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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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What Music Makes A Distilled Good Mood?

Jan 16, 2013
Originally published on January 16, 2013 12:19 pm

On October 24, 2011, I had a bad day.

I honestly forget why. It was a Monday; that should be enough.

So as I've explained once before, I reached out on Twitter and asked for "feel-happy music." Recommendations overwhelmed me to the point where I rolled them up into a Spotify playlist I called, fittingly, "Begging The Public For Joy." That playlist currently has 659 subscribers, meaning that more than 600 of you are keeping track of it and perhaps use it to improve your own moods at times. I've listened to it over and over (and over) myself, and other than the significant soul blow it took when Spotify apparently lost the rights to "Don't Carry It All" by The Decemberists, it's aged very well. Some of it was music I knew well, but some of it I didn't know at all and now think of as essential — Melissa Ferrick's "Everything I Need," for instance.

It seemed as we roared into 2013 that it was time to look for more, so I asked again, and this time, you all came through with roughly three hours of intriguingly different interpretations of what good-mood music is. It's "Begging For Joy 2: Joymaker's Revenge."

It starts out with one I picked myself: "Happiness Writes White," a charming love song that underscores how sad it is that a lot of people think Harvey Danger only did "Flagpole Sitta." There were multiple votes for "Can't Hold Us" from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (watch it from the Tiny Desk, too!), and the list stays very upbeat with Oingo Boingo (really!) and the deliciously simple "Pick It Up, Lay It In The Cut" from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

At 55 tracks, I can't prattle about how great they all are, but eventually, you'll run into great radio pop like Robyn and the Click Five (seriously, I saw the Click Five open for the Backstreet Boys because [it's a long story], and they were really, really fun), not to mention "Rio," which I was so glad somebody brought up, since I doubt I would have realized how much Duran Duran would help me during a truly awful commute this morning, the first time I took the list out for a test drive. Oh, and when was the last time you heard "Groove Is In The Heart" all the way through? It's pretty great, is all I'm saying.

I included "Letter From An Occupant" by the New Pornographers, because anyone who can fit five or six different hooks into a pop song should put you in a good mood just out of sheer admiration. There's a little run that comes from musical theater: "Accentuate The Positive," "Cock-Eyed Optimist" and "Don't Rain On My Parade," not to mention some Tom Jones.

The leading candidate for "didn't really know it; now I can't live without it" is Michael Franti & Spearhead's "Say Hey (I Love You)," which was quite correctly nominated by more than one person. Japandroids is there, representing current joy pop (just as Fang Island was there representing joy pop last time) and yes, I included Kylie Minogue's "Your Disco Needs You," because it's ridiculous and makes me smile and it's Kylie Minogue.

One contributor alleges that she suggested "MmmBop" by Hanson last time and I didn't include it, which seems impossible and makes me feel like a terrible person, but I've remedied that oversight and put it right next to Kelly Clarkson, which seems right.

At the end, it slows down a bit for some songs that are comfort as much as joy — "Astral Weeks," "Southern Cross," the Alabama Shakes' "Hold On," and the multiple-times-suggested "Shake It Out" by Florence + The Machine. Ben Howard's lovely "Old Pine" leads into Mat Kearney's handclap-driven "Hey Mama," and then BOY's "Little Numbers" and Brett Dennen's charming "Comeback Kid (That's My Dog)" close it out. (Dennen was on the last edition, too, so he's well advocated for by people who like their music happy.) There are obviously lots and lots of songs missing from this rundown, because if I mentioned all of them, we'd be here all day.

[If you suggested something and it's not here, it might be because I had something else too similar, or because Spotify didn't have it, or because it didn't seem to fit, or because you suggested a lot of different stuff, or because I wasn't sure it would wear well over a long period of time, or because I somehow missed your tweet. I curate these with a light hand, but you can blame me for the omissions that most break your heart.]

I encourage you to give it a listen. Good moods mean different things to different people, it turns out. Some of you want to be so compelled to dance that people on the train will stare at you, some of you want to listen to something familiar and beloved, and some of you want to listen to something with a "rainy day with a cup of tea" quality to it. I enjoyed listening to all of it; we'll do it again sometime.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.