Albums to be at home to
June 25, 2019 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for instrumental albums (not playlists) that are your go to for when you're just bopping around the house. The ones you like so much that you put them on all the time as a soundtrack for living. For example, in my house growing up, Thomas Newman's film score for Little Women was nearly always in the stereo. I've also used Time Out by the Dave Brubeck quartet in a similar way, and an album with "The Moldau" and other works by Smetana.

It's okay if one or two tracks have words (Little Women has one song sung by the actors playing the titular characters in the film), but I really am primarily looking for instrumental music.

I'm not looking for elevator music that you play because you don't notice it. I'm looking for the albums that feel like a comfortable presence in your home: the musical equivalent of your favorite piece of furniture that you're always happy to see, and even happier to be in.
posted by ocherdraco to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
The new Tron soundtrack (Daft Punk) and the new Suspiria soundtrack (Thom Yorke) but I'm weird.
posted by supercres at 2:42 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Crow by Steve Martin. (Bluegrass-type stuff) Some songs are "comfortable furniture;" some are "music to bustle around to" (e.g., while cleaning and cooking).
posted by salvia at 2:48 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like the What If soundtrack, which is mostly instrumental by AC Newman.
posted by ferret branca at 2:57 PM on June 25, 2019

Dive, Awake , and the Awake remixes by Tycho
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 3:00 PM on June 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nathan Salsburg's Third is this sort of album for me. Here's the first track, Timoney's.

If you find the idea of a colliery brass band combined with synths interesting, there's Hannah Peel's "Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia", which is quite magical.
posted by pipeski at 3:05 PM on June 25, 2019

The Olympians. Probably their only album as I believe it was a side project cobbled together from bunch of session musicians whose schedules precluded anything like touring in support of it.

Alternately, Khruangbin's Con Todo El Mondo which is mostly noodly guitar with a kind of psych/disco vibe.
posted by juv3nal at 3:06 PM on June 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass, All in Good Time.
posted by huimangm at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2019

I have 4 I like a lot, that are completely different in flavor.

Into the Trees - Zoe Keating, beautiful electro-cello with impressive loop pedal use, always makes me feel frisson when I listen to her

Serenity Knolls - Bill Bovold. Makes me think of a soundtrack to some kind of moody Western movie with a quiet cowboy who goes around doing good, but is lonely.

Departure Songs - We Lost the Sea. Not a happy album, but makes me feel deeply whenever I hear it.

Black Sands - Bonobo. Quiet, comfortable staple for listening when I’m feeling a little unsettled and want to feel wrapped in a cozy musical blanket.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Herbie Hancock, Headhunters
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Um, Schönberg’s Transfigured Night. YMMV!
posted by Smearcase at 3:15 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Don Ellis, Haiku
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
Matthew Halsall, Fletcher Moss Park
Buckethead, Colma
The Mermen, The Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show
Vince Guaraldi, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
posted by bricoleur at 3:30 PM on June 25, 2019

I’ll link to a previous comment with my favorite post rock.
posted by sacrifix at 3:34 PM on June 25, 2019

By and large I'm showing my age here, but...

Ludovico Einaudi, In a Time Lapse
Ennio Morricone, The Mission
Vangelis, Blade Runner / Voices / Antarctica / L'Apocalypse des Animaux / The City / 1492 / Themes (this is a compilation, but an outstandingly good one)
Jean-Michel Jarre, Equinoxe / Oxygene
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:40 PM on June 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

A Zed and Two Noughts soundtrack - Michael Nyman.

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven - Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack - Phillip Glass
posted by N-stoff at 3:42 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I certainly play these at home when I'm feeling a mid-century domestic vibe, sitting on my imaginary Eames lounge chair sipping whisky. If Time Out counts, include these:

Stan Getz and João Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto
Lalo Schifrin, soundtrack to Bullitt
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories (but 75% instrumental)
Isaac Hayes, soundtrack to Shaft
Kamasi Washington, Heaven and Earth
Shook, Spectrum
Thundercat, Drunk (again, about 75% instrumental)
posted by galleta monster at 3:45 PM on June 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Explosions in the Sky's All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone fits that for me, but so do most of the records really. I just know that one the best.
posted by General Malaise at 3:49 PM on June 25, 2019

This is largely choral and non-English and for the most part the voices are just instruments, but the only album I have listened to pretty regularly for 20 (damn) years now is this weird anthology ("choral symphony") album called The Prayer Cycle. It's really lovely and peaceful and soaring and contains extraordinary voices (Alanis, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ofra Haza, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor). For a while it was hard to find anywhere but used CD, but I see it's now on Spotify and available for physical and mp3 downloads from many usual outlets.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:49 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

