Remember going out at night? Those were different times. But late-night brooding can be the perfect time to lose yourself in music. And these songs are a perfect soundtrack to get lost in, for those long, moody evenings on your own. As part of Rolling Stone’s new weekly playlist series, “Music at Home,” here are 14 songs designed to buoy your spirits and keep you company after midnight, whether you’re battling insomnia, avoiding the news, or just sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea and your memories. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always 3 o’clock in the morning.” These are songs to get you through to the dawn.
Find this playlist on Spotify here, and read more of Rob Sheffield on life without live music here.
Richard and Linda Thompson, “Night Comes In” (1975)
Something about Richard Thompson’s guitar really hits home right now — his stormy Celtic folk-rock tunes make righteous late-night company during a quarantine. Even in the Sixties with Fairport Convention, this guy was writing tales for hard times. “Night Comes In” comes from the Thompsons’ 1975 epic Pour Down Like Silver, with some of his most mind-bending guitar. “This room is ringing in my ears”: too real.
Kaash Paige, “Frank Ocean” (2020)
A gorgeous new love song from 18-year-old Dallas R&B prodigy Kaash Paige, fresh off her debut mixtape Parked Car Convos. “Frank Ocean” is her quiet-storm crush confession — you got her thinking about you, just because you remind her of her favorite song on Channel Orange.
James Brown, “I Feel All Right” (1968)
What do you do when you can’t be part of a concert audience? You put on the ultimate live legend, Mr. James Brown — especially Side Two of his 1968 Live at the Apollo, Volume 2. (It absolutely crushes the more famous 1963 one, IMHO.) The Godfather builds a killer call-and-response groove with the crowd, yelling, “Building, is you ready? Because we gonna tear you down!”
Adult Mom, “Berlin” (2020)
A perfect song for when you’re missing your friends, even the ones you don’t like very much. Stevie Knipe sings this indie ballad mourning a lost bond between two mates who thought they’d stick together for life. Knipe recalls sharing a beer in the dorm, singing along with Courtney Love songs, and “screaming our youth away.”
Fleetwood Mac, “The Chain” (1977)
Is it a coincidence that Fleetwood Mac’s hot-tub heartbreak classic is booming back on the charts at a moment of mass fear and confusion? Ah, no. Something about their shattered voices soothes our souls at times like these. Especially when Stevie, Lindsey, and Christine let loose: “Damn the dark, damn the liiiiight!”
The Chills, “House with a Hundred Rooms” (1987)
An Eighties guitar classic from the New Zealand indie pioneers. “House with a Hundred Rooms” is a delicately wistful rocker that makes getting lost inside your own imagination sound like bliss.
Jhené Aiko, “Pu$$y Fairy (OTW)” (2020)
When they reopen the karaoke bars, it’s all over for anyone who’s in the room the first time (and probably last time) I sing this sensual ballad.
The J. Geils Band, “Musta Got Lost (Live)” (1976)
Every self-respecting band cranked out live albums galore in the Seventies — but nobody gives demented rock-star stage banter like Peter Wolf, the Woofa Goofa with the Green Teeth. (“Take out your false teeth, mama…I wanna suck on your gums!”) “Musta Got Lost” comes from the whammer-jammer Blow Your Face Out, topping the already-great studio version. Wolf’s intro monologue — “This is a song about L-O-V-E! And if you abuse it, you’re gonna lose it!” — is sheer poetry.
Moses Sumney, “Polly” (2020)
A jazzy reverie from the Carolina (via Ghana and California) poet. Sumney dreams about being cotton candy in the mouth of his lover, dissolving on somebody’s tongue, overdubbing himself into a soul choir, somewhere between Radiohead and Prince.
Al Green, “Light My Fire” (1971)
Who else can do Jim Morrison’s poetry like Al Green? When Al suggests you “try to set the night on fire,” you’re already reaching for the matches.
Palehound, “See a Light” (2020)
Ellen Kempner dropped “See a Light” just in time for the quarantine, a song to mellow your mind when the isolation gets under your skin. She sings a wispy ballad full of Elliott Smith-style guitar, about two lonely misfits making a soul connection.
The Grateful Dead, “Sugaree (Live)” (1972)
There’s a million Dead documentaries, and I’ve gotten hooked on them all, but there’s one recurring scene I can’t get out of my brain: Jerry Garcia scuba diving in Hawaii. I can watch this YouTube footage for hours at a time. He looks so child-like underwater, paddling to the coral to make friends with an eel. The sonic equivalent: Jerry’s scubadelic guitar in this 8/27/72 version of “Sugaree,” in Veneta, Oregon.
The Jacobites, “Country Girl” (1985)
Two wandering English minstrels, wearing ruffles and scarves and strumming acoustic tales of devil-may-care adventure, living out their Keith Richards/Johnny Thunders fantasy. (One record was called Drowning in a Sea of Scarves, which sums up their aesthetic.) Nikki Sudden and Dave Kusworth made their cult legend with the lost classic Robespierre’s Velvet Basement, including the wildly romantic “Country Girl.”
Bob Dylan, “Murder Most Foul” (2020)
Seventeen minutes, and it’s over way too soon. It sounds maybe like Dylan might have flipped for Lana Del Rey’s “The Greatest,” like the rest of us. But it also sounds like JFK is just an excuse for one of those masterpieces where Dylan grabs hold of American history and treats it like a Saturday night.