Times are tough, but music remains a balm. People are doing all kinds of things to cope with social distancing right now—virtual happy hours, Zoom birthday parties, frequent FaceTimes with mom. We’re all just figuring it out, and, as it is becoming more clear, we’re actually surrounded by more noise than ever. So maybe you just need some quiet: a few moments to yourself, a walk in the sunshine or 10 minutes of calming, transportive music. If you think the last idea might be for you, look no further. Take your lunch break today with one of our favorite Paste Studio sessions, hand selected to help you calm down and keep it cool during these chaotic days.
This may sound like an exaggeration, but folk singer Julie Byrne has one of the most calming voices I’ve ever heard in acoustic music. Her 2017 album Not Even Happiness (Bada Bing!) features imagery from international travels, under cozy sheets and nature. It’s not exactly happy, as the title suggests, but it’s powerful. I wish I could float away down a lagoon on an inflatable raft to the tune of Byrne singing “Natural Blue” in our studio circa summer 2017.
So maybe the music from her debut album Stranger in the Alps isn’t exactly uplifting, but if you love the record, it’s probably an easy one to turn to these days. If nothing else, it’s airy indie-folk that lands easy on the ears. This clip of a young Bridgers performing “Georgia” will lift your spirits—especially because it’s a sweet little love song.
Soft-spoken songsmith Angelo De Augustine is everything you could ever want in an artist who might bear the title “indie-folk singer.” He creates lush, vast soundscapes in his acoustic music, and some of the best are featured in his 2017 album Swim Inside the Moon (he couldn’t have picked a better album title). During this session, he plays several favorites from that release, including “Fade” and “Haze.”
How is it possible that a song about saying goodbye could be so warm and inviting? That’s the dichotomy I’m With Her’s 2018 song “See You Around” achieves. The folk/bluegrass supergroup played “See You Around,” among other songs from their album of the same name, one nippy February day in 2018. I return to this session, as well as the album, frequently, when I need a dose of their honeyed harmonies and expertly executed arrangements.
Tomberlin is one of those artists who should definitely be more famous. Her devastating folk and rock arrangements are equally comforting as they are biting. “I’m Not Scared” tracks a case of emotional abuse and lack of self-confidence, but it’s somehow hopeful in the end. Her studio session is easy to get on board with.
Phosphorescent’s “Song For Zula” is one of the great sprawling folk jams of the 21st century, and this version recorded at our studio outpost at 2013’s Newport Folk Festival will have you soaring away on a sea of clouds.
Ambitiously wordy (but successfully so) Americana group Good Old War have quietly built a sturdy catalogue of indie-folk lullabies and rockers alike over the last 15 years. Their 2015 Paste Studio session—which followed the release of their album Broken into Better Shape—is a pure delight.
Once upon a time in 2017, Pinegrove’s Evan Stephens Hall and a banjo player graced the Paste Studio in midtown Manhattan to play a few lovely songs from the band’s early days. One of the best moments in the session, however, is when Hall plays “Aphasia” solo.
I keep returning to songs about nature during all of this chaos. There’s something deeply comforting about inanimate pieces of earth and sky—from trees and rivers to sunbeams and starlight. One of the best nature-y songs that will also test your Girl Scout knowledge of plant classifications is Daughter of Swords’ “Grasses,” which the singer/songwriter (who you know as Mountain Man’s Alexandra Sauser-Monnig) played at our SXSW hut in 2019.
Portland singer/songwriter Haley Heynderickx blew us away in 2018 with her debut album I Need to Start a Garden. Heck, I thought about clearing away a plot for tomatoes myself, but never got around to it. However, I frequently revisit the cleansing portraits of nature (do you see a theme here?) within that debut record. Heynderickx goofed around in our studio early that year. Her session included this endearing performance of “Oom Sha La La,” which is almost guaranteed to make you grin.