What does joy sound like to you? These are the songs that make you drop absolutely everything, that make you dance like a fool in the driver’s seat or your office chair or your bedroom or the dance floor, playing all air instruments at once. A song that floods you. Your FUCK YES anthem. Our staffers spill their happy secrets here, culminating in a playlist that is both eclectic and energizing. With two entries on the list, is it possible Pavement is essential to emotional well-being???

Fang Island – “Daisy”

I can barely talk about this song because I want to just shut up and listen to it again, wheeling myself around the room like a shiny metal pinball. You know how in yoga it’s all about opening up the heart center and whatever? They got it all wrong. It’s this. This song makes me radiate something, it helps me beam my light. Which is why I’m somewhat evangelically devoted to Fang Island.

“Daisy” is whizzing, tuneful math rock at its super-riffiest, with 8-bitty calliope keyboards, heroic drum fills and dialed-up guitar licks that just make you want to run around the world five times. It all leads up to a collective koan-chorus where the boys slow up so you can catch the message: “It don’t matter what you find/ Or the way you find it.” By the time you get there, you’d already understood this. – Stacey Pavlick

The Replacements — “Can’t Hardly Wait”

For every possible mood your soul can shift through, there is a Replacements song to guide you along. But for one to play as a soundtrack to pure ecstasy bordering on recklessness, “Can’t Hardly Wait” reigns supreme. That repetitive and melodious bass line, the chugging rhythm, the blaring brass tempered with a swaying string arrangement… it’s bliss, just perfection. Throw in Paul Westerberg’s frayed vocals championing “ashtray floors, filthy floors and dirty jokes,” and it transcends all else. Spin this and tell me you’re not bouncing along with its infectious beat, belting the title over and over again in line with Westerberg. — Cole Waterman


Oliver Nelson & Eric Dolphy – “Straight Ahead”

Alto sax players Oliver Nelson and Eric Dolphy could hardly be more different, but each launches from their version of the blues into a five and a half minute fugue state in which they rapidly trade ideas – and all on a first take. Nelson takes the role of a conventional, romantic bluesman, while Dolphy pushes against the boundaries he’d completely cross in his work with Charles Mingus and as a leader in his own right. But the unlikely chemistry with their lightly driving rhythm section builds a joyful momentum that unifies the distinct voices. – Pat Padua


Bishop Allen – “Click, Click, Click, Click”

I have a weakness for songs that build. And build. And then build some more. “Click, Click, Click, Click,” a single from Bishop Allen’s 2007 album, The Broken String (or Bishop Allen & the Broken String, if you prefer), does exactly that, although without the glammy bombast of something like, say, Pulp’s “Common People.” Instead, even as it adds fuller instrumentation throughout, it remains lithe and airy, all the better to accentuate the clever lyrics about unexpectedly winding up in some strangers’ wedding photos after taking refuge from a rainstorm: “But in someone else’s life/ Where Maria is a wife/ I’m on the mantle in the corner of a photograph/ Smiling pretty.” There’s an endearing jubilation to the song, the catchy, bouncy music ideally suited to the lyrics’ wistful appreciation of the random connections in life. And that repeated onomatopoeia makes for a ridiculously fun sing-along. – Dan Seeger

Robyn – “Dancing on My Own”

The best scene of “Girls” is at the end of episode 3, when Hannah is trying to compose the right Tweet to describe her awful week. When her Pandora switches over to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” she’s suddenly inspired. Sending off the perfect missive into the Twitterverse, she jerky white girl dances all over the apartment. It’s the perfect upbeat, poppy techno jam that you can’t help but twerk your shoulders to. Easy to dance to, even for us rhythm-impaired folk, and the message – I’ll keep on being awesome, with or without you – is an anthem on any bad day or breakup. – Tabitha Blankenbiller

Pavement – “Major Leagues”

This song is college to me. Not surprisingly, Pavement are often derided as a mid-‘90s slacker band whose appeal was/is to the privileged, aimlessly-drifting-through-college set. When I got into them – when “Major Leagues” and about four dozen of their other impeccably shabby stream-of-consciousness rock poems came to represent things like drinking whiskey and playing chess in dorm rooms or weekend trips to a hot spring or long nights staying up editing my film project – I was drifting through art school with no real idea of what was going to happen after I got my degree. Maybe “Major Leagues,” with its heartstring-tugging guitar chords and lyrics like, “How ya gonna teach him to walk/ When he can’t even finish the songs of the law?” had the unique insouciance needed to encapsulate that feeling which resolutely resisted being encapsulated. Maybe memories of those aimless, following-my-muse-to-nowhere years don’t exactly make me jump for joy or dance, but listening to Pavement does, which is probably as close as I can get. – Alex Peterson

Die Ärzte – “Meine Freunde”

What? You don’t speak German? Then you’re missing out one of my favorite bands. Pop punk with more serious punk roots, Die Ärzte’s closest equivalent in America is Green Day, but Die Ärzte have a better sense of humor and irony. Lead singer Farin Urlaub dives into “Meine Freunde” with gusto: “My friends are homosexuals/ My friends are criminals” before eventually smirking, “Are they allowed to do that?” Tongue firmly in cheek, it’s a celebration of not fitting in or playing the game. Nothing cheers me up more. Sometimes I think I learned German just to appreciate Die Ärzte. Enjoy this version with fairly good English subtitles. – Jester Jay Goldman

Jackie Wilson – “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”

