The Top 4 Albums of the Year to Work To

The Top 4 Albums of the Year to Work To

If you're anything like me, you enjoy having a soundtrack playing in the background while you work but get distracted by lyrics when you're trying to write. In which case, these five largely vocal-free albums will be the perfect accompaniment to your productivity. 

Brian Transeau was a child prodigy in music, attending his first conservatory school at age eight and later studying classical composition at the famed Berklee College of Music. In the mid to late 90s, Transeau became a staple on the European festival scene as BT, recording classics such as “Remember” and “Flaming June” that have stood the test of time. He went on to remix songs by pop titans like Madonna and Britney Spears and could’ve settled for mainstream stardom.

But instead, BT went back to his roots and started scoring films. His haunting score set the grim tone of Monster, the movie that won Charlize Theron the Best Actress Academy Award. Since then, BT released an analog synth-heavy soundtrack for the Bollywood thriller ITTEFAQ that any fan of the Stranger Things score will appreciate. This year saw the release of BT’s 14th studio album, Metaversal. For a long player that is so detailed, it’s incredible to consider that he improvised at least 80 percent of each track. If you want more BT, you can stream his 24-hour JSON project for free here. A lucky bidder bought it as a one-off NFT, but it will also live on forever at that URL so everyone can enjoy the pulsing electronic rhythms. There’s also a stream of Metaversal that enables you to enjoy the night and lunar modes of each track in addition to the “day” versions that are on the CD and digital iterations.

When a DJ/producer bases an entire LP on the noises of bats, spider monkeys, and other creatures that he sampled himself in the rainforests of Borneo, you know he’s not messing around. Llyr’s first name is actually Gareth, and he hails from Wales. Max Cooper’s Mesh record label has forged a reputation for richly detailed sound design and Biome excels on this front. It is tailor-made for a Dolby Atmos home setup due to the sheer number of audio channels that are interacting at any one moment but if you don’t have this, a pair of decent office bookshelf speakers will suffice.

There are some harder sections on this album, where Llyr uses techno and drum and bass to represent human intrusion on the delicate rainforest ecosystem. These are perfect for powering through a midafternoon work slump, while the more laidback songs earlier in the tracklist will mellow you out as you’re winding down for the evening. This is one of those albums that is so perfectly arranged that you can put it on repeat day after day without ever tiring of Llyr’s lush soundscapes.

Did you like the Hans Zimmer soundtrack to Interstellar or Vangelis’s score for the original Blade Runner? Then you’re going to love E2-XO. Hailing from southwest England, the man behind it, Tom Middleton, has long been regarded as a “DJ’s DJ” by his peers due to impeccable taste and craftsmanship. GCOM is an evolution of his old collaboration with fellow Brit Mark Pritchard, out of which came such classic albums as 76:14 (the name is the same as its total runtime) and the elaborately titled Blood Music: Pentamerous Metamorphosis. He also released a series of seminal mixes for the Renaissance label under his own name and under the guise of his Jedi Knights alias.

Over the past few years, Middleton has been getting deep into the link between music and sleep science and released a triple album, Sleep Better, that will prime you for restful slumber. This got the attention of the mindset app Calm, whose leadership team tapped Middleton to produce original tunes for their new music-centric meditation tools. He recently wrote on Instagram that E2-XO is the most complex piece he’s ever written, and he’s not kidding. Fire up this album with a good pair of headphones, and you’ll be amazed at the level of detail that Middleton has packed into this space-themed opus.

An artist’s moniker doesn’t always have an apparent meaning, but in the case of Gardenstate, one half of the DJ duo signed to legendary British electronic label Anjunabeats lives in New Jersey. This is Matt Felner, who took the risk of leaving a solid blue-collar job to pursue his love of music. At first, he arranged club nights and festivals, but when he teamed up with like-minded Swedish producer Marcus Schössow, the Gardenstate project began.

The twosome debuted their first album with a series of tour dates supporting their record label’s founders, Above & Beyond, including back-to-back sell out performances at Colorado’s iconic outdoor venue, Red Rocks. The album itself rekindles the glory days of mid-90s rave, particularly on the tracks “Take Me There” and the aptly named “1995.” The other more melodic offerings are the perfect companion for the nature-heavy videos that form the backdrop to Gardenstate’s live shows. Speaking of which, the DJ set of the year features Felner and Schössow spinning tracks for two hours on top of an active volcano in Iceland (as one does for kicks!).