After a long day of fighting with other students on campus for parking spaces, the occasional rain shower and lines at the financial aid office, students will need something relaxing to listen to as they work on their calculus homework. It’s easy to get caught up with watching a favorite television show or talking on the telephone, but homework isn’t so dreadful when accompanied by the right tunes that help to concentrate. The Oracle’s music staff has chosen their favorite albums for the tough times when they are running on empty and need some music to help lift their spirits and their grades. Listening to these discs won’t turn anyone into Einstein, but the albums selected are good study companions and are definitely worth checking out.
Five albums worthy of study
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Anything with Karl Denson’s name on it is great to study to, but this is a personal favorite. The flow of Denson’s soul music is virtually electric, and this album reflects modern jazz at its very best. The artist’s music is full of energy. It is powerful enough to keep a person awake when pulling an all-nighter for a major exam, but it is also mellow enough to enjoy while studying or sipping wine. This is an album to play without skipping tracks, because who has time when the exam is early tomorrow morning?
— Whitney Meers
Pete infuses jazzy beats with hip-hop texture only the soul brother can manufacture to create an album experience worthy of candles and incense but suitable enough for late night cramming and five-page English papers. With tracks like “Play Dis Only at Night” and “Pete’s Jazz” anyone will be satisfied. The vibe this disc creates will help with any midnight study session and evoke much brain activity.
— Rorik Williams
Unplugged in New York
Kurt Cobain and the boys of Nirvana toned down their grunge music for this live acoustic performance. Nirvana’s Unplugged encompasses most of their radio singles, including “Come As You Are” and “All Apologies.” The band also plays six cover songs. The idea of grunge-gone-mellow sounds like it would never work, but Nirvana pulls it off and keeps their original intensity in every note. The result, a great upbeat study album.
— Andrea Papadopoulos
For writing that crucial paper in the last possible minute, there is nothing quite like the Pixies. Doolittle’s frantic pace, punchy bass lines and unpredictable change-ups keep listeners on their toes. The Pixies managed to create a catchy record that oozes intensity, passion and creativity. And, the album has proven to be a masterpiece of American indie-rock that has stood the test of time.
— Jared Hague
This self-titled album is a great addition to flipping through a Biology textbook, but can also be used as a backdrop for a romantic evening. Sweetback, which makes up three-quarters of the band Sade, reaches far into the depths of musical relaxation with this melodic groove stew. And, to add to the pot, Maxwell, Amel Larrieux and Bahamadia help to further season the album.
— Rorik Williams
A few more favorites
Mastered the Art
Is it jazz or is it hip-hop? It’s a little of both, actually. DJ Greyboy uses influences from jazz, funk, hip-hop and rock to create something amazing. The artist’s focus is clearly the music, which is excellent for jamming while studying or while washing dishes, or any other time a person’s in the mood for a good set of tracks.
Man with a Movie Camera
Cinematic Orchestra blends jazz with elements of hip-hop and electronica to form its distinct sound. The slow, thick bass lines set a relaxed tone that is enhanced by the group’s use of string and horn arrangements. Layers of electronic sounds, playful piano melodies and scratching fill out the songs on Man with a Movie Camera. Lush breakdowns of cello and upright bass fit nicely between the intense rhythms. The result is a mellow but powerful record that is the perfect tonal accompaniment for any reading assignment.
The first album from this Parisian duo is a sensual culmination of R&B, soul and marvelous talent. The album, which is sung completely in French except for the lone track “Sugar Cane,” is like liquid soul to replenish your musical Big Gulp. The album is a great study companion because it simply sounds great — not to mention you may learn a second language in the process.
John Butler Trio
John Butler is an artist who emerged from the depths of Australia to produce the best album that hardly anyone in America knows about. The bluesy guitars and the genius of the lyrics are great to listen to, and the political themes of music can probably lead to an idea for a term paper.
The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The Flaming Lips somehow managed to mix emotional rock music with electric tunes resulting in lovely music, topped with obscure lyrics. The insanity of this record is relaxing and enjoyable. The Lips may be deep, but they’re probably just crazy.
Come Away With Me
Blue Note Records
The debut release from the woman who swept away all of her 2003 Grammy nominations is the perfect soundtrack for study sessions this fall. Come Away With Me includes the calming track, “Don’t Know Why” and the romantically energetic “Turn Me On.” The blend of sweet vocals and the soothing sounds of Jones’ piano create the ambience necessary for late night cramming.
Boards of Canada
Music Has the Right to Children
Boards of Canada’s unorthodox style and revolutionary approach to creating songs, sets them apart in the electronic music community. Music Has the Right to Children is a plethora of sounds and musical textures. Employing complicated layering techniques, Boards of Canada turns random tones, synthesizers and sampled speeches into vast tracks. The songs range from light and airy to eerie and haunting. Each note is carefully crafted to bring about a desired effect. Music has a universal appeal that makes it accessible to fans of any genre. This record goes especially well with art-based study.
You either like him or you don’t, but you have to give him credit where credit is due. Embrya will definitely slow things down and make it easy to concentrate. Maxwell’s vocals will set the mood, but the music is the key. The sounds on this album are natural and smooth and will make any evening romantic and any cram night serene.
Dots and Loops
Stereolab’s Dots and Loops is one of those records that just flows perfectly. The up-tempo drum beats, big synthesizer sounds and cool vibraphone of the first track, “Brakhage,” set Dots up to be a record full of tonal expression and experimental sounds. Just when Dots starts to get a little stale, “Parsec” breathes new life into the album. The song, which was featured in a 1999 Volkswagen Beetle commercial, pulses with an infectious intertwined electronic beat and organ line. Stereolab is great background music for any study group.