Lauren and I have come to the conclusion that everyone, during their time at college, has one demon semester. One semester that’s truly god-awful. The workload would be hilarious if you weren’t being dramatically crushed by it. Suddenly you have friends and romantic interests (ie a social life) and that’s demanding of your time. You straight don’t sleep. You eat the weirdest shit because you just don’t have time to buy food. Similarly, your clothes aren’t clean and you no longer feel shame about it. Then there are those lovely things like unpaid internships where you spend your free time doing the work no one else wants to do and getting one line on your resume in return. Oh, it’s something else!
And lucky me, this is my demon semester. The worst part is that I actually love three of my classes, but I have one that’s absolute shit and completely dominating my semester. I can’t concentrate on work that will be a part of my thesis because of this one 100-level course. I intern Fridays and Saturdays so weekend shenanigans just aren’t a thing, plus I’m more crunched for time. And my to do list is constantly building, never diminishing. Also, I have no idea what I’m doing with my education or why so I’m deep in existential crisis mode. Thanks, college.
I, personally, like to handle stress by a) bitching about it nonstop and b) getting so overwhelmed by the work that I do none of it. Honestly, I’m sure I’m not even any busier than the next person. I just handle stress so poorly that I regularly work myself into a tizzy over everything going on in my life, whether or not that’s actually a lot of stuff. Eventually, though, I always have to move on from these pseudo panic attacks and actually get the work done. It may be a demon semester and my motto may be D’s get degrees, but it’d also be nice not to walk away from this semester like one of those action scenes where the character walks away with everything blowing up in the background.
So I’ve been trying to figure out what my ideal study session looks/feels/sounds like. Chocolate is a necessity (bye any semblance of a fit body). Heat is key (picture me sitting in front of my space heater; it’s happened more than once). The boy probably can’t be around. Dunkin’ iced (black, caramel swirl)—yes, even as I’m sitting in front of my space heater—is ideal. No jeans, maybe not even pants.
But I’ve found that the surprisingly trickiest part of creating this productive atmosphere is the music. The hard part is that if I put on something I love jamming/singing/dancing to, those are the things I’ll want to do (and, let’s get real, I have no willpower, will end up doing). So there’s a fine balance between music you like—because you’re not trying to make this hell, you need music—and music that won’t distract you. Chances are this varies from person to person. If, say, ‘Twist and Shout’ came on, I’d have to get up and dance. But not everyone must attempt the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off routine even at the mention of this song. There are a couple things, though, that I’ve found that work for me and I think might be useful for anyone else out there suffering through this semester.
Your Discover playlist is your best friend
I kind believe Spotify’s discover playlists are meant to be used for this purpose. Generally speaking, you don’t know the music yet, but it’s right up your alley and that’s the perfect combination for getting work done. Your biggest distraction will be adding that dope new song to your own playlist.
I’m a pretty big Chet Faker fan so sometimes he totally derails me. But he tows the line of spacey and catchy beats really well. This is great for getting lost in an assignment you have a solid game plan to execute. I often find myself swaying in my seat to his songs, but I also find myself typing furiously and getting shit done.
Alina Baraz & Galimatias
Another spacey, but catchy artist here. Though I love this collaboration and so hope they put out more music together, Alina Baraz & Galimatias’ songs have a pretty singular sound to them. There are certain songs that I’ll emerge from my work for, in order to bob my head a little extra or sing along with the lyrics or pull out my conductor-meets-rapper hands (yes, I do all of these things). Overall, though, I can put them on, do all the above for a few moments, and then get to work with a fluid background soundtrack.
I have to say, I really like these dudes. I’m sure, at this point, everyone knows ‘Stolen Dance’, but I think their entire album is pretty much up to par with this single. The German duo make almost-dance music and almost-dance music = dance-in-your-chair-as-you-do-homework music. You should groove while you do your homework. If nothing else, you’re sitting for hours so any movement is welcome. Plus, they have a subtle folksy tinge that makes their stuff extra fun.
I’m a self-declared nerd: The Lord of the Rings Soundtrack
I know this is super lame, but it’s such great homework music! It’s all instrumental so it’s super easy to focus on your work while listening. And it just gets all epic every now and then, making you feel like a hero, which you kind of are because you’re conquering that crazy to-do list of miserable tasks. Totally the same as trekking to Mordor, right?
Gary Clark Jr.
Dude and his guitar are just so chill. He makes great music for kickbacks, but it doubles as good homework tuneage. It’s the right amount of psychedelic soul, alternative rock, and blues-y hip hop. It can both amp you up and send you off into space. Ideally, getting your work done involves a bit of both of these experiences, which is where Gary Clark Jr. fits in perfectly. Good for study sessions with other people, too, because who doesn’t love GCJ?
Personal first choice: Jamie xx
Unfortunately, lyrics of any sort can really distract me, especially while reading. This is why I frequently turn to Jamie xx to get my most serious work done. When I’m having trouble concentrating and feeling the pressure of all the work, I either pull out the vinyl or my good headphones and put Jamie xx on. I love In Colour, so occasionally I will get carried away, but the majority of the time it sends me into a homework trance. The hypnotic electronic instrumentals with the charged melodies and vocal snippets are just really perfect for productivity. I probably owe as much of my academic achievement to Jamie xx as I do to my professors.
So this semester is kinda, sorta slowly killing me. But at least I have good tunes accompanying my downfall? Nah, I’m just being dramatic. The demon semester is real, however, it’s almost halfway through and I can dig that. At this point, I know the motions. Now, I just have to power through and that will happen with the much appreciated help of these artists. Hopefully this playlist helps any fellow sufferers soldier on and if, instead, it distracts y’all, even better. It’s only worth stressing to a certain extent so enjoy some relaxing music and do what you can.