Music Notes is a Pi Arts & Culture column, curated by resident writers Livvie Hall and Martha Wright, focusing on a variety of subjects covering the past, present and future of music. In this article, Livvie gives her top ten albums for studying. Soundtrack the struggle!
Music makes studying that little bit more bearable. I’m always searching for new artists to keep me company in the library, and for those songs that are both comforting and motivating, but not distracting. Looking ahead to coursework deadlines and the looming exam period, I’ve put together a list of my current top 10 album recommendations, ideal for a productive study sesh. There’s a mix of genres and styles here, so hopefully you should find something you like…It’s time to shake things up from the monotonous YouTube ‘lo-fi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to’!
Beat Tape 2 – Tom Misch
From South-East London, and cool as heck, Tom Misch has been one of my favourite artists for a long time. This album has a smooth, groovy sound that’s ideal for studying to. Through looping soft vocals, funky riffs and lightly-moving bass lines he masterfully crafts an aura of ‘chill’.
Declaration of Dependence – Kings of Convenience
This album is so comforting to me. Norwegian duo, Kings of Convenience, produce a soft, mellow sound with delicately harmonised vocals and a simple acoustic guitar backing. Listening to this instantly transports me to the lazy beach sunset setting on the album cover. I’d recommend this one to calm down a stressed study sesh (and let’s be real, what study sesh isn’t stressful).
Late Night Tales: Bonobo – Bonobo
This compilation by Bonobo is part of the Late Night Tales series. Bonobo masters the art of curation here, crafting an album that journeys through several artists and genres, from classical to electronic to funk and jazz, coalescing in an immersive musical narrative. The album creates a contemplative environment perfect for studying. I’ll warn you now about Benedict Cumberbatch’s monologue at the end of the album, it’s slightly unsettling!
Dummy – Portishead
(Brizzle represent!) Portishead produces a distinct, eerie ‘trip-hop’ sound, with heavy bass lines, electronic instrumentation and slow bluesy vocals. Their music is effortlessly cool. This 90s album has a great atmosphere for focused, steady studying. If you’ve never listened to Portishead, I’d recommend starting here.
Baduizm – Erykah Badu
I’ve sung the praises of Erykah Badu in this column before. This album has a smooth R&B sound perfect to set the mood for late-night library grooves. If you’ve already exhausted Badu’s repertoire then I’d recommend checking out Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite for more funky R&B tunes.
Running Music – Teitur
When deadlines are coming and studying feels like you’re ‘running’ at a brick wall, listen to this energising album for serious productivity. Notice that Teitur has named each of the tracks after sports stars… my favourite is Serena Williams (of course).
These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere – dné
This short, alternative instrumental album is simply immersive (see my favourite track: ‘Asos Model Crush’). I’d describe its sound as piano-electronic lo-fi chill – if there is such a thing. I’d recommend this as a good accompaniment to essay-writing, as it has momentum but isn’t distracting.
Amelie from Montmartre soundtrack – Yann Tiersen
Time to go back to basics: the Amelie soundtrack is a student staple. Yann Tiersen has composed a playful instrumental narrative here that will add a bit of ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your studies. I always reach for this record during exam time, when the summer break is near and I’m desperate to escape to somewhere sunnier (like the south of France).
French Kiwi Juice – FKJ
If you like those Tom Misch ‘grooves’ then I’d recommend checking this album out too. FKJ produces a funky, electronic sound, nicely balancing between chilled and upbeat paces to “focus the mind and centre the soul”.
La Boulangerie vol.3 – La Fine Equipe (and Friends)
Slightly sporadic and pacey, but in a good way, this is an interesting collection of electronic and hip hop-influenced tracks. La Fine Equipe has collaborated with several artists to make a third volume of this bakery-inspired album, and it’s a long one! With 28 songs, this album can keep you company during the all-nighters. Listen out for my favourite track ‘Jazz et thé vert’.