The one thing standing in your way before all your amazing summer plans and adventures is perhaps the most dreaded week of any semester. Finals week. Now’s the time all those skipped 8 a.m. lectures and weekday nights that lasted a little longer than expected come back to haunt you. There’s no escaping the inevitable, but luckily there are some ways to make that late-night study sesh slightly more bearable.
Cashmere Cat’s “Mirror Maru” is the perfect tune to ride a caffeine binge into the next morning feeling ready to take on the misery of exams. While EDM may not seem like the kind of music you’d want to study to, Magnus August Høiberg takes a different approach in “Mirror Maru” that can be characterized as soft and more relaxed than what you’d expect. The opening warm piano and light drumbeats over some pretty unconventional sound effects will keep you focused without dozing off or getting too distracted by vocals.
Cashmere Cat’s combination of lighthearted pop, hip-hop, and electro will have you dreaming of life after finals, summer concerts, and kickbacks with friends – which is just the motivation you need to power through the upcoming week.
Finals are here which means major studying but also a time to listen to some music to help you focus and get you going. For me, I like to listen to peaceful music because it needs to be more of a background noise. Usually this means movie soundtracks and instrumental music, but there is one song that I can listen to while studying and something I would listen to if I wasn’t. Hazel English’s song “Never Going Home,” is one of my favorite songs right now. I really am into her high pitched almost nasally voice that is echoed. The guitar and synthesizer in the song is mesmerizing to me. I really like the beat because it is an upbeat song, though it still remains a peaceful song. I really like the lyrics of the song as well. She sings “Wasted on this feeling, Helpless to this call, Never going home again, turn the lights out when you’re leaving.” When I listen to the song I imagine her having a great time at a party or something and she doesn’t want to leave. This plays into the upbeat rhythm and sound of the song as well. For this song being as upbeat as it is, it still remains a good studying song because it is not overbearingly loud with vocals and guitar. Hazel English is one of my new favorites, make sure you listen to her!
–Mary Kate Kiley
Although I am a terrible multi-tasker, I am always in dire need of songs during my study sessions. However, the criteria for songs I listen to when I am studying is very strict, in a weird way. They should not be new songs because I will get curious to know how they will progress. It should not be songs that I like because it will inevitably get me grooving and distract me from studying. However, at the same time, terribly bad songs will give me more headache that I already have from studying. Basically, a song that is a little more than mediocre, and that is able to keep my ears’ attention from a hubbub, but not entertain them.
This is possibly the worst explanation of songs that the electronic band Tycho produces, and I wouldn’t mind you disregarding it. But, this is a band that accounts for like 20% of my grades. If there is a drug that helps you focus on your homework, it is Tycho.
My go-to study music has to meet a few criteria: it’s soft, it’s laid back, and it can play quietly in the background without putting me to sleep. The goal is to have soft sounds to block out my surroundings and keep myself in my own thoughts.
Overtime I have developed a list of songs that I listen to for this occasion or just relaxing in solitude after a busy day or week. What I have come to find is that these songs are largely folk genre, whether they are more on the folk pop end or the folk rock end, they largely fall somewhere on that spectrum. So it makes sense that my playlist is named after underground 60s folk musician, Dave van Ronk, whose life and work inspired the Coen Brother’s film “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
So you will find me listening to Van Ronk’s classic “Dink’s Song” or “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” Bob Dylan – especially his duet with Johnny Cash, “Girl from the North Country,” the Lumineer’s album “Cleopatra,” a smattering of Avett Brothers songs, Mumford & Sons, and a variety of other songs that fit the bill as well.
The soft music is very relaxing for me, and is not a distractor. It’s more about the storytelling and less about loudness, bass drops or other things that are important to other genres. These songs get me humming along or tapping my foot to the rhythm, but still allow me to keep my focus at the end of the day.
In my mind the only true study music is Ultimate Care II by Matmos. The album consists of only one track, Ultimate Care II, that has a runtime of 38 minutes.
Oh, and every sound you hear in the track comes from a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II washing machine.
While the concept may sound gimmicky at first, it plays out incredibly well in what was one of the best (and definitely the most experimental) albums of 2016. Even when the washing machine samples are electronically distorted to the point where they just sound like synths or drum beats, you get constant reminders throughout that it’s still a washing machine. Of course, the concept allows for even more creative sounds. My favorite moments on the track are the sounds created when the washing machine is rubbed on its side (or is it the inside?).
