Musical Fridays: Taking It Easy

by Richard Southard

Remember last week when I said I would do a more “topical” and “conversational” post? Well, I was in the process of that, and my saved post seemed to have deleted itself after I had saved it. Thanks, wordpress. So, rather than try to repeat all my words in a rushed fashion, I’ve decided to make a different post entirely. Perhaps I can give more thought-provoking words at another time.

This week, I’ll be sharing some albums that I find to be “easy-going”. You know, albums that you can play while studying, or while you relax by a fireplace in the evening, or when you take an afternoon walk out in the woods. If you’re looking to take some edge off the day, I think many of these albums will suffice.

In thinking of these albums, it has come to my attention that “easy going” music can vary between person-to-person. What’s relaxing to me could certainly be intrusive for another. I guess that’s the way tastes can be, though.

Bonobo – The North Borders

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I find The North Borders to be the best example of Bonobo’s style; downtempo electronic that with great composition and balance. “First Fires”, the first track off the album, highlights Bonobo’s ability to sync his more atmospheric sounds with vocals, something that isn’t seen too often throughout his music. Throughout the album are also various vocal samples, such as on “Know You” and “Emkay”, both of which could easily get stuck in your head.

Ryan Hemsworth – Alone For the First Time

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With this one, less is more, as there are only seven tracks to it. It’s another electronic album, but it differs from The North Borders in how much more each song includes. For one, they’re less minimalistic, being more progressive and layered, and less static. There are also more vocal features throughout the album, and they’re quite varied. The echoey feature of Lontalius on “Walk Me Home” fits very well to the production style, and Dawn Golden manages to create a dimly emotional tone on “Snow in Newark”.

Sufjan Stevens – Illnois

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Folk is already a pretty easy-going genre as whole (although there are exceptions). But Sufjan Stevens is an artist who shines on multiple level, especially in his writing and overall variety. This can be found through his large discography, but Illinoise is able show both these in just one album (which is easy, since its 22 songs long). It’s a fantastic journey of folk, indie rock, jazz-inspired tunes, and various transitional tracks that sometimes resemble show tunes. The lyrics follow the concept of the album, making references to Illinois and its historical figures and stories. I pondered saving this for some sort of “top albums” post, but it will work just fine here.

Zammuto – Anchor

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Unconsciously, I’ve placed this album after a few electronic albums and an indie album. Which works, as Anchor almost feels like an in-between, in terms of sound. Zammuto is described as an indie rock band, but this album adds a bit more of an electronic approach to their low-tempo structure. The cover for the album does a surprisingly good job at depicting the style; chilled, open, a bit lonely, but also a pleasant trip.

 

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
downloadThis is a different Miles Davis from what has already been featured on this blog, twice. While Sketches of Spain is extravagant, and Bitches’ Brew is an experimental mixture of styles, Kind of Blue is a more relaxed and classic approach to jazz. Specifically, it’s been labeled as “Modal Jazz”, a subgenre that uses musical modes, rather than chords, as a framework for harmonies. It’s less improvisational and complex than his other works, and while that may be less engaging to some fans, it doesn’t take away from a fantastic, easy-going album. It’s been rumored to be the best-selling jazz album of all time, and there’s a reason for that.

After working around with how many albums to post each week, I’ve concluded that five should be just right. Yes, this does make it easier for me, but the real motivation for that is how it’s a nice, balanced number for listening. Sharing five albums allows me to give a good variety, but also allows you all to give every suggestion a chance, without feeling too overwhelmed.

Over the course of the summer, I was beginning every day with the goal of finishing at least one new album. With the number of opportunities to listen to music, I don’t find that goal too difficult, even now with all my work for the semester. But sometimes, it’s just not doable. So, five seems like just right amount to get someone through a week.

And on that note, I’ll be back next week. Thanks for the read, and as always, enjoy the music.