music

Five (Mostly) Relaxing Albums to Help You Coast Through Your Time at Home

May 13, 2020

Dominic Barr

Remember sports? Me neither. The sadistic, mutated beast otherwise known as 2020 has eaten away at me, scrubbing my brain of memories relating to any form of social event, until all that remains is a hazy blend of boredom and guilty unproductiveness. Thankfully, things seem to be looking up – locally, at least. Internationally, well… 

If the walls of your own home are starting to feel a bit suffocating, or if you’re just feeling a bit bored, music can be the breath of fresh air you might need to traverse this uncertain time. You might want to just stick with what you’re familiar with and find solace in something recognisable.

Whatever makes you feel good. As long as you’re not hurting anybody… whatever, man.” 

– Brad Leone

Or, you can take the time to dive into something new! These five albums span a range of genres and emotional qualities, but they’re all here to comfort you through the most menial and mundane of your days at home.

Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (2019)

While Natalie Mering’s fourth album as Weyes Blood is just as imposing and enveloping as the dystopian dread that the record is soaked in, it feels less like a white flag and more like a theatrical declaration of hope. It is not escapist, either – Mering’s ornate chamber pop ballads stand directly in the face of catastrophe, radiating optimism amongst the trenches of an invisible war. “No one’s ever gonna give you a trophy//For all the pain and the things you’ve been through”, she sings on the fierce ‘Mirror Forever’, a track that later bursts into a symphonic flourish of electric guitar. It’s a sympathetic acknowledgement of the unrewarding nature of life.

But Mering is desperate not to drown in nihilism, and continues to tread water in the hopes that something will come along and give meaning to the bizarre chaos of life. ‘Something To Believe’ and ‘Movies’ are two tracks linked not only by a murky interlude, but also their themes – the longing for life to be simpler, to follow a straightforward narrative with a clear-cut goal. As Mering wades between dreams and rigid reality, her words are blanketed in waves of swelling strings and melancholic guitar licks, coating these modern anxieties with a vintage lustre. (This is also aided by how similar Mering sounds to Karen Carpenter.)

This record will be your lifeboat on those stressful, stormy days – or in Mering’s own words, to give you “a smile during the apocalypse”.

Kali Uchis – Isolation (2018)

I mean, I had to include this, right? It’s right there, on the front of the album – it’s called Isolation, and it is a wonderful little thing to listen to while you have a coffee and think about all the work you’re going to avoid doing today. Uchis’ airy, honeyed voice shines on tracks like ‘Just a Stranger’, ‘Tyrant’ and the reggaeton-flavoured ‘Nuestro Planeta’, all of which are playful, alluring, and bound to get your head moving a little. 

That’s not to say that the record is without its reflective moments – late in the back half of the record, ‘After The Storm’ finds Uchis, Bootsy Collins and a punchy Tyler, The Creator coming together to create a swaggering anthem of self-empowerment. Uchis’ lyrics find strength nestled amongst the soulful production of prolific jazz ensemble BADBADNOTGOOD, reminding the listener that everything will be alright in the end – you’ll find the strength within yourself to get through these hard times.

Across the album’s forty-six-minute runtime, smidges of pop, soul and RnB slide down into a warm and heartening plunge pool of sound, providing a versatile soundtrack to help you glide through your day at home.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

Radiohead’s ninth LP can, at times, feel a bit cold and isolated. While their earlier albums might have taken these emotions to chaotic extremes, A Moon Shaped Pool is content with staying low. 

Thom Yorke’s iconic, haunting voice glides through ‘Daydreaming’, navigating listless piano loops and Jonny Greenwood’s stunning string arrangements with ghostly effortlessness. It’s unassertive, understated – but somehow carries spectacular emotional resonance. ‘Daydreaming’ is both comforting and chilling, a delicate balancing act that stands as a testament to the impeccable synergy of these five bandmates. 

The darkest that this album gets, at least sonically, is the leering ‘Ful Stop’. Kicking off with an unrelenting, frigid bassline and a pulsing beat, Yorke enters the track at a whisper, as the occasional frosty synth embellishment decorates this otherwise shadowy, cavernous track. Eventually, the song starts to open up, as the drumming becomes more excited and Yorke brings his voice to a wail. And in case you were curious – the darkest song on here lyrically is ‘True Love Waits’. It will suck the life out of you and leave you a despondent, melting snowman in a puddle of tears. 

With that said, will this album leave you bounding around the house, grinning ear-to-ear? Absolutely not. But Radiohead knows this – that’s why these songs exist. They’re made to break you down and build you up again, to remind you of your humanity, and to reassure you that you’re never alone, no matter how isolated you feel in this strange, unpredictable time. I have spent this entire portion of the article being ridiculously hyperbolic – but trust me when I say this is one of the greatest rock bands of all time at an ethereal simmer, leaving behind a pile of ash in the wake of an explosive two-decade career.

Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 (2011)

Ravedeath is an ambient journey perfect for those bleak, grey days where you’ve run out of ways to distract yourself and actually have to do some studying. Bleh. While ‘ambient’ can conventionally suggest featherweight, sterile chimes and keys, this is a slightly different breed – it’s got more warmth, more drone, and a faint heaviness that never gets too aggressive. 

Tracks like ‘In The Fog II’ will leave plenty of room for concentrating on your work, as its hypnotic, stuttering piano loops bob their head above a sea of reverb. So will the track ‘No Drums’, which – surprise! – doesn’t contain any drums (I’m pretty sure none of these tracks do), just dusty, drawn out synth drones. One of the most essential ambient albums of the last decade, Ravedeath will sit patiently in the background as you trudge through your work with that familiar amalgam of determination and apathy.

The Postal Service – Give Up (2003)

In the early 2000s, one of indie pop’s most defining records – nay, milestones – was brought into existence by two guys mailing CDs of half-finished songs to each other. Apart from providing them with a name for their group, this method of writing songs gives rise to an authentic, delicately electrifying interplay between timid words and skittering electronics, an exciting combination which is bound to inject a blip of hopefulness into your day.

The album’s defining moments arrive early – ‘Such Great Heights’ is a blissful microcosm of the sounds present on the rest of the record. Ben Gibbard’s earnest, amiable voice flies above a circuit of cute beeps held together with a warm, buzzing synth bass, as he makes a series of ambitious confessions to a lover. Even he admits “it may seem like a stretch”- but he refuses to have his emotions subdued. It’s a sugary-sweet static shock of a pop song.

There are no prizes for guessing what the song ‘Sleeping In’ is about. Its sound palette is fairly analogous to ‘Such Great Heights’, but its assembly is more skeletal and subdued – the beeps and snappy snares feel as if they’re lying there themselves, staring at the ceiling. The lyrics are locked in an idyllic daydream, a pillowy fantasy land where everyone is nice to each other and JFK’s killer was brought to justice. (Slight difference there.) It’s akin to the sickly-sweet sentiment song such as ‘Imagine’ – if John Lennon had the lyrical ability of a seven-year-old who just got his first toy keyboard. Condescending quips aside, it’s a caring reminder that sometimes the outside world can be overwhelming. It’s totally okay if you need to shut out the white noise for a while, slow down, and fully embrace the fact that today you are going to do nothing. Have fun in there.