Welcome back to coBranding’s blog! This week we wanted to take some time to talk about music that keeps us in the zone, should we choose to listen to music while we work. We all found that the music we choose to listen to can depend on the mood we are feeling or wanting to feel throughout the day. Maybe you need an energy boost, maybe you just need some background music to chill out to, or maybe you just want to hear our favorites, and we’ve got you covered. A few members of coBranding’s team are going to share some of their favorite songs or artists they picked for any of these categories, and you’ll be able to check the full playlist out on Spotify!
Jess: I only wanted to highlight a few songs I chose for each mood, because I like a LOT of different things. However, I snuck more into our playlist after all the tracks I highlighted! Be sure to check it out if you want to hear more.
Hayley Williams - Sugar On The Rim: Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hayley has inspired me heavily since middle school. Petals for Armor is an incredibly dynamic and chilling album that takes you on an emotional journey that is rarely matched. To me, Sugar On The Rim sort of sits on the borderline of being chill and energizing but I ultimately chose to categorize it as an energizing song because of how it just makes me want to get up and MOVE.
The Longshot - Fever Blister: If you like Green Day, you’ll like Billie Joe Armstrong’s side project The Longshot, because of course you will. Fever Blister is a heavy hitting MONSTER of a song that throws you into the mindset of being in a brutal mosh pit full of wild punks. It’s short, but it certainly does the job if you need something to wake you up.
Normani - Motivation: This one’s super bubblegum and not necessarily a groundbreaking track, but I love it regardless. Being that Normani’s solo music was heavily anticipated after leaving Fifth Harmony, this was very popular and I think for what it is, it deserves the hype. This is a single I go back to frequently to get in a fun and pumped-up mood.
KOLARS - Beyond the World of Man: I learned of KOLARS when I saw them live, opening for Saint Motel. This married duo share center stage, as their own light shows with all the sparkle they can put on themselves, and it’s wildly magnetic. Percussionist Lauren Brown uses her whole body to not only drum, but TAP DANCE for their music. It’s absolutely captivating and 100% something that has to be witnessed in person if you have the chance post-pandemic.
SZA - Good Days: SZA’s voice is angelic and Good Days is a wonderfully dreamy track with lyrics that are weirdly heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time, which I’ve learned is a specialty of hers. This song is perfect to relax and wind down, and that’s that.
The Strokes - Selfless: Pretty much everybody likes The Strokes, right? I never paid them much mind until I saw them play on SNL last October. I joked about how Julian Casablancas comes off so tortured and my partner, as intuitive as he is, said “Oh shut up, you love it.” I do. Selfless is simply a nice relaxing track to listen to.
General favorite tracks:
Saint Motel - Puzzle Pieces: I mentioned Saint Motel before when talking about KOLARS, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they’re here. Saint Motel opened for Panic! At the Disco and I fell in love that very night. I don’t know how many people will understand this, but this song would be in Repo! The Genetic Opera if, and only if Repo! The Genetic Opera somehow wasn’t intensely gothic. Do with that information what you will. I absolutely love it.
Mac Miller - Blue World: I had known of Mac Miller, but never really gave him a listen until Circles, unfortunately. But Circles is an incredible album, and Blue World is the first song I’d put on if someone told me they just wanted to hear something with a good vibe.
Caroline Polachek - So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings: Bless the Spotify algorithm for putting this song in a playlist for me to discover. Firstly, I love the whimsy this track has, and the idea of someone being so physically attractive it hurts someone’s feelings is so amusing and yet, somewhat relatable, which is the cherry on top.
To motivate: I am a huge hard rock and metal fan, so when I need to feel super pumped up I throw on something fast and heavy! I love female-fronted bands with soaring vocals, crazy synth and orchestral accompaniment, and high energy drum parts.
Amaranthe - This Swedish metal band is one of my go-tos! Elize Ryd’s vocals are just so clean and crisp and pair beautifully with the harmonies and distorted vocals of fellow singers Nils and Henrik. The synth lines are so danceable and the combo of electro-pop and metal sets off fireworks in my brain. For my top tracks, check out Limitless, Massive Addictive, and Burn with Me!
