5 study albums that purport to be cool

2016-fall-special-puzzles-playlist
Willow Yang/Senior Staff

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Nobody wants to be uncool. Nobody wants to study. Unfortunately, the two often go hand in hand. If you want people to think you’re hip while you study for finals, the easiest thing to do can be finding the right study music. Whether you are in the library or at a cafe, put any of these albums on and leave the Spotify window open to impress the person studying next to you on the off chance they might accidentally glance over. They’ll silently be intimidated by your hip music, and you’ll feel really cool. It works every time.

Metal Machine Music

Some people focus on studying in very peculiar ways. Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music is possibly the most controversial artistic choice Lou Reed ever made. At the height of his career in the mid-1970s, Reed decided to release an album of pure unadulterated noise music — essentially 64 minutes of loud, aimless, screeching guitar sounds. The album itself took noise music out of the sincerely experimental corners of music and into the hip underground. Even though plenty of people sincerely hated this entire project when it came out, its place in music history is so hip that all the cool kids will definitely find you more intimidating if you study to it.  Once removed from white noise, Metal Machine Music could be the album you need for focusing your attention and taking yourself to task. Metal Machine Music is noise music at its most useless, but it could prove an incredibly useful study tool for those who need something a little more jarring in their study playlist.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions

Who doesn’t love Yo-Yo Ma? The Goat Rodeo Sessions are a set of genre-defying, uncategorizable compositions organized by some of the most brilliant, innovative instrumentalists of this century. Seeing former Punch Brother Chris Thile on the mandolin is a sight to behold, and Yo-Yo Ma is a virtuoso cellist. Bringing the two together for collaboration, along with jazz bassist Edgar Meyer and bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan, was possibly one of the coolest things that happened in music in 2011. Equal parts classical, bluegrass and jazz, Goat Rodeo is a testament to the ingenuity of musicians and the historical and compositional complexities of musical genre. Studying to Goat Rodeo is both deeply calming and profoundly groovy. For those study sessions that require a bit of inspiration, this album is 78 minutes of instrumental background music you’ll want to listen to, studying or not.

Hard Normal Daddy

Drum-and-bass is hands down the most stylish subgenre to come out of the early electronic music scenes. Squarepusher’s Hard Normal Daddy, then, is the most stylish album to come out of drum-and-bass. Drawing inspiration from jazz and drill music, and utilizing jazz-fusion and funk sensibilities, Squarepusher’s 1997 drill-and-bass triumph was an experiment in an already experimental music landscape. There’s something incredibly sensual about Hard Normal Daddy, an hour-long album you may want to integrate into both your study playlist and your sex playlist. Electronic music such as this, on the whole, can occupy an incredibly trendy space while also being super useful for concentrating on mundane tasks. The charm of Hard Normal Daddy lies in its ability to look totally cool from the outside while actually being one of the geekiest pieces of music. Its inaccessibility lies only in the social capital it purports to hold. As far as study albums go, Hard Normal Daddy is the most focus-inducing album out there.

Neon Indian

SF Perkele occupies much the same space as XXYYXX or Clams Casino: electronic artists unparalleled in their craft, making music unlike that of any other producers online, rendered virtually unknown because of a simple lack of interest in the spotlight. SF Perkele’s 2009 sleeper Neon Indian is riddled with nostalgia. Neon Indian took on corporate elevator muzak-style vaporwave before it was even really a thing. If any of that description means anything to you, great. If not, even better. The long-and-short of it is that weird people online probably think this album is cool. The style of Neon Indian is smooth, and the tracks are bouncy and accessible. Running at 25 minutes long, this is an album for quick study spurts. Use Neon Indian to mark study breaks, integrating your music into your time management to effectively keep you from checking your phone longer than you were supposed to.

Time Out

At the end of the day, jazz is the only genre of music that hip people can’t have contempt for. There’s something in the history and the musicality of mid-20th-century jazz that will leave any hipsters trying to comb through your vinyl collection at a loss for scorn. That’s a great thing for this cool-kid study playlist. Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out is one of the smoothest West Coast jazz albums out there. Released in 1959, Time Out has all the appropriate jazzy mouthfeel and emotional maturity to carry longevity outside its historical context and far into the future. You really don’t even need to know anything about jazz for this to be cool. The movements of each piece take your mind down cyclical tracks, allowing for easy, unaffected studying.

Hopefully, any one of these albums can get you started early on your finals studying. If not, you can always pick up a puzzle and start studying tomorrow.

Contact Justin Knight at [email protected].