The joy of music is that you can always find a song to fit any mood. Whether you need a stirring, anthemic track to motivate you for a big challenge, a wistful number to get you through a melancholy moment or some soothing sounds perfect for your own musical meditation, the answer is invariably just a button away.
So, if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and settle down for some seriously calming vibes, these are the songs that will prove music to your ears.
1/1 – Brian Eno
The birth of ambient. Critically derided by many on its release in 1978, Eno’s landmark recording Music for Airports uses tape loops to create a soothing, ever-evolving series of instrumental patterns. Opening track 1/1, written with the help of musical polymath and former Soft Machine man Robert Wyatt, delights with its naggingly beautiful piano melody. It’s still the ambient benchmark.
Age of Consent – New Order (Howie B remix)
Dance-rock gone rogue. The original’s twanging guitar riff and itchy drum patterns are replaced by a two-note synth dirge, deep bass and bongos. Yes, bongos.
Chicago – Sufjan Stevens
A comforting mix of strings, trumpets and twinkly sleigh bells – peppered with the dulcet, self-deprecating tones of Stevens himself – make this story of a young man driving to Chicago in a van a soul-soothing ode to alt-folky freedom. Has he ever topped this album?
Exchange – Massive Attack
Simply put, this is what Bristol’s finest vibe-merchants do best: take an Isaac Hayes loop, add some soft beats and the vocals of Horace Andy and work it into a blissed-out masterwork.
Harlem River Drive – Bobbi Humphrey
While jazz flute has become the subject of abject parody (thanks, Anchorman! Thanks, Will Ferrell!) there’s no disputing the majesty of Bobbi Humphrey and her calling card – this wistful, almost eight-minute tribute to cruising along a stretch of road in north Manhattan.
Little Fluffy Clouds (Cumulonimbus Mix) – The Orb
Everyone knows the seminal, Steve Reich-sampling original (or if you don’t, you should). But this alternative, slow house remix by The Orb themselves is perhaps even more engaging and soothing.
No.2 – Clube Da Esquina
A downright gorgeous track from Brazilian legend Milton Nascimento and his multi-talented collective. The strange, beautiful vocal chatter that dances around its exquisite bass line is enough to make you swoon. Add in heart-stopping melodies and swelling strings and, well, you’re on cloud nine. Blissed out bossa nova – who would have thunk it?
Nova – Amon Tobin
This woozy effort from Brazilian electronica producer Amon Tobin is enough to calm the nerves of even the stressiest of stress heads. Anchored by a trance-inducing bassline, Nova, the last track on 1998 album Permutations, slowly but surely ascends into the stratosphere, borne aloft by a cheesy sax line and gorgeous vibes.
Say – C Duncan
Who knew one Scottish guy in his bedroom could make something so rhythmic and understatedly complex? It’s like a choral massage, just lovely.