Try listening to these when you’re sat down, in the bath, or generally trying to relax after a hard day’s work.
The Cross of Changes – Enigma (1994)
A relaxing musical experience, which is perfect for when you’re just sitting back and letting the music wash over you. The Cross of Changes combines elements drawn from all manner of sources – including Native American chants, Gregorian chants, Celtic harmonies, and Indian tabla drums – all of which are combined with dance beats to create a richly layered sound. The standout tracks on the album are ‘Return to Innocence’ and ‘Dream of the Dolphin’, which are both breathtakingly beautiful. You could describe Enigma’s album as a techno-psychedelic recording – and it’s certainly a fine example of the chill-out genre.
Back to Bedlam – James Blunt (2005)
This unexpected hit album is one of those you either loathe or love – and a thousand radio plays later, it’s unlikely that you won’t be familiar with some of the content on it. Blunt strips down songwriting to its most basic level, and often uses a just a guitar or piano to create songs which are heartfelt and sensitive. Tracks such as ‘You’re Beautiful’ and ‘No Bravery’ stand out, and as well as these there are several more songs on the album that deal with matters of the heart. Blunt is an ex-serviceman from the UK military, but surprisingly has a uniquely enthralling voice.
Takk – Sigur Ros (2005)
‘Who?’ you might ask. Sigur Ros are one of those bands that you might not know by name, but you will be familiar with many of their atmospheric sounds, since they seem to crop up everywhere – from TV adverts to background music on sports coverage. The Icelandic quartet sing in their own native language, and their richly layered orchestral sound creates something very individual. Music by Sigur Ros has been used in a number of BBC nature programs, and is something that just spirits you away to another place. Takk is hard to categorise, but would certainly be something good to listen to after a trying day – particularly as you’ll end up feeling very uplifted!
Voices – Vangelis (1996)
Mainly known for his soundtrack to Chariots of Fire, Greek composer Vangelis also produced this brilliant work of sweeping synths and striking vocals – which make it definitely one for chilling out to. The standout track is ‘Ask the Mountains’, which combines Vangelis’ talent with the angelic voice of Stina Nordenstam, and is frequently picked out by the marketing execs in order to advertise their products. Don’t expect this album to be anything like his heavily electronic Blade Runner soundtrack album; instead, expect to get an atmospheric and perfect end to a stressful day!
O – Damien Rice (2003)
This is another album from the singer-songwriter genre, and one which has drawn great critical acclaim. O contains relaxing music, but also music with substance, as it’s always heartfelt and contains some great lyrics. ‘Cannonball’ is the track that most people will know the artist by, and is one of the standout tracks along with ‘Blowers Daughter’ and ‘Volcano’. What makes the album more impressive is its use of female vocalists, who combine with Rice in some delightful duets. If you like your music stripped back, then this will be just for you.
Dreamland – Robert Miles (1998)
The title to this is quite apt, because when you listen to Dreamland you’ll probably feel like you’re there too! Some people will know the album for its distinctive piano-led dance hit ‘Children’, which may remind many people of Ibiza or Aya Napa clubs in the 1990s. Although some people may call it ‘dance’ or ‘trance’, the music on Dreamland is pretty relaxing and even uplifting in parts, so it’s definitely good chill-out material too. The distinctive tinkly piano hooks may become a bit repetitive in parts, but there are enough catchy tunes and ethereal keyboards on here to make the album utterly entrancing.
White Ladder – David Gray (2000)
A multi-platinum album that is likely to be found in many households. Hit after hit seems to roll off White Ladder – all of which tend to fit in the middle-of-the-road category of popular music. From the breakthrough hit ‘Babylon’ through to the heartfelt ‘This Year’s Love’ and even a cover of Soft Cell’s ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, it’s all instantly likeable stuff. Gray’s hard-edged voice adds drama at times, and yet can be gentle enough for the more poignant moments in the songs. The album sits in the category of electronica-tinged folk-pop, and is always good for chilling out to – particularly at dinner parties.
Songs of Distant Earth – Mike Oldfield (1994)
This proves that Mike Oldfield doesn’t always have to involve the words ‘Tubular’ and ‘Bells’ to create a great album. It’s based around science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s book of the same name, with the themes of space and creation featuring prominently. Listen to this and you’ll probably head out for the book! The music is calming and atmospheric, using a combination of tribal chants, distant voices and more futuristic synthetic sounds in order to effectively take you on musical journey through space. It’s best to listen to this album in one go if you want to enjoy it fully.
Mezzanine – Massive Attack (1998)
A hard-to-define album that draws from all manner of influences such as jazz, pop, folk, rap, blues, and classical – all of which are combined to produce a very individual style. The use of several guest vocalists also adds to the varied nature of the sound on the album. For example, vocalist Elizabeth Fraser (of the Cocteau Twins) and her amazingly distinctive voice gives added brilliance to ‘Teardrop’, which is without question the standout track on the album. Mezzanine as a whole is entirely hypnotic, and will be quite unlike anything you’ll have heard before – and for that reason is worthy of a few listens.
Legend – Bob Marley & the Wailers (2002)
As far as ‘Greatest Hits’ collections go, Legend is a beauty, as all the songs are memorable and are likely to be known even to casual music observers. ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and ‘Buffalo Soldier’ are among the standout tracks on this posthumously released album. Marley was one of reggae’s most popular figures and made some of the most chilled out songs ever recorded.
All of the best ones are here – so listen to this and you’ll definitely start feeling more relaxed!