So what makes this perfect study music? Not only does this contribute a lot of runtime to a study playlist, but without a doubt this is a track you have to commit to. Again, it’s 38 minutes long with no intermissions. What are you gonna do, pause the track? If you want to listen to this the way it was intended, you’re staying there for the whole ride. So you might as well get busy with that group project you’ve been procrastinating on in the meantime.
For me personally, I’ve started using “Ultimate Care II” as a unit of time for when I have to start the work/study cramming. It’s that intense.
Usually when I study I listen to whatever I have been listening to recently. If anything, I need to play something I don’t like too much, or else I’ll groove silently with myself instead of what I was supposed to do!
Regardless, the first thing that comes to mind is Can. I can (hehe) think of a few of their albums where some parts may not be as conducive to concentration, but most of their songs are slow and steady. Future Days probably deviates the least from jams, starting with the cool title track and the hypnotizing 19-minute build-up of “Bel-Air” wrapping it up.
Much of the record could be considered ambient, but the band leans on the wicked Jaki Liebezeit’s percussion. Their expansive, psychedelic sound drifts far out while Liebezet’s phenomenal rhythms and crashes pull the listener back into tempo. Groovy, mellow and cerebral, Can’s work will fail to disappoint in setting the tone for your study hours.
Advice on what not to do on finals: blow it off. If you spend anytime reading the sign posted outside of Legends, you’ll feel quite inspired to pursue their beer deals or just yanno catch up on assignments thanks to their WiFi. This, and stepping outside or hanging out anywhere besides the UGL(Y) ahem, library, will discourage you from being your best student self. Fear not though, take frequent breaks, remember who your friends are and most importantly what your jams are. Though the temperature and torrential downpours may suggest otherwise, summer is right around the corner. And when it gets here, you won’t want to miss it.
Songs: “Don, Aman” by Slint and “Desire” by Talk Talk
Traditional wisdom says to go with something wordless for study music, so I was gonna go with the easy choice for this study themed blurb and pick some post-rock staple, a song by Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky- theatrical, inspiring instrumental music to really get you psyched about differential equations or whatever.
But traditional wisdom also says to start with the base, the ground from which everything else has sprung- it will make you seem way cooler and knowledgeable about music and stuff. So, if you follow those black emperors and airborne explosions, those tortoises and mogwais back to their roots, then, according to the wise masters of music, you’ll find yourself at one of two places: Slint’s traumatic, razor-sharp Gothic masterwork “Spiderland” or Talk Talk’s bluesy-baroque shimmerscape “Spirit of Eden”. I can’t decide between the two of these, so I didn’t. Suck it, traditional wisdom.
For Slint, I went with the third track, “Don, Aman”. Listen to the sparse guitars, Brian McMahan’s terrifying whisper-singing. For Talk Talk, I went with “Desire”. Listen to those stuttering harmonica squeals way up in the stratosphere, the way the whole thing explodes into the chorus. Listen to these albums more, and you’ll start to see them everywhere- find “Don, Aman”’s driving guitar pattern crop up in the back half of Godspeed You’s “Storm”, find “Desire”’s dynamic range all over Sigur Ros’ “Agaetis Byrjun” and many, many more mainstays of those “brain music” playlists. Study up.
“Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” is basically my mantra during the harrowing hell week that is finals. Its a consistent (and catchy!) reminder that I should take a step back and reassess, stopping myself from going overboard into a spiral of anxiety and existential dread. Finals can be a trying time for some, and a lot of self worth is placed on how well you can take a test. Its not the healthiest, and Ezra Koenig’s blasé attitude about the unimportance of a contentious piece of grammar is a nice reminder that its all relative.
Aside from the lyrical interpretation, Vampire Weekend knows how to make killer study music. Especially on their eponymous album – the African drum beats are rhythmic and easy to stay in a productive study session, and on the whole its a general mood booster. I don’t know of an album that captures the feeling of the college experience much better than “Vampire Weekend”, and like most tracks on the album, there’s a lot of cynicism wrapped in mellow beats. You don’t have to be an English major to not give a fuck about an Oxford comma – its a universal sentiment that we can all get behind. And we all know that Lil Jon, he always tells the truth.
Do you want great study music but don’t want to resort to listening to classical? Khalid is the perfect alternative. His mellow RnB sound won’t distract you from your 10 page paper, but you’ll definitely be humming to every tune. Khalid is fairly new on the scene, so you’ll memorize his first album “American Teen” in no time. From his most well known song “Location” to my personal favorite “Shot Down”, there’s a song for everyone on his album. I used to listen to really energetic and fast-paced music while I studied, but that proved to be very distracting and made me wander on the Internet. Khalid makes me want to become a straight A student.