Spacemen 3
1991; 2004, Space Age Recordings

I shouldn’t start a review of an album I’m recommending this way, and it’s not like it puts me to sleep, but Spacemen 3’s shimmering shoegaze does soundtrack a lot of my naps. This album is like the moment you reach REM sleep; you’ve already drifted off, your heart rate slows down, and the visions begin.

Had I wanted to save myself some effort, I guess I could have just said, “this album’s dreamy.” YAWN, but it is! It’s translucent and sparkly and hypnotizing and washes all over you. The opening track “Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)” sparks that lightning feeling of moving somewhere new—to the city or wherever your people are. There are love songs, too; what’s more starry-eyed than the glittering effects on “Just to See You Smile” and the sweet, whispery verses of “I Love You”? The latter half of Recurring sways toward the melancholy, but loses little of its glimmer. As the album closes, you’ll be slowly awoken by the nudge of “Feel So Good.” Feel your eyes crack open, rub them a little, stretch your legs: Life will feel a little more new. —Dylan

Djx8kThe Sounds of the Sounds of Science
Yo La Tengo
2002, Egon

In 2001, Yo La Tengo released their first movie score, The Sounds of the Sounds of Science. The record—eight tracks long, with each track lasting over six minutes—is a hushed indie rock exploration into the deep sea, a soundtrack for the short films of the marine biologist Jean Painlevé. Since making a soundtrack was a new experience for the band, they started writing by just sort of noodling around to make a song. What resulted is a calm record of psychedelic background music, beautiful enough to exist without the film, and evocative enough to make you see sea urchins and jellyfish floating by when you close your eyes. —Hazel

Lana Del Rey
2014, Interscope

Lana Del Rey’s music, despite its faults, never fails to set a mood. Her most recent album lives up to its glamorous precedents, but with a little more rock & roll edge. Ultraviolence features guitar work from the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and songs steeped in summer haze, dangerous activities and cultural references. From one fan to another, I’d say the best way to listen to LDR is to completely steep yourself in the feeling of the music. OK, I don’t recommend using “Florida Kilos” as your moral compass, but there’s nothing wrong with a little vicarious living. —Lucy

a2565588312_10Rendezvous with Rama
Ruth Garbus
2010, Ruth Garbus

As I write this, I am in a loud bumpy car wearing headphones, but since this record is playing I feel as though I am snuggled up in my bed. Rendezvous with Rama is my go to, get me outta here and let things be SLOWER record. Ruth Garbus sings in gentle tones, carefully and slowly spewing bits of mildly silly poetry. “The Finish Field” is spare, offering a chance to take a breath in each space and feel the tension of Garbus’ voice. This album has taken me through the deep, sleepy sweat of summer, and I highly recommend putting some headphones on and slowing down with her. —Allyssa

FarAwayTrainsPassingByFar Away Trains Passing By
Ulrich Schnauss
2001, Domino Recording Company

One summer I had this office job and it was stressful. I spent entire days at my desk feeling super rushed, just writing things and mailing things—I was, however, allowed to listen to music. I wanted to find the perfect productivity album; something with no words to distract me, something long that I could loop on repeat, something that felt easy and familiar. Somehow, I found Far Away Trains Passing By, a lengthy first album by Ulrich Schnauss, a German electronic producer. It was perfect. The record plays like a film score, a heavily abstracted interpretation of stereotypical cinematic moments: Every song is fit for a final kiss before the credits roll. And there’s something calming in the record’s percussive repetitiveness, along with the smallest, familiar touches (the sound of rain falling at the end of “Crazy for You,” cars racing by on a slick street in “Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn.”) This album cooled me down, chilled me out, and made me feel like whatever work I was doing was far more exciting than it actually was. —Hazel

RERVNG05_COVER_600x600An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings: 1972-1979)
Ariel Kalma
2014, RVNG Intl

