If you are a student or someone who likes to work with music, you are in good company. I love music, I played years of classical piano (though not very well), and I love discovering artists both old and new. I once had much more enthusiasm about visiting live music concerts, but nowadays I rely on friends, music streaming services, and music review websites to lead me to new gems. Either way, I am that kind of person who always has ear buds popped into my ears: On my commute to class, working out, studying, and at home doing chores.
Hence, I started this series, Things That Go Thump in the Night, for the purpose of sharing some music favourites to readers and anyone who should stop by in this jungle that is The Internet. The musicians and tracks that I have listed are specifically ones that I lean on for work purposes, since most of my time these days is devoted to school — and this time often runs into the wee hours of the night. I love playlists, and am sort of a nerdy, secret DJ for building soundtracks to various aspects of my life. This means that I have a playlist for when I am happy, when I feel like #@*!, for running, for less intense exercises, when I want to relax, and so on. I also have a playlist that I play for studying purposes. These tracks are usually mainly instrumental, are not too slow in tempo (so that I do not fall asleep face forward in the library), and are of various genres to keep things interesting.
I sometimes get requests from friends for music recommendations for studying purposes. I always end up making these friends a burned CD with various selections from this study music playlist, which leads me to designing the CD cover and case, old school style. So I thought, why not make a few blog posts about this playlist? And here we are, at part four of this music series.
So far, I have covered three lists of favourite music for productivity. Part one covered the electronic genre, part two for alternative music, and jazz for part three. Part four of this segment is an array of different genres and musicians which I did not include in any of the earlier posts for various reasons, mainly because I wanted to minimize the length of each blog post. Hence, here I am covering some other great music resources: Sigur Rós, Phoenix, The Herbaliser, Fantastic Plastic Machine, and Keith Jarrett.
Við Spilum Endalaust is from 2008’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. What is with all this foreign script, you ask? If you are not familiar with Sigur Rós, the Icelandic band’s lead singer, Jónsi, sings in a non-literal language called Vonlenska that focuses on the sound of language. The result: ethereal, almost majestic tunes that range from the subdued to joyful. The video of Sigur Rós performing Við Spilum Endalaust was filmed in a Paris bistro for La Blogothèque, and is one of my favourite videos of the band’s live performances. Check out their 1999 album, Ágætis Byrjun, which I consider their best album, as well as the experimental film for Fjögur píanó (NSFW) starring actor Shia LaBoeuf.
There is a reason why Phoenix gets so much love from this blog — the award-winning group churns out great tracks. Heatwave is from Phoenix’s 1999’s Heatwave single, which was one of Phoenix’s first products before their 2000 debut album, United. Do you also find that the song is as fresh today as it was back in the late 90’s? I cannot get over how good this track is — it is fun, light, addictive, and with a deep bass, a precursor for the catchy tunes Phoenix pumps out today. The French band also has the habit of adding an instrumental track or two to each of their albums, so you can find more Phoenix gems for productivity purposes. Some other great tracks include Embuscade and Definitive Breaks (great saxophones, by the way) from United; It’s Never Been Like That has North; Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has Love Like Sunset; and it is also worth tracking down Twenty One One Zero from their LOVE Cartier 2008 pre-issue. Phoenix also released their first video from their new album, Bankrupt!, called Entertainment recently, which is definitely worth checking out. Watch the video for Entertainment here.
The Herbaliser’s work dates back to 1995 when they issued the album Remedies, mixing hip hop and electronica together to be one of the forerunners of the trip hop movement. The Next Spot is from 2008’s Same as It Never Was, and is a great track many years since the group’s inception. The song is entirely instrumental with groovy beats, horns, turntables, and jazz influences. The London-based band is still kicking around, having released their latest album last year called There Were Seven though not with their usual record label, Ninja Tune. With a huge catalogue of funky tunes over a span of seventeen years, The Herbaliser has a large stack of music meant for discovery.
FANTASTIC PLASTIC MACHINE
Kyoto-born Tomoyuki Tanaka is Fantastic Plastic Machine, a trippy musical outfit that is considered part of the Shibuya-kei movement. Shibuya-kei is a Japanese pop style influenced by French pop, bossa nova, and lounge music and, if you listen to the track The Girl Next Green Door above, quite trippy. The Girl Next Green Door is from 1999’s Luxury, an album so lush and infused with club beats. Fantastic Plastic Machine seems to be still active today, but I would say Tanaka’s greatest works are his first two albums, Fantastic Plastic Machine (1998) and Luxury (1999).
If you have not heard of Keith Jarrett, there is a good chance you have heard his music though may have not recognized the artist. Jarrett is a prominent jazz and classical music composer and pianist whose work is sprawling; he issued his first album, Life Between the Exit Signs, in 1967 and since then the prolific musician has issued almost one hundred main albums spanning solo piano works to trios and quartets. Stella by Starlight, from his 1985 album Standards Live, was recorded with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette showcasing his instrumental, improvisation style with a strong piano lead. If you are in the mood for laidback tunes that will keep you sharp and focused, Jarrett’s albums are worth discovering and I specifically recommend his standards jazz works such as Standards, Vol. 1 and Standards, Vol. 2, also with the same trio team from Standards Live.