The 15 Albums That Will Make You Less Shit at Doing Work
STOP PROCRASTINATING (as soon as you've finished reading this article about records that help you work better)
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.
At times, concentrating can feel like the most daunting, insurmountable job in the world. The clock keeps ticking, your brain keeps going, yet nothing, not even a small slither of focus, is willing to drop out. On this topic you can trust us, for this is the fifth attempt at this introduction.
It can be difficult to focus on work. One minute you’re accelerating through it faster than a Japanese bullet train. Suddenly, you’ve lost all focus. The lightbulb hasn't just gone out, it's shattered all over the carpet. You pace your flat and inexplicably complete menial tasks to waste away the time; you eat everything in your fridge until there’s nothing left; you have a shower; you clean your desktop; check Twitter; check Twitter; anything but the task in hand. Hey, maybe you’re only even reading this piece because you’ve got work to do and you're flirting with the notion of a fifth break in an hour (it's cool, we got you).
Good old music can help us concentrate on our work though. It's a scientific fact. I mean, music isn’t sentient, it can’t complete your uni assignment for you or give a talk or prepare some talking points on renewable energies, but it can definitely help kickstart you into being a person who has focus, clarity, and vision. The problem though, is that most artists only have one or two calm, instrumental songs on albums that are otherwise full of loud screamy rackets.
So with that in mind, we, the writers at Noisey UK, have profiled some of our favorite “Get Shit Done and Do Your Work” albums that can piss on your distraction parade and restore some productivity.
FORCE & STYLES - HELTER SKELTER '97
So work. Work, right, is mostly shit. No one actually likes working. Working is the last thing most of us want to do. Even when we’re out of work and are desperate for work we don’t really want to actually be back in work because working is shit and not being at work is great. Even on a rare day off from work I do nothing but sit in my pants thinking about how I’m not at work. Then I start to dread the return to work and all my time at work is consumed by thinking about how I won’t be at work at some point. When I am at work and I am working rather than thinking about not working, I am probably listening to this recording of a hardcore set from 1997 because in 1997 I was seven years old and was a whole decade away from my arrival in the world of work and it is good to remind yourself that there is more to life than work. People might like their ambient for work times, but I'd argue that this shit drowns the whole world out. Josh Baines
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA 25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL ORCHESTRA CD
Classical music may not be the roaring sound of youth rebellion, but it’s bloody fantastic at making your brain work good. Dubbed by academics as “The Mozart Effect,” research suggests that after listening to it for ten minutes subjects show “significantly better spatial reasoning skills.” For us norms, that means it temporarily make your brain done good thing, such as #blogging. Baroque, ambient music, and film scores are also said do have the similar effects for similar reasons, but for maximum focus try video game soundtracks. Think about it, they are literally designed to be background music while you concentrate on the task in hand. I’ve gone for the orchestral rework of all the greatest melodies from The Legend of Zelda, because it has more momentum than a drunk, naked man trying to sprint up a hill of wet mud, plus it makes me feel like an adventurer, battling wildly through the mystical world of internet journalism. Emma Garland
WILLIAM BASINSKI - THE DISINTEGRATION LOOPS I
Your mind is a very dirty window, Basinski is the cleaner, and The Disintegration Loops is the foaming squeegee of enlightenment. These are 63 minutes of melancholic beauty made from the actual sound of music falling apart (Basinski conceived the idea of the record after witnessing some old tape recordings crumbling away as he digitised them). Joe Zadeh
GROUPER - THE MAN WHO DIED IN HIS BOAT
The Man Who Died In His Boat—the eighth album from ethereal mistress Liz Harris under Grouper (which isn't technically an album so much as it's a collection of unreleased material left over from 2008s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill)—can get creepy at times. It’s ambient, but there are foreboding moments that sound like a mass-murdering stalker is about to materialize from the wall of reverberated sound that floods the record. That’s OK though. Sometimes you need to be on edge when you’re working hard. Ryan Bassil
