It’s the end of the semester, final papers and projects are piling up and you’re ready to pull your hair out. Mental health is just as important as physical health, stress is never good and sometimes the best thing to do is just relax.
Finding a way to relax is easier said than done, but music can easily help students destress before finals and is one of the most accessible stress-relieving tools. Thanks to the advent of streaming, music for stress relief is affordable, you can listen to it while you study and it won’t force you to break a sweat like a run would.
Whether you decide to study, relax or even sleep to these, you should throw on these albums recommended by The Spectrum’s arts desk and let all your stress and anxiety wash away with the music.
John Martyn - “Bless the Weather” (1971)
British folk singer John Martyn’s tranquil voice sounds and feels like a gentle breeze on a cool summer’s night. “Bless the Weather” is the audio equivalent to a trip to the spa, as soothing melody after soothing melody melts away your worries.
The music here is simply gorgeous and infinitely comforting - as if the songs were written specifically for you by a close friend. Without raising its voice above a whisper, “Bless the Weather” seamlessly blends folk, jazz, blues and psychedelia to satisfy a wide variety of listeners. This album is an absolute must-listen for those seeking relaxation.
Jesu - “Conqueror” (2007)
Conquer your stress with this fantastically unique record that melds lush soundscapes with massive waves of guitars. Songs like “Transfigure,” “Stanlow” and “Medicine” completely envelop the listener in comforting blankets of synths, guitars and ethereal vocals, while tracks like “Weightless Horizontal” and “Brighteyes” induce a serene, trance-like state.
“Conqueror,” at times, boasts riffs that rival the density of the heaviest bands around, but the album never betrays its beauty and calming atmosphere. Turn the volume up as loud as you can tolerate and give in to Jesu’s “Conqueror” to allow its otherworldly magic to take effect.
Suffocation - “Effigy of the Forgotten” (1991)
Serene and gentle music will certainly help alleviate your concerns, but sometimes you need to put on some seriously p----d-off jams and let it all out. Suffocation’s seminal death metal release “Effigy of the Forgotten” is the perfect rage-infused album for this.
This record is 37 minutes of blissful brutality. It is even cited as the first album to feature slam riffs, and oh boy does it slam. By the end of the opening track “Liege of Inveracity,” you’ll be ready to run straight through a wall.
After the closer “Jesus Wept,” that 10-page English paper you’ve been stressing over will seem like an anthill compared to this mountain of riffage. Do yourself a favor and let Suffocation suffocate all of your stress and anxiety.
Aldous Harding - “Designer” (2019)
The second album by New Zealand folk artist Aldous Harding is one of the most meditative and relaxing albums of the decade. At times, it recalls the rootsy pop rock of “The Beatles” (aka “The White Album”), the third Velvet Underground album and even occasionally Bon Iver’s work.
The instrumental palette is always tasteful, with acoustic and electric guitars, reserved drums, peppy basslines, strings and Harding’s soft vocals. Opener “Fixture Picture” is the clear highlight, but on tracks like “Zoo Eyes,” Harding shows off her impressive vocal range and ability to create some of the best music for just chilling out to.
Aphex Twin - “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” (1992)
Have you ever needed to get in the zone and just get a paper or study session over with? Have you ever needed a soundtrack to go along with it? Look no further than electronic artist Aphex Twin’s magnum opus.
“Selected Ambient Works 85-92” is 74 minutes of hypnotic, cold and clinical music unlike anything that came before it. Contrary to the title, almost none of it is ambient music and is closer to early EDM if anything.
It sounds like it was recorded in a cave converted into a lab where microbiologists perform some of the most complex experiments thinkable. It’s also relatively danceable, believe it or not.
Go up to the fourth or fifth floor of Lockwood, get a desk, put this on your earbuds and watch your productivity skyrocket. It’s gotten me through more marathon paper sessions than I can count.
If this album doesn't satisfy your desire for productivity, try his slower and more disturbing 1994 album “Selected Ambient Works Volume II.” It’s almost three hours of creepy ambient music but just as good for getting work done.
The arts desk can be reached at email@example.com.
Alex Whetham is an asst. arts editor for The Spectrum.