It’s been an undoubtedly strange month. The days – filled with glitchy video calls, bog roll hoarding and trying to hide from the housemate you’ve just discovered is insufferable – are all blurring into one. As we struggle to make some sense of the weird new normal we’re living in, it’s understandable to feel a bit anxious.
For many of us, we’ll turn to our favourite albums to ease us through these changes. Listening to music has been proven to help calm us down (by reducing the levels of stress hormone cortisol), so there’s never been a better time to pop in your headphones, crank the volume up and zone out for an hour. From the soothing coos of Sufjan Stevens, to the sun-drenched joy of Metronomy, here are the albums NME writers have been rinsing to help ease our anxiety in this weird, unsettling time.
Often cited as one of the albums you need to hear before you die, take it a few stages further and listen to it every goddamn day – especially in these most trying of times. A mixture of blissed-out balearic sounds and ambient trip-hop, ‘Melody A.M.’ is a feel-good, stress-free collection of subtle house bangers, that’ll take you back to watching the sun come up after a rave. Put it on, turn it up, and float away.
‘Nothing Is Still’
Leon Vynehall’s debut album ‘Nothing Is Still’ was born out of grief, adventure and bold creativity. Inspired by his grandparents’ migration to the US in the 20th century, the British producer inhabited their struggles and triumphs in this soothing, spectacular masterpiece. Elegantly gliding away from the house bangers where he made his name, this orchestral led album is much calmer than the waters his family traversed: scattered drums and eerie soundscapes mesh with symphonic genius. One for the sunrise stroll, this.
‘The English Riviera’
Upon release in 2011, ‘The English Riviera’ was the album that saw Metronomy coming out of the shadows and transforming into one of Britain’s greatest pop bands. Close your eyes while listening to the title track and you’ll be transported to the heady highs of British summer, where the rare sight of beaming sunshine helps to make everything seem a little less shit. It’s an instant mood lifter, and the tonic we all need right now.
A sprawling experimental record about the state of Illinois, that includes a song about serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr? Doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for relaxation; but there’s something about Sufjan Stevens’ intricate concept album that’ll soothe your soul. Maybe it’s the lush instrumentation, that fuses lo-fi moments with soaring strings, rich orchestration and jangling banjos. Or perhaps it’s the intricate lyrics, that’ll totally absorb you and act as a distraction from the outside world. But whatever it is, when all else fails putting on Sufjan Stevens’ euphoric, genre-splicing ‘Illinois’ is my go to remedy for a brief moment of respite during a particularly anxious day.
‘Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill’
Hazy, strange, and bizarrely warm, Grouper’s fifth album is ornate pastoral folk twisted into something dark and psychedelic – essentially, ‘Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill’ sounds a little like Vashti Bunyan if she was really into bog-snorkelling. And blasting out this album, you shift into another world. I first got into Grouper because this record’s masterpiece, ‘Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping’, soundtracked a particular scene in Skins – the bit where Emily and Naomi sob their confused, anxious hearts out, and hold hands through a cat flap. Twenty-something queers, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And this album in particular has got me through all of my own cat flap moments, ever since.