This is the third in the trilogy of posts on what I’m watching, reading, and listening to. I may make this a regular, periodic feature.
This category is harder to write about because listening to music is easier to do, and therefore I do so much of it throughout the week. As you probably do, I listen to music while I’m doing other things, though I make a point of not listening to music with lyrics while I’m working or reading. (I’ve had that personal rule for several years now, ever since I heard a neuroscientist talk about how lyrics distract us on some level even when we think we’re not listening to them.) This means that at work, I listen to a lot of classical, post-rock, ambient music, movie scores and trailer music, and yoga/New Age/relaxation music. I’ve also been listening to a bit of modern funk, a lot of which has no lyrics. Spotify (I use the free desktop version) is brilliant at finding me new tracks in these genres, so my Discover Weekly playlist, which I listen to every Monday, is almost all instrumental. (If you’ve never listened to your Discover Weekly playlist, try it–Spotify “curates” it from music similar to what you typically listen to.)
Lately, I’ve also been listening to ambient music, nature sounds, and something called “binaural beats” (supposedly scientifically proven to help you relax) while falling asleep. I find these tracks on a meditation app called Insight Timer. The Yoga Radio station on Pandora is also a good sleep soundtrack.
In the car, I mostly listen to audiobooks, and although those are not the topic of this post, I will mention that I’m thoroughly enjoying The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd, another recent children’s lit selection. When I feel like rolling down the windows and singing, I like modern folk, like the Avett Brothers, and timeless-sounding rock, like Dawes. I also enjoy Pandora’s 80’s Alternative station when driving or running.
But let’s talk about the music I love enough to buy. Lately, I have been buying music only in the form of records. My record collection is growing and extremely eclectic, and it includes some thrift store finds that are just plain weird, like Sacred Music from the Russian Cathedral and an electronic version of Holst’s The Planets. Here are my most recent acquisitions: Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Dawes’s We’re All Gonna Die, NEEDTOBREATHE’s The Outsiders, and an orchestral album that includes songs from Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I always say I’m going to take a tour of my albums, listening to all of them in some sort of order (alphabetical, chronological, or just the order they happen to be sitting in), but I end up listening to whatever I feel like at the moment. Sometimes, there are strategic reasons for my choice (e.g., I had people over Saturday afternoon and didn’t want to put on something with distracting lyrics, so I chose the soundtrack to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them); other times I just feel like listening to The War on Drugs or The Head and the Heart. Last Tuesday evening, I knew I was going to be cooking for a while so I chose to listen to my entire Decemberists collection. (It consists of only two albums, The Crane Wife and The King Is Dead, but the former is a long album.) Yesterday, before I watched the Steelers’ pre-season game, I put on Born in the USA because both Bruce and the Steelers make me think of steel, sweat, and working-class America.
I hope you didn’t start reading this post expecting me to review recently-released albums. I don’t listen to much new music. But maybe some of my scattershot name-dropping has inspired you to revisit a classic or look up an artist you haven’t tried. Let me know what you’re listening to, too!