Playlist: National Relaxation Day

Playlist: National Relaxation Day

· music · playlists
Celebrate National Relaxation Day by doing nothing but vibing to these songs. Featuring Thundercat, Fleetwood Mac, Jay Som, Real Estate, Her’s and more.

On August 15th, 1985, fourth grader Sean Moeller of Clio, Michigan declared the day to be known forevermore as National Relaxation Day. As for why, his reasoning was simple: We work too hard all the time, and so we need a day to not “do anything of real value.”

37 year later, and it feels like we all need to take Sean’s advice more than ever. One great way to do that is to put on a good pair of earbuds and get lost in music.

If you’re not sure where to start, we can look again to the 1980s for inspiration: Soft rock welcomed you on every FM radio station, yacht rock beckoned you to relax by the pool and dream pop helped you dance the night away. But music that leans into laid-back, good-natured grooves wasn’t left in the so-called “Yuppie Decade”—there are plenty of songs out there guaranteed to soothe the soul.

On this year’s National Relaxation Day, we’re saluting the artists of yesterday and today that will help you stop, take a breath and do nothing but vibe.

Grab your coolest shades, throw a tiny umbrella in your drink and hit play to get your self care on.

Daryl Hall & John Oates – “Rich Girl

A big part of soft rock’s sound is the elusive “in-the-pocket” groove––something Hall & Oates know plenty about. The Philly-bred stalwarts of blue-eyed soul formed in 1970 and dominated the next two decades with hits, starting with this cheeky bop from 1977’s Bigger Than Both of Us.

Though “Rich Girl” is actually about a rich guy––an ex of Hall’s then-girlfriend and heir to a pancake house chain––this track is a universal ode to trust fund babies everywhere. Backed by Motown-esque strings and a mid-tempo bounce, Hall & Oates remind any silver spooners listening about the things money can’t buy: love, friendship and wood for burned bridges.

Also, special shout-out to Lake Street Dive’s take on this song, featuring Bridget Kearney’s impeccably groovy upright basswork.

Spoon – “Inside Out

Approaching their third decade as a band, indie rock greats Spoon have a well-earned reputation for changing up their sound on every critically-acclaimed album.

“Inside Out,” the standout from 2014’s They Want My Soul, is Exhibit A of the Austin band’s balancing act between freewheeling sonic experimentation and no-fuss, no-filler songwriting. A meditation on gravity and love’s unavoidable pull, the track floats along layers of swirling synths and cascading keys, anchored by an airtight drum-and-bass loop inspired by 90s hip-hop.

True to form, “Inside Out” sounds nothing like the rest of Spoon’s back catalog. Luckily, its irresistibly cool vibe merits back-to-back listens.

Thundercat – “Show You The Way (feat. Kenny Loggins & Michael McDonald)

If you want to traverse yacht rock’s silky smooth seas, you need the right captain as your guide. In Thundercat’s case, he brought two masters of the genre on board for “Show You the Way,” a psychedelic throwback jam from 2017’s Drunk.

While Thundercat himself is usually the man to call for artists in need of some soul, he shares the load with golden-voiced legends Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald on this track. The result is not one, but three shades of effortless cool: Thundercat’s shimmering harmonies and liquid basslines, Kenny Loggins’ disco-tinged falsetto and Michael McDonald’s raspy croon to bring it home.

A song this charismatic and over-the-top should seemingly collapse under its own weight, but instead, it’s as blissful and smooth as a martini on a velvet coaster, overlooking a golden ocean.

Men I Trust – “Show Me How

Men I Trust might be from Montreal, but they sure know how to make summery slow jams fit for the West Coast. 2018’s “Show Me How” combines yacht rock and its younger distant cousin dream pop for a wistful ballad that feels like hot tea for the soul.

Backed by Dragos Chiriac's atmospheric keys and Jessy Caron’s crisp bassline, singer-guitarist Emmanuelle Proulx strums reverb-drenched chords as she gently describes a fading, unrequited love. Her delivery is soothing and words are simple, but the emotional core of her lyrics hit with full force: “Show me how you care / Tell me how you loved before / Show me how you smile / Tell me why your hands are cold.”

Whether you need a chill session or a cry session, “Show Me How” will do just that.

Her’s – “What Once Was

On 2016’s “What Once Was,” Liverpool duo Her’s get your attention with a jangly opening guitar riff that somehow feels familiar even at first listen. By the time the bass slides into action, you’re fully invested in the song’s dreamy little world.

