lautarium” by Shukar Collective. It’s like a funky prayer… and seriously, use headphones.
“Satellite” by Nine Inch Nails. Yes, Nine Inch Nails makes me happy, and please tell me you’re not listening to this on a cheap device. You need to feel the bass line.
“Pra Não Parar De Sambar” by Aleh. A little jazz vocalizing is happy making too. Hey, just sing along…
“Boo hoo” by K.T. Tunstall. Sometimes slow and gooey also makes me happy. I think Tunstall’s acoustic work is superior to her electric tracks, which tend toward pop.
“Closure” by Jill Scott. I do like a singer that really delivers. And don’t be expecting no breakfast!
“I Can’t Stand the Rain” by Cassandra Wilson. This is just incredibly simple and wonderful.
nickoftime“The Road is my Middle Name” by Bonnie Raiit. I really like the guitar fills on this cut. Saw her live once in the 1970s, and had no idea who she was to become.
“The Nearness of You” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Real, American classics. They were just the best.
“Ten Cents a Dance” by Anita O’Day. My pure enjoyment of the horn arrangement in this track reminds me I am still my music-professor-father’s son.
MilelsDavisAscenseur“Nuit sur les Champs-Élysées” by Miles Davis. This came up on shuffle once when I was walking in the Village after dark and I thought I should look for the camera… because I was pretty sure I was appearing in a noir film from the 1950s.
“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” by Carla Bley. This is what real musicians do with a simple tune. Turn it up and go along for the ride.
“Stormy Monday” by Barbara Morrison. Yeah, she just rocks.
“Phantom (Redux)” by Shirt. Most hip hop and rap seems musically facile to me, but I love this. Maybe it’s the rapid-fire lyrics and the nearly Herbie Hancock-style arrangement. FAIR WARNING: The lyrics are often filthy.
“Lemon” by N.E.R.D. & Rihanna. Oh what the hell, I’ll admit to liking other hip hop cuts, like this one.
“Stir Fry” by Migos, and this one. And again, you won’t appreciate the real benefits of the bass line unless you’re listening on good equipment.
“Trinkit” by Beats Antique. I’m not sure, but it might be the creaky door sound and the fact that the drum track sounds like an old trash can, plus there’s the general funkiness.
“The Big Come Down” by Nine Inch Nails. If this isn’t industrial rock, I wonder what would be.
“Big Bad Wolf” by In this Moment. I’m a sucker for loud tracks with heavy bass, and exquisite silences in between the sections.
“Battle Flag” by Pigeonhed. It’s a solid funk tune with complicated counter melodies. LYRICS WARNING. They think that M-Fer is an all-purpose adjective.
“Better Strangers” by Royal Blood. As with much of my favorite music, a slow, heavy rock song meant to be played loud.
“Rollin’ and Tumblin’ ” by Jeff Beck. Because hey, it’s Jeff Beck, and then add Imogen Heap vocals.
“In These Shoes?” by Kirsty MacColl. Oh, shut up. I like it.
“Augas de Marco” by Rosa Passos. Because who doesn’t like a bit of light, vocal jazz from Brazil now and then?
“Pannonica” by Tommy Flanagan. So nice, so simple.
“Ellington’s Stay Horn” by the Art Farmer Quintet. I once said that listening to this track is as close as I get to religion. I bet it lowers my blood pressure too.
“Crazy” by The Kidneythieves. Because I love the way they explode the old country classic.
“Can’t Truss It” by Public Enemy. Again, I am not a hip hop fan in in general, but I always loved a lot of work by Public Enemy.
byathread“Broke Down on the Brazos” by Gov’t Mule. I like this so much that I’m reminded I grew up in southern Ohio. Not just Ohio; southern Ohio. Besides, this guy sings a lot like my brother, who is a musician. In southern Ohio.
“Your Sister Cried” by Mary Gauthier. This is a great sing-in-the-car song. As a New Yorker, I guess I could try singing along in the subway.
“Call Me” by Fat Kid Wednesdays. I love the last 90 seconds, when it seems like the vocals become background for the sax.
“Baby it’s You” by Smith. The scream at 2:30 just did something to my nascent, childhood awareness in 1969.
“On the Road Again” by Canned Heat. Growing up in the Midwest in the 1970s, we spent a lot of our teenage years riding around in cars, and this song always made us yell, “turn it up!”
“Jack You’re Dead” by Louis Jordan. A goofy classic.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