Soundtrack To Assembly. 9 Albums To Get Your Work Done
Certain music has been proven, in a variety of studies now, to greatly improve productivity. Some people have some misplaced pride when they work, as if they don’t want to have to rely on something to get work done. You aren’t doping at the Olympics. No one cares about your process as long as you get the work done well and on time. If music plays a role in that, great. The better you know your habits the better your work will be. Some folks are able to listen to music with words in it while working. More power to them, but for many, something instrumental is best. That may sound boring on the surface, but instrumental music is way more varied and dynamic than most know. These 9 albums run the instrumental gambit and are ideal to keep your mind moving, and your fingers typing.
These are your classic lo-fi studying jams, and by jams we mean 10-minute songs that you could play in the library at full volume. These albums are as chill as they come without making you pass out. Instead of sleep, this music will bring you to a place of calm focus, perfect for more complex creative work (or if you’re just stressed out).
First off, if you’ve never heard of this dude before, don’t worry; many within the actual industry doubt his existence too. Depending on who you ask or what forum you visit, Clutchy Hopkins is either a busking beach hobo living somewhere on the California coast only emerging to do an occasional collaboration with MF DOOM, or rather it’s a pseudonym for a separate popular artist (some say MF doom himself).
Either way, this 2006 album by him compliments working better than cheese compliments crackers (maybe not better but just as good). The album itself is a contemporary mesh of funk, hip-hop, jazz, and straight-up weird orchestral psychedelia. The Life of Clutchy Hopkins takes the best parts from each genre and leaves you with an album that is always relaxing but never boring.
BRIAN ENO - MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS
There is no list of instrumental albums without including the man who coined the term ‘ambient music’. This 1978 release by Brian Eno is probably the most suitable study music in his entire catalogue (and there’s quite a lot of study music in that catalogue). As the title suggests, Eno created this album with the intention of it being played in airports as a means of calming anxious passengers. Ambient 1: Music for Airports is a tape-loop masterpiece that remains just as peculiar, disquieting, and sublime today. You don’t even need to be in an airport to make use of its calming cyclical sounds. Eno himself summed it up best when speaking of the album’s creative process, “It should be as "ignorable as it is interesting”.
APHEX TWIN - SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS 85-92
Electronic music is often communal, there's a reason fans of this music seek out dance clubs with near-religious ferocity, but some beat-driven records are designed for alone time. Richard David James, the twisted mind behind Aphex Twin, makes subtle, tricky compositions that will have you nodding your head and swaying back and forth while you read through that final draft of whatever it is you're working on. Whether it be on the ambient-house slapper ‘Pulsewidth’ or the squelchy ‘Delphium’, every song sounds like you’ve climbed into a fax machine and are riding through it like Space Mountain. The focus that Selected Ambient Works provides is almost delirious in its power.
Not all instrumental music is calming, soothing, or relaxing. Sometimes, especially when it comes to working, we need something a bit more disruptive. If you’re doing very simple menial tasks, you don’t need quiet and calm. What you need is something to keep you awake and on your toes to juxtapose the boredom of the task in front of you. These albums aren’t bangers by any means, but they’re something to tap your foot to.
J DILLA - DONUTS
If you're looking to make time speed up while you work rather than slow down Donuts by J Dilla remains the gold standard by a wide margin. The music of the late, great producer J Dilla has become more widely celebrated in the years since his death in 2006. While he spent years producing tracks for legendary groups like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and The Pharcyde, his real magnum opus is this sly, unassuming collection of beats. It’s 31-tracks, each going for around 1-2 mins, are comprised entirely of sampled soul and funk breaks. If you didn’t think building spreadsheets in Excel could ever feel cool, turn this sucker on.
MILES DAVIS - A TRIBUTE TO JACK JOHNSON
Sometimes, hell a lot of the time, work is not fun. It’s not creative, thought-provoking, or challenging. It is just tedious and hard. No album is as great an ode to the battle that work can be than A Tribute to Jack Johnson by Miles Davis. This album sounds like a great siege, a throwdown between titans, or an all-out slugfest. On this record, one of the best records from the jazz icon's controversial "electric" period, Davis uses his trumpet to jab at the guitars on the record, creating music that's as playful as it is dynamic. A Tribute to Jack Johnson is the perfect companion to bring with you to a trying work session.
BOOKER T & THE MG’S - GREEN ONIONS
You've heard Green Onions before. If not for the famous opening organ riff off the title track, for the handful of other songs that this album does instrumental covers of. Booker T & The MG’s cover hits from Ray Charles to the Beatles and we must say the songs are just as enjoyable without any lyrics. This album will imbue any work you're doing with excitement, importance, and just plain cool. Perfect for when the actual work you’re doing is eye-rollingly boring. Beyond the famous opening title track, the album serves as a masterclass in Stax-era studio genius. Hopefully, by the end of the record, you’ll be finished with your damn work.
For some nerds, when it comes to working music, it’s classical or bust. Don’t worry, we’ve got some great recs here, but they aren’t your usual, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach tracks. You’ve probably listened to everything they’ve ever done by now (even though you couldn’t name a single song). These classical tunes will hopefully add something new to your library.
JOHANNES BRAHMS - ACADEMIC FESTIVAL OVERTURE
Time to up the pace a little. Like any great orchestral track, your work session will probably start a bit slow, but one you’re up to speed and your brain is warm, you’ve got to make some real headway on that presentation, or whatever. Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture is the perfect pace-quickener for when you need to blast through long passages of text, and when that blistering brass fanfare hits, it’s like pushing the pedal on a classic mustang to the floor, just pure joy.
JAMES HORNER - A BEAUTIFUL MIND
In 2001, the incredible story of the mathematical genius John Nash was made into a film starring Russell Crow. Going with the whole math theme of the film there are several scenes of Crow staring at complex equations on a chalkboard. Only a genius like John Nash could possibly decipher these problems, but James Horner’s gorgeous score just might make you feel like a genius. For the moments you feel your brain just isn’t up to it, or if you’re tackling a particularly perplexing task this might be the music to give you a boost. Horner’s mesmerizing orchestration and spinning melodies provide the power and drive to accomplish anything. Maybe not super complex math, but you get it.
DEBUSSEY - ETUDES
Lunch break is over and now you’re just sitting back and staring at the wall. We’ve all had a post-lunch slump, but now’s the time to get back to it. If you need some extra lift and coffee just isn’t’ cutting it the ambitious arpeggio passages in Chopin’s fiendish Etudes just might. Chopin's music plays a huge part in a pianist's training, and there's no reason why it shouldn't have the same effect on the work you do. His Etudes (or Studies, appropriately) are exquisitely composed and designed to bring the best out of a pianist's technique. See if it makes a difference in the quality of your work.
There’s enough music here to write the first draft of a novel. So crank up the tunes and get down to business.