Things are looking up. Although that particular song is not included here, because spirit-lifting music doesn’t always require overtly optimistic messages, major keys, or buoyant lyrics. (In fact, lyrics that are too aggressively cheerful can make one downright surly; i.e., R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People.”) No, what tends to get to us is more mysterious and totally personal: a certain chord progression, a riff, the way the singer phrases a line, the beat, a vibe, something intangible. Those songs—you know them when you hear them. We all find the ones that work for us; maybe some of these will work for you.

George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL