What To Listen To At Your Depressing Job: A Pigeons & Planes Playlist

By Lia McGarrigle

Depressing jobs are an almost universal experience. Especially if you aspire to work in a creative field—unless you’re very talented, lucky or rich—you’re going to have to take up a crappy job to pay the bills while you struggle along. Or maybe you don’t even know what you ultimately want to be doing, so there’s a bigger fear that this meaningless job will eventually become your life. Either way, depressing jobs are a fact of life and we just have to deal with them.

I’ve had a lot of pretty bad jobs but they definitely could’ve been worse. I’ve worked in a call center where a drunk old woman spent 30 minutes on a phone call berating me for being terrible at my job, while simultaneously lamenting her loneliness. I’ve also done my fair share of au pair work, which varied from ridiculously cushy to hell on earth, depending on how much of a bully the child wanted to be.

Most recently, I worked for a spam agency that didn’t fully understand the internet. My days were filled with Internet Explorer, teenagers in India ringing me asking where their $5 payment was, and a lot of sexist, transphobic, racist, men. So naturally I took solace in music to drown out their offensive chatter, and also as a sort of companion. I may have been socially isolated in my job, but music was a source of empathy and understanding for me.

The following songs will help you get through the toughest—and the best—parts of your terrible job. If you’re looking for music to pump you up, or to reflect on work's inherent misery, read on.


2. Black Dave & William Wilson - "Fuck Everybody"

Listen when: It’s Monday morning

It's the start of another week. You’re tired, and the last thing you want to do is go in and deal with your co-workers’ crappy stories and drink shitty coffee.

Embrace that rage—lean in hard with it. Press play on Black Dave’s “Fuck Everybody” in the elevator, so the hook kicks just as you step into the office. You’ll feel like you’re the main character in an ad about a lame office worker who balls out and tells everyone to fuck off—exactly how you want to feel on a Monday.

3. Bobby Raps & Corbin - "Frozen Tundra"

Listen when: Your boss says, “You don’t have to stay late, but it would be a great help if you did…”

Corbin knows how to sing like he's being emotionally tortured—his signature angst and introspective turmoil can be contagious at the best of times, so he’s a perfect fit for any time life is getting you down.

Few things are worse than last minute shift extensions, so when your boss essentially asks you to work unpaid overtime, making your hourly equivalent equal to less than a cup of coffee, throw on your headphones and silently scream at them: “Fuck your Money / Fuck Your Fame.” This small act of transgression will make everything that little bit better, and if it doesn’t? Listen to any of Corbin’s discography and you’ll find something to match your angst, I promise.

4. Young Thug - "Check"

Listen when: It’s payday

This is an obvious choice, Young Thug is a quintessential rags to riches story. He is the American dream, a beacon of hope that there could be light at the end of this weekly slog—his first series of releases were even called I Came from Nothing. Maybe that side project you’re working on will get noticed by Gucci Mane, or remixed by Nicki Minaj—who knows?

Look forward to going home, throwing your money up in the air, or even making some calls with it. Whether you’re cashing checks to buy new dresses, leather Balmain pants, or to feed your many children, Thugger is the perfect soundtrack.

5. Sufjan Stevens - “Should Have Known Better”

Listen when: You come into work hung over

Last night’s indulgences have caught up with you, and now your head feels like it’s going to explode, and your eyes are so light-sensitive that the mere sight of your laptop makes you feel nauseous.

Listening to Sufjan when you’re not feeling great is always a good idea. His beautiful mix of intensely depressing lyrics and melodic harmonies will balance your emotions, no matter which end of the spectrum you’re feeling.

Sufjan’s ethereal voice will soothe your brain, and his almost breathless chorus of “I should have known better” reminds you to drink more sensibly next time. Press play, pop a pill, drink some water, and try to make yourself invisible. Now is not the time for office small talk.

6. Mykki Blanco ft. Princess Nokia - "Wish You Would"

Listen when: Your boss just yelled at you

Your boss just yelled at you for no reason, and being in a subordinate position, you just have to accept it—unless you want to lose your job.

Vent your frustrations and mend you bruised ego with “Wish You Would.” One of the opening lines of the track, “You got your opinion of me / well I do not give a fuck what you think,” sets the aggressive, ballsy tone. Mykki Blanco and Princess Nokia truly don’t don’t care about your opinion, because frankly, why should they? Putting this on will build your confidence back up to where it ought to be. Fuck your boss, you’re amazing.

7. Crows - "Suburbia Nervosa"

Listen when: You’re wondering if any of this is worth it

Capitalism is hell, and it's beyond me why we haven’t all risen up in revolution and make the robots do our work. However, capitalism also makes the world go round; it gets you into that cool club and lets you buy all those nice things that make you a hotter, more successful, and all-round better person.

That said, in a menial job, there are times when you really question whether any of it is worth it. Maybe you should run away to go swim with dolphins, become a farmer and live off the land, or try out one of those European socialist utopias you’ve heard so much about. Irish hardcore band Crows understand you and feel your pain. Born. Work. Fuck up. Die.

What they’re saying might depress you, but it’s also exactly what you’re thinking. Sometimes you just need to really embrace the hopelessness to find new meaning.

8. D.R.A.M ft. Donnie Trumpet - "$"

Listen when: You need to be convinced that you actually need this job

After Crows put you in an anti-capitalistic, depressive stupor, you should listen to something that will stop you from immediately quitting your job. D.R.A.M.’s “$” is that song. His voice is angelic, and he makes working seem like a beautiful, noble undertaking, which is exactly what you need right now. If you aren’t moved by the time Donnie's trumpets kick in, then maybe you should seriously consider leaving.

