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Soundtracking Your Study Sessions: Album Recommendations

During exam and deadline season, there’s nothing like a good album to help you push through the hours spent slaving away behind a laptop screen. However, choosing the soundtrack to a study session can be a daunting task; what is meant to be a productive time can quickly devolve into a mess of trying to focus whilst an infectious chorus is stuck in your head. That’s why I’ve put together a list of five of the best instrumental-based albums to help you power through your assignments.

In a Silent Way – Miles Davis (1969)

Across the many acclaimed albums of Miles Davis’ career, the one that I find myself coming back to most often is his 1969 release In a Silent Way. His first electric album can be seen as the turning point between his more conventional releases of the 1950s and 60s and his more experimental, fusion records of the 70s. Balancing psychedelic rock influences with the more subdued nature of his earlier modal work, In a Silent Way is a masterpiece in atmospheric jazz that is perfect for late night studying.

Music Has the Right to Children – Boards of Canada (1998)

Music Has the Right to Children is a landmark in electronic music. Whilst the 90s were dominated by house and dance music, Scottish duo Boards of Canada went in the complete opposite direction, choosing to make downtempo music on vintage analogue equipment. With its only vocals coming from slowed down samples of Sesame Street characters, the album is childlike yet eerie - mysterious yet inviting, nostalgic yet soothing. This is truly an essential study album and one that rewards repeated listens.

One Wayne G – Mac DeMarco (2023)

Few could have anticipated indie icon Mac DeMarco to release a 199-song album this year, but I’m very glad that he did. Consisting mostly of instrumentals, the album covers a surprisingly eclectic range of genres - from funky lo-fi beats to bleak ambient soundscapes to soundtrack your essay writing, whilst the occasional tracks with vocals can offer some much-needed moments of respite. Though I am normally one who thinks it sacrilegious to listen to an album on shuffle, I think that that is the best way to approach this 8-hour long body of work.

Ambient 1: Music for Airports – Brian Eno (1978)

It’s hard to talk about ambient music without bringing up Brian Eno - the man who arguably invented the genre – and for good reason. Ambient 1 was originally conceived as a concept album to be played in airports and reduce the stress of travel. Though the idea never caught on, the piano and synth-led music is the perfect soundtrack for relaxing study sessions.

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 – Aphex Twin (1992)

Few names in electronic music have as much of a cult following as Aphex Twin, who’s debut ambient-techno album catapulted him into underground stardom after its release in 1992. Beginning work on the album when he was just 14, it was produced using home-made instruments and contains samples from sources as wide-ranging as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Public Image Ltd. These ethereal beats provide the perfect music to pass long hours spent working.

Edited by Lucy Blackmur, Music Editor


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