REWIND: Five songs to help you chill out in a stressful year

Enya, Orinoco Flow

Pictured: Enya leading a SoulCycle class through meditation on the night the president tried to start a war with Iran.

The year 2020 is excruciatingly long, and we’re only a week and a half in.

Fortunately music has your back. Just as it can help you get hyped, it can help you calm down from a stressful day of watching the world crumble around you.

To that end, here are five of my favorite chill-out songs. If these don’t take the edge off a bit nothing will. In the word of our president, they’re “jenius.”

Gordon Lightfoot — “If You Could Read My Mind”

This is possibly the fourth time this song has appeared in the column and it’s not going to be the last. In fact, Lightfoot is what inspired the column idea in the first place.

Personal biases for Gordon Lightfoot aside, folk revival is chill-out gold. The whole genre is designed specifically to mellow you out. If Lightfoot isn’t your jam… I don’t even know what to say to you. Get out of my column and think about what you’ve done! But while you’re thinking, you could try anything by John Denver instead.

Gerry Rafferty — “Baker Street”

You thought I was going to put “Careless Whisper” in here, didn’t you? Well… I considered it. But while unnecessary saxophones are great for relaxation, it helps if the theme of the song isn’t sadness and loss. That is extremely, notoriously un-chill.

This, meanwhile? Nobody knows what it’s about. Nobody, Rafferty included, has ever listened to the lyrics. They just love that sax solo in the chorus, and for good reason. It’s the stuff of legend.

Just close your eyes and let the saxophone wash over you. Let it pass around and through you and just melt into your chair. For those few brief minutes, you’ll forget an entire continent is on fire.

Enya — “Orinoco Flow”

We’re at 3-for-3 on repeats from previous columns. What can I say, I started writing Rewind to start 2018 and it’s been a stressful couple years. These have been on repeat for most of it.

You may recognize this song from the cheesy relaxation music CDs they sold on TV in the ’90s. Unless I just imagined that—I can’t find any evidence of it online. You guys remember that, right? With the soothing woman’s voice narrating? … Right?

This is going to become a Candle Cove thing, isn’t it?

Anyway, there’s a reason it may or may not have been on that CD that I possibly made up. It’s super relaxing. Crank it up and sail away with Enya.

Simon & Garfunkel — “The Sound of Silence”

I made no secret in my review or on Twitter how moving I found Paul Simon’s solo performance of “The Sound of Silence” to close out his Outside Lands set. I find Simon’s solo work to be a bit hit-or-miss, often succumbing to ’80s cheesiness, but his work with Art Garfunkel includes some of the most purely beautiful songs ever recorded.

On the night we didn’t know whether we were going to war with Iran and possible kick off World War III, after my trusty Gordon Lightfoot playlist was done, I put on Simon & Garfunkel. This, “The Boxer,” “Scarborough Fair”—all of them—will dissolve the stress and anxiety.

Cat Stevens — “Wild World”

Now we’re 5-for-5 on repeats! We did it, everyone! It took two years but I finally ran out of songs I like.

OK, so that’s not strictly true, but part of properly chilling out is nostalgia. Not only does the song have to be properly mellow, with a slow cadence and maybe a gentle string instrument, but it works best if it’s the aural version of comfort food. An old audio security blanket that takes you back to when things were simpler.

That means, Gordon Lightfoot aside, these may not work for you. Maybe when you were a kid your parents played different music that strikes the right chord—pun definitely intended—to make the world go away for a while. So your mileage may vary, we don’t judge here.

Unless you aren’t a Lightfoot fan. I judge that.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at

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