Be sure to foloow @theforestscout on Spotify for a variety of curated playlists by the staff writers of The Forest Scout.
By the time the majority of Lake Forest High School’s seniors had woken up last Wednesday to a morning gloriously spared by standardized testing, the frantic classmates of AP Physics C had already witnessed hours of their day off hopelessly slip through their fingers. Apparently, as the group of students so dutifully noted, you did not need to be in school for the institution to have a swell time melting your brain.
While other students set their sights on Egg Harbor for a late breakfast, these nineteen individuals were lucky to make it outside of their homes for a breath of fresh air. Their anchor came in the form of a lab write-up — complete with calculations, error analysis, and conclusions — that was soon to be turned in online to their teacher, who manifestly did not notice that school was then out of session (I kid).
By “soon,” I mean that the thing was due that midnight — you better believe that at least half of these folks (including me) worked up until 11:59 p.m.
The moral of the story, as always: don’t procrastinate, kids.
Considering that lessons do not have to be sympathetic to those who stumble upon them, perhaps it was foolish of me to believe that I could get a good night’s rest after a day of repercussive agony. Sleep, after all, has never been my strong suite. The most egregious case of my troubles took place somewhere in my junior year when, after nearly four hours of tossing and turning in bed, my mind finally tuned out sometime around 2 o’clock in the morning. Given the astronomical amount of effort that I see my peers put into their schoolwork, I wouldn’t be surprised if others have seen the light of day before closing their textbooks.
Much on this Earth can act as the brain’s accelerator, though rarely can you find something that passes for a brake. For seven months, I patiently awaited the prestigious call of “senior-itis” to come and lift the weight of my studies off my shoulders, only to find early this April that I will never come to behold its bounties. You see, the theory of senior-itis fails to inform you that your actual workload doesn’t diminish as you glide into your final days within the walls of this building; rather, it’s the “not caring” part that ultimately seals the deal, seeing that caring about something makes it a lot harder to do that thing. Such is one of the Great Themes of high school: life, if you choose to live it, does not stop for you. [NOTE: This aforementioned “life” does not end with high school graduation, and I’d rather not pretend like it does.]
Still, wouldn’t it be nice if my preoccupations could just allow me to fall asleep at the same time I go to bed? For once?
I understand that these conflicts are not specific to any one age group in the school, and it’s true that there’s a great demand for stress relief to go around. Some may prefer the daily serving of Netflix; some may respect any meditative practice that helps Mr. Dewar stay that chill; some may have whatever that spinny propeller-widget is, though I must comment that there’s a difference between a solution and a distraction. (One more week? Sure, I’ll give that thing one more week. After that, the fad’s over.)
Among other things, I have music to slow down my train of thought; when it’s time for me to relax, my headphones pretty much make the difference between (sorry about this) night and day.
Below is my fail-proof, knock-out-cold playlist, replete with intricate yet soothing tracks from artists who manage to find the most creative ways to calm your nerves. It comes with annotations where I felt like adding some, though you probably won’t be thinking about them as you listen through — if you make it to the last song wide awake, I’d recommend calling your doctor.
“Death with Dignity” — Sufjan Stevens
“VCR” — The xx
Off of the band’s marvelous 2009 debut, “VCR” highlights The xx’s now signature sauntering, hazy mentality that somehow seems more cohesive in a dream than it does in reality.
“Take Pills” — Panda Bear
Before he put the “fun” in “funky” with his magnificently creative techno-loops, Noah Lennox
kick-started his solo career by crafting more sparse, delicate arrangements in 2007’s Person Pitch, arguably his magnum opus. Unlike his texture and rhythmic style, though, Lennox’s devotion to spaciness has never changed.
“Candy Says” — The Velvet Underground
“Just the Same But Brand New” — St. Vincent
Watching Annie Clark (most widely known as St. Vincent) develop her voice as an artist has provided one of the most exciting narratives that modern music has had to offer; her originality is rivaled by few songwriters of her field. Between quirky and jerky guitar quips on her Actor, “Just the Same But Brand New” shows Clark brandishing her more subtle side.
“Here” — Pavement
“Suzanne” — Leonard Cohen
“Chamber of Reflection” — Mac DeMarco
“Oh My Love” — John Lennon
After the deeply revealing Plastic Ono Band, Lennon offered a much more accessible, spacious version of his work through Imagine, yet his displayed insight was no less heartbreaking.
“How to Disappear Completely” — Radiohead
As startling as it is comforting, Kid A still speaks to Radiohead’s gift of reinvention. “How to Disappear Completely” feels like a can of mist and computer chips pressed into a mystifying record.
“Tonight” — The Avalanches
This song’s inclusion poses a grand irony; the rest of The Avalanches’ Since I Left You is little more than a romp through vibrant electronic disco. The hypnotic “Tonight” is an antithesis of sorts, bound neither to the tempo nor accompaniments that drive its counterparts.
“White Ferrari” — Frank Ocean
Egregiously underrated in my list of the best albums of 2016, Frank Ocean’s Blonde explores the artist’s humanity through beautiful free form.
“O Dreaded C Town” — Frankie Cosmos
While we’re on the topic, this talented young artist was inexplicably exempt from that list of mine last year. So I wasn’t on my game, okay?
“Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” — Broken Social Scene
“You Can Have It All” — Yo La Tengo
Yes, he has his opinion and she has her opinion and they have their opinion and so on. My opinion? Yo La Tengo’s “You Can Have It All” is one of the most beautiful songs ever made, a stunning testament to the power of minimalism. A soft, wordless vocal hook pervades its fluid majesty and carries its effect.
“Hold Tight” — Jamie xx
Deep into the thrilling solo debut album In Colour from Jamie Smith of The xx, “Hold Tight” sounds like the faint noise from a dance club leaking out into the alley behind it.
“The Light That Failed” — Atlas Sound
It’s been said of Bradford Cox (who periodically ventures from his collaborative act Deerhunter) that the singer doesn’t prepare any lyrics before he records his songs. He’s certainly one to respect the spontaneity of the art, a value that couldn’t be more present in “The Light That Failed.”
“From The Morning” — Nick Drake
“Irresponsible Tune” — Dirty Projectors
“Old Man” — Randy Newman
The legendary pianist and songwriter lends the sole voice that cradles a reflection on mortality, self-worth, and faith. Newman effortlessly conjures up wisdom for one of his saddest songs.