A Guest Post By John Saeger
I enjoy music. I have frequently found that music has a positive effect on my mental health. The right songs can make a long drive feel like a regular commute. A good mix can keep up someone’s energy level during a workout. Nothing is better than a great concert. Music can also be therapeutic. Thanks to a new approach to listening, some of my favorite music relaxes my mind and provides a beneficial effect on my daily life.
How Music Relaxes My Mind
I recently discovered the rewards of listening to music as a way to relax. I have been attempting different strategies to unwind, but I am frequently frustrated by an inability to clear my head. Inevitably, I become consumed by my effort to focus or distracted by other thoughts swirling around.
I tried using the Headpace app to learn how to meditate. While it kind of worked, I was unable to truly let go.
While writing a post for my blog, I unknowingly stumbled upon a way to achieve a state of relaxation that was superior to my attempts at meditation. I concentrated on the lyrics of a new artist and noticed that I began to loosen up. It was a happy accident. The effect on my body and mental health was similar to the benefits of meditation, but they lasted longer.
I subsequently realized that by concentrating on any one aspect of a song, I was able to achieve a more relaxed feeling. I have tried this method a few times over the last month and it has worked fairly regularly. In one instance I fell asleep as I was listening to a song by the band Japanese Breakfast.
I later found out that I had unknowingly learned a therapeutic technique. By focusing on one aspect of sound I was able to clear out the “noise” surrounding me. I had discovered clarity through the same music that I had been listening to every day anyway. It was a change in approach that produced this result.
The Music That Relaxes My Mind
Not all bands create music that helps me achieve a mode of relaxation. Everyone can find qualities in different types of music that retain this comfortable feeling on a personal level. The Foo Fighters and AC/DC are brilliant rock bands, but volume does not necessarily help me relax.
The music that eases my mind usually involves a minimalistic or psychedelic style. There have been some exceptions. Some classical music, R&B, and jazz have also worked for me on occasion. The structure of a three-minute pop song is barely enough time to focus. Longer pieces of music are more constructive because they give me more time to relax.
I have also found that certain live songs can lead to a similar result. Since bands have a tendency to break out their best jams on stage and extend the length of songs, this creates beautiful moments that can transport a listener. YouTube has been an unexpected resource for me in this regard.
What Bands Helps Me Relax
These are some of the bands whose music promotes relaxation. Included with each group are a set of songs that have helped me unwind.
The XX – No contemporary band excels at electronic minimalism more than The XX. Even though all three of their records are great, their début record (xx) is the best choice for relaxation. There are so many striking moments on that album that are enhanced by the simplicity of the band’s shoegaze creations. Most of The xx’s early music puts my mind at ease in just a few notes. Picks: “Fantasy,” “Intro,” “Crystallized”
Pink Floyd – Earlier this year I rediscovered my DVD of Pink Floyd’s Pulse. The concert captured Pink Floyd’s 1994 tour and included different eras of the band’s music. I had frequently played this DVD in college as a way to get past my writer’s block. While most of the music that attracted me to the band is from The Dark Side Of The Moon, the live interpretations on Pulse served as my introduction to Pink Floyd’s discography. Picks: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “Us And Them,” “Great Gig In The Sky”
The Paper Kites – There was a long stretch in 2017 where it seemed as if every band that I was discovering came from Australia. The Paper Kites are one of those groups. The amazing Indie Folk band has already released five albums over the last seven years. The Paper Kites have stunning musical abilities that make me pause and take in the words of singers Sam Bentley and Christina Lacy. Every time I listen to the music of The Paper Kites, I feel a little better. Picks: “Electric Indigo,” “Renegade,” “Malleable Beings”
Beach House – The Maryland dream pop band has a way of making time disappear. Their 2012 album Bloom is one of a few records that I can drop a needle on from beginning to end and feel like I was listening to a symphony. If I had to recommend one album to use as a reference point for a focused listening experience, it would be the truly seamless Bloom. Picks: “Myth,” “Irene,” “Wild,” “Girl Of The Year”
Beck – All of Beck’s discography has a way of promoting mental health, but not all of the eclectic musician’s work promotes a calming presence. Beck’s most relaxing music comes from his albums Morning Phase and Sea Change. Both show off his acoustic sensibilities and are departures from his typical mix of rock, electronic music, and hip-hop. Picks: “Morning,” “Waking Light,” “Guess I’m Doing Fine”
The War On Drugs – Over the last five years, there has been no band whose music has impacted me greater than The War On Drugs. It is fitting that their breakout record is entitled Lost In The Dream, because that is the effect that The War On Drugs promotes. Picks: “Under The Pressure,” “Thinking Of A Place,” “In Reverse,” “It’s Your Destiny”
Steve Gunn – Steve Gunn is a former member of indie megastar Kurt Vile’s band. He is a brilliant singer-songwriter whose music has the ability to transport almost any listener into a relaxed feeling. Gunn’s most stunning song is “Way Out Weather.” The song’s liquid slide guitar creates an ethereal moment that could be looped into an hour-long record that I would not tire of. Picks: “Nature Driver,” “Way Out Weather,” “Wildwood”
Honorable Mentions: Raphael Saadiq – “Skyy, Can You Feel Me,” U2 – “Running To Stand Still,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Swingin’,” Jonathan Wilson – Desert Raven, Michael Kiwanuka – “Cold Little Heart,” The Frames – “Fitzcaraldo,” Kurt Vile – “Airbud”
Want to listen to them all?
Check out John Saeger’s relaxing Spotify list below!
John Saeger is a constant consumer of music and blogs about pop-culture for www.flatcircleblog.com. The site is a Philadelphia pop-culture blog that covers television, music, and movies.