I don’t know about you, Reader, but most people I know have music that brings them comfort. Some of you have no doubt seen or participated in Top 10 Influential Albums or 30 Songs of Your Life lists on social media during this time. Usually, comfort music is an album you can listen to start to finish, no skips. It is perfect in its wholeness. Maybe you listened to it often as a child, a nostalgic remnant of an easier time. Maybe it got you through some of the worst romantic tangles of your life (here’s lookin’ at you, Rumors!) Maybe it is by an artist or group whose whole catalog you love, but nothing beats that first record.
I’ll never forget it, June 2004: I was on a mission trip in La Paz, Bolivia with 10 other teens from my church at the time. We were all squished together in one of those big work vans, rumbling over unpaved roads out of the city. We were all getting squished left then right over each divot in the road we went over, trying not to get sick as we went higher in altitude to leave La Paz. I had brought my Discman with me for the hours’ long drive and started listening to Tigermilk by Belle & Sebastian, praying I would not get sick all over the nice Christian boy sitting next to me.
By the beginning of the first track, I forced my eyes closed and let myself drift away on the lispy, whispery words and jangly guitar. I let the music envelop me like a warm, fluffy blanket comforting me. It reminded me of hanging out in my bedroom at home with my best friend; it reminded me of my sister; it reminded me of reading in my bed next to my window. It also reminded me that despite being far from home, I was still an angsty, awkward teenager.
Before I knew it, Tigermilk turned what could have been a miserable moment into something I knew I could get through and continue to enjoy. During these past few weeks, it has certainly done so again. To be honest, if Tigermilk was able to get me through my teenage years, it can certainly get me through anything after. Since releasing Tigermilk in 1996, Belle & Sebastian went on to become one of Scotland’s most well-known Chamber Pop/Jangle Pop bands. Like Danny, the Champion of the World, in times of crisis I reach for its comfort and familiarity. It is a unique, almost lo-fi album that you can turn down low to read to or blast loud while you’re making dinner, dancing in the kitchen. It is truly a safety blanket of sound and their following albums only get better.