Music is a mood influencer like no other. From chilling to thrilling, every occasion has a tune. Today, we’re seeking relaxing music.
Welcome, music lovers. Feeling stressed? Me too. Take a few deep breaths and relax – you’ve come to the right place.
Today, we’re going to replace those irksome norepinephrine transmitters with serotonin, on the cheap. And we’re going to do it with songs. That’s right. This isn’t another lacklustre 1-hour YouTube compilation of boring piano and birds chirping. These are gently crafted tunes to ease your mind via tactile dynamics, graceful melodies, and careful arrangement. This is relaxing music at its finest.
Angus & Julia Stone
There was a point in Australian music when the sibling harmonies of Angus & Julia were practically inescapable. Their dreamy vocals gelled together to create some of contemporary folks’ most soothing slow-burns. Namely, the 2010 hottest 100 winner and escapist paradise better known as Big Jet Plane. Since then, the artists have released some noteworthy solo material, but we’ll always return to their reign as a blissful songwriting team for optimum alleviation. Ah yes, the ultimate calming artist!
Another duo with intoxicating results, Beach House has long been at the forefront of starry dream pop and ambient music. Recognisable by their wavy synths, relaxed tempos, and undulating electric guitar, Beach Houses’ soundscapes are immersive and psychedelic, plunging listeners into hazy rabbit holes and colourful dreams. If you’re game for some melancholy, we’d strongly recommend a front to back listen of their 2015 landmark LP, Depression Cherry.
When an artist’s name means ‘good winter’ in French, you can (and should) expect wonderful things. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) has been crafting indelible melodies in the left-of-field space for over 10 years now; each album dense in substance, rippling with humanity.
However, when seeking his most relaxing music, there’s one record a cut above the rest: his self-titled sophomore. An album so inebriating they named it twice, Bon Iver Bon Iver flows effortlessly, while still containing expansive, lush instrumentation and sophisticated arrangements. If Bon Iver Bon Iver is the muscle-relaxer of the folk-realm, then single Holocene is the metaxalone equivalent.
Soundscape aficionado Brian Eno publicized the term ‘ambient music’ back in the ’70s. Arguably, to this day, no one’s been able to top his atmospheric, unstructured musical passages. The activist, producer, thinker, visual artist, and musician has a bountiful discography of immersive listening experiences, that shut down the body and open up the mind.
If you haven’t heard of Eno, you’ve probably heard his sonic contributions in films like Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, Traffic, Trainspotting, and Blue. Serenity is achieved in just about all of Eno’s records, but our personal favourite is the piano-centric Ambient 1: Music For Airports. Close your eyes, now.
No, not the indie recluse Chet Faker. Chet Baker, the West Coast jazz pro who inspired his pseudonym. Baker was eponymous with the ’50s jazz/blues scene and a master of the intimate, whether it be a restrained trumpet solo or sultry vocal performance. His ’50s LP Chet Baker Sings has aged like fine wine; a treasure trove of irresistible crooning and tasteful jazz chops. Continuing on the cliché train, this record will put your head in the clouds and keep it there till the final breath. Timeless tranquillity.
If we venture back to the late 19th century/early 20th century, the origins of musical impressionism can be heard in Debussy’s mature compositions. The pianists’ experimentation with non-traditional scales and tonal structures were revolutionary for the time period, with Debussy introducing western musicians to eastern techniques like pentatonicism (5 note scales). Debussy’s most prominent (and yes, relaxing) works are his Préludes. Give classic Clair de Lune a try – you’ve probably heard it on a call-wait line before. Why? Because they’re trying to relax you!
C418’s Minecraft Soundtrack
We’re far from the first to acknowledge the understated masterstroke that was C418’s musical contribution to Minecraft. Unlike other video game composers of the day, C418 traded out synths and sound effects for piano and strings. The end result was a collection of sparse, delicate tracks that seeped into a players’ conscience as they mined late into the night. C418’s compositions aren’t complex – but that’s what makes them so comforting. Who would have thought a sandbox game could be so warm and fuzzy?
Moses Sumney is food for the soul. A Powerade for the hangover. Hard rainfall in the drought. With his impossible voice (particularly in falsetto) and jazz-embedded instrumental backings, Sumney lays you down with every sensitive melody his timbre roams. If you’re an album-focused person, give his 2017 masterstroke Aromanticism a spin. Only after a track? I’d recommend Make Out In My Car, reworked with folk laureate, Sufjan Stevens. Shivers every time.
In 2002, a young and unsuspecting pianist/singer/songwriter would release a diamond-selling debut. The record, Come Away With Me, was acoustic pop at its gentlest, featuring an ensemble of formidable jazz musos, heartfelt lyrics, and of course, Jones’s trademark husk. Though this talented artist may be better suited for heartbreak ponderings, not as a relaxing music recommendation, Jones’s debut LP is undoubtedly calming in its weightless beauty. Come Away With Me is easy listening at its most potent. Long live Norah Jones.
There’s nothing like a fond, familiar memory to block out the chaos of the present. Did your parents ever sing you a bedtime song? What were your headphones pumping on the bus to school? As long as your track is associated with strong, positive memories, it’s probably going to relax you more than anything else on the list. For me, it’s Pete Murray’s Opportunity. “Hold on now, your exits here, it’s waiting just for you”.
Are these some of the best chill music artists you know? We hope so, because good music is like relaxing art and hopefully these recommendations aid you in your quest for peace. From all of us at Happy, enjoy, and rest easy.