The soundtracks from "The Magnificent Seven" and "Big Country" -- season your cooking to these! I like Dave Brubeck for this, too.
posted by jgirl at 3:56 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

These are largely but not completely instrumental:

The North Borders + Migration by Bonobo
A Son of the Sun by Uyama Hiroto
Modal Soul by Nujabes (really all of his albums)
Simple Things by Zero 7

I recommend looking for chillhop, electronica and ambient albums too.
posted by Freeze Peach at 4:13 PM on June 25, 2019

Disfarmer by Bill Frisell is a little melancholy. But awesome.
posted by BrashTech at 4:18 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like ambient stuff. A lot of Emily Sprague lately.

If you're willing to slide down that rainbow, you'll find Brian Eno at the end of it, waving at you welcomingly, wearing a kimono.
posted by Beardman at 4:26 PM on June 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

For jauntier fare, you can discover new artists by clicking through Spotify playlists like "Soul Instrumentals" (32 hours long).
posted by Beardman at 4:28 PM on June 25, 2019

Most of my confort music has words. The one exception is Ludovico Einaudi - particularly the album “Le Onde”.
posted by sailoreagle at 4:35 PM on June 25, 2019

Christie Front Drive- Anthology
Maxence Cyrin- Novö Piano
posted by Champagne Supernova at 4:55 PM on June 25, 2019

Hank Mobley, Soul Station
posted by rossination at 5:09 PM on June 25, 2019

Buena Vista Social Club!
posted by superlibby at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bill Evans, The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961

It’s a live album, and you can hear the slight clinking of the audience’s cutlery and glasses in the background. It’s so great.
posted by sallybrown at 5:44 PM on June 25, 2019 [7 favorites]

toumani diabaté and ballade sissokó - new ancient strings
susumu yokota - sakura
tchaikovsky - serenade for strings, souvenir de florence (this specific recording)
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 6:08 PM on June 25, 2019

U.F. Orb by The Orb
posted by falsedmitri at 6:22 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Scherezade-directed by Valery Gergiev
Debussy For Daydreaming
Soundtrack from, A Man And A Woman
Al Di Meola, Elegant Gypsy
posted by Oyéah at 6:34 PM on June 25, 2019

supercres, you're not so weird to me... I was tempted to suggest the first Tron score, from '82, the first record I bought with my own (well...) money.

(The Journey song doesn't meet requirements, alas.)

posted by easement1 at 6:50 PM on June 25, 2019

Martin Simpson’s Cool and Unusual.
posted by jon1270 at 7:05 PM on June 25, 2019

A Winged Victory for the Sullen
posted by winna at 7:42 PM on June 25, 2019

Christopher Tin's Calling All Dawns

Almost anything by Two Steps From Hell (also their YouTube channel)

The various scores to Cirque Du Soleil's shows are good, though my favorites are Alegria and the soundtrack to their Imax film Journey Of Man.

I've come to enjoy chillhop music when I want something that's strictly background. Chillhop Records sells their "Essentials" seasonal samplers on Bandcamp for as little as one Euro. I've gathered them all into a single playlist and just put it on shuffle. There's also Chillhop Music on YouTube; I'm not sure if they're the same label or not.

One of my favorite film scores is John Barry's Out Of Africa, though it's not long enough. In fact, almost anything by Barry is good (Dances With Wolves, for instance). He's a lot deeper than his music for the Bond movies.

Another score that is always on my devices is Patrick Doyle's Great Expectations (1998). Be sure to look for the score album, not the soundtrack. It's really great music for a so-so movie.
posted by lhauser at 7:57 PM on June 25, 2019

Just this weekend I was bopping around to Cannonball Adderly's Fiddler on the Roof album and it made me so happy!
posted by brookeb at 8:44 PM on June 25, 2019

Bach's Cello Suites (Spotify), Mischa Maiski in 1985, one of my favorite recordings of anything ever.
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:47 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

