Staff Picks to Study To
Over here in college radio land, or rather just college, it’s finals time, and our staff are no exceptions. Working hard to get through those last few weeks? Need a soundtrack to accompany burning the midnight oil? Well, we’ve got your back. Here are our managers’ picks for their favorite study sounds.
John Fahey – The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death
Of course, the primitive master himself. Though Fahey has a ton of recordings that embody the zen mindset required during the onslaught of finals (The Yellow Princess and America, to name a couple) Transfiguration embodies his bluesy fingerpicking style so thoroughly that it’s impossible not to recommend. Compared to guitarists like William Tyler and Robbie Basho, who also make for incredibly peaceful listening, Fahey’s style is simple and doesn’t show off, a trait I find incredibly helpful during finals time, when complex background music can easily capture my attention.
Oneohtrix Point Never – Rifts
The reissued box set of Daniel Lopatin’s astounding synthesizer work is possibly the greatest study companion one could ask for. Containing over 3 hours of Lopatin’s early fascinations with ambient textures, it can make for a complex and disturbing listen if one focuses into the music, but it can function equally as a calming background aura with enough movement to keep the mind active. Rifts may be long, but its Brian Eno-recalling minimalism is a fog that’s wonderful to get lost in.
Bill Evans Trio – Sunday At the Village Vanguard
Though anyone with even a passing interest in jazz likely already owns this record, the chemistry on this record between Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian is remarkable enough that it should be a household standard. Each musician seems to constantly be taking their own solo, and yet the atmosphere never rises above a cool, collected, yet upbeat swing. Sunday At the Village Vanguard carries a breezy calm that still remains relatively brisk for the entire record, the perfect balance when looking for a good study album.
Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92
This album has a play count of 160 in my itunes. I have developed a bit of an addiction–I can’t write without this album’s driving beats and encouraging noise that isn’t melodic enough to distract me from putting all those letters together. Thank you Aphex Twin for getting me through my undergrad.
Shlohmo - Bad Vibes
Since I can’t do any kind of studying to music with words or a significant melody, Shlohmo’s 2011 Bad Vibes comes on when I start to debate the healthiness of listening to one Aphex Twin record so much. Bad Vibes works well for brainstorming or times of creativity. The hip-hop beats melt me into a focused in-synce trance of getting shit done.
Miles Davis - Blue Moods
When I need to take a break from hours of cramming, nothing cools my brains like Miles Davis’ 1955 Blue Moods. It is all the right amounts of relaxing and mellow but still brilliant enough to keep the learning juices flowing.
Tycho - Dive
Don’tsayBoardsofCanadadon’tsayBoardsofCanadadon’tsayBoardsofCanadaeveryoneknowsBoardsofCanadaalready. And it’s hard not to. I mean, for good reason. But to encompass that sort of genre, I’m goin’ with Tycho. I also recommend any previous works, but Dive is his last album and perhaps the most realized. There’s that same ambient, downtempo electronic foundation, but while BoC can get pretty freaky, this guy will lull you into perhaps (if you’re a total idiot at time management like me) a pleasant, reassuring, but false sense of serenity.
Sleep - Dopesmoker
I mean, it’s one track that’s an hour long. So that seems perhaps off that bat, right? Not too much room for distraction, but a perfect way to get sucked into a time vortex of doomy stoner metal. Plus, it makes you feel like you’re doing everything eight hundred times more intensely. Why just write an essay about power dynamics and the media when you can do it with THE POWER OF SLEEP and induced ferocity behind your eyeballs?
Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull
I feel like I’m just pulling my personal obvious from the vault, but, I also feel like the kind of music that’s easy to listen to while studying is very specific–ambient, instrumental, etc. etc. So, deal I guess. Earth continues in this finals-playlist-obviousness. Drawn out drone-y riffs easy to get lost in.
To be fair, I have been obsessed with this guy for a while now, but it is great work music. I have really been digging his album Goodnight but all 7 of his albums do the trick. Overall, a great singer-songwriter who mostly sings about heartbreak and sadness, which is the music I love. An added bonus is some electronic artists have remixed a few of his songs into some really awesome tracks. This guy is definitely great as background music while you work.
C2C – Tetra
I just discovered Tetra, which came out in September of 2012. My initial thought of it was a great electronic album, but then realized it was a turntabalist group. They use awesome electronic production but also throw a lot of other styles into the mix. I have always liked Birdy Nam Nam which is the same kind of group, but they are more exclusively electronic. C2C expands on the electronic feel by mixing in different genres, samples, and scratches to makes something awesome. An added bonus to the album is that the song “La Banquet” features Vajra, an old 1190 alumn who used to be the resident DJ for Basementalism. Since then he has become one of the best turntableists in the world.
Solar Fields is an old time favorite of mine for studying. I found out about them in high school and still come back to them whenever I really need to concentrate but still need music. They are an ambient electronic group that creates the music of space. Everything they make is low key and ambient-ish, but is combined with a subtle driving beat. It doesn’t make any sense, but their music is the organic sounds of the electronic space. Give them a listen and you’ll understand.
Apricot Rail – Quarrels
The second release from Apricot Rail is full of light and meandering instrumental tracks. It’s a pleasant listen and doesn’t command the attention of the listener.
El Ten Eleven – El Ten Eleven
The creative and steady looping of El Ten Eleven usually gets my brain focused. This is the only album I’ll listen to when I’m working on chemistry homework.
Broken Social Scene - Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights
This collection of short and mostly instrumental tracks challenge the notion of what songs can be and were crafted on-the-spot in the spare time during the Forgiveness Rock Record sessions.
Octaves - Which Way the Wind Blows
You probably feel there is no way for people into hardcore to enjoy listening to music while studying. I hear stuff like “Doesn’t all that angry music make you not want to study?” But there are artists and albums for people who are into the heavier stuff and need to study for those exams. Baltimore, Maryland’s Octaves gives you the best of both worlds. They are able to seamlessly create a fusion of experimental post-hardcore, which is easy for the ears not used to the vast hardcore genre. I would recommend their new release Which Way the Wind Blows out on Bridge Nine Records. They just played at the Moon Room at Summit Music Hall, and they were a sick band to see and hear.
Pelican - The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
If you want to hear post-metal at its finest, you must check out Pelican. They are able to integrate the immersive melodies of post-rock, while giving you a little bit of distorted down-tuning common in metal and hardcore. Get their album The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw for about an hour’s worth of study aid.
Disgrace - Songs of Suffering
When you are studying, you want to take a break. Disgrace’s Songs of Suffering EP will give you 10 minutes to release the stress and anxiety, which is undoubtedly building as you get closer to your exam date. Hopefully, you will then run out to see these guys once your last final is over.