Halftime Leisure

The Weekly List: Ten soft songs, depicting the passage of daylight

July 22, 2020

Illustration by Jacob Bilich

In a time of upheaval and uncertainty, little feels constant. One thing you can count on, though, is the passage of light through day. This week, the Weekly List is an ambient/folk playlist tracking light from dawn to dusk—it’s a smooth, ethereal listen to center the self during a time where any kind of grounding feels like a fantasy.

various album covers of songs mentioned in the article with a pink cloud backgorund

1. JULIANNA BARWICK — “Inspirit”

Nearly every track on Julianna Barwick’s new electronic/ambient record Healing is a Miracle could fit on this list, but perhaps none are more effective than album opener “Inspirit.” Now this is a song for the sky! “Inspirit” is a musical counterpart to getting up at five in the morning to watch dawn open—the chorale vocalizations feel equivalent to the earliest rays of sun exploring a wide-open field, a dormant bass grounding this search. Should you find yourself one day crawling out of bed one day to watch the sky grow pink, consider letting “Inspirit” be the first song to accompany you.

2. MOUNTAIN MAN — “Bright Morning Stars”

Though the day has now awakened, the moon and a few bright stars still hang gently above as the sun has yet to climb totally over the horizon. Folk trio Mountain Man—known for their naked vocals—reincarnate an old Appalachian folk tune into something truly special here.

3. NOVO AMOR — “Anchor”

Morning finally settling in, pour a cup of coffee out to Welsh musician Novo Amor’s “Anchor.” A centering, pale track, “Anchor” weaves layered vocals through acoustic guitar. It’s Bon Iver but more pastel and less surrealistic, perfect to welcome a day finally coming into itself.

4. CONNER YOUNGBLOOD — “The Birds of Finland”

Conner Youngblood’s remarkable 2018 album Cheyenne is an ambient ode to nature, love, and geography. On no track is this clearer than “The Birds of Finland,” written about the beauty of moments despite their transience. By this point in the day, the sun’s beaming and bright—when you have a minute to breathe, peer up at the birds and clouds. Relish in the beauty of the world—blink and it’ll fade away.

5. JOHN VINCENT III — “The Days That Are to Come”

Folksy and bright, John Vincent III’s “The Days That Are to Come” is as mellow and yellow as they come. As the afternoon thickens, this six-minute long track about memory and feeling like you’re finally home is a great tune to keep your day pleasant.

6. J.S. ONDARA — “Lebanon”

I first heard J.S. Ondara sing “Lebanon” when he opened for the Lumineers at Capital One back in February, and I have yet to shake it from my memory. From his Grammy-nominated Americana album Tales from America, “Lebanon” is a soulful tale of devotion and steadfastness. Squint and you’ll see an ode, perhaps, to the sun’s steady companionship of Earth. Even if that analogy doesn’t hold up for you, “Lebanon” is a great late afternoon tune as your day tunes down.

7. SUSANNE SUNDFØR — “The Golden Age”

British-accented opening monologue aside, this track elegantly combines Sundfør’s quiet vocals with a bed of some of the dreamiest instrumentation utilized in modern experimental music. Seriously, there’s one effect that comes in at the 58-second mark that sounds like a beam of light flying through warm air. Lyrically, “The Golden Age” describes falling from one dream into another, a vision perfectly suitable for a trip through the clouds. Some minor chords come haunting midway through the piece but resolve quietly—a lone grey cloud passing through, perhaps.

8. AISHA BADRU — “Waiting Around (Acoustic)”

Badru says it best herself on this track: “Well I’ve been waiting around / And the sky’s been falling down.” As you wait for the evening to drop into night, let Badru accompany you in that descent into darkness. The acoustic version of “Waiting Around” nurtures the ears—it’s gentle enough to put a baby to sleep, and maybe you, too, soon enough.

9. JAPANESE HOUSE — “This House”

The penultimate track off the perfectly-titled Soft Sounds from Another Planet, “This House” by Japanese Breakfast is meditative and thoughtful—perfect for evening. The world pales into blues and saturates into bright oranges, and “This House” is the kind of song to take a walk to, soaking in the golden world around you. It ends on a quiet, strong note of resilience—as should your day.

10. MAGGIE ROGERS — “Color Song”

If “Inspirit” opened your day, Maggie Rogers’ “Color Song” from her EP is here to bring about its close. She’s even added crickets to the sonic landscape. Twilight falls, and Rogers’ stripped-back vocals soar in harmony. When you lay your head onto a pillow to sleep later tonight, may your dreams be as sweet as this song.


Max Zhang
Max Zhang, now graduated, was the Fall 2022 Editor-in-Chief of the Voice and was a longtime member of the Editorial Board. Studying Business and Global Affairs with minors in English and Philosophy, he hails from suburban Chicago and was the Voice's resident Beyoncé expert, among other things.

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