Music is used (see also: needed) for many reasons. Cruising through side streets, seducing your prey, weeping. When the sun goes in hiding and the stars come alive, music is used to fall asleep. Bedtime lullabies that kickstart dreams. 90% of my iTunes playlists are either sleepscapes or hip-hop flavors of the month.
Because I am a firm believer in the importance of music that floats you down the proper roads of Sleepy Town, I have listed my ten favorite albums to fall asleep to. Perhaps these are not the best lullabies ever. After all, where is Rubber Soul? Where is Kid A? Most of these albums are post-2000, get over it. Regardless, these are the ten albums that are really doing it for me right now. Send me your sleep suggestions below, please. I am always looking for a new dream.
Blind Pilot – 3 Rounds and a Sound (2008)
In 2008, the west coast acoustic duo released their debut album, a heartfelt poem of love songs, nostalgia, and confessions. Occasional horns and violins, the album is almost entirely done with an acoustic guitar and drowsy percussion. Kings of Convenience, I see you. 3 Rounds is a beautiful sleep companion.
“Look me in the mouth, I got nothing in my smile. I’ve been waiting for, you’re just my style.” If you have not heard this, get on it. Unfortunately, their follow-up, 2011′s We Are the Tide, was no where near as great as 3 Rounds and a Sound. Luckily, the playability of “Paint or Pollen” is on par with Friendzone’s “I Miss Y’all.”
Blue Sky Black Death – Noir + Violet (2011)
Seattle instrumentalists Blue Sky Black Death (no need for an introduction on the Bloglin) released Noir in 2011. It was a blissed-out dream coaster through trunk shaking grooves and cinematic backdrops. The duo decided to slow down the show, dump purple buckets on all that they saw, and release Noir + Violet, a leaning swerve party perfect for bedtime.
“Farewell to the Former World” kills car speakers. “Sleeping Children Are Still Flying” screwed up is quite the spectacle, quite possibly my favorite thing by BSBD. Be on the look-out for their instrumental tape dropping any day.
Washed Out – Within and Without (2011)
Chillwave. Beachtronica. Dream pop. Electric aquarium. Call it what you like, I trust you. Washed Out’s 2011 debut album is a sonic masterpiece, through the enchanting sounds of an apartment genius, painting the seas with plenty of plugged-in toys. Fall asleep within electricity, daydreaming for a midnight dive, when the work is over and the stars are aligned.
Need more conviction? Clams Casino remixed one of the tracks on the album (“Amor Fati”). This is what Chaz Bundick drives to. “You hide away where no one can see, and only you can set you free.” According to my friend Whitni, this album has the sexiest artwork of all time. Shout-out to all of Rihanna’s album covers.
Ludovico Einaudi and Ballake Sissoko – Diario Mali (2003)
In 2003, Italian Ludovico Einaudi and Malian Ballaké Sissoko linked up for some worldly classical tracks, tossing you into an elegant deck of black and white photographs, European family portraits and Africa dances. Einaudi on piano and Sissoko on kora. This is all I know about the album. I have no idea how it made its way on my computer.
I have a few other albums by Einaudi (my favorite being Una Mattina), but I have nothing else by Sissoka. If you need a something to accompany this album, let me gecommend Ali and Toumani (Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté saying goodnight). Regardless, Diario Mali is perfect for closed eyes. “Niger Blues” and French love titles, grab this now.
Yann Tiersen – Tabarly (2008)
Most people know Yann Tiersen as the composer of the Amelie soundtrack, dabbling from piano to xylophone to violin to guitar. The multi-instrumentalist also has numerous studio albums (check Rue des Cascades), including his two most recent albums (Dust Lane and Skyline) that dive deep into the post-rock/avant-garde world.
Tabarly, one of his lesser known albums, is the soundtrack to a documentary about a French sailor that I have never seen. It’s almost exclusively piano. I enjoy drifting off at night and forming my own aquatic movie within the fifteen tracks.
John Frusciante – The Will to Death (2004)
One of the numerous times Frusciante took a break from the Chili Peppers before parting entirely, he announced that he would release six albums in six months. While all albums are enjoyable (Curtains, I see you), The Will to Death is his strongest and most mellow.
Full of abstract phrases like, “Lean in to walk, we dreamed up tonight,” and, “There’s riddles in the shadows.” This is a great album for imagination, doing homework, dozing off during the Witching Hour, or singing falsetto in the shower.
Hindi Zahra – Handmade (2010)
French-Moroccan beaut Hindi Zahra dropped her debut album, Handmade, a few years ago, and I am still enjoying it when the moon is out. Full of soulful verses that would make Norah Jones jealous, her lines are perfect for drifting away. “Beautiful stranger, don’t wanna know you’re name. Beautiful stranger, just wanna take your hand.”
This album sounds like being on a deserted beach, finding a boat, and burning the boat to stay warm. No Jack Johnson. Foreign dreams of ballroom swings and bon fires. Beautiful Tango. If you are craving more Zahra, she has a couple great EP’s and is featured on Blundetto’s funky, funky, funky Bad Bad Things.
Moby – Wait For Me (2009)
I have heard so many people tell me that Moby has done nothing worthwhile since Play, and I shake my head like a spastic. 18 was a piano-driven car commercial. Hotel’s second disc was perfect for ambient meditation. Sure, Last Night and Destroyed were not my favorites, but Wait For Me, which is sandwiched between two weak albums, is outstanding. Quiet, reflective, sleepy Moby. Scream pilots and pale horses.
Recorded with his closest friends, all of the guests are virtually unknown, making the album even more intimate. “Put me by the window, let me see outside. Looking at the places where all my family died.” Also, if you need more, check the David Lynch directed video for “Shot in the Back of the Head” as well as his ambient version of the album. Don’t sleep on Moby, fall asleep to Moby.
Gillian Welch – Soul Journey (2003)
Nick Flynn, poet and author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, visited my English class in 2009. I asked him what he listened to when he wrote his memoir. He told me a great deal of Okkervil River and Múm, adding that he found himself listening to Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio” on repeat for weeks. Goodness gracious, if that isn’t a great song.
Blind Pilot, who are also on this list, do a great cover as well. Welch delivers a wonderful country/folk/americana/awesome album full of twang, whisky, and yesterday’s stories. “Here comes the freight train.” David Rawlings produced the entirety of Welch’s fourth album, as he always does, and it is their strongest work together. “I’m gonna drive to Atlanta and live out this fantasy, runnin’ around with the rag top down.” Big Boi is jealous he didn’t write that first.
Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)
Bruce deserves to have the only album on this list pre-2000. Nebraska, the Boss’s sixth studio album, is his quietest and most raw. Home recorded on cassette tapes, Springsteen originally considered the tracks to be demos for the E Street Band to enhance (known by fans as the unheard Electric Nebraska). Instead, his bandmates and labelmates said that they loved the personal atmospheres of the album.
Harmonica, guitar, and the Boss telling stories about hard-working Americans. Bob Dylan listens to this before he goes to bed. The National knows this whole album by heart. “Well, I went out and I jumped in my car, then I hit the lights. Well, I must have done 110 through Michigan County that night.” Sleep tight.