The winter exam season is finally upon us, and many of us are beginning to feel the familiar chill of essays, practical exams, and deadlines creeping around the corner. However, the simple addition of music can make our hard work just that bit easier. In this article, I will be listing nine albums that have become the soundtracks to my three years of epic procrastination and coffee-fuelled all-nighters at the University of Manchester. Flick through this epic list to find the next addition to your ultimate study playlist!
1. London Grammar: If You Wait: London Grammar’s If You Wait pretty much carried me through my first year at the University of Manchester. Perhaps the fact that this group met at university is what has given their music such a study-friendly quality. Whatever the cause, Hannah Reid’s other-worldly vocals, Dan Rothman’s ambient guitar riffs, and Dot Major’s ear for the perfect composition will have you banging out 2,000 words in no time.
2. Nao: Saturn: The sophomore album from one of my favourite artists, Nao’s Saturn provides the perfect blend of groovy doo-wop beats and soulful, melancholy lyrics to get you through the rollercoaster that is exams season. An album that looks at love and heartbreak in intergalactic terms, tracks like ‘Orbit’ guide you through the honeymoon period with the same chillness as Frank Ocean’s Blonde, while tracks like ‘Another Lifetime’ will have you missing the long-lost lover from Mars you never even had. Give Saturn a listen and watch as it takes your grades to a whole other dimension. (Nao’s slightly more upbeat debut For All We Know is an equally great study jam.)
3. Radiohead: OK Computer. An alternative rock classic that’s you can still get lost in 20 years after its release, Radiohead’s OK Computer marries moody lyrics, iconic guitar licks and genius instrumentation for an epic body of work, perfect for any long-haul study ride. ‘Paranoid Android’ (aside from its very relatable title) is the perfect six-minute-long student-angst soundtrack, while the infamous ‘Karma Police’ will have you knocking out your next masterpiece at about 100 words a minute. Constantly changing pace and sound, OK Computer is a versatile and memorable listen and a great study buddy.
4. Snoh Aalegra: FEELS: A hidden gem, Snoh Aalegra’s FEELS seems to have slipped under many people’s radars last year. With vocals reminiscent of the late Amy Winehouse, her soulfulness feels current yet so nostalgic. With the intimacy of a 40s lounge singer paired with 90s hip hop beats, Snoh Aalegra’s FEELS is the perfect study partner. My personal favourites include the head-nodding track ‘Sometimes’ featuring Logic, and the masterful ‘Nothing Burns Like the Cold’ featuring Vince Staples.
5. Christine and the Queens: CHRIS: The only French artist on this list, Christine and the Queens has brought something refreshing to mainstream music with her second album CHRIS. First rising to prominence with her hit song ‘Tilted’ from her acclaimed debut Chaleur Humaine, CHRIS is a perfectly bizarre fusion of refreshed 70s Prince inspired synths (‘Comme si’), provocative gender discourse (see ‘Girlfriend’ feat. Dam-Funk and ‘Damn (what must a woman do)’) and even complex art criticism? (see track ‘Goya Soda’). Recorded in both English and French (French for when you’re feeling fancy), this songstress truly has something for everyone during their next all-nighter.
6. Gorillaz: Demon Days: Released over a decade ago, Gorillaz’s Demon Days only gets better with age. Demon Days is an album filled with the songs you never realised you knew, featuring smash hits like ‘Feel Good Inc’, ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘DARE’ that were the secret soundtracks to many of our early 2000’s. An album difficult to define by any musical genre, this truly is the perfect multipurpose record, providing the hip hop classics you need to get pumped, and the moody alternative rock tracks needed to get you in the zone.
7. The Deli: Bumps Tape: If you’re more of an instrumental music study-type, The Deli’s Bumps Tape is the one for you. Bumps Tape is an album I accidentally stumbled upon, but it has become an essential part of my study playlist. Another difficult record to pin down genre-wise, Bumps Tape features trip-hop beats, Hawaiian guitars, delicate synths and the soothing crackle of an old vinyl record to make even the most panicked of us professional procrastinators chill out for a second. If you’re the type who wants to listen to music while you work, but find lyrical songs more distracting than relaxing, Bumps Tape is the perfect middle-ground.
8. Fugees: TheScore: Who doesn’t want to listen to a full hour and twenty minutes of Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras making sheer musical magic? The Score is an album that sits in many a music-lovers Hall of Fame, flawlessly and soulfully telling social, political and personal stories that are still spookily relevant to this day. Bursting with classics like the ominous RnB hit ‘Ready or Not’, the sweetest ballad of all time ‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’ and the hip hop jam ‘Fu-Gee-La’, The Score will have you penning out those study-notes like a poet (and feeling pretty badass while doing so).
9. MacDemarco: Salad Days: I decided that Mac Demarco’s wholesome,super-soft rock album Salad Days should be the unlikely closer to this epic study album list. An album I never expected to enjoy so much, Salad Days has guided me through many a last-minute Turnitin submission. Demarco’s easy-going vocals and gentle acoustic guitar licks will make you feel like you’re lying down in a sunny meadow, rather than being squashed between student MacBooks in the university library. The perfect assistant to any stressed-out student this season, let Salad Days calmly guide you through this year’s winter study mania.
Hopefully you’ve found something for you in this epic list of study anthems. Now it’s time to get off this article, whack your headphones on and get cracking: you’ve got this!