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Study soundtracks

Must-have albums for your semester playlist

Austin Lindner | Echo

With fall semester on the horizon, it’s becoming more and more clear that the season for beach anthems and breezy radio hits is coming to an end. Yes, Demi Lovato, summer is over and no, you’re no longer “cool for it.”

Along with buying textbooks and printing class schedules, finding solid study music can be a key ingredient for a successful freshman year. A good playlist can make the difference between a productive study session and a head-banging waste of two hours in the library. Here are five albums to start the year off right on the right note.

hozierpicweb“Hozier”– Hozier

From his multiple live TV guest performances on “Saturday Night Live” and “Ellen” to his terrible dance remix, you’ve probably heard Hozier’s song “Take Me to Church” a few million times. But if this is the only song you’ve listened to on his self-titled album, you’re missing out.

After his video for “Take Me to Church” went viral, the Irish singer songwriter released his first full-length studio album “Hozier”in the U.K. in early fall of 2014. He instantly gained attention and critical praise for his soulful voice and mellow rock instrumentation. His folk influences and sharp lyrics have earned him a Grammy nomination and two recent Billboard Music Awards.

This ideal study album features 13 songs, some with soft, vocal layering like “Work Song” and others with a more upbeat, electric feel like “Jackie and Wilson.” The melodies are simple but beautiful, and his voice won’t distract you while you’re typing, because let’s be honest, no one can tell what he’s saying anyway.

bon-iver2web“For Emma, Forever Ago” – Bon Iver

This set of nine songs is another debut album ideal for late nights when you’re contemplating throwing your books out the window. “For Emma, Forever Ago” was originally intended to serve as a series of demo songs to be sent to record labels. However, with the encouragement of friends, Justin Vernon, the singer-songwriter behind Bon Iver, eventually released them in their current state in 2007.

The album serves as an acoustic journey through Vernon’s tales of love and grief. The songs are influenced by folk and Americana, with enough lyrical imagery to make you think you’re wandering the trails of Wisconsin instead of sitting alone in Zondervan. Combining unique vocal choruses with his distinctive falsetto voice in songs like “Blindsided” and “Lump Sum,” Vernon sets a clear tone throughout the album. And because of its stripped-down quality, “For Emma, Forever Ago” has a sense of calm and intimacy that fosters the creativity needed to conquer that last essay.

miles-davis1web“Kind of Blue” – Miles Davis

If you’re looking for some background study music but get distracted by lyrics, the smooth jazz of Miles Davis could be an ideal solution. Considered one of the greatest albums of all time by fans and music critics alike, “Kind of Blue”was an influential work for the jazz genre.

In this album, expert trumpeter Miles Davis leaves standard chord progressions in the dust for modal scales and improvisation. The songs vary in range from slow and soulful standards to more upbeat compositions, reflecting both the moments of utter hopelessness and determined elation in a typical study session. Beginning with the critically acclaimed “So What,” the entire album reflects a freedom of thought and expression that serves as a productive force of energy whether it’s in the foreground or background.

And if the elaborate trumpet riffs scattered throughout the album don’t get your pencil moving, nothing will.

john-mayer2web“Continuum” – John Mayer

Push everything you know about John Mayer’s personal life to the back of your mind, from his doomed relationship with Taylor Swift to his random and unfortunate stint as a stand-up comedian. No matter what pop star he’s dating and dumping, the man is still a talented musician.

Winner of the 2007 Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammy Awards, “Continuum”blends pop, rock and R&B influences into one polished product.  The album is characterized by smart writing, memorable melodies and Mayer’s signature breathy vocals.

Centered on heartache and damaged love, the album features many of Mayer’s most notable songs, from the peppy and upbeat “Waiting on the World to Change” to the soulful and painfully honest “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.”

And because most of the songs are basically just jam sessions between Mayer and his band, this album won’t distract you from finishing that final page.

civilwarspicweb“The Civil Wars” – The Civil Wars

The only thing more tragic than this beautifully written album is The Civil Wars’ breakup shortly after its 2013 release. Former Christian contemporary singer Joy Williams and talented songwriter and Johnny Depp look-alike John Paul White united for the final time to produce these 12 heartfelt songs.

The Civil Warsblend acoustic folk with electric influences in this self-titled album, driven by personal lyrics of love and sorrow. In songs like “The One That Got Away” the duo shows its intensity and rage through a harder rock influence, while ballads like “Same Old Same Old” express the subtlety and intimacy of the album.

Regardless of the instrumental accompaniment, you’re sure to find the peace of mind to stop stress-eating DC trail mix within Williams’ and White’s delicate harmonies.


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