Monday Mixtape: Soothing music

    In this week’s Monday Mixtape, Marco Cartolano gives you some songs to relax to. Find this week’s mixtape on Spotify here! Transcript below.

    Hey guys, Audio Section Editor Jakob Lazzaro here with a quick announcement. Did you know that all of your favorite NBN podcasts are now available on iTunes? Just do a quick search for North by Northwestern in the Apple Podcasts app, then tap on your favorite show and hit subscribe so you’ll get a notification whenever we post a new episode. Alright, here’s the show!

    [“Unfinished Sympathy”-Massive Attack]

    How’s everybody holding up this week? I know midterms can be stressful. So I made a mixtape of soothing music to help us cooldown from all the exams, and to get in the right headspace to look over our notes one last time before we go to bed. You just heard “Unfinished Sympathy” by Massive Attack. Influenced by hip hop beats and soul, this song of desire also has a very chill vibe. The bell rhythm’s meditative pattern puts the focus on Shara Nelson’s vocals. Additional strings and DJ scratches make for an odd pairing, but they all add to a mesmerizing instrumental.

    [“Red Eyes”-The War on Drugs]

    Speaking of weird combinations, “Red Eyes” by The War on Drugs fuses ambient psychedelic music with the Americana of acts like Bruce Springsteen. The resulting sound feels comfortingly nostalgic for those who grew up listening to old rock records, but the hazy feeling from the synthesizers on the track makes these older tones feel more relaxed. Adam Granduciel’s vocals, which have touches of Springsteen and Tom Petty, capture the sense of yearning that made those rock records so great. The vibe is so low-key that a muted howl feels epic by comparison.

    [“Scarborough Fair”-Simon and Garfunkel]

    “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel is a reworking of a traditional song with some additional anti-war lyrics provided by Paul Simon. While the topic might be heavy, Simon and Garfunkel’s beautiful melodies create a sense of peacefulness. The finger-picked guitar and harpsichord also sound like they came from an old timey fair. While Simon and Garfunkel’s blended vocals have become iconic, let’s look at an artist with a more controversial vocal range.


    Icelandic music icon Björk’s voice is an acquired taste, especially when her vocals get more shouty and energetic. However, the sensual “Cocoon” mostly keeps it low-key. Inspired by intimate moments with her lover, Björk’s breathy vocals express pure ecstasy. This minimalist beat envelops you as Björk goes into detail about the sensitivity of her lover. This may be an unconventional love song for some. So let’s make the next track more accessible.

    [“Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)”-Miami Sound Machine]

    A departure from their usual Latin dance-pop, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine’s “Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)” finds the dreamy side of ‘80s pop. Estefan’s slower delivery sounds more romantic than usual. The quiet synthesizers provide a light atmosphere as Estefan becomes increasingly infatuated with her lover. The group vocals on the chorus are also very catchy. Maybe it’s time to move away from love songs.

    [“My Favorite Things”-John Coltrane]

    John Coltrane’s interpretation of The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things” expands on the melody to create a hypnotic waltz. Coltrane took influence from Indian music and more improvisational styles of jazz when he composed his version of the song. While it’s soothing to hear Coltrane’s sax and McCoy Tyner’s piano go in improvisational directions on the song, the familiar melody will draw back your attention if your mind begins to drift away. This track helped launch Coltrane’s career, and it’s easy to see why.

    [“Svefn-g-englar”-Sigur Rós]

    I’m not even going to try to pronounce the title to this song by Icelandic band Sigur Rós. While it may be in a language that most Northwestern students cannot understand, Jónsi’s boyish vocals and the achingly beautiful ambient melody do not need much translation. The song keeps a consistent melody, but it breaks into a powerful swell at around the six minute mark. The music of Sigur Rós always manages to put me at ease whenever I am having a stressful time.


    And that’s all for Monday Mixtape. This week’s playlist is available on Spotify at mondaymixtape. No matter how hard midterms may seem right now, I promise that we can get through them and get that much closer to summer. Just remember to take care of yourselves during this busy time. For NBN audio, I’m Marco Cartolano.


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