JD Compilation: Great Albums to Study To
Although I often prefer to work in silence, background music is sometimes the only thing that can lift me out of the inevitable “exam-gutter” feeling that hits after too many days in the library. Study music has to strike a fine balance – it can’t be too distracting, or too mellow. Not too pop-y, but with enough momentum to keep me going. I can be particular about my musical listening choices (especially when I’m under stress), but I’ve managed to assemble a diverse collection of go-to albums that I know I can rely on to help me get through these dark days at the end of the semester.
Aidan Knight — Small Reveal (2012)
Small Reveal is one of my favourite albums for a number of reasons: fascinating orchestration, infectious melody lines, and well-crafted songwriting – to name only a few. What makes it great for studying, however, is the acute attention Knight has paid to making the album’s songs flow seamlessly into one another. By the time it’s over, you won’t even have realized that the better part of an hour has passed (and at least two of the tracks will be stuck in your head).
TESTER TRACK: “A Mirror”
Rhye — Woman (2013)
California duo Rhye released Woman in 2013 and ever since it’s been a staple in my collection of chill albums. Mike Milosh’s ghostly vocals float over soft R&B keys and synth instrumentation, and are often accompanied by funk-inspired bass lines and light drum beats. It reminds me how Jamiroquai would sound if they wrote an album while waking up from a nap. It’s an easy, fluid, and melodic album to have on in any context.
TESTER TRACK: “Open”
Sea Oleena — Shallow (2014)
Shallow is the first label-released LP by Montreal musician Charlotte Loseth (aka Sea Oleena), and it’s a heavy hitter of dreamy, piano-heavy soundscapes. Listening to each track is like slipping into a bath of textured, ambient orchestration. Loseth’s echoing, whispery vocals tie the album’s nine tracks together beautifully and will leave you feeling nostalgic and at ease.
TESTER TRACK: “If I’m”
Kurt Vile — Waking on a Pretty Daze (2013)
This album got me through the winter of 2013. There is something endlessly comforting about well-written Americana folk music. Vile’s lush, semi-psychedelic blues songs will warm any room they’re playing in. His vocals are catchy, but understated, and will keep you interested without being distracting. If you like Wilco, you will love this album.
TESTER TRACK: “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
Arcade Fire — Her OST (2014)
For those who haven’t yet seen Spike Jonez’s Her, it’s one of the most moving and melancholic films of 2014. Its themes of love and technology are especially resonant for our constantly plugged-in generation, and Arcade Fire accompanies those themes perfectly in the original soundtrack they wrote for the picture. The album is entirely instrumental, with subtle and haunting songs. It’s an appropriately cinematic, expansive listen.
TESTER TRACK: “Loneliness #3 (Night Talking)”
Yo La Tengo — I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One (1997)
90s cult powerhouse Yo La Tengo has been releasing indie rock albums since before I was born. I heard I Can Hear The Heart for the first time nearly 10 years after it was originally released and, both then as now, it remains an album that never tires me. YLT’s use of distorted guitars and vocals makes it a grungier listen than the other albums on this list, but dreamier tracks like “Damage,” “Green Arrow,” and “The Lie and How We Told It” round out its rough edges for a smooth and infectious listen.
TESTER TRACK: “Autumn Sweater”
Charlotte McGee (1L) is a contributor to Juris Diction