9. Kevin Abstract - "ECHO"

Listen when: You’re wondering where all that childhood potential went

The worst thing about being stuck in a dead-end job is the feeling that you should be doing something better. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at your mundane spreadsheets and trying to figure out where it all went wrong, listen to “Echo” and let the haunting hook of “When did it all fall down? / Where you going now?” become your personal mantra.

By the way, Kevin Abstract and the video director, Tyler Mitchell, were 19 and 20 during the production of “Echo.” This could just be me, but whenever I see successful people who are younger than me, it makes me hyper aware of my inadequacies and makes me feel ever closer to the grave. What have you done with your life, huh?

10. A$AP Ferg - "Work (Remix)"

Listen when: You’re half asleep and need something to pump yourself up

It’s mid-afternoon. You’re crashing hard after lunch, and all you want to do is go home and sleep. You need to put something on quickly before you start drooling on your keyboard.

Don’t worry—all you need is a little help from Fergenstein. “Work” is like a rallying cry for your productivity. Its relentless tempo and sharp melody will help you push through, and could even get you excited enough to finish the day without collapsing in sobs.

Even if the song itself doesn’t enliven you, the repetition of, “Put in work, put in work” is guaranteed to get stuck in your head. That alone should keep you awake.

11. Tyler, the Creator - "Cherry Bomb"

Listen when: You need to drown out your coworkers

You don’t get to choose your co-workers. Often times, you’re stuck with people you would never hang out with of your own volition. And there’s nothing you can do about it, unless you want to get shunned because you didn’t want to talk about your co-worker’s roommate’s boyfriend's shower schedule.

“Cherry Bomb” isn’t a pleasant song, even by the sometimes abrasive standards of Tyler, the Creator. It’s essentially four minutes of angry, over-filtered noise, but it’ll help drown out everyone and everything around you. So whether your co-workers are spewing offensive crap about immigration, feminism, or just generally being annoying, turn it up loud enough and you won’t hear a thing.

12. Uno & Billionaire Black - "Costa Rica"

Listen when: It's 4:57 and you're about to get the hell out of there

Regardless of whether it’s actually “getting closer to the weekend,” this song is so summery and upbeat that listening to it right before you dip out of work is a sure way to avoid any post office slump. The moment you leave work is the longest time you have before you have to be there again, so start it wisely.

Despite the slightly psychopathic lyrics ("Kill a n***a for no reason / Then we go chill in Costa Rica"), listening to this will remind you that life is good, and that every day you’re working means you’re one day closer to chilling in Costa Rica.

13. LCD Soundsystem - "New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down"

Listen when: The deli gets your lunch order wrong and you waited your entire lunch break for this damn sandwich

City life is tough. You work all day, don't sleep enough, cram into poorly maintained mass transit where your chances of getting randomly knifed grow exponentially higher each day... The worst part, however, is when the deli guy keeps messing up your damn sandwich.

Lunch breaks are getting shorter and shorter, so by the time you get to the sandwich place and place your order, you have approximately ten minutes to shove food at your face before sitting back at your desk. No room for mistakes, or corrections.

When the inevitable happens and they give you a chicken salad when you asked for a chopped cheese, you’ll have no choice but to suck it up and pay for it anyway. In times like these, turn to the mournful voice of James Murphy and lament your metropolitan curse: "Like a rat in a cage / Pulling minimum wage..."

14. Popcaan - "Everything Nice"

Listen when: It’s your turn to make the coffee run

When there’s the opportunity to go on a coffee run, take it. You’ll get a break from work, actually get to breathe some fresh air, and you’ll be welcomed back to the office with open arms.

Make the brief excursion into something special and listen to what is probably the happiest song of all time, Popcaan’s “Everything Nice.” It’s impossible to feel bad when you have Popcaan in your ear, empathizing with everyone who is struggling and “working 9-5.”

He's also reminding you to be grateful for everything you have, because “everything is nice.” That sentiment, combined with a caffeine high, is sure to make you feel #blessed, and make the rest of the day a breeze.

15. Elliott Smith - "Everything Means Nothing To Me"

Listen when: You see Instagram pictures of your friends on vacation

We all have that one fashion blogger friend or “world traveller” acquaintance who we make fun of and hate-follow in an attempt to channel our jealousy. Because really, who doesn’t want to get paid to travel halfway across the world to take pictures of expensive borrowed clothes and tell all your followers why they should stay in the same resort?

Regardless of whether you secretly want to become a travel blogger, it’s a very painful experience to see someone drinking cocktails and asking if their picture is of hotdogs or legs. Especially if you’re stuck at work, it’s raining, and the most exciting thing you have to look forward to is your office happy hour at the grim bar next door.

At times like this, you need listen to a song that will reflect how hollow you feel inside. What are vacations anyway? What is work? We’re all just trudging through our meaningless existences and no one understands that more than Elliot Smith.

16. Wiki ft. Nasty Nigel - "Living With My Moms"

Listen when: You think that moving back home might not be so bad after all…

You’re out here killing yourself day after day, and just barely making rent at the end of the month. And for what? Some vague sense of independence, the ability to smoke weed whenever you want, or to eat cereal and ramen for every meal? Your job sucks—we’ve established that, so what’s the use of spending all day in misery, only to come home hating that you got duped into a year-long lease in a windowless basement closet?

Wiki’s mom is probably a lot cooler than yours, so you’re both probably going to have to sneak blunts out the window, but it’s a small price to pay for clean digs and some respite from the adult world.

17. The Playlist