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Thinkin' Songs: Drown Out The World With A Concentration-Friendly Megamix

See that big world out there? Sometimes you just need to make it go away.
Jasper James
Getty Images
See that big world out there? Sometimes you just need to make it go away.

We all have distractions in our lives that keep us from working, studying, concentrating or otherwise attempting to unlock something in our own brains. It could be roommates, or coworkers, or the 24/7 rage-spigot of the Internet, or something else entirely, but we all have outside forces we need to drown out without merely adding more chaos to the mix. This two-hour playlist is engineered to help.

A few years back, I built and promoted a Spotify mix called "Songs for Editing," in order to share some of my favorite head-filling, concentration-inducing music — most of it instrumental, all of it engrossing enough to enjoy but not so far-out as to distract.

But that mix always felt imperfect, if nothing else because it was mostly an album-dump of full-length ambient recordings, rather than a varied and sequenced mix. For this playlist, I tried to put together a sonically diverse experience that'll only interrupt your concentration long enough to make you think, "Whoa, who is this?" Some of the music falls into the category of movie scores; some of it's orchestral, or acoustic, or electronic. One stretch even excerpts an eight-hour piece that you're supposed to experience while asleep.

All of it is gorgeous, and I hope you enjoy it.

Thinkin' Songs Tracklist

1. Max Richter Orchestra & Lorenz Dangel, "On the Nature of Daylight" (from The Blue Notebooks)

2. Hammock, "Now and Not Yet" (from Mysterium)

3. Stars of the Lid, "Even If You're Never Awake" (from And Their Refinement of the Decline)

4. Nils Frahm, "You" (from Screws)

5. Clarice Jensen, "BC (feat. Jóhann Jóhannsson)" (from For This From That Will Be Filled)

6. Nathan Salsburg, "Eight Belles Dreamt the Devil Was Dead" (from Affirmed)

7. Julianna Barwick, "Flown" (from The Magic Place)

8. The Calm Blue Sea, "Samsara" (from Arrivals & Departures)

9. Slow Meadow, "Linen Garden, Pt. 1 (feat. Hammock)" (from Slow Meadow)

10. Metavari, "Pacific Lights" (from Be One of Us and Hear No Noise)

11. Jónsi & Alex, "Happiness" (from Dark Was the Night)

12. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, "What Must Be Done" (from White Lunar)

13. Eluvium, "Don't Get Any Closer" (from Nightmare Ending)

14. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, "Undoing a Luciferian Towers" (from Luciferian Towers)

15. Tim Hecker, "In the Fog I" (from Ravedeath, 1972)

16. Bing & Ruth, "Warble" (from Tomorrow Was the Golden Age)

17. A Winged Victory for the Sullen, "Steel Hills of Vicodin Tears" (from A Winged Victory for the Sullen)

18. Brian McBride, "Girl Nap" (from The Effective Disconnect)

19. Max Richter, Grace Davidson, Ben Russell, Yuki Numata Resnick, Caleb Burhans, Brian Snow & Clarice Jensen, "Dream 8 (Late & Soon)" (from From Sleep)

20. Jon Hopkins, "Recovery" (from Singularity)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)