By Erin Caine
Elm Staff Writer

As the second half of the spring semester begins, suddenly you might find yourself bogged down with a seemingly endless stream of work. When cramming for exams or pumping out essays in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes a cup of coffee alone just doesn’t cut it. More often, its listening to a favorite artist or a certain playlist that motivates you to stay on track, no matter how painful. Below is a list of the albums practically tailor-made for powering through those midnight study sessions:

Stick figure blues

Music helps you focus studying, making it more enjoyable.

1. Nujabes, “Spiritual State” Legendary producer Jun Seba’s merging of lo-fi hip-hop, rap, and jazz renders tracks that are mellow, wistful, atmospheric, and downright transcendent. Nujabes’s eclectic discography involves collaborations with musicians of all kinds, from Japanese artists to underground American rappers. One notable track is “Sky is Tumbling,” featuring Cise Star, which pairs a boisterous jazz beat with Star’s undisturbed verses. At one moment nostalgic-sounding jazz, the next stylish and intricately-layered hip hop, “Spiritual State” always keeps you interested and alert.
2. Glass Animals, “ZABA” English indie rockers Glass Animals debuted in 2014 with an album that perfectly showcased the band’s lush and atmospheric synths, their smart melodies and rhythms, and Dave Bayley’s satin-smooth vocals. Though their sophomore album is brimming with talent and individuality as well, its “ZABA” that’s the band’s most spellbinding. Subtly enthralling without requiring all of your attention at once, this album is perfect for last-minute essays. Two songs in particular to listen for are the quietly sensual “Hazey” and sleek and rhythmic “Black Mambo.”
3. Lianne La Havas, “Is Your Love Big Enough?” Unaffectedly elegant and uniquely charming, “Is Your Love Big Enough?” has a strangely mature aura despite being La Havas’s debut album. The sheer quality of sound is consistent and distinctive throughout, from the layered vocal hook of “Don’t Wake Me Up” to the rhythmic, earnest ending track “They Could Be Wrong.” La Havas’s second album “Blood” is also worth checking out, ascending from the tidy simplicity of her debut into bolder, more self-assured musical territory. Still, when studying, “Is Your Love Big Enough?” has an understated sound that’s best for concentration.
4. Gregory Alan Isakov, “This Empty Northern Hemisphere.” Singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov immigrated from South Africa to America as a child, and he was only 16 when he began touring with a band. He debuted in 2003, and six years later released his fourth album “This Empty Northern Hemisphere,” which features a collection of tender and introspective folk songs. “Big Black Car” is one of the album’s most popular tracks, with its memorable acoustic guitar riffs and insightful lyrics. The whole album conjures images of night drives on an empty highway, and its unperturbed continuity offers a much-needed relief.
5. Mree, “Winterwell.” New Jersey indie artist Marie Hsiao began writing her own material at just 14, and was still a teenager when she released her self-produced debut “Grow” in 2011. Her sophomore album two years later, entitled “Winterwell,” won an Independent Music Award, and was praised for its “sophisticated soundscapes,” the album is clear, resonating, and enchanting, with Mree’s crystalline vocals immediately capturing your attention. Cocooned in the tranquil, acoustic sound of “Winterwell,” the stress of studying seems to melt away. “Monsters” is one of the standout tracks of the album, with its pronounced bass line and playful melody.

The Elm

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