Studying with calm songs


Businesswoman working on a report or questionnaire writing notes with a pen, overhead view of her desk with a laptop, paperwork and coffee

Katie Whaley

Whether it’s an early morning on my Alternate Unassigned Time (AUT) at the public library or after school holed up in my room, I have to listen to background music when I’m studying. My playlist for doing homework doesn’t change as often as my normal taste in music, but I’m very particular about what I’m listening to when I’m trying to focus on a unit’s worth of notes. As finals get closer in my last semester of high school, I put together a playlist of comforting songs to help me survive all the phases of studying.

‘Human’- Dodie

I’ve been following Dodie Clark, or ‘doddleoddle’, on YouTube since I was in middle school, and when she posted the original acoustic version of ‘Human’ in 2016, I had it on repeat for weeks. While the original has a special place in my heart, the studio version on her EP by the same name shows how far Dodie has come professionally. The harmonies and string instruments that make Dodie’s iconic soft and calming sound are perfect for low-stress studying with a warm drink.
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‘Cream & Sugar’- Louie Zong

When Louie Zong’s ‘Ghost Duet’ went somewhat viral last summer, the adorable animations and simplistic sound of his work drew me in. ‘Cream & Sugar’ became my quick favorite.  Zong’s light and fun instrumentals reminds me of the innocent excitement of watching early morning cartoons with my little sister as a kid. I feel like I’m in my own sunny cartoon study montage with ‘Cream & Sugar’ playing in the background, which makes reading a biology textbook at 9 a.m. much more bearable.  
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‘Oh Klahoma’- Jack Stauber

Jack Stauber has a very distinct style that’s hard to pin down to a specific genre. Similar to Louie Zong’s work, I originally saw his short stop motion animations, but Stauber has a surrealist style that bleeds into the lyrics of his music. This makes it easy to focus on my work with nonsensical words in the background. Most of his work has a melancholy feel, and ‘Oh Klahoma’ is a more subdued song on his album ‘Pop Food’.   
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‘Word of Mouth’- Shakey Graves

I originally fell in love with Shakey Graves when ‘Dearly Departed’ played on the radio about four years ago. My mom and I learned all the lyrics and would sing the duet as loud as we could whenever it was on. For a while, I forgot about the song, but when it got stuck in my head about two years later, I googled the lyrics and found more of Shakey Graves’ music. The one-man band’s authentic voice and unpredictable sound had me hooked. ‘Word of Mouth’ is simultaneously soft and energetic, which is the perfect combination for keeping me awake and focused on my work.
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‘Wasteland Baby!’- Hozier

If it wasn’t already obvious from this playlist, I have a soft spot for acoustic guitar and unique voices. Hozier’s new song hits both of these points, and the distortion of the vocals made it my favorite song of March. The album, which shares the same name, was released March 1 and immediately made it into my playlist. ‘Cherry Wine’ holds the number one spot of my top Hozier songs, but ‘Wasteland Baby!’ is a close second. I’ve listened to it so often that’s it’s a comforting well-worn groove of lyrics and melody to study to.
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‘Night’- The Altogether

‘Night’ is a pretty recent addition to my playlist that I found following a YouTube rabbit hole of Brian David Gilbert’s videos. I became obsessed with his content for the comedic value, so when I found the band he and Jonah Scott created, I was immediately in love with their music. They have a similar folk sound to Hozier, with sweet lyrics and Brian David Gilbert’s theatrical voice. ‘Sophie’ was the first song I heard from The Altogether, but ‘Night’ has an ethereal calm feel that suits a studying environment.  
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