Songs to Listen To, and Listen To, and Listen To...
January 29, 2017 7:44 PM   Subscribe

I've found it really helps me focus to listen to the same song, on repeat, while working. Help me find more songs to listen to ad infinitum!

The best songs I've found for these purposes seem to be (1) tuneful and catchy, but (2) not distractingly so, maybe with a combination of a catchy little hook or some clever words that I can bliss out to, but followed by a certain amount of noise or blandness. Something that's rousing and inspiring, but not...overly so? (This is hard to describe--is it making sense?)

I've recently had lots of success with Upon Viewing Breughel's Landscape With the Fall of Icarus by Titus Andronicus and BMFA by Martha Wainwright; in the past I've gotten into this focus zone using Lana Del Rey's Video Games, Cat Power's The Greatest, and Ich Habe Genug (the Bach cantata). I've also found utility in certain foreign songs in languages that I can only partially understand; this seems to speak to the same need to zone in and out of connecting with the music. Unfortunately, all of these tend to lose their effectiveness after 100 or so plays, so am seeking suggestions for more. I'm a bit sensitive to songs about love and deep, sad emotions right now, so I'd like to avoid super-evocative stuff if possible. I've read previous Ask MeFis seeking ambient/electronica/funky-chill music to work to. I do not really find this style of music helpful, focus-wise, since my brain seems to need a little more to latch onto.

The work in question is writing, if that seems relevant.

(Also, does anyone else do this?)
posted by artisthatithaca to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Chocolate is a super catchy, and sweet (ahem), Spanish languauge song.

The video is also very cute.

I don't listen to songs while I work, but I do listen to ASMR role plays, which always relax me and get me in the writing zone. It's a very different thing, I know, but try WhispersRed on YouTube if you want to give it a try.
posted by Youremyworld at 7:51 PM on January 29, 2017

Gobbledigook by Sigur Ros
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:05 PM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

The first thing that popped into my head was Spoon. I could be completely off with this, but why not give them a try:

"The Ghost of You Lingers
"The Underdog"
"I Summon You"
posted by old_growler at 8:20 PM on January 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you like Smashing Pumpkins? A light went off when I heard Corgan say he considers Gish to be an instrumental album.

I can listen to Bob Mould's Workbook, over and over and over.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:51 PM on January 29, 2017

St. Etienne - many of their songs might fit what you want.
posted by Prof Iterole at 9:01 PM on January 29, 2017

My two latest binge listens are Quiet by MILCK (link is to official video but there are a ton of a cappella versions floating around right now) and Que Sera by Wax Tailor
posted by janey47 at 9:33 PM on January 29, 2017

Reptilia, by the Strokes?
posted by benadryl at 9:44 PM on January 29, 2017

It might be too ambient for your tastes, but I find Music For Airports 1/1 useful for what you describe. It's just tuneful enough to keep me engaged without sucking me in.
posted by Candleman at 10:43 PM on January 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oooh! Here are some of my tried and true, depending on mood -- they kind of have a way of cascading into themselves:

Tori Amos, Here in My Head
Suzanne Vega, Caramel

And for a full album, Carla Bruni, Quelqu'un m'a dit -- yes, that Carla Bruni. It's entirely in French. It's gotten me through entire days at a desk.
posted by mochapickle at 11:00 PM on January 29, 2017

The entire album Tarot Sport by Fuck Buttons.
posted by Philipschall at 11:09 PM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I do this! Recent songs I've utilised are Melancholy Hill by Gorillaz, Heaven or Las Vegas by Cocteau Twins, Boom Clap by Charlie XCX and a micro-playlist of Faith, Father Figure and Club Tropicana by George Michael.
posted by mymbleth at 1:01 AM on January 30, 2017

I am prone to this as well. No one specific song comes to mind, but I have had great success with Fever Ray, FKA Twigs, and Sevdaliza's work for this sort of thing.
posted by daikaisho at 4:29 AM on January 30, 2017

California Stars is currently filling this space for me.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:38 AM on January 30, 2017

Came here to recommend almost any of the songs from Mermaid Avenue and saw that Flannery Culp beat me to it with California Stars. I'd choose Hesitating Beauty but would suggest listening to the whole album and choosing yourself.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:25 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've done this before with "Friends of P" by the Rentals.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:42 AM on January 30, 2017

I drove for about two hours before realizing I had Song for Zula on repeat. I didn't mind at all.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:46 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I definitely get into the mode of listening to songs on repeat for alarming lengths of time.

