Sit down! Set a spell. Think quiet thoughts. Don’t think at all.
We live in a busy, frantic, manic, noisy world and taking some time out to just ruminate, smell the roses and let your mind wander is one of the greatest gifts we can gift ourselves.
These five amazingly chilled artists appreciate that more than most, offering up laid-back tunes with introspectively-thoughtful lyrics that meditate on life, the universe and everything but in such a way that there’s time for the answers to emerge in their own good time.
If you’re after time out and music to soundtrack it, this is a great place to start.
“Cellophane” by FKA Twigs
There’s a delicate strength to the music of English singer-songwriter FKA Twigs that captivates with each frail but determined note.
The key element in a song like “Cellophane” is intimacy and vulnerability, a sense that you are taking part in a magnificently-beautiful conversation, something Pitchfork alludes to in their exquisitely-lovely review of this most gorgeous of songs:
“The musical elements accompanying twigs are minimal: there’s the warbling piano that moves at the glacial pace of Erik Satie, someone lightly making chugging noises through their teeth, the soft presence of strings, a random lurch of squelching mechanics. Synths drag in and out, sounding like a massive, rumbling UFO softly circling the song, deciding whether it wants to beam her up. But ‘Cellophane’ doesn’t need much, as twigs’ delicate voice is just impossibly moving here. In between short gasps, she sings uncomplicated words that seem drenched with complicated feelings. ‘I don’t want to have to share our love,’ she sings, like the words are burning the inside of her mouth. But by the end of the song, her falsetto soars, calling upon a philosophy that twigs has often invoked in her songwriting: Vulnerability is your greatest strength.”
The song, and you would have to assume any newly-forthcoming material, has come from a very vulnerable place, as the tweet below shows, and it reflects in the music that grips your soul and doesn’t let go.
“Used To Be” by Anna of the North
Oslo-based singer-songwriter Anna of the North wants us to get back to what it “Used To Be”.
The point in time she’s referring in her lo-fi slice of chilled pop are the simpler times of childhood when all the things gumming our adult years weren’t a concern.
“‘Used to Be’ is a reminder back to when we were young and didn’t worry about superficial things that often take too much of our attention these days,” writes Anna. “Let’s just go and throw a ball at the wall together and appreciate each other for a second.” (We Are: The Guard)
This gorgeously-realised song is an encouragement to drop all the complicated unnecessary stuff filling our lives, and focus back on the relationships and the stripped-back pleasures of life that make it truly worth living.
Think you can’t do it? For a start, play this song which almost instantly dials down the freneticism to manageable levels, and think about what really makes you happy; odds are it’s not the things you own or the social media accounts you’re always on or the six million activities you have planned for the day but rather kicking back with someone special and just letting life happen.
“ABQ” by The Marías
Rather winningly, The Marías are described in their Facebook bio, written by Carlotta Harlan, as the “psychedelic-soul lovechild of LA native, Josh Conway and Puerto Rican-bred, Atlanta-raised María [who together create a] smooth rendezvous of jazz percussion, hypnotic guitar riffs, smoke-velvet vocals and nostalgic horn solos.”
How’s that for a description?
Joined by friends Jesse Perlman (Lead Guitar/Vocals) and Edward James (Keys), Conway and María deliver up deliciously-laid back sounds that, apparently, have been likened to “having sex in the 70s” or like “pouring cream into coffee.”
Example A is the “ABQ”, a dreamy track that explores what it is like to get through each day pursued and bedevilled by anxiety and depression at every turn.
It’s this marriage of the chilled and the existentially-intense that lend the music of The Marías such potency and relatability, and which make their songs such a balm for the soul in multiple ways.
“Geology” by Barrie
Hailing from the musically-fecund surrounds of Brooklyn, New York, Barrie create blissfully-sedate songs that dive deep in your soul, take root and buzz around with little bursts of thoughtful happiness.
Sound a little twee? It possibly is, but honestly you won’t care when you listen to the dreamily-upbeat songs emanating from a happy five-piece drawn from Baltimore, Boston, São Paulo, London, and Upstate New York, who came together partly through Tinder.
“Geology” is a song that marries a modern sensibility with a retro-flavour as the titular Barrie (Lindsay) explains on Stereogum:
“I wrote this song in 2015, a few months after I bought my first guitar. I was listening to Best Coast on Song Exploder talking about ‘Feeling Ok.’ Bethany Cosentino said she was inspired by 90s movies soundtracks like Clueless, She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You. It blew my mind because I loved that music but didn’t realize you could take it seriously. That’s where “Geology” came from.”
The song joins previous releases “Clovers” and “Saturated” on debut album Happy Up Here, the perfect accompaniment to the quieter, more thoughtful moments of life when ambling musically along feels like the only real option.
“He Don’t Love Me” by Winona Oak
Falling in love is one of the most deliciously-beautiful and evocative things to happen to a person.
But what happens when you fall hard and the other person doesn’t?
Then you end up exactly in that melancholically-reflective space that Swedish-born, L.A.-based Winona Oak’s “He Don’t Love Me” occupies, a meditative song of possibility, loss and regret that poignantly mourns the loss of all the things that could have been as the hard truth of the one-way love affair becomes all too painfully clear.
The silver lining in this one-sided love?
“We’re all capable of falling for people who don’t value us, grasping for a leaving hand. But we must understand that we’re just as capable of realizing that our worth does not lay in those heavy hands.” (V Magazine)
SONGS, SONGS AND MORE SONGS EXTRA!
Unless you’ve have been living under a plush-covered rock that comes alive when no one’s looking, you’ll be well aware that there’s a new addition to the Toy Story franchise on the way. As always, singer-songwriter Randy Newman is contributing some whimsically-heartfelt music including new song “The Ballad of Lonesome Cowboy” which, as you can imagine, an absolute delight, complete with an adorable video starring character old and new from Toy Story 4 …
ABBA promised in April 2018, to much fanfare and excitement, that they would be releasing two new songs “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” later that same year, followed by a tour of hologram-like ABBAtars. To long-standing fans like me, it was a ridiculously-exciting ideas – new music and a tour; alas 2018 came and went, with ABBA going quite on when the music would be released.
A persistent rumour, that the delay is due not to issues with the ABBAtar technology but rather because the band are working on an entire album, has been given extra fuel by an article in the Express newspaper:
“Benny has written eight new and totally original songs, so far. Five of which are completely recorded on which the girls have just finished their vocals.
“The two B’s (Benny and Bjorn) have been playing it coy with their official announcements, so far. But this and more is what is happening behind the scenes. Benny is a bit paranoid not wanting to besmirch their legacy. But, he has nothing to fear, they are all fabulous songs.
The dreamy ABBA fan in me wants desperately to believe this, and it could well be true, but until the album is in my hot little hands, it’s a wait-and-see game.
Until we have new music, how about luxuriating in the gorgeous bliss of one of my favourite ABBA tracks, “The Name of the Game”?