The tracks on this compilation by the French composer Ariel Kalma went unheard for over 40 years until this magical album was released in 2014. In the booklet accompanying the CD, Kalma writes: “As a kid I used to close my ears and listen to all those those gurgles, flows, squeaks, and thumps generated somewhere in my body.” An Evolutionary Music is music just for that: becoming insular and appreciating being in one’s own body, and allowing layers of washy soundscapes and pulsating jazz to envelop you. When I listen to this, all sense of time goes out the window, and the music transports me someplace simultaneously calming and challenging. —Eleanor

cover170x170World of Echo
Arthur Russell
1986; 2005, Audika Records

I was spending the summer in a town far away from where I lived, but I felt more upset than excited; I’d made really good friends with the graduating seniors at my school, and I was lonely without their company and sad not to spend the summer with them. On the car trip to the place we were staying, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to anything but World of Echo. Its songs reverberate like whale calls, or like a record playing in a neighboring room. Even now, I don’t really think of this album as “music” in the regular sense. It feels less like something you must listen to, and more like a natural progression of sounds. Arthur Russell’s music exists apart from mainstream cultural influences, and it is comforting in its independence from any specific time or place. Listening to it in the car that day, I felt like I could be going anywhere and I’d still make it OK. —Lucy

cover170x170-1The Disintegration Loops
William Basinski
2002–2003, 2062

You can destroy something in an instant: smash, bang, and it’s gone. Or something can gradually break down in a process so slow and subtle that you can’t tell it’s happening until enough time has passed. The Disintegration Loops is the result of the latter: In 2001, William Basinski wanted to digitize some tape loops he’d recorded. Startlingly—in a kind of revelation—he realized the tapes were breaking down as they fed through the tape reader. The result is this record, or records, made up of nine samples, each played again and again until they finally die out for good. One track lasts only 10 minutes and 50 seconds, while the longest is over an hour. Listening to the sound eventually crack, skip, and transform, I’m struck by how eerie and beautiful the recordings are, and what a tender and reverential collection of sound Basinski has made. —Estelle

2014, Partisan Records

It didn’t take me very long to fall in love with Phox’s self titled debut album. The track “Slow Motion” is the star of the album, and it sets the pace for most of the remaining songs and their slow, swallowing sounds. The music is upbeat, but not overly cheery—Phox understand that it sometimes takes a little time to get happy. This album is a gradual, entrancing journey toward musical bliss. —Alyson

Lucinda Wiliams Car wheels on a gravel road HIGH RESOLUTION COVER ARTCar Wheels on a Gravel Road
Lucinda Williams
1998, Mercury Records

It supposedly took Williams six years and several bouts of recording and re-recording before she released Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The result is this classic album, which sits somewhere between country, rock, and that tiny middle-of-the-Venn-diagram space between what parents and I each listen to.

Country and Americana music (and this is my beginner’s take, so excuse its reductions) is a product of a stripped-back life, one lived at a slower pace than the modern cities and eras I’ve always lived in. While Williams relishes and roots herself in that particular tradition of slow, drawled-out thoughts, and earnest guitar plucking, she’s also constantly active, restless even: a seeker, wholly engaged in the project of feeling feelings. As for the love, the ache, and the emotions life can offer—she is all in. She shows her hand during a reprise of an earlier recording from her debut album Happy Woman Blues, “I Lost It.” On the subjects of space, feeling, and seeking it is everything: “I think I lost it/Let me know if you come across it,” she asks as she groans and grasps for her own authenticity. “I just wanna live the life I please/I don’t want no enemies/I don’t want nothin’ if I have to fake it,” is the kind of credo that blossoms this album’s slowness, that true-blue gift of self-discovery that presents itself when you unhurry your pace and let yourself feel some stuff!

This album has repeatedly appeared in my life during the height of summers past and in the height of other heated events: In the car with my dad going on summer hikes as a child; in the country where I spent some school vacations; and after an early July breakup. It makes sense to me that summer’s time—loops of uneventful yet guiltless slowness—creates the space for William’s soulful sense of activity. Williams lives, works, and feels in that active un-hurry—it’s her signature. This pace also means that she’s not quite prolific: In a career spanning just under four decades, she’s released 12 albums. But her music is time passed through the heart, all banging and clanking around on it’s way in and out. Feelings are rough and loud here, but the music that delivers them is stunningly tender, wrapped up in love and patience for the person that makes these songs possible. Williams’s Car Wheels covers a lot of ground, and doesn’t tread lightly on the ecstasy and perils of living an emotional life unafraid of relationships and self-reflection. It’s a ride that lets you feel life, and offers a beautiful view of it. —Dylan

cover170x170-2Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett
2015, Marathon Artists

