By: Kelsey Aylor, co-Editor-in-Chief
As Wofford students, many of us struggle to keep up with the daily deluge of classwork, extracurricular activities, jobs and various other meetings. We run on little sleep and excessive amounts of caffeine. For me, even when I do have down time, despite feeling mentally and physically exhausted, I struggle to actually let myself stand still. I’m still preoccupied with the other things I eventually need to do, or running through my schedule for the next day, trying to precisely plan when and where I need to go, what things I need to pack in my bag, etc. Although rest is the thing I ultimately crave, it can be difficult, and at times almost impossible to slow my mind down enough to relax and sleep. For those of you who have the same problem, here is a compilation of some of my favorite mellow music that helps me to unwind and temporarily forget about everything else.
- & 2. Every Kingdom & I Forget Where We Were – Ben Howard
If you know me, you know that Ben Howard is my all time favorite artist. Spotify’s algorithms and storage systems even have the data to prove it. During interim of my freshman year, I turned down tickets to one of his concerts and I legitimately know this will be a mistake I will regret for years to come (you think I’m kidding, but I’m really not). Howard has a distinctive voice that can be both soothing and wrenching and soul crushing all at the same time. His lyrics are introspective and authentic. One of Howard’s specialties is his guitar playing, an aspect that shines through in both of these albums as he finger picks intricate, delicate and haunting melodies, often with the support of violinists, cellists, percussionists and other musicians. With these many elements, Howard’s music comes together to provide comfort, while also provoking reflection and revealing societal and personal issues. I think he’s the complete package and I’m impatiently awaiting another release that will be sure to display a finesse and maturity uncommon with most other artists.
- Ultralife – Oh Wonder
This British alt-pop duo dropped their second full-length album this summer. The two began on an ambitious journey in September of 2014, releasing one new song every month for a year, ultimately compiling enough material to drop their first album in October 2015. This ploy skyrocketed them to recognition amongst indie circles and the duo have becoming increasingly popular since. While this album clearly takes inspiration from the first, it is clear to see how the dup have grown sonically. With catchy choruses laid over addictive synth beats and piano melodies, it’s hard not to fall in love with their music. It is calming and reassuring, exciting and refreshing. Both Anthony and Josephine sing the majority of the lyrics and their smooth harmonies are honestly a blessing to my ears.
- Hozier – Hozier
Although released in 2014, Hozier’s debut masterpiece never fails to make a regular appearance on my Spotify playlists. Everyone knew who this Irish singer songwriter was after he exploded onto the scene with his massively popular single, “Take Me To Church.” His soulful and husky voice is sure to calm you down, as will his bittersweet, emphatic and vulnerable lyrics telling of a twisted and lost love.
- Run River North – Run River North
Behind Ben Howard, this is another of one of my all-time favorite artists and the one I have seen the most live in concert. Their debut album draws on folk inspirations, with the majority of the songs being acoustic. With a softer, yet still heartfelt sound, the six-piece Korean-American group from Los Angeles explores questions of dealing with family conflict, constructing identity as first-generation Americans and religious exploration and discovery. One of the most genuine albums I’ve heard, this album is thought provoking and soothing at the same time.
- “After Many Miles” – The Ghost of Paul Revere
Although I don’t know much about the band or their full-length releases, this specific song has been in my top 20 played songs of the year for the past three years and counting. It is an A cappela track, featuring three men singing over simple boot stomps and handclaps. The simplicity is enticing and helps to emphasize the lyrics, which beautifully detail a man’s devoted and unending love for his wife, even after her death. It sounds sad (and to be honest, it is), but it’s also incredibly calming.
- “Blood” – The Middle East
Odds are you’ve probably already heard this song on some movie, tv show, commercial, vlog, etc. This song is extremely popular, especially among indie productions, and with good reason. Like most of my mellow music, its lyrics are heartbreaking, as they recount a family’s struggles, including a divorce and the illness and death of the matriarch. However, this song is worth the emotional roller coaster. It starts off softly with various guitars and occasional piano, chimes and whistling to accent verses and bridges. However, as the lyrics build and expose more and more of the family’s tragedy, so does the music. More instruments are added in, including percussion, and more voices join the almost tinny, falsetto of lead singer Jordan Ireland. Finally, it reaches this awesome crescendo of addictive howls (that sounds counter intuitive, but I promise it is beautiful) that depict the desperation, but also the hopefulness of the singers.