Devin Townsend Project - Affectionately known by fans as Heavy Devy, the multi-instrumentalist power behind DTP is insane. His vocals range from soaring tenor to intense growling, and his clean vocals have a very operatic quality to them. As a trained opera singer myself, I am always stunned and impressed by his vocal range and skill. His music also shows a huge range in writing style, from atmospheric ambient rock to intensely orchestrated prog metal. He also invites a lot of amazingly talented musicians to collaborate with him, so you know you’re always getting something great. Some of my favorite songs of his are Kingdom, Ih-Ah, and Save Our Now.
Black Moth - English stoner rock quintet Black Moth is a super fun and funky heavy rock band that makes me want a slow-motion montage as I slip on a black leather jacket and drive off into the sunset on a massive motorcycle. My favorite tunes are Tumbleweave, Istra, and Moonbow.
To chill: When I want to slow down and relax, I tend to gravitate towards folk and indie. I love acoustic guitar and simple but catchy vocal harmonies, and I especially love songs that tell a story about people or are all about living in the moment. It helps ground me and keep me present in the here and now, remembering to breathe slow and deep and smile to be alive.
Amber Run - British indie rock group Amber Run released their debut album only 6 years ago, but I’ve been in love since day one. I’ve seen them twice in Philadelphia at the Foundry and even got to meet frontman Joshua Keogh after the second show. The entire band is so sweet and friendly, and their live shows are at times both contemplative and spontaneous. My favorite songs of theirs are Noah, The Weight, and Carousel.
The Lumineers - This indie folk rock band got its start 20 minutes away from my childhood home in New Jersey! Their music is soulful and emotional, often telling stories of growing up and chasing dreams or searching for meaning. Any of their songs put me in mind of a hot dry summer, driving down a back road highway with the windows down in search of an adventure. For a good sampling of their music, take a listen to Submarines, Salt and the Sea, and Elouise.
Sammy Rae + the Friends - Local NYC act Sammy Rae + the Friends are my latest obsession! From funk-inspired pop to folk rock tunes, they are the ultimate good time groove music. I love dancing in my bedroom or cooking to these tunes because they remind me just how good it feels to get up and move my body. My most repeat-worthy tunes from them are Talk It Up, Jackie Onassis, and Denim Jacket.
Enya - One of the few artists whose vocal music is not distracting to me while working or studying. I love how Enya’s music varies from Celtic and folk-inspired to New Age. My favorite album by far is A Day Without Rain; the piano, strings, and lush layered vocals of the title track feel like sitting at a window seat in a Regency era library looking over a misty garden. For a good sampling of her various styles, check out Anywhere Is, May It Be (from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack!), and Ebudae.
Ludovico Einaudi - Solo piano (especially of the contemporary and/or minimalist variety) has stolen my heart. This Italian composer constructs entire soundscapes and emotional snapshots through hypnotizing melodies, and his orchestral collaborations bring his work to an all-new level. I recommend his work regularly to my music students. Take a listen to Le Onde, In un’Altra Vita, and Nuvole Bianche.
Port Blue - This short-lived side project of Adam Young (of Owl City fame) is an ambient instrumental daydream. The gentle beat and atmospheric samples help me really get into the zone. I’ve been using the album The Airship as study music since high school! Check out Up Ship and At Anchor for some of my favorite tunes.
To unwind: There is an almost endless stream of music playing from either my laptop speakers, phone speakers, or headphones at any given time. One of music’s greatest qualities is the ability it has to transport you into another place and time, like the smell of an old fragrance you associate with a certain time period in your life, or the taste of a certain food that brings you back to your childhood. Many of the songs I’m including in this blog post are my most recent favorites, with a couple of old favorites sprinkled in along the way. Many of the songs I’ve included here are sung in a variety of languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, and French!