I may be biased since I’m an Aussie, but Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett seems to be taking the world by storm, and rightly so! Her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit shows Barnett’s unique ability to tell detailed stories through music. Although many of her songs contain typically Australian references, most of Barnett’s themes are widely relatable—not wanting to go to work, looking for a new place to live, or admiring someone at the local pool. Each song presents a snippet of strong, honest, and witty internal monologue, making this one of those albums that gives you a clear visual when you listen to it. Sometimes I Sit and Think is a celebration of life’s small things mixed with a bit of deadpan humor; definitely a lot of fun. —Ruby A.

brian-eno-ambient-3-day-of-radianceDay of Radiance
Brian Eno & Laraaji
1980, Virgin Records Ltd.

I am so grateful for the serendipitous moment at which Brian Eno apparently happened upon Laraaji playing the zither in Washington Square Park. The result was this beautiful collaborative album, a series of uplifting, rhythmic zither compositions, with structures that repeat and evolve hypnotically. The album develops into a meditative ambience in which the instrument serves a much more textural purpose. This music feels like it has taken you on a long journey somewhere—nowhere in particular—but the unfolding of the journey is the magic thing itself because it changes and unfolds something in you. —Eleanor

Holy Other
2012 Tri Angle Records

I’ve always felt time dissolve into whispers when I’m in the throes of passion—not necessarily sexual passion, but feeling so deeply about something that all moments cease and you’re lost in your heart. Held is that feeling in sound. It is experimental, electronic R&B only in the sense that is made electronically, but really, it’s too pillowy to sit in any genre. Its chilly beats eventually blur into themselves and before you know it, you’re hazy with desire. If you’re looking for a passionate, inspiring album look no further than Held. —Meagan

slow_to_loveSlow to Love
Doe Paoro
2012, Doe Paoro

This album is only around 30 minutes long in total, but those 30 minutes go really slowly…which isn’t a bad thing. Paoro’s sound can’t be immediately defined—there are elements of pop, rhythm & blues, and other hazy vibes. All of her songs could probably be classified as some type of ballad, even the “fast” ones, which have slow tempos in comparison to common pop records. Anyway, Paoro’s drawls and wails give way to the feeling that something is in slow motion—she keeps me hanging on every single word as she draws her heartbreak, confusion, and raw emotion into discordant notes. It reminds me that sometimes there’s no rush when it comes to feelings. Sometimes the emotions that bother me most seem suspended in time, like they’re just stuck in my headspace never to leave. Whenever I listen to Paoro’s record, I imagine she knows that feeling, too. —Chanel

a3543664390_16Get Olde
Double Double Whammy, 2014

Crying mixes chiptune trills and squeals with live drums and guitars, and the singer ES’s soft sad-girl voice. On, “Bodega Run,” ES eulogizes sweet, marginal moments: “This band is boring me / Let’s cross the street to where they got those dank Doritos / And them jalepeño Cheetos.” The pop punk-y guitars and Game Boy noises bring back warm, slow summer days. —Annie

Cocteau Twins
1986; 2003, 4AD

Have you ever dreamed of icy deserts? When you close your eyes, do you ever see meadows of snow with a pale white mist sweeping through the wind? This is Victorialand, the semi-acoustic album by the Cocteau Twins. Victorialand exists in its own space-time, a surreal place that comes from Liz Fraser’s imagination. “Lazy Calm,” the album’s dazzling opener, stretches on forever with a glittering saxophone melody before Fraser’s abstract voice finally appears, like a mirage taking form. “Oomingmak,” perhaps the band’s most unearthly song, will give you chills that you’ll feel in your bones. As is usual with the Cocteau Twins, there are no lyrics; instead, Fraser uses an alien tongue to transformed time and language. Listen to this record when your own world feels too real, and allow days to blend into nights as you tread through these Antarctic guitar landscapes. —Meagan ♦