A number of things:
  • Kind of Blue is quite tired, but it is true standby. Ditto The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s At Carnegie Hall. (It is probably nearest my heart.) Recently, Lee Pan-Geun & Korean Jazz Quartet ‘78’s Plays Arirang! And Other Classics has been great for kicking off more active things.
  • Different pieces of the Headz 2A and Headz 2B compilations from Mo’ Wax, but I never actually finish listening to any one of them, instead just dropping in and out.
  • So much D & B and various flavors of electronic music, but Amon Tobin’s Bricolage comes to mind immediately for me.
  • In the past, the Bossa Jazz compilation from Soul Jazz records.
  • I really loved the atmospherics of Midori Takada’s Through The Looking Glass and Jeff Grace’s soundtrack to Meek’s Cutoff. There is so much space in them! The former is probably a bit more healing and the latter a bit more restful, but they have both made me glad in ways that I absolutely didn’t expect and almost found embarrassing. NB I did a post about this album and still love to think on it
  • Recently, three Japanese new wave albums by Hiroshi Yoshimura have been a regular evening accompaniment: Soundscape 1: Surround, Green, and Wet Land. All of them have been lovely for coming down after a long day, or to help forget myself and see the world as a nicer place.

posted by Going To Maine at 11:00 PM on June 25, 2019

Thirding Ludovico Einaudi.

I also have the soundtrack to Cairo Time (melancholy piano music) and the soundtrack to Amelie (whimiscal french music) on high rotation.
posted by kjs4 at 11:29 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Amelie soundtrack is my all time favorite
posted by christiehawk at 1:22 AM on June 26, 2019

Anything by Paco de Lucía - Entre dos Aguas, for example
posted by piamater at 1:51 AM on June 26, 2019

Mogwai - Ten Rapid / Young Team
Japancakes - If I Could See Dallas
posted by demonic winged headgear at 2:54 AM on June 26, 2019

Try other soundtracks in the Thomas Newman catalog. He also did Shawshank Redemption, The Road to Perdition and American Beauty.

Aaron Copland's works may also suit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:11 AM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's quite different from your examples, but the first thing that comes to mind is the album Cirque by the Norwegian ambient-electronic artist Biosphere. Ambient music often gets characterized as "sonic wallpaper", which isn't what you're looking for – but it can definitely reward engaged listening, too.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:26 AM on June 26, 2019

I use The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach for this. My favorite recordings are Glenn Gould's and Andras Schiff's (both Spotify links; Schiff link is only to Book I).
posted by holborne at 9:45 AM on June 26, 2019

I stayed with an architect awhile ago who keeps a laptop on with an ad free internet radio station called Groove Salad linked up to his living room sound system 24/7 in his small house. The music is downtempo electronica, something that's never in the way but at least has a beat. Sure, it's a waste of electricity, but I also haven't experienced anything quite like waking up and falling asleep to a room with a dedicated soundtrack.
posted by weewooweewoo at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2019

Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
The Orb - Orbus Terrarum (occasionally skipping track 6 "Occidental")
Todd Terje - It's Album Time
Keith Jarrett - The Köln Concert
Trans Am - Futureworld
Pat Metheny Group - Letter from Home
posted by pianoblack at 12:24 PM on June 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Going up this thread, Orbital's "Insides" feels thematically like The Orb's "Orbvs Terrarum", but nthing Daft Punk, probably Discovery. Daft Punk seems to be the one electronic producer that's aging very, very, *very* well.
posted by talldean at 3:57 AM on June 28, 2019

Response by poster: Thank y’all for all of these—I’ve already spent a good deal of time sampling and I feel like collectively you’ve given me a lovely gift. (And it happens to be my birthday today!)
posted by ocherdraco at 5:07 AM on June 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

Hope you don't mind another:

Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges

(And happy belated birthday!)
posted by kristi at 6:12 PM on June 30, 2019

Seconding Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert and the Amelie soundtrack.

Other albums that fall into the same category for me: incredibly familiar and neither boring nor distracting:
Michel Petrucciani - all his solo albums ("Solo (live)" is the one I turn to most.)
David Byrn - Knee Plays
Brian Eno - Music for Airports and On Land.
Bach cello concertos
Zbignew Priesner - any album - it has lyrics, but they're easy to ignore, especially if you don't speak Polish or Latin.
The Books - any album - it also has vocal parts, but I don't find them distracting.
Slavic Soul Party (very up-tempo brass band music, quite unlike the rest)
posted by eotvos at 2:43 PM on July 2, 2019

Response by poster: This is the gift that keeps on giving. I still love this thread. Thanks, y’all.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:58 PM on July 29, 2019

Response by poster: Also, I have marked Beardman’s answer as best, not because of the music suggested therein, but because the image of a kimono’d Brian Eno awaiting me at the end of a rainbow has stuck with me and continues to delight, again and again, and by highlighting it as best answer, it will always pop out at me when I visit this page.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:30 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I made this image because it delights me.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:47 AM on July 31, 2019

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