Kali Uchis - la luz(Fín) (feat. Jhay Cortez) and ángel sin cielo: The last two tracks on Kali Uchis’s most recent album, titled Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞, they are two of my personal favorite tracks released last year. In my opinion, based on the way that their parent album is structured, they’re inseparable and are best played together. Both songs are mellow, laidback, and smooth. Kali Uchis’s voice perfectly complements Tainy’s dreamy production on la luz(Fín), and ángel sin cielo is a perfect closer to the album.
Novos Baianos - Acabou Chorare: This song, from the album of the same name, is a beautifully simple guitar track, with uplifting and optimistic lyrics (the title roughly translates to “No More Crying”) about the beauty of the natural world, and the healing power inside of it. The album to which this song belongs was recommended to me a few months ago on a music forum, and I strongly recommend listening to the entire album from start to finish. It’s amazing. Two other tracks from this album that I recommend highly are Mistério do Planeta and Swing do Campo Grande.
Antena - Camino del Sol (album): This entire album is like a massage for the brain. It’s a sunny, upbeat record from the early 80’s by a Belgian new wave group with themes of escapism and tropical paradise. My favorite tracks which I consider to be standouts are the title track, Seaside Weekend, and Ingenuous.
To focus: A large portion of this music is instrumental due to the fact that I feel like I can only focus on a song’s lyrics if I’m listening to music while working.
Haruomi Hosono - TALKING and GROWTH: These two tracks are my go-to for when I need to focus on the task(s) at hand. Both entirely instrumental and both clocking in and just under 15 minutes long each, I was drawn to the album these songs are a part of after seeing its interesting artwork on YouTube. I later learned that Haruomi Hosono is an incredibly accomplished Japanese artist, composer, singer and songwriter, and this album showcases only a fraction of his artistic output.
DJ Koze - Knock Knock (album): This is a house / techno / disco record which is filled with hypnotizing, danceable tunes that I greatly enjoy listening to. DJ Koze is a German musician and producer who’s been active for more than three decades. He released this album about 3 years ago, but I discovered it only recently. I tend to prefer listening to the more instrumental tracks when I want to focus. My favorites on the album for the purpose of focusing are Illumination, Pick Up, and Scratch That. Pick Up features a sample of Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Both Illumination and Scratch That feature vocals from Róisín Murphy, who put out one of my favorite albums of last year, Róisín Machine (her first name is pronounced roe-sheen, so the title rhymes!)
Huerco S. - Colonial Patterns (album): This outsider house album was another album that I first listened to because of its artwork. The strange collage seen on the cover, coupled with the album’s unusual title, told a story that I was instantly interested to hear. I was not at all disappointed! This was the first album that truly got me into more ambient, avant-garde electronic music, and I recommend listening to it in full. My three favorite tracks from the album are Struck With Deer Lungs, Skug Commune, and Plucked From The Ground, Towards The Sun.
Sinéad O’Connor - Troy: There is a quiet rage in this song’s undercurrent that starts to bubble over about three and a half minutes after it begins. Once it does, it’s an unstoppable force. Sinéad O’Connor holds a place in the upper echelon of vocalists in any genre, and the ability she has to convey righteous anger through her voice is a veritable gift which only a select few possess.
Kimbra - Version of Me: Kimbra is a criminally underrated artist. This song is a very simple statement of accepting responsibility for one’s shortcomings in the hopes that eventually they will be overcome. It is a contemplative and introspective song, with a quiet yearning for something that might not ever be achieved. Yet more than anything, it is hopeful.
World Party - When the Rainbow Comes: If you were ever looking for a song that was heavily laden with both melancholic nostalgia for a bygone era and a relentless, contagious optimism for an even better future, it was released by a Welsh guy in 1990. This song is part of a great album called Goodbye Jumbo, one of my all-time favorite records.
To hear our playlist and find out more songs we love, check it out on Spotify! https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1TyBBXVLZQd2FhONeeLYIW?si=i7K4QbwCSnarcw7goiW1qg