THE AMERICAN PIE SOUNDTRACKS
If you’re in your twenties and in need of motivation there is really only one place you need to look: back to the years 1999 and 2001, to the films that defined your coming of age years: American Pie’s 1 and 2. In case you’ve repressed it entirely, the American Pie franchise took the “graduation film” genre and updated it for a generation whose tentpoles of pop culture were: guitar music, cargo shorts, and internet porn. These soundtracks comprise 28 tracks of the best worst music you ever fingered or been fingered to at a sixth form party, including but not limited to: Blink-182, Sum 41, Sugar Ray, Goldfinger, Fenix TX, Green Day, American Hi-Fi, and Alien Ant Farm. As the popularity of BuzzFeed suggests, nothing will rouse your enthusiasm for a hard day’s work more than nostalgia. So if it’s 2 PM and you’re still three coffees short of ambition then stick these pop-punk laden treasures on repeat and let nature take its course. They also have the added bonus of reminding you about all the sex you had as a teenager, which is handy if you’re looking for inspiration to get something done fast but not very well. LOL. Emma Garland
KIASMOS - KIASMOS
I’ve become weirdly obsessed with this Icelandic dance duo, and I’m still not sure why. I think it’s because so much electronic music is made to sound industrial or automated, and yet this weirdly sounds like the landscape they come from—mountainous and remote and beautiful. Whatever it is, this album has raced up my iTunes most played with a speed not seen since the heady days of me buying the second Libertines record. Sam Wolfson
VSQ PERFORM THE HITS OF 2014
You know those Facebook adverts about friendship, which are so corny you want to die but then at the end you feel weirdly uplifted, while realizing that you're just an easily manipulated basic bitch but also just full of joy? I think what makes them work is those piano covers of recent pop hits that are strangely uplifting even though they’re quite morose. VSQ take that to the next level with fully scored strings versions of pretty much every song ever. I particularly like their versions of “Take Me To Church” which is actually quite a good song when you take away all the gruff whinging and Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” which is bizarrely better than the original even though that is also played on strings. Friendship, mate. Can’t beat it. Sam Wolfson
EVIAN CHRIST - KINGS AND THEM MIXTAPE
Repetition is the mustard, onions and ketchup on the steaming hot dog of work music; loops that lull your mind into a meditative get-shit-done groove. Evian Christ’s earliest work, Kings and Them, ticked that subtly with eight songs that seep and sweat with recurring motifs, shared samples and generally sound as one—like they were all born at the exact same moment in time, but in eight alternate universes. These days, Christ is better known for hyper aggressive and melodic cross-genre music, doing stuff with Kanye, art installations about fictional trance wars and canine genocide, and an unhealthy obsession with Tiesto, but before he cranked everything up a dial, he was making super-chilled thug ambience that felt like the trillest form of serenity in existence. Even when things kick off on this record, like on “Fuck It None of Y’all Don’t Rap,” it feels ethereal and spiritual, like watching two Buddhist monks have a scrappy pub fight in slow motion under moonlight. And the main highlight, “MYD”, is undisputedly the sound of an aquatic opera doing Greek tragedies with an 808. Plus, it’s free—Evian Christ gave it up for zero dollar. So if you don’t try it, you’re a literal mug. You will actually grow a handle. Joe Zadeh
JUSTIN BIEBER - "U SMILE" (800 PERCENT SLOWER)
At least seventy-five percent of society relishes the opportunity to dig on Justin Bieber for being a smug, rich, young and wildly successful asshole, and yes, this is not actually an album. But whether or not you think “Boyfriend” is the best thing to happen to male-fronted pop music since Justin Timberlake shaved his ramen-noodle head and started smoking pot (side note: it is), I think we can all learn something from slowing his music down till it sounds like a new-age massage parlor’s soothing and calming tape collection. Seriously: “U Smile” (800 percent Slower) is one of the most fire relaxation soundtracks going. It’s unintentionally symphonious; it sounds like a whale song that’s been accidentally repurposed by a young man with a waxed chest—which makes it a surprisingly beautiful work accompaniment. Ryan Bassil