I think I like things a little more anthemic than you might be looking for, but here are a few recommendations.

Animato - Crossfires. My SO worked in a building with one of the musicians for this band and she picked up their EP. I might never have heard of them otherwise. Crossfires was on heavy rotation in my car for a while.

Shiny Toy Guns has several songs that might do. Keane has many songs with catchy hooks and a lot of them have become repeaters for me. Maybe too anthemic, but here's their Vevo channel on YouTube.

Grandaddy is another band with several songs I binged on. Here's Now It's On. I recommend checking out their albums Sophtware Slump and Sumday. They might be a little soft based on the Titus Andronicus track you linked, but...

Perneice Brothers - Weakest Shade of Blue. There are other songs of theirs that might work for you too. Again, softer than Titus Andronicus. I've heard tons of tracks on the radio lately that I think are the Perneice Brothers but end up being someone else. I think they're one of those "influential bands you've never heard of."
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:50 AM on January 30, 2017

I have had great success writing to Thao and also Tune Yards. Upbeat enough to keep me going, real instruments, words but not too many.
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:51 AM on January 30, 2017

Jon Hopkins' "Light Through the Veins" does this for me, in a sense; its hypnotic adulation towards its melodic progression transfixes and captivates me. I never tire of its build. Definitely a focus-grabber. Metronomy's "The Look" does this for me. Sigur Rós' "Andvari" fits this bill, but toes the line of being evocative and wistful; still, I think it's very much worth a shot.
posted by a good beginning at 9:09 AM on January 30, 2017

The whole Ulrich Schnauss album Far Away Trains Passing By (full album YT link) is great for this. Specifically, Knuddlemaus, Between Us and Them and Bluemenwiese Neben Autobahn are very focusing.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:31 AM on January 30, 2017

I use musicals for this, especially ones I know all the words to. If I can sing along on autopilot, I'm not really thinking about the meaning of the words, and the music itself is generally upbeat enough to propel me through work. Also, since a cast recording is generally fairly long, I don't have to think of something else to put on.
posted by quatsch at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2017

Thundercat - Them Changes or RJD2 - Ghostwriter
posted by WeekendJen at 11:30 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Civil Wars, specifically this song I've found myself listening to over and over, but most of their stuff works for me in the scenario you've described.
posted by kmr at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2017

Lakker - Moutain Divide
posted by black8 at 2:03 PM on January 30, 2017

For some reason I sent most of December listening to Hunter and the Hunted by Simple Minds on repeat in the car. Every time it finished it was just the right time to put it on again.
posted by Chairboy at 3:12 PM on January 30, 2017

I'm a rock and roll person, and listening to music I'm interested in only distracts me while I'm working. I have found that listening to reggae channels on YouTube serves the same purpose as what you've described. Because to my ear, all reggae sounds more or less the same. (No offense meant to reggae fans or musicians. This is just my opinion, people.) The point is, it's music and therefore marks the passage of time, but I don't get distracted by it.
posted by scratch at 4:09 PM on January 30, 2017

This has nothing to do with your suggested tastes, but Roots Manuva is fairly vocal about getting people to work.
posted by benadryl at 4:36 PM on January 30, 2017

Single song: Spiders (Kidsmoke) by Wilco.
Full album: Dysnomia by Dawn of Midi.
posted by D.Billy at 7:43 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the suggestions, guys! I'll make my way through all of these and see which ones seem to take root.

Mermaid Avenue is a really good choice--I've infinitied out to several songs on the album before--but sadly I associate it with a past relationship so it's a bit off limits right now. But I'd highly recommend it to others for the same purpose. Whoever suggested Quelqu'un m'a dit, that's also right on--I had a lot of success working to that album when I was in college. I understand little bits of French, but don't speak the language, so it can be really nice. I've not heard of most of the other artists and bands mentioned, so I'm excited to check them out. (And I think anthemic is good! I'm usually more of a Wilco person than a Titus Andronicus person; I just found a few of their songs were really getting me into a good zone recently.)
posted by artisthatithaca at 8:49 PM on January 30, 2017

Very late answering this (also, my first post here after being a long-time lurker). But I'd like to add Pinback to the list. I find that all their albums are great to listen to while working; they have a strangely hypnotizing quality about them and the lyrics are too incomprehensible to be distracting. For example, this 1 hour loop of their song Loro has helped me grade hundreds of papers. But it also might drive you crazy. YMMV :-)
posted by Desertshore at 3:56 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

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