Everybody has a mental list of songs they like to wake up to in the morning, those songs that get you kickstarted like a fresh espresso or an ill-advised can of Monster. For most music fans, though, there is also that list of things to play at the end of a day, the albums you put on as you climb under the covers. For a man who struggles to sleep at the best of the times, these albums have to be some of the most important when it comes to my day-to-day existence. This is a personal list, but I think it is a pretty decent starter kit for a calm entry into Slumberland.
Sigur Ros – ()
The album without a title, or “the Brackets one,” is an oddly amorphous beast. It’s also a self-contained universe, a 70-minute, slowed-down symphony of sparse beauty that floats by on hardly any percussion, twinkling piano, lush guitar, and, of course, Jonsi’s beautiful alien voice. A word of warning though: it gets loud in an epic fashion for the last two minutes of the album, which might just wake you rudely from your night’s sleep.
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Seldom has a soft voice and a plucked acoustic guitar been put to such effective use. Nick Drake’s extraordinary swan song, recorded entirely over the spell of a weekend, stands alone as a collection of quite gorgeous songs, but the lullaby nature of the album means its inclusion in this list is a no-brainer. It remains such a loss that Nick Drake took his life at a young age when he was capable of this kind of effortless brilliance.
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92
He may be more famous for his astonishing Chris Cunningham-directed videos for “Come To Daddy” and “Windowlicker,” but this collection of early ambient tracks remains Aphex Twin’s most potent work. With a backdrop of soothing tape hiss, these gently melodic tracks work as a great sleep accompaniment, travel music, music to write to…Really the genius of Selected Ambient Works is that it is whatever you want it to be.
Mum – Finally We Are No One
What is it with Icelanders and lovely music? Sigur Ros already made this list, the legendary Bjork has written music to melt candles with in her time, and there’s also the work of Mum, whose textured electronica — all soft crunching drums, heartbeat pulses, and lush twin vocals — work perfectly in tandem to make the belly feel warm and the eyelids feel heavy. In the wrong mood, this album might sound a little creepy, but you know, that’s your problem. That’s why you don’t try to go to bed after an argument…
Burial – Untrue
The then-anonymous London producer’s second album was a genre defining work of what now sounds like old-school dubstep (before it crossed the ocean and morphed into an entirely different and much more frat boy kind of genre). This was music of polyrhythmic drums, crackling vinyl, disconnected voices, and deep, dark moods. The cliche is that it’s something to listen to on the underground at three o’clock in the morning, but put it on before you go to bed, and by three o’clock you should be snoring pretty loudly.