When working from home, it can be hard to focus, whether you’re distracted by the sound of raucous children or the silence of your lonesome apartment. Research has shown that music relieves stress and stimulates the brain, and since we’ve all been working from home ourselves, we’ve put together a playlist for when you need to get your synapses firing.
Khruangbin, Cómo Me Quieres
Though Khruangbin hails from Texas, the band’s sound is a globe-trotting blend of psychedelia, surf rock, Thai funk, and a bunch of other genres. Cómo Me Quieres, the opening track off of 2018’s Con Todo El Mundo, is a gorgeous intro to their sound, with a hypnotic rhythm section and slithering guitar.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — In Motion
Ambition and forward momentum were defining elements of David Fincher’s movie The Social Network, and this track captures them perfectly. It’s built around a steady, thumping beat and an eerie melody that hints at a wildly changing future.
Erik Satie — Gymnopedie No 1
Is there any song better-suited to gentle contemplation than Satie’s Gymnopedie No.1? The beautiful yet dissonant melodies walk at a gentle pace. If you live somewhere rainy, Satie’s masterpiece is the perfect accompaniment to the pitter-patter on your windows.
Idealism — Ikigai
Idealism is a regular fixture on lo-fi hip-hop playlists, and it’s easy to see why. A chill melody, leisurely beat, and ASMR-inducing background crackle make this song the Platonic ideal of the subgenre.
Vivaldi — La Follia
Sorry, Bach fns, but when you need a Baroque composer to get the creative juices flowing, nothing beats the emotive splendor of Vivaldi, and his take on the ancient composition La Follia is a dazzling musical journey that ends with an intense climax.
Flying Lotus — Do the Astral Plane
Take the stripped-down aesthetics of lo-fi hip-hop, imbue them with the chaotic energy of a dying star, and you’ve got the sound of Flying Lotus. Do the Astral Plane’s groovy rhythms and layered instrumentation are perfect for when your workday needs to shift into a higher gear.
The Comet is Coming — Unity
Before you get in touch with your co-workers on Zoom, get in touch with the universe with this mellow jam from psychedelic-jazz band The Comet is Coming.
Kurt Vile — Goldtone
Modern guitar hero Kurt Vile has a reputation for being laid-back, but that doesn’t mean he can’t shred. Goldtone strikes a nice balance between breezy jam and epic rock extravaganza, with shimmering slide guitar, ’60s style organ, and some well-timed, crunchy riffs.
Stan Getz and João Gilberto — Corvocado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)
This collaboration between Stan Getz and bossa nova icon João Gilberto is the musical equivalent of a cool breeze blowing across your skin on a hot, sweaty night: Utterly refreshing.
Jamie xx — Sleep Sound
One of the masters of British electronica (and one-third of indie band The xx), Jamie xx shows off his gorgeous production skills on this dense track, which opens with a bright harp arpeggio leading into mellow, but still danceable, rhythms.
Bach — Goldberg Variations: Aria
We’ll rescind our Bach slander from earlier — he’s pretty good too. This selection from the Goldberg Variations is expressive and just a teensy bit flashy, but without veering into extravagance. While piano versions abound, the harpsichord is the first and best instrument for it.
Nujabes — Reflection Eternal
Japanese producer Nujabes was one of the founding fathers of lo-fi hip hop, and Reflection Eternal is a shining example of his style, a simple, melancholy melody bolstered by a precise drumbeat.
The xx — Intro
The opening track from the xx’s debut album is a beautiful instrumental track, with expansive, reverb-heavy guitars and mesmerizing bass and drums.
Ricardo Richaid — O Velho Cai
One of the most spectacular songs of 2020 so far, O Velho Cai is a sonic odyssey, evolving from a gentle guitar intro to a cosmic fusion of brass, synths, and more.
Clams Casino — All I Need
Eerie yet alluring, Clams Casino’s production style has made him one of the most exciting producer’s in modern rap, and All I Need is all you need to listen to understand the appeal. It’s got a haunting atmosphere and a beat that evokes a dark cloud rolling across the sky.
Friday Night Plans — Plastic Love
You may have seen Plastic Love pop up in your YouTube recommendations, and if you haven’t ventured to click on it, you’ve been missing out. While the original doesn’t seem to be on Spotify, this cover offers the same bouncy, funky pop thrills.
Debussy — Clair de Lune
Probably one of the most iconic piano works of the 20th century, Clair de Lune manages to both smooth and stimulate, building to a stunning climax.
Baden Powell — Canto de Ossanha
A classic track by a guitar legend, Baden Powell’s Canto de Ossanha starts off with a steady groove and slowly layers intricate melodies on top of it.
Thelonius Monk — ‘Round Midnight
Somber and meditative, yet with plenty of stylistic flourishes, ‘Round Midnight conveys the circuitous routes your brain can take when you’ve got plenty of time to yourself.
Burial — Archangel
Archangel with a short, frantic beat to jolt the senses, followed by a plaintive vocal sample that repeats like a mantra. Although it’s a simple move, the way the pitch shifts on the word “you” is staggering.
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