Your Study Soundtrack

Let’s face it: everyone has their headphones in while they study these days. Yet, if we’re honest, most of us don’t give much thought to what kinds of sounds make their way through our ears. Most of us probably have some clutter-filled playlist which jumps from commercials to tracks to commercials and maybe some more commercials. That being said, studies have repeatedly shown that music listening habits do impact your ability to focus while studying. So, you want to make the right choices when it comes to picking your spring semester soundtrack, don’t you? You want to work alongside the sounds that will aid your ability to memorize all those names and list all that data, right?

Being a music junkie myself, I thought I’d recommend some artists that I personally find to be conducive to good studying…

Deafheaven: Most people, in looking for something to really pump them up and get those mental juices going before a big test, end up settling for something along the lines of A) classic rock, or B) hip hop. They want an infectious beat, or they want a searing guitar riff, and they want it all at mind-numbing speed. While I have no doubt that Queen, U2, Kanye or 2Pac can get you psyched on a drowsy morning, the band I would recommend over all others in terms of energy is Deafheaven. Trust me: listen to Deafheaven, and you will be a living, breathing energizer bunny for whatever task you have to do next.

Deafheaven defies all genre categorization. Based in San Francisco, they fuse shoegaze, black metal, post metal, post-rock, classic rock and, at times, even pop to make some of the most mind-expanding and ear-confounding music of our day. Their strategy is simple: make the pretty parts of their music as pretty as possible, and the ugly parts downright punishing. Harsh, abrasive black metal riffs and Clarke’s unintelligibly loud howls are offset by lush, melodic backdrops of dream pop and shoegaze. Deafhaven’s latest album, New Bermuda, is their most diverse offering to date and probably your best bet on getting pumped at 7:30 in the morning (I just wouldn’t recommend them if you want something relaxing).

Sigur Rós: If don’t want something quite so loud, however, but you want something just as energizing, you can always opt for Sigur Rós. Sigur Rós is an Iceland-based trio that specializes in an otherworldly, ethereal kind of post-rock featuring vocalist Jonsi Birgisson with one of the most angelic falsettos that exists (you may get goose bumps). They make for a great listen if you want vocals but can’t study well while listening to music with words, since their lyrics are written almost entirely in Birgisson’s own made-up language, Hopelandic. Sigur Rós also uses bowed guitars – an odd technique of playing a guitar with a bow so the sound is long and drawn out – so their music is very texture-based in spite of its high energy, making it easy to focus while listening to it. Agaetis Byrjun, voted Iceland’s best album of the twentieth century, is their best work.

Ambient Electronic Music: Finally, if you’re the kind of person who can’t study at all with vocals, I highly recommend getting into ambient electronic music. Yes, everyone always recommends classical music as a reliable study buddy, but I’m not going to be boring and recommend Mozart and Bach (not because they’re boring—simply because you know who they are). Ambient music is beneficial for study simply because it is more concerned with atmosphere and texture than with pace or melody. Its airy, spacy aesthetics have a way of enveloping you in their sound without making you lose focus on what you’re doing. Brian Eno has a prolific body of ambient work, being one of ambient music’s founding pioneers. Among newcomers to the scene I’d highly recommend Nicola Jaar, especially his album Space Is Only Noise, even though it does occasionally incorporate some vocals.

Music has an uncanny ability to aid or detract from your mental capacities. So, if you really want that A+ this semester, why not listen to the music that will aid your study time best?

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