Blast From the Past: Last Year’s Commentator Study Playlist

Final Blues 2k11: Sweet Tunes for Exam Season

By Chicago-Kent Commentator Staff & Contributors

Becky Clough: Seu Jorge – “Space Oddity”
Don’t know Portuguese? Who cares! Turn on the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic and bathe in slow, sweet, Portuguese David Bowie covers. If they don’t make you get misty all over your notes, the songs will calm that crazed caffeine buzz that makes you believe you will fail not only your finals, but life. Sit back, take a deep breath and YouTube Seu Jorge.

Daniel Massoglia: Erik Satie – “First Gymnopédie”
There has come a time during many a night spent studying that I begin to think, “I can’t do this anymore. If I do this anymore, I will die. I hate law school.” But after facebooking, tweeting, chain smoking and/or mainlining coffee, facebooking again, and playing angry birds, the assignment always remains, squinting back, taunting like those sneaky little helmet birds that refuse to evaporate despite getting two black eyes. It is at times like these that I turn to Satie. Saying that “First Gymnopédie” is peaceful music is an almost-criminal understatement. There have been times when a mere 60 seconds of this piece has convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt (law school humor lol) that Satie is God. His music is brilliant and smooth, deep and relaxing; it is the perfect remedy for law school stress.

Phillip Skaggs: Pinback – Penelope
I have spent many lonely weekends hunched over a keyboard or casebook as I rapidly bounce my leg, tap my feet, and drum my desk to the hypnotic beats and melodies of Pinback.  To the uninitiated, I strongly recommend starting with Penelope, Good to Sea, or Concrete Seconds for a delicious blend of catchy, relaxing, and blood-pumping tunes and lyrics.  I think the two most important characteristics to look for in study music are vocals that won’t distract you from the text you undoubtedly have before you, and enough variety to prevent you from getting bored, tired, or frustrated (e.g. F-you Smashing Pumpkins!).  On both of these points, Pinback more than delivers.

Patrick Abbott: Ratatat – “Tacobel Canon”
You know that scene in “Children of Men” or “Demolition Man” or just about any other dystopian future where they play music that is supposed to be cool but is obviously just some hyperbolic extrapolation of current musical trends?  And it sounds terrible enough that no one should ever listen to it?  Maybe you can sit on my porch, have some butterscotch hard-candies and call me grandpa, but that is what dubstep sounds like to me.  Ratatat is my preferred all-night audio Adderall: four albums of smart and powerful sans-vocals electronica driving enough to power you through any paper but complex enough to discover new things with every listen.  It is coffee and beer for your ears fueling a study party between them.  “Tacobel Canon” isn’t even my favorite Ratatat song, but its title exemplifies the band’s irreverent respect for the classics: dirty synths and wailing guitars delicately composed over a rock solid beat.  If you are looking for something that will neither distract your brain cells from the task at hand nor destroy them like a bag of pills from a guy named TrAnTz 3000, make Ratatat your study buddy.

Michael Wood: Buena Vista Social Club – “De Camino a La Vereda”
I turn to Buena Vista Social Club when I need to keep going.  The music is upbeat, while calming, and helps me ride out the jitters that remain long after the coffee stops working.  It reminds me this is all a means to an end and to try to relax and enjoy it in the meantime.

Other Favorites:
Unwed Sailor – “Jubilee” – peaceful, whisper quiet post-rock
Penguin Café Orchestra – “Air A Danser” – airy, upbeat, (mostly) instrumental
Elliott Smith – “Speed Trials” – appropriately macabre, hauntingly serene
Patti Smith – “Free Money” – smart, powerful, wickedly propulsive punk rock
Archers of Loaf – “Wrong” – ass-kicking, get-it-done early 90s guitar rock
Sufjan Stevens – “Demetrius” – hypnotic, distorted folk from the master
The Beatles – “Good Day Sunshine” – we’ve all deluded ourselves, right?
Le Butcherettes – “I’m Queen” – punchy, catchy riot grrrl; channel into “A”s
Steve Reich – “You Are Wherever Your Thoughts Are” – minor-key minimalist odyssey
Everything by The Strokes, Pretty Lights, or John Coltrane. Ever. Happy listening!