Based on the passing of a family member, “What Once Was” takes cues from classic post-punk bands like the Smiths and the Cure to create a certain kind of warm melancholy that’s sad yet comforting––longing for the past, but hopeful for the future.

Her’s, made of guitarist-singer Stephen Fitzpatrick and bassist Audun Laading, tragically passed away in a car accident in 2019, but fans take solace in the bevy of tender and heartening songs they left behind.

Sheer Mag – “Silver Line

With an album cover that would look at home painted on the side of a van from the 1980s, 2019’s A Distant Call showcased Sheer Mag’s love for rock’s many sub genres from the decade, from hard rock and hair metal to new wave and yacht rock.

The quick and breezy “Silver Line” falls in the latter genres thanks to its chimey guitar lines and buoyant rhythm section, but Tina Hallady’s dynamo vocals give it plenty of bite. Listen to this song cruising down a seaside highway, and you might consider adding some decal to your ride, too.

Jackson Browne – “Somebody’s Baby

1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a film that no one––the studio, the cast, the crew and especially the critics––expected to become an 80s cultural marvel. But this raunchy and beloved film launched Sean Penn’s career, made a generation of teens fall in love with Phoebe Cates, unknowingly opened the Cage and helped Jackson Browne land one of his biggest hits.

“Somebody’s Baby” not only perfectly captures Fast Times’ exuberance and the melodrama of teenhood, it also encapsulates Browne’s then-decade of experience writing radio-ready country-tinged soft rock anthems. With its straightforward melodies, earnest lyrics and instantly catchy chorus, this song is everything you want on a relaxing day out with friends (or your next high school reunion).

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Necessary Evil

While “Necessary Evil” was only released in 2015, it would sound right at home on a playlist with Curtis Mayfield and Sly & the Family Stone. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s slow jam on love and self-deprecation takes listeners on a steady ride with a muted drumbeat, warm horn stingers and Ruban Nielson’s nonchalant vocals.

Contrary to the average band’s career trajectory, UMO first gained notoriety after anonymously posting their song “Ffunny Ffriends” to Bandcamp in 2010, sending the indie rock world abuzz with questions and speculation. Today, the band (thankfully no longer anonymous) is known and loved for their trippy, low-key indie soul that will always get you to a zen headspace.

Jay Som – “Tenderness

With a lo-fi sound and soul-baring lyrics, Melina Duterte has a certain, well, “Tenderness” that separates her from her dream pop contemporaries. As Jay Som, Duterte crafts sparkling songs that feel lived-in and intimate, like a favorite chair or secret clubhouse.

That closeness is fittingly at the forefront of “Tenderness,” a yearning and low-key track from her 2019 album Anak Ko. The track starts with old, fuzzy radio tones and blooms into a playful shuffle with hints of city pop thrown in, leaving you with a sense of ease and weightlessness perfect for a long, summer day.

Real Estate – “Had to Hear

Summer is always alive and well on a Real Estate record. Even on their more downtrodden 2014 record Atlas, there’s still a sense of sunshine and warm weather on every song.

The album’s opener “Had to Hear” is a delicate number featuring everything the New Jersey band does best: dual jangly guitars, on-the-kick bass lines and soft hearted melodies that stay in your head.

“I'm out again on my own / A reflection in the chrome / Of an idle machine / It's been so long,” Martin Courtney sings in the song’s opening verse. If “Had to Hear” is a sound of summer, then it’s that of the early morning dusk as you walk home alone from a wild party, haze clearing as the sun comes up.

Fleetwood Mac – “Everywhere

In their many decades as a band (and just as many lineups), Fleetwood Mac have covered a lot of genres, from their early blues rock years to their commercial pop rock peak. On “Everywhere,” a highlight from 1987’s Tango In the Night, the band tried out elements of yacht rock and new wave to great success.

Everything from the glistening synths to the walls of vocal harmonies to Christine McVie’s always-earnest lyrics comes together so effortlessly, encapsulating the band’s mastery over the mysterious art of writing hits. Such a skill is even more impressive considering the band’s tendency to not like each other very much.

You’d never pick up on the band’s penchant for infighting from this or any of their songs, and thank goodness for that. We’re all the better for the many, many classics the Mac have given us over the years.

Hear and feel the difference. Love them or your money back.

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