September 29, 2022

Perfect studying music to listen to this semester

With mod 1 classes coming to an end, and mod 2 just beginning, there are many projects and exams on the horizon. This brings many hours of solitude sitting at your workspace listening to “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to” or whatever you choose.  

But what if I told you there’s a grandiose musical universe beyond the classic lofi girl YouTube stream? Mind-blowing and daunting, I know, but hopefully, this list helps you find a new artist or genre to explore while working.

Similar to Lofi, L’indécis, a french duo, brings a fresh jazz and hip-hop fusion that’s perfect for background noise. Their writing has more depth than the average lofi hip-hop radio song, but it has the same downtempo simplicity with a strong backbeat. As all the other suggestions on this list, I particularly enjoy their ability to add relatively complex harmony to simple music, keeping it interesting to listen to but not distracting. 

If you are able to listen to vocals while working without getting distracted, I have a hard and fast recommendation for R&B artist Erykah Badu. Her biggest pull as an artist for me is her use of rich harmony and her songwriting ability. She’s lyrically very creative and smooth. Her average song is roughly 6 minutes and it holds the listener’s interest throughout because of her masterful hook and bridge writing. 

Erykah Badu’s “Mama’s Gun” album cover. Screenshot by Satch Garlock.

I highly recommend Badu’s albums “Mama’s Gun,” and “Baduizm.” There aren’t many (if any) “misses” and it’s brilliant and soulful throughout. 

For a bit of an out-of-bounds recommendation, I recommend soundtracks of your favorite films, shows, or games. They were written to be background so they are inherently good white noise. For me, games have such an expansive library of tunes that are basically just simple songs, because they aren’t entirely used as background noise. The beauty of this category is that it spans many genres. No matter what you like to listen to when working, there’s something for you. 

I usually lean towards atmospheric or jazz. Most of the older games do the atmospheric genre justice with simplistic instrumentation and catchy songwriting. My mind immediately goes to Chrono Trigger’s “Corridors of Time,” or Donkey Kong Country’s “Aquatic Ambience.” These two tunes are pretty minimal but are catchy and easy to listen to while working. 

For jazz, I immediately point to things like the Persona series, or the Katamari series. Tracks like “No More What Ifs” from Persona 5, and “Houston” from Katamari Forever have this relaxed feel that’s perfect for working. Along with this, many groups like “The Consouls” or “insaneintherain music” arrange game songs into elaborate and more complex tunes.

Katamari Forever’s original soundtrack cover. Screenshot by Satch Garlock

To cap off the suggestions, I have to recommend some of my favorite jazz piano literature. Bill Evans is a great place to start for atmospheric music, and deep harmony. His ability to make overplayed and simple jazz standards into masterpieces is incredible, and serves as amazing music to passively take in. His album “Solo Sessions” is a great representation of his solo pieces, but his combo work is second to none as well with albums like “Portrait in Jazz” and “Stan Getz & Bill Evans.”

These are just some places to get you started, but this article is accompanied with a Spotify playlist of these suggestions and some more. 

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