“Piano Phases” — Steve Reich
From his “Another Look at the Counterpoint,” “Piano Phases” by Steve Reich is a 12-minute minimalist epic. The repeating rhythms are both calming and invigorating, allowing the mind to focus without being distracted. Using phasing (the technique of shifting repeating melodies forward or back half a beat), this piece is sure to keep you awake during the seemingly endless nights of studying (it might also sound a bit stressful, but this is also perfect for midterm week).
— Benjamin Maldonado
“Bros vs. Ufos” — Princess Century
From their 2015 album “Progress,” Princess Century’s “Bros vs. Ufos” has no lyrics but rather an insidiously good beat, an alien flux, a minimalist rhythm that doesn’t compromise your studying but furnishing your brainwaves with a dynamic, productive repetition. At 6 minutes and fifteen seconds long, this “Stranger Things”-esque song eventually presses into itself; you can practically hear the cogs compress in a way that is massively conducive to strapping down and focusing on notes that are otherwise not so enticing.
— Medina Husakovic
“How We Feel” — Panama
Panama’s “How We Feel” is a perfect song for those nights when you need a chill, atmospheric song to get into the zone, but one that’s still upbeat enough so you don’t fall asleep!
— Andrea Lim
“A 1000 Times” — Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam’s “A 1000 Times” begins with a promise of being soft and easy listening. However, similar to Stanford academics, you realize that any promise of ease gets broken very soon and very quickly. The song blasts into a loud rasping verse and chorus that still somehow retains the tenderness from the now long-forgotten beginning. It will leave the listener singing along as they join Hamilton and serenade good midterm grades, belting that they had “a dream that you were mine … a thousand times.”
— Dylan Grosz
“3 Strikes” — Terror Jr.
With a bouncing, ethereal beat and vocals to match, this song is perfect whether you’re on the treadmill at the gym or trying to fill your dorm room with enough noise to get yourself to finally write that midterm paper — without getting too distracted by said noise, of course.
– Dante Laird
“Reconsider” — The xx (Jamie xx edit)
This song, though minimal and dreamy, has the beat to keep you going on those late night study sessions, but it’s unobtrusive enough to allow for concentration. The weaving in and out of Romy Madly Croft’s and Oliver Sim’s vocals, fading in and out with Jamie xx’s excellent production, provide a calming, minimal soundtrack to a long, quiet night of studying.
— Tyler Dunston
“Day Two” – Lemaitre
Lemaitre’s “Day Two” from their recent EP “1749” is a uplifting track featuring Lemaitre’s acoustic instrumentals combined with electronic sounds. The vocals are soothing, and the tone of the track is calming and focused without verging on boredom. The speed of the track also works well — it is driven, but not to the point of hyperactivity. In all, it is not a distracting track, and it provides some pleasing background entertainment to the hard-working student struggling with their midterms. The lyrics are also rather encouraging: “We’re gonna make it,” exclaims the song optimistically. For further listening, Lemaitre’s “1749” features a plethora of tracks with a similar quality, making that collection ideal for studying.
— Trenton Chang
“Pick Me Up” – Dinosaur Jr.
Listen to the encouraging words of these middle-aged alt-rock survivors — they’ve been around for longer than you, and regardless of age, “hold on” is good all-purpose advice. Also, sometimes you just need a really long guitar solo to relieve your stress.
— Jacob Kuppermann
“My Neighbor Totoro” – Ghibli
What’s the best time to study? When you’re concentrated and relaxed, of course! A sense of relaxation often results in optimum levels of concentration, and this is best achieved when the brain produces alpha waves. When it comes to relaxing songs, Ghibli Studio is full of relaxing music covers of familiar theme songs. The CD piano cover of “My Neighbor Totoro,” one of the most famous pieces in Ghibli, is bound to bring out those alpha waves.
— Maimi Higuchi
“Watership” – Au5 & COMA
“Watership” represents an entirely new level in electronic downtempo, blending mellow melodies and warm vocals with a deep atmospheric ambience. Granted, you might begin to daydream of swimming through the depths of the Pacific, but if you’re already in the zone, it will inspire and encourage you to keep going.
— Vince Ranganathan
“Touch of Grey” – The War On Drugs
Adam Granduciel and company inject a dose of their signature mellow psychedelia into Grateful Dead’s optimistic classic, “Touch of Grey.” It’s a nice reminder that, yes, you will get by any nasty midterm that your professor throws at you. You will survive.
— Alan Brown
Contact Tyler Dunston at tdunston ‘at’ stanford.edu.