Are you super-psyched to get back to school? Have you been going through the motions of enjoying the sun all summer, while secretly waiting for the chance to get back to your true passion — studying, writing term papers, and otherwise focusing? Do you think a day without "getting a head start on a little work" is like a day without sunshine?
If so, please go away; this article is not for you. If, however, you've found that, as the summer winds down, you need a little extra help getting back into the school/ work/ being a productive human being spirit, then you are in the right place.
By now, we've all heard about the research connecting listening to baroque classical music with increased mental engagement with work. And if you're the kind of person who can amp up for a night of studying or grinding out a work progress report while listening to Vivaldi, then more power to you.
But if you've tried and tried, and classical music still just makes you feel like you're on hold with your credit card company, there's still hope. Research suggests that pop music is fine for studying or work with reading or writing components, as long as you stay away from music with lyrics.
With that in mind, here are 11 engaging, energetic, and nearly-wordless tracks to help carry you back to the shores of mature adult life. And don't worry — as soon as you submit your paper, you can totally put on "Fancy," bust out your crop top, and pretend that it's still July.
BRIAN ENO, “1/1”
Brian Eno is more than just a ground-breaking performer, songwriter, and award-winning music producer. He is also the godfather of ambient music, and spent decades crafting ambient sounds designed to help achieves specific psychological goals, like soothing women in labor. This song, from his album Music for Airports, is designed to “defuse the tense, anxious atmosphere of an airport terminal” — so it should work just as well defusing the tense, anxious atmosphere of trying to write a term paper on a book you "forgot" to read.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, “First Breath After Coma”
Explosions in the Sky — or, as you may better know them, the Friday Light Nights Theme Song Guys — create instrumental post-rock that is nearly vocal-free and totally engaging without being too intense. Listen, and envision Coach and Tami supporting you emotionally and loving you unconditionally while you merge Excel sheets.
Sigur Ros, “Takk”
The songs of ethereal Icelandic musicians Sigur Ros do technically have lyrics, but since they're almost all in Icelandic, the brain power you use processing them should be negligible (unless you're, you know, studying for your Icelandic language mid-term).
Air, “Highschool Lover”
This instrumental, piano-based version of the theme from The Virgin Suicides provides a totally relaxed soundtrack to the movie of your life right now (it's called Goddammit, Why Did I Sing Up for This Linguistics Course 2).
Nightmares on Wax, "You Wish"
Disregard the weirdly threatening name — DJ/ composer Nightmares on Wax crafts chill soul and R & B-influenced electronica that pairs perfectly with realizing that it's past midnight and you somehow haven't even started studying yet.
The xx, “Intro”
If you like the way you can just get lost in the vibe of this British indie pop gem, you're in luck —some internet genius made a four hour long version of the song.
Boards of Canada, “Reach for the Dead”
Mind-meld with your textbook while listening to this wildly chill track by the Scottish electronica duo who take inspiration from the TV soundtracks of the '70s.
LCD Soundsystem, 45:33
Ahhhh, wake up wake up wake up! You chilled out too hard and accidentally fell asleep on your keyboard. Get pumped to make it through the next leg of your project and also clean drool off of your trackpad with this super-high-octane single-song album, which was specially created to be listened to while jogging.
Miles Davis, “So What”
Listening to this instrumental jazz classic off of Davis's legendary album Kind of Blue won't just help you focus; it will also give you something to talk to your uncle about at Thanksgiving this year (all uncles love Miles Davis, it's a scientific fact; maybe you could do a lab project on it?).
This song's high energy instrumental rock + lack of vocals = focus. You're in the last stretch of your work marathon, and this song is throwing you cups of water and bananas and holding a big, glittery sign with your name on it! You can do it! Conjugate those verbs/ fine-tune that PowerPoint presentation/ glue those google eyes to that poster board!
M83, “Midnight City”
OK, you've made it this far, and you're now in the absolute last moments of writing your paper. You've earned this pumped-up dance track, which technically has lyrics (but I'll be damned if I can tell you what any of them are).