Everything about the world feels discomfiting right now, particularly as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic. For now, all we can do to protect ourselves is self-isolate (and wash our hands) so as not to contribute to the spread of COVID-19. It’s completely understandable to feel afraid and lonely right now, and small comforts can help immensely. One of those comforts is music. As we’ve all been preparing for the worst as best we can here at Texas Monthly, we’ve been turning to beloved albums from fellow Texans that at once help to take our minds off the news, work through swirls of emotions, and keep us calm during this uneasy era. We’ve also included a playlist with songs from each of these albums.

1. The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, Explosions in the Sky

I don’t really find much solace in hearing people sing right now. Everything feels heightened and frightening and sad. But The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place comes from a different spirit. There’s nothing to sing about in these songs, but they’re still powered by a sense of resolve that feels appropriate to these times. Famously, when Explosions in the Sky formed, the ad they posted on an Austin bulletin board described the budding project as a “sad yet triumphant rock band,” and that’s the emotional comfort I want from music right now. The music on The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place feels hopeful in a way that’s a little less specific than words can capture, and that feels honest and true right now. That’s all we can really ask for. —Dan Solomon, Associate Editor

2. Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves’s Golden Hour came to me when I was a senior about to graduate from college, not entirely sure of my future and the direction my life would end up taking. Rather than spiral into an existential crisis, I’d pop in my headphones and have Kacey take me away on a psychedelic journey that both felt grounded in Texas and managed to drift me far away into the cosmos. I have the entire album on a playlist that I turn to when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed, and it provides the perfect combination of wistfulness (“Happy & Sad” and “Slow Burn”), optimism (“Rainbow”), and levity (“High Horse”) every time. By the time I’ve finished listening to it, it’s hard for me to remember what I was so worried about in the first place. —Cat Cardenas, Associate Editor

3. Dream River, Bill Callahan

Bill Callahan‘s Dream River, from 2013, is my soothing album of choice. “Small Plane” is a particularly great quarantine song on its own: it’s a simple song about being content and happy, hopefully with one or more loved ones, while impending doom is outside your door. Listening to it is what a warm bath feels like. —Aaron Chamberlain, Production Director

4. Tell Me You Love Me, Demi Lovato

The world feels dark, but blaring Demi Lovato’s 2017 album Tell Me You Love Me and scream-singing along is a guaranteed way to boost my mood. As her recent Super Bowl and Grammys performance reminded everyone, Lovato, who was raised in the Dallas area, has powerful pipes. While her vocal talents have been evident since her Camp Rock days, Tell Me You Love Me was the first album where she consistently wrote songs both strong and fun enough to match her voice. There are some duds in the back half of the album, but songs like the confident top-ten hit “Sorry Not Sorry” and the self-aware earworm “Daddy Issues” practically demand you to turn up the volume and turn your brain off for a bit. —Anna Walsh, Managing Editor

5. Swim Team, Christelle Bofale

A new song and a recent shoutout by Moses Sumney has got me revisiting Swim Team, an EP from Christelle Bofale, an Austin local. Bofale’s guitar work and lyrics blend with her gentle vibrato for music that encourages honest and calm introspection. Although her newest single, “Miles,” isn’t on Swim Team, it sounds eerily spot-on for a time when we’re being encouraged to socially distance and self-isolate for the greater good: “Seems like nobody’s scared enough/ seems like nobody cares enough / Oh this spinning wheel we call our home / Nobody cares until they see they are alone / Where are we going / Where are we at all.” —Doyin Oyeniyi, Assistant Editor

6. You’re My Best Friend, Don Williams

You’re My Best Friend whisks me back to simpler Texas springtimes; its lovestruck lyrics and honest-to-goodness strumming evoke a past road trip of mine heading west to Marfa, windows down and bluebonnets sprouting. “(Turn Out the Light and) Love Me Tonight” sounds best at maxed-out volume, but “Help Yourselves to Each Other” especially resonates during uncertain times: “It’s a long road we must cling to one another,” he sings. “Help yourselves to each other, that’s the way it’s meant to be.” —Arianna Flores, Editorial Intern