GONZALES - SOLO PIANO & SOLO PIANO II
This is, simply, just loads of really nice tunes played by Chilly on the piano. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet each melody has that warm familiarity. The sort of tunes that, even on hearing them for the first time, you feel like you’ve known your whole life. Plus, if you end up pulling a night shift, these two records will have no problem serenading you off to sleep once you’ve given up and decided you don’t care whether Russia’s ecology had an impact on the outcome of WWII anyway. Angus Harrison
NICOLAS JAAR - THE ESSENTIAL MIX
Yes OK, not exactly an album either, but the journey it takes you on is startling, from the songwriting process behind the Twin Peaks theme via Aphex Twin, Keith Jarrett, *NSync to a bunch of unreleased Jarr tracks not heard before or since. I used to listen to this a lot when I was studying for my finals, and one afternoon in the library it all got a bit much and instead of listening to it at low volume, I put it on loud in my headphones and just started walking, really fast, in a direction I’d never been, to the edge of the town, and then through this huge graveyard and then past the motorway and back round in a huge loop. When I arrived back at my room, I lay down on the floor, closed my eyes and I swear to god I sort of hallucinated for 30 seconds. It was a weird out of body experience that I’ll never forget—but basically tl;dr I graduated with honors so this shit works. Sam Wolfson
BONOBO - LATE NIGHT TALES
Probably going to come across all “boring-guy-who-owns-loads-of-Caribou-on-vinyl-and-drinks-Brooklyn-lager-in-oppressively-boring-pubs,” but at some point or another, haven’t we all been that guy? Anyway, Bonobo’s entry into the Late Night Tales series is a lovely mix to accompany a working session. There are springs and bounces, lulls and drones, some Nina Simone, and a killer Amerie cover at the end. Just remember to press pause before the Benedict Cumberbatch reading of a short story kicks in at the end. Or not. I suppose it depends whether or not you’re a Cumberbitch! Oh great, I’ve included the word "Cumberbitch" in an article. Now I have to find a new career. Bye. Angus Harrison
C418 - ONE
On the face of it, C418 is just another faceless Bandcamp producer trying to make a buck on this god forsaken internet of things. But the truth is, thanks to being the brain behind all the music of globe trotting indie game Minecraft, C418’s songs are actually being heard by around 100 million people, according to the game’s registered users. That's a lot. I mean, this guy gets actual weirdo fan mail, by the bag full. Which kinda makes him the Disclosure of heart-warming minimalism; the Calvin Harris of calm; the Marcus Mumford of minimal; the Fetty Wap of focus. This album, One, is a gleeful and unobtrusive collection of short melodic instrumentals that skip around daintily like cute little bashful kittens, but with a dark self-deprecating humour lurking beneath, evident in songs like “Post Success Depression,” “This Doesn’t Work,” and “Lawyer Cage Fight.” The most perfect thing is, this was engineered to counteract the loneliness of actually playing Minecraft or, for adult humans, doing your work. Joe Zadeh
DAVE DK - VAL MAIRA
You’ve got to be careful with electronic, or in anyway dance-floor-inclined, records. Tip too far in one direction and you’ll find your foot tapping grows into an interminable fist pump, that ends up flinging all your carefully organised notes across the room. Before long you’ll have yelled “TAPS AFF!” And your folder dividers will have been swept from your desk by your sweaty, now removed, T-shirt. Dave DK’s record Val Maira, that came out this year, doesn’t tip too far in that direction. It instead, rattles along with a reassuring mixtures of soft beats and ambience. No taps aff. Taps an. Angus Harrison
BRIAN ENO - AMBIENT 1
I hear you, I hear you: it’s an obvious choice. But so what? Brian Eno’s Ambient 1 is a landmark album for the ambient genre in that A) it’s widely considered to be the first ever ambient record and B) it’s not just mine but a lot of other people’s favorites. Look to any list of essential ambient albums and you’ll see old Brian’s name hovering near the top. For good reason too. The record’s liner notes state that it’s intended to induce “feelings of calm” and help fend off anxiety, meaning it’s perfect for putting on when work deadlines feel like icebergs that threaten to capsize the Titanic-sized experience of being a human. Ryan Bassil