I started purposely avoiding anything dubbed “chillout music” a few years ago. The genre, so to speak, had become big business and at once became lost, diluted and utterly boring at the timid hands of such miscreants as Morcheeba and Zero 7. Anything that could be marketed to a backdrop of palm trees and pina coladas qualified and inevitably wound up on the latest Café Del Mar compilation.
Of course, as with everyone, I’ve still always had music that I enjoy chilling out to and since going back to college, the music has become more important. Trying to hammer out lines of Teeline shorthand or trawling through McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists (19th Edition) with LCD Soundsystem blaring out the stereo, sadly isn’t an option. I’ve had to, gulp, seek out new, improved chillout music. Let’s call it study music…
Here is my Top 3:
Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline
I’ve had this for a while and played it sparingly. I was a bit hesitant when I first read the words ‘drone music’; it just doesn’t sound very, y’know, welcoming. This album is the antithesis of that though: warm and soothing, this stuff’s like a nice sonic cup of tea.
Essential Track: Apreludes (in C Sharp Major)
Low – Things We Lost In the Fire
Low are a band I always thought I would like but kind of missed the boat on. I had a few bits and pieces, but this album is breathtaking. The songs are all incredibly simple and formulaic: hushed vocals, perfect harmonies and softly strummed guitars, but it’s a model that works amazingly well. Some of it is pretty dark stuff, but at just the right level, is a great accompaniment.
Essential Track – Sunflower
Yann Tiersen – Black Sessions
I could just as easily have included the Amelie OST or the Goodbye Lenin OST. Maybe not as laid back as, say, Steve Reich or Philip Glass, Yann Tiersen’s stuff is arguably more enjoyable. There are a couple of great covers on this one, particularly the essential track. It’s a live performance, but as long as you don’t mind the odd round of applause, this comes highly recommended.
Essential Track – Life on Mars (feat Neil Hannon)