Playlist: Chill Vibes

· music · playlists
Tune in, turn it up and vibe out with our favorite laid-back tracks to chill out and beat Black Friday stress this holiday season.

Holiday season stress got you down? Those Black Friday deals will still be there Cyber Monday, and any time is the right time for a little “me time” with your favorite tunes.

Between lightweight orchestral pop, major key indie hits, chilled-out techno, trippy psych folk and subdued jazz balladry, this playlist keeps things cool. Tune in, turn it up and vibe out.

Enya — “Orinoco Flow

There’s “chill” and then there’s “Live with Your Cats in A Victorian Castle In Ireland” chill. Enya is the latter.

“Orinoco Flow,” from the Watermark LP, is an airy and featherlight potpourri of pizzicato synth strings (courtesy of the Roland D-50 keyboard) and Enya’s crystalline mezzo-soprano. It’s hard not to imagine the rolling hills of Ireland when you listen to this all-time new age and chill classic. You could “sail away” on the clouds of reverb alone.

Japanese Breakfast — “Diving Woman

Michelle Zaunier of Japanese Breakfast keeps her promise of Soft Sounds from Another Planet with the wobbly sci-fi synth drone preceding the dreamy, laid-back electro-pop groove of “Diving Woman.” With its sparkling, interstellar guitar arpeggios and Zaunier’s relaxed, half-whispered, half-sung vocal melodies, “Diving Woman” is buoyant like zero gravity. An 11/10 on the chill-o-meter.

Wilco — “Heavy Metal Drummer

Wilco proved themselves the Radiohead of the Midwest on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the 2001 masterpiece that saw the former alt-country rock ramblers complete their metamorphosis into Americana’s preeminent experimental folk-art-pop collective. With its upbeat major key chord progression, infectious combination of electronic and acoustic instrumentation and lyrics about kicking back to watch KISS cover bands, “Heavy Metal Drummer” is the definition of “chill.”

Aphex Twin — “Pulsewidth

In a 1995 interview with the electronic music magazine Mixmag, Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James tells the story behind the track selection for his debut album Selected Ambient Works 85-92. “They were just tracks that my mates [selected],” says James. “Ones that they like to chill out to.” His friends clearly have great taste because it’s difficult to be stressed out when you’re dancing to a club-friendly Aphex Twin track like “Pulsewidth.”

Shuggie Otis — “Aht Uh Mi Hed

Black Friday and holiday season stress is enough to drive anybody out of their mind. Shuggie Otis is here to take it away with “Aht Uh Mi Hed,” a funky slow jam from 1974’s Inspiration Information. Otis’ psychedelic swirl of Rhythm King drum machine beats and trippy organ-led R&B earned praise from Sly Stone and was an early influence on Prince—both artists who featured drum machines on some of their biggest hits, including “Family Affair” and “1999,” respectively.

Miles Davis — “Blue In Green

What’s cooler than Miles Davis? Nothing.

Kind of Blue is almost shorthand for Jazz itself. And “Blue In Green” is arguably the most mellow track on an already laid-back album. In his late ‘50s music, Davis relied on “modal” composition techniques where musicians improvised around scales, rather than a static series of chords. As a result, the songs on Kind of Blue unfold at a calm, meandering pace as melodies and solos drift in casual orbit around a tonal center, rather than falling in line along strict chord changes.

Spiritualized — “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space

Relax in waltz time with this psychedelic space-rock shoegaze gospel classic (and the title track) from Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. In a genre known for ear-splitting fuzz guitar, Spiritualized’s third album departs from the shoegaze tradition with gentle keyboards, sweeping orchestral arrangements and the angelic voices of The London Community Gospel Choir.

Lorde — “Stoned at the Nail Salon

Onion ring enthusiast and pop superstar Lorde lives the good life on “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” from her 2021 LP, Solar Power.

“I love this life that I have / the vine hanging over the door / and the dog who comes when I call,” she sings over a gently fingerpicked acoustic folk guitar laid down by producer Jack Antonoff. Whenever you’re flustered this holiday season, just return to this mellow, beachy song and think about sunshine. You’ll get that PS5 next time.

Angelo Baldamenti — “Audrey’s Dance

Don’t you think Black Friday is a little…weird? That’s the vibe we’re getting from this hallucinatory selection from Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack. Pour some coffee “as black as midnight on a moonless night,” grab a piece of cherry pie and sway to the off-kilter, jazzy noir rhythms of “Audrey’s Dance.”

Cocteau Twins — "Heaven or Las Vegas

Getting the best deals on Black Friday is a gamble, so this song must be Heaven. The Cocteau Twins hit the dream-pop jackpot with an ethereal shuffle built around a modified Bo Diddley beat, shimmering guitar arpeggios like snowflakes reflecting in the headlights of a one-way westward-bound u-haul and Elizabeth Frasier’s uplifting neon-lit vocal melody.

Kurt Vile — “Bassackwards

Kurt Vile chills in reverse with a trippy ten-minute psych-folk opus dripping with backwards electric guitar overdubs and easygoing acoustics. Vile’s freewheelin’ stream-of-consciousness verse sounds like autumn porch hangs with old friends.

Yo La Tengo — “Autumn Sweater

Wrapped in layers of percussion and gently humming lo-fi electronic textures, the warm and cozy grooves in Yo La Tengo’s “Autumn Sweater” fit like a...glove. Vintage electric organs and poignant vocals glow atop an evolving backbeat in this indie rock staple from the album I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One—one of Rolling Stone’s updated 2020 picks for their list of the Greatest Albums of All Time.

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