You’ve got deadlines looming. An inner feeling of dread is mounting. Your concentration…. wait, is that a dog over there??? Nevermind. Where were we? Oh yeah– your concentration. It’s shot. Things are looking gloomy and that deadline has never looked so precarious.
But don’t worry. We’ve got you. Here’s the nine albums PLATF9RM members play when they desperately need to get sh*t done. These are tunes to bring us back to earth – to focus – when our brains threaten to drift into the stratosphere of endless procrastination. They’ll transport you to the ever-elusive zone and turn those “To Do” lists into “Bloody Well Done” lists.
And yes we know Spotify’s pretty good at churning out concentration playlists. But they're basically algorithms; we're proper humans, with proper recommendations.
My concentration album is most certainly 新しい日の誕生 by 2814
Released in 2015 on the London-based Dream Catalogue's label, ‘Birth of a New Day' is a mystical, heady journey through a Blade Runner-esque cityscape. Often tied to the vaporwave genre, this album brings together ambient-electronica (a la Tangerine Dream or Vangelis) with an imagined sci-fi future dystopian aesthetic. On paper it should be a distraction, but I find the sound induces a wide-eyed state of productivity.
RX Y is an alternative to Bon Iver for those who who love Bon Iver but don’t want to be distracted by their favourite songs whilst working. RX Y’s peaceful guitar and indistinguishable lyrics will lull you into a calm work-flow. Also very good as background music to yoga.
I have a go-to album that I use– usually very late at night – when I simply have to hit a deadline: Pieces in a Modern Style. Pieces in a Modern Style by William Orbit.
This simply is the album to let your mind get lost in. If you are trying to focus, it acts like an aural massage. It bathes you in very simple electronic strings and its smooth sounds allow you to concentrate fully.
It's not an album you have to try hard to listen to whilst working. It's more a soundscape that envelopes you. Simple, soothing, soaring, mellow: it inspires thoughts and focuses the mind.
Once playing, I tend to forget what time of day it is. It could be 1.00am in the early hours, it could be 8.00am in the morning, even 3.00pm in the afternoon. It usually goes on late at night but, when I'm wrapped up in it, I could be anywhere.
My ultimate concentration album is Tomorrow's Harvest by Boards of Canada. The opening track, ‘Gemini’, starts with a filmic fanfare that sets the scene for a productive writing session like nothing else. The ambient electronic sounds are calming and progressive, keeping me focused and blissfully lost in flow as I write.
So for me, it'd have to be the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit's third album, Stay Gold. All their albums are exceptional, but this one gets the most plays. There's something about the steadily beating drums, flowing guitar and passionate, echoing vocals that provide an overwhelming sense of calm. I often catch myself thinking in multiple directions at once, but those sisters focus my kaleidoscopic thoughts into a laser-sharp focus beam. Pew pew!
The Blaze - Territory. Short, but very sweet. With a gentle mix of instrumental electronics and emotive vocals, this album makes it easy to zone out and focus on whatever is in front of me. As a designer I definitely need upbeat music to create a fast working pace, so this works perfectly.
Generally speaking I’ll look for something instrumental and rhythmic. I want to avoid getting distracted with lyrical content or ambient drift. Often this can range from hip hop to post rock to electronic music, with some of my top artists being Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Explosions in the Sky, and Dawn of Midi. However, my definitive “getting stuff done” album would be Tycho and their album Epoch:
It’s got the right balance of instrumentation and dynamics, with the shifting rhythms and melodies setting a decent pace to work at. I particularly like their mixture of analog and digital
When I need to get stuck into something proper and create some good work, it has to be an album that helps my mind shift into that state. I want to be transported and lifted out of the normal trudge to some other place where the sparkling mind stuff can happen. You’ve gotta let that magical transformation occur to be able to create something out of nothing.
Astral Weeks has got to be the one. Released in 1968 when Van Morrison was in his early twenties with a band of jazz musicians he’d never met before. It’s a transcendental album that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Each song is a perfect meditative spell to take you to that elsewhere we’re looking for, where creating good work is baked right in. So, put those headphones on, play ’Madame George’ and see what happens.
I'm one of those people who really listens to anything. It is hard to pick just one favourite, but speaking of my work I know exactly the genre of music that really helps me getting "in the zone". While I work on my illustrations, I usually listen to a mix of bossa nova and jazz music from a unique Japanese band who do Studio Ghibli covers. Some people think that jazz is kinda "messy" but paired with bossa nova’s milder melodies, it is perfect to relax the mind and keep concentration on what you’re doing.
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