Isolation albums: NME writers on their favourite records for getting shit done when working from home

From post-rock to banging dance, here are some booster shots for the mind

If you’re anything like the NME team, you haven’t left the house much in days. Is it Wednesday? Almost impossible to say. We’re doing meetings via email and interviews on Skype. We’re not quite as isolated as the German Big Brother contestants who were kept in the dark about the ongoing global health crisis – the literal plot of Charlie Brooker’s 2008 drama Dead Set – but not far off. Anyway, we’ve all been trying to stay focused with albums that act as booster shots for the mind. Here’s what we’ve been listening to.

Darkside, ‘Psychic’ (2013)



When it’s time to really batten down the hatches and concentrate, the motivational pop bangers take a hiatus – sorry Robyn, Whitney and Normani – and on goes ‘Psychic’. A collaboration between Nicolas Jaar and multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington, Darkside’s one and only album has single-handedly hauled me through virtually every big deadline since it came out in 2013. It’s a stonker of an experimental dance record; Harrington’s artful twangs of guitar anchoring Jaar’s airy soundscapes into a darker, more grounded place. Plus, when ‘Paper Trails’ hits half-way through, it’s the perfect time to treat yourself to a sitting-down dance, just as a little self-isolation pick-me-up. El Hunt

Mogwai, ‘The Hawk Is Howling’ (2008)

Arguably Mogwai‘s finest album (fight me), this was the go-to album for my Relentless-fuelled essay nights and slow-start hangover mornings back at uni, and it still works today. What could be better for hunkering down than sprawling but warm and adventurous post-rock? Aside from it’s awesome song titles – ‘The Hawk Is Howling’, ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’, ‘The Sun Smells Too Loud’, ‘I Love You, I’m Going To Blow Up Your School’ – it’ll coast you through your to-do list, spark off ideas and stick a very Scottish two fingers up to any distractions. Andrew Trendell

Zomby, ‘Dedication’ (2011)

Reader, it’s low-key post-dubstep with occasional gun shots. The forgotten masterpiece that is Zomby’s ‘Dedication’ could have been precision-engineered for getting shit done in a scary time of doom and paranoia. The enigmatic producer – he was wearing a mask back in 2011, way before the rest of us – crafted a near-perfect, minutely observed 16-track record that ebbs with dark, understated beauty. It’s coiled with shuffling beats and sneaky, snaking basslines that creep up on your synapses and super-charge them with the kind of attention to detail that their creator covets. You’ll have your spreadsheet done quicker than you can say “atchoo”. Jordan Bassett

Santi, ‘Mandy And The Jungle’ (2019)

This mastermind’s music hits all the right spots when you need to knuckle down. The Nigerian-born, Dubai-based artist fronts Nigeria’s newest musical scene: alté. Can’t decided whether to play R&B, hip-hop, or an afrobeats record? Santi rolls it all into one on ‘Mandy And The Jungle’. Whether you want to belt out the catchy chorus on the likes of ‘Rapid Fire’, or cry your heart out to ‘Murlvana’ (when you should really be working), you’ll succumb to his groovy stylings. Kyann-Sian Williams

Leon Vynehall – ‘Rojus (Designed To Dance)’ (2016)


The title is a slight misnomer in my experience — as much as you can (and should!) boogie to the producer and DJ’s superb 2016 album, ‘Rojus’ is also the kind of soundtrack I slam on when it’s crunch time. As soon as the wobbling synths hove into view on beautiful opener ‘Beyond This…’, it’s go time. The next 48 minutes of work feel streamlined by sample-heavy house banger after house banger that, for some reason, helps my brain click into gear. The album’s intensity and big, big soundscape may not be to everyone’s working tastes, but if you need to make it through the final hour of the day – this could be the one for you. Sam Moore

Octo Octa, ‘Resonant Body’ (2019)

Whilst Fifth Harmony were pretty confident in their ability to work from home, I know that I can struggle: anything can be a distraction. Need to check an album’s release date? Catch me 45 minutes later lost in a Wikipedia spiral reading about the 1992 Olympic opening ceremony. But if I really need to focus, I stick on banging dance music. Currently it’s Octo Octa’s ‘Resonant Body’, a euphoric 45-minutes of joyous house and squelchy techno. It’s the perfect soundtrack to that one job on your to do list you’ve been avoiding. Hannah Mylrea

Air, ‘Moon Safari’ (1998)

Stress can be a total brain drain – and finding that one record that really relaxes you is all important. Luckily, French electro wizards Air dropped their downtempo space pop opus ‘Moon Safari’ back in 1998. Stuffed with psychedelic synths and mind-warping reverb, tracks such as ‘La Femme D’Argent and Sexy Boy blend ’70s easy listening schlock with then-groundbreaking music tech. The result: perfect laid-back pop tunes. Of course, if you’re playing this album during work hours, there’s always the risk of an unplanned post-lunch nap. But we trust you’ll stay professional. Alex Flood

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