Pairing the eternally smooth Jackie Wilson with the sweet sounds of Motown house band The Funk Brothers, Wilson’s finest song might be the most concentrated bit of sonic bliss I’ve ever discovered, finding some magic ratio in the relationship between the band’s soaring string backdrop and his ethereal falsetto, one that I won’t even try to sing along to for fear of spoiling the magic. For a double shot of joy, this pairs really nicely with Van Morrison’s “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile).” – Jesse Cataldo

Jack White – “Trash Tongue Talker”

It was when I saw Jack White perform “Trash Tongue Talker” live that I knew rock ‘n’ roll was real. I had been standing alone in the crowd for hours and it had started raining. He had taken off his shoes to stop falling all over the stage. With his back to the Buzzards (his all-male touring band), the mirror on his piano allowed him to lead. And the way his hands moved on the piano – that’s when I knew. I knew everything would always work out, I knew why women throw their underwear at rock stars and I knew rock ‘n’ roll was real. – Sarah Paolantonio


Alex Prospect & Becci – “Like It Loud”

Happy hardcore is the dirty little secret of the techno world. It’s a genre relic of the rave scene – an ill-conceived subculture of people wearing the pelts of plushies, bling made of edible candy and dancing around with soothers in their mouths having completely lost their shit in a drug induced, glow stick-waving frenzy. The recipe of the drug is insanely fast breakbeats, a marching hardcore stomp of bass, a dramatic euro-trance synths and soaring vocals dripping in over-the-top cheesy pap. In essence, it’s produced from the first beat to the last to be the happiest, most uplifting and joyful sound you’ve ever heard. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is how the rise of dubstep has introduced an entire new toolbox full of sounds with which to articulate this audio elysium.

Case in point, Alex Prospect’s “Like It Loud” with vocals by Rebecca Emmanuel (aka Becci), remixed by fellow scene-mate Gammer. As you bounce and nod through the opening verse – “You say, ‘I want bass!’/ Give me that treble/ I wanna take over/ To the next level/ You say, “I want more!”/ I’m getting ready/ It’s about to blow/ About to get heavy” – you may think it’s already pretty joyful, if mindless, stuff (which is, after all, the point). That’s followed by the chorus, a vocoded stutter filtered over “Like it loud/ Like it loud!.” You think you’ve arrived and that’s when the tell-tale sound of a techno drum roll indicates you’ve only just crested the roller coaster and there can only be a huge drop on the other side. This drop, lucky for the listener, goes completely off the rails — bust out your glow sticks, kids, it’s going to be a long night. – Darryl Wright

Pavement – “Grounded”

I’ve seen Pavement exactly one time (not holding my breath to add to that count), and for some reason it’s one of the more vivid days of my life. They opened that particular show with “Grounded,” and every time I hear the glassy, hypnotic build of the intro, I’m transported back to that evening. It’s as if, once more, I’m swaying to the impossible, with the blank canvas of a Pavement setlist in front of me, my favorite music by my favorite ever band waiting to be performed.

“Grounded” probably isn’t my ultimate Pavement song (I’m not sure I could even single out one), but it has all the elements of what makes the band great. After the tension-building intro, the band finds a meeting point for Stephen Malkmus to deliver a non-sensical first line: “Doctors leaving for the holiday season/ Got crystal ice picks/ No gift for the gab.” But here, it’s Malkmus’ guitar work that gets me the most. His Fender, tuned to a bizarre Drop-D incarnation, elicits an almost Pixies-like squeal as a riff takes the place of a chorus, and it’s more than an acceptable substitution. This soaring bend, which gets stronger and stronger until it releases to an open chord, marks the culmination of my relationship with a band, packaging together a night’s worth of euphoria for a lifetime of listening. – Mike Randall

The Lonely Island – “I Just Had Sex” (feat. Akon)

When it comes to outright jubilance, it’s hard to top comedy trio the Lonely Island’s sophomoric ode to getting some, “I Just Had Sex.” Featuring Akon singing very literally about the physical act of love in the song’s chorus, this tribute to crotch fireworks is obviously enhanced by its viral video (one with many guest appearances, most hilariously by John McEnroe), but the exuberant music alone—comedic or not— is enough to get you singing along mindlessly even if you didn’t just “have sex in the last 30 minutes.” It just feels so good. – Josh Goller

Neko Case- “Man”

Singer/songwriter/badass Neko Case has never been one to shy away from deliberately obtuse lyrics, once insisting a tornado loves you and her desire to be the moon. But where she once declared herself to be a man-eater, her first single from this year’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You insists that she’s “a man’s man” and all you need to know about manhood, she can show you. It’s a bright, insistent power pop song (aided by M. Ward’s frantic guitar work), filled with boundless energy and confidence. It’s also Case at her ballsiest and most cheerful. – Nathan Kamal

The Apples in Stereo – “Energy”

It’s likely that you know more about the Apples in Stereo than I do, because I know nothing at all except that this song, which I downloaded free from Amazon (or somewhere) years ago, is insanely catchy. I’m not usually a fan of feel-good sunnytime pop songs, but my God, I find this confection utterly irresistible. The adenoidal vocals, shimmering guitar, loopy lead break and peppy rhythms all add up to a three-minute burst of good vibes that sweeps the listener along like the cheeriest tidal wave ever. Even in my most dour moods, this song manages to quicken my pulse and make me believe that, just maybe, things aren’t all that bad. – David Maine

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