7. Ridin’ Dirty, UGK

Whenever I felt listless and anxious as a teenager, I’d ask to borrow the car keys and go for a drive around my hometown of Houston, armed with a handful of used CDs from Half Price Books. For many Houstonians, the experience of listening to music is inextricable from being in a car—so much so that one of our city’s most iconic duos, the rap group UGK (who also have roots in Port Arthur), made an album informed by the time they’d spent behind the wheel. Packed with woozy beats, as well as Pimp C and Bun B’s sharp bars reflecting on the fragility of life (“One Day”) and zipping through the city (“Diamonds & Wood”), Ridin’ Dirty is a balm for this uneasy time of social distancing and uncertainty, whether you’re at home or on a restorative ride around town. —Paula Mejía, Culture Editor

8. The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, Stars of the Lid

Any of the Austin ambient duo Stars of the Lid’s seven albums function as a sort of aural therapy. They’ve been compared to guided meditations, sensory deprivation tanks, and all manner of really good drugs, and while those analogies are apt, they also tend to downplay the analeptic effects that records like The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid can have. The album was released just a month after 9/11, and I remember listening to it often during that moment of sustained panic, allowing its dense-yet-spacious drones of strings, guitar, piano, and staticky radio transmissions to wash over me with all thoughts of the outside world receding in the waves. It still works. —Sean O’Neal, Contributing Writer

9. Come Away With Me, Norah Jones

Across the span of just one calendar year, Norah Jones sold four million copies of her elegant, mellow debut album Come Away With Me, and won five Grammys for it. We didn’t know it then, but people were buying into a pioneering forerunner to Casper’s bed-in-a-box model: popping open the jewel case released a plush-topped, medium-firm, body-hugger of an album. Particularly for a debut, it holds up ridiculously well and lands on the right side of the sleepy to comforting continuum every time. —Andy Langer, Writer-at-Large

10. The Valley, Charley Crockett

One of my top listens of the last few months is Rio Grande Valley native Charley Crockett’s 2019 album, The Valley. Recorded before he underwent heart surgery, the album is an openhearted ramble across Crockett’s life: a rough-and-tumble upbringing in the Valley and Dallas, and his troubadour days busking in New Orleans and New York. An underappreciated country traditionalist, Crockett is also comfortable ranging into rockabilly, blues, and R&B. The declarative opening lines to the title track—”I’m from San Benito, Texas / Down a dirty, dusty road”—get me every time. I didn’t grow up in the Rio Grande Valley, as Crockett did, but as a child of rural South Texas, I can identify with the sense of pride of place, as well as the longing to escape to somewhere, anywhere else that this song—and this album—so richly captures. —Forrest Wilder, News and Politics Editor

11. My Favorite Chopin, Van Cliburn

When the world feels chaotic and doomy—hi, 2020!—Van Cliburn is a tonic for the obsessively-Twitter-refreshing soul. In 1958, the Kilgore-raised pianist became an overnight American hero when he won the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Three years later, the 26-year-old “Texan who conquered Russia” recorded this masterwork of classical Romantic piano. Featuring just Cliburn and a Steinway, the album showcases both Chopin’s genius and Cliburn’s technical perfection—a pairing that will endure long past these dark times. —Christian Wallace, Associate Editor

12. Taking the Long Way, Dixie Chicks

When Taking the Long Way came out in 2006, three things had happened: summer had popped, Natalie Maines had spoken her mind re: one George W. Bush, and I’d gotten an iPod. I wanted to be edgy and political and had a lot of free time, so I biked around listening to it all summer. I’d forgotten about the album until the band’s newest song, “Gaslighter,” arrived last week, and I have no other associated memories from the fifteen intervening years. Listening to it again feels like undiluted nostalgic escapism. —Lauren Larson, Features Editor

13. Actor, St. Vincent

St. Vincent explores feelings of anxiety and paranoia in her sophomore album Actor, which is filled with flurries of strings, flute accompaniments, and jagged guitar riffs. At face value, it doesn’t seem like the best record to listen to during these times, but the Dallas native sings in such a measured manner that’s both reassuring and empathetic—the perfect antidote I think we could all use a little more of. Arielle Avila, Editorial Coordinator