In 2020, more of us have been working from home than ever before due to lockdown measures. However, the joy of working from home has not always lived up to its dreamy reputation. For some of us this year, our get up and go has got up and gone on more than one occasion. However, empirical studies have consistently shown that listening to music can boost our productivity levels. Research has suggested that music can help to keep our focus; depending on the type of activity that you are doing.
Are you struggling to beat the afternoon slump? In search of tracks for your productive morning or working late into the evening? We have collated a selection of albums that would provide the ideal background music to your daily grind.
So crank up the volume, get lost in these tracks and get it done, once and for all.
David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
With his trademark orange mullet and androgynous clothes that would out-glam any glam rocker of the era, Ziggy Stardust certainly left his mark. On its release in 1972, this album was hailed as genuinely visionary, and it is widely acknowledged to be an epic of apocalyptic proportions.
Described as a rock opera, Bowie's Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars will take you on an intergalactic journey. Ziggy believed he was the prophet of the future starmen and the story unfolds through the eyes of an adoring fan. The first track is the ominous Five Years, and the album concludes with Rock and Roll suicide. This song depicts the infinities shredding Ziggy's delusions of grandeur to pieces while the fan takes their own life. Unfortunately, the fan- favourite Martian's time on earth was short-lived. Despite this, the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is arguably one of the best albums of the era, and an excellent choice for any work playlist.
Miles Davies: Kind of Blue
Kind of Blue by Miles Davies has recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. Yet, its timeless quality means that many still consider it to be one of the greatest jazz albums ever made. For jazz fans, this album is well known for providing that gentle stepping stone into the heady world of the genre before tumbling in like Alice in search of Wonderland.
Miles Davies would later become known as the Picasso of Jazz, but he is not the only big name whose talent contributed to this album. Alongside the American jazz trumpeter, Kind Of Blue featured legendary musicians such as alto saxophonist Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley and John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, as well as Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. 'So What' and 'All Blues' are two of the most famous pieces of modern jazz ever, but the entire duration of this album is genius. It is a true masterpiece that oozes with late-night elegance and the ambience of a smoky bar after midnight.
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
Released on 4th February 1977, this Rumours sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, it topped the chart for 31 weeks and won a Grammy for Album of the Year.
This was the 11th studio album from the ever-changing line up that was Fleetwood Mac in the 70s. As members of the band untangled from toxic relationships with each other, their personal lives ooze out onto the tracks. Gossip was rife, with rumours of cocaine-fuelled shouting matches that only ceased when the recording light came on. It is the epitome of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bassist John McVie and keyboardist Christie were recently divorced after being married for almost eight years, and they were barely talking. Plus, guitarist Lindsay Buckingham and world-famous singer Stevie Nicks had well-documented troubles during their explosive relationship. 'Go Your Own Way' hints at Buckingham's emotional state whereas, Stevie Nicks' wrote the hit 'Dreams' in response. Initially, the rest of the band were not a fan of the track. Still, it ended up selling over a million copies and being the band's only Billboard Hot 100 number one hit in the US.
Johnny Cash: San Quentin
While it is often Mr Cash's Folsom Prison album that people regard most highly, San Quentin is a personal favourite. These live recording albums are often seen as two sides of the same coin. Both are essential Cash, and either one offers an unforgettable country experience.
However, if Folsom is a collection of Cash's jail related records, San Quentin is the greatest hits. It features all the classics including Walk the Line and a Boy Named Sue and brings it to a close with the beautiful Peace in the Valley. With guest spots from the Carter Family, Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins, the uncensored album last just over a half-hour, with the off-the-cuff San Quentin title song later being repeated on request. Folsom Prison was one of Cash's best albums because it was so tight and organised. Yet, San Quentin offers a looser more relaxed experience. As a live recording, it is not a perfect or censored rendition of the music and conversation of Cash, Carter and the rest of the pack. Instead, it offers a snapshot of a moment in history and a taste of what must have been an electric atmosphere.
Midori Takada: Through the Looking Glass
If you are looking for music to zone out to, this album of ambient music promises an ethereal experience that will take you on a sonic experience around the world. Midori Takada’s Through the Looking Glass is considered to be the Holy Grail of Japanese music. It was once impossible to get your hands on this, with rare vinyl copies trading for up to £600. Although the album was released on CD prior, it was YouTube that was responsible for its rediscovery and global popularity.
Encouraging you to take a step into the unknown, the ambient composition offers a cult-minimalist adventure across an atmospheric four-song suite. This includes Mr Henri’s Rousseau’s Dream, Crossing Infinite Possibilities, Trompe-l’oeil and catastrophe. Influenced by African drumming and Asian percussion with a western minimalist style, each of the tracks is spellbinding in their own unique way.
Gladys Knight and the Pips: Everybody Needs Love
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Gladys Knight began singing at the age of eight, with her and the family going by ‘The Pips’. An early talent, Knight would later go on to be known as the Empress of Soul, winning an impressive 7 Grammys throughout her career.
Released 1st September 1967 and Produced by Norman Whitfield, Everybody Needs Love features so many classics alongside some hidden gems you may not have heard before. Just Walk in my Shoes was the groups’ 1966 debut and their signature song Midnight Train to Georgia was a huge success for the band. It soon became Motown’s bestselling single- a record that was later overtaken by Marvin Gaye’s version of the same song. Adding some to your daily routine, this would be ideal for anyone who is looking to inject a bit of soul into their afternoon.
Norah Jones: Come Away with Me
With her trademark bluesy tones and natural storytelling abilities, America Singer-songwriter Norah Jones' eight Grammy-winning debut Come Away with me was released in 2002 by Blue Note Records. It peaked at number one on the US billboards 2000 and sold almost 30 million copies worldwide.
Showcasing Jones’ remarkable talent of transporting you to another world, her natural storytelling abilities and barebones instrumentation have a beguiling result. Come Away with Me provides the perfect background music to create a relaxed and productive atmosphere while you work. This relaxed pop acoustic album features elements of country blues, folk, and jazz; resulting in easy listening at its very best. As a result, it would also be an excellent choice for the end of the working day. Its intimate nuance and soft melodies provide the ideal soundtrack for turning off the laptop, cooking something delicious and cracking open a bottle of Merlot.