Norah Jones’s peaceful playlist
… for a calm start to the day
In lockdown in New York, Norah Jones and her husband, Pete, have started a new musical tradition: playing Christmas songs every Sunday. Their children – a six-year-old and a four-year-old whose names Jones has always kept anonymous – aren’t impressed. “We’re basically doing it to cheer up the grownups in the house. The kids also don’t like the fact they don’t get any presents! ”
Jones is hiding in the bedroom while home schooling goes on elsewhere. She’s finding it “scary… and really hard to read the news” at the moment, she says. Still, she’s pleased to have something creative going on: her new album, Pick Me Up Off the Floor, comes out next month, and she’s been doing weekly livestream concerts on Facebook. She’s also enjoying playing tunes in the house in the mornings (“given that I’m now here every morning, for a change”) and her playlist of peaceful songs is one she’s changed 10 times, and rigorously home tested.
“These are songs for that mood when you want a quiet breakfast, not that I have much of those at the moment! But they’re simple and beautiful. I can’t do walls of sound at the beginning of the day. I want songs that give me a peaceful energy.”
Norah Jones’s peaceful tracks
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou
The Homeless Wanderer
This is from the fantastic Éthiopiques series. This woman’s solo piano playing blows my mind.
Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté
This has been my most-played record for the last 15 years. I do yoga to it too. My kids get confused if it’s playing and I’m not in a pose!
This gives me such a peaceful feeling It’s like my body sighs when I hear it.
Song of the Highest Tower
Next Time Around
This has the most melancholic-joyful feeling.
Another song that leapt up on me from a streaming service that just clicked.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The flute at the beginning’s like the sun streaming through a window.
Love Is Like a Butterfly
Josephine Foster and the Victor Herrero Band
Puerto De Santa Maria
Another lockdown discovery, although I know she’s been around a long time. Her voice is amazing.
Duet for Guitars #3
On the other side of the scale, I’ve known Matt a long time, I love his guitar-playing so much.
Balera Del Mar
This makes me wants to dance in a slow, slinky way.
Caetano Veloso and Moreno Veloso
O Leãozinho (Live)
The audience sighing at the beginning is so charming and so sweet.
Jorge Ben Jor
I’m not religious, but this is so light and summery. When he sings “Jesus Christ, where is my lord?”, I’m singing along!
From such a great album. I’ve loved getting more into him in lockdown.
Trenchtown Rock – Live at the Lyceum, London
When Bob Marley comes in with “one good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain”, I get chills. It’s the best feeling.
Joe Talbot from Idles’s spiritual playlist
… for when you are in need of consolation
Joe Talbot’s been locked down in Cardiff with his father, but this period has coincided with a time he’d be largely isolated anyway: Idles are finishing mixing and mastering their new album, the much-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s Mercury-nominated Joy as an Act of Resistance. “We’re having Zoom meetings instead, as a band, which is pretty intense.” They’ve also started writing new songs remotely from each other (“we’ve never done that before”) and sharing music through playlists via video calls. “It’s like we’re all in a musical book club,” he laughs.
Talbot felt strangely ready for lockdown, he says, after a difficult year in which he’s been undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy. “I’d been learning a lot about not focusing on the past, about embracing the moment, and living a life of presence despite whatever else was going on… and, hello, here we are.”
Even though Talbot’s been listening to all kinds of music, songs that give him a spiritual, mindful lift have helped him most. “I was always the kid with headphones on in school, though,” he says. “Music is something where I’ve always sought refuge and solace.”
Joe Talbot’s spiritual tracks
To See More Light
Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam
In a Blackout
I first heard this in a blizzard in the Black Forest when I was having a bad time with drugs and alcohol. It blew all of that away.
A Change Is Gonna Come
Otis’s voice is the closest thing I have to believing in a god.
Grinnin’ in Your Face
The message of this song is about someone whose situation was very different to mine but it’s so strong and inspiring.
The most spiritual love song, capturing that sincerity of that feeling.
Sea Within a Sea
This is equal parts bliss and terror, and so otherworldly, whisking you away.
Born to Be With You
I loved 50s pop songs when I was young, and they still help knock the cynicism out of you for a while.
To the Last
A beautiful coming together of the music that matters most to me: gospel, moments of darkness and elements of hip-hop.
A great band that convey absolute strength in their vulnerability.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Nick Cave’s definitely a spiritual leader. The balance of tenderness and vitriolic power here is astonishing.
The Soft Moon
Breathe the Fire
Anything like this with a post-punk krautrock groove helps when I’m meditating.
I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel)
Flohio’s high-energy playlist
… for your lockdown workout
Rapper Flohio is on lockdown on her own in her block of flats in Bermondsey. “Man, it’s been eating away at me slowly,” she sighs. She’s reacted by throwing herself into everything: dyeing her hair red, writing a diary, baking (“I’ve gone in light so far, but I wanted to go deep!”) and spending hours listening to other people’s music. This makes a big change for her. “Before, I’d listen to my own tracks all the time thinking: ‘How do I make myself better?’ Now I’m sat down with my laptop actively searching through Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify, flipping everything, trying to learn.”
She’s also been throwing herself into high-energy music to work out, even though she’s naturally lazy, she laughs. “I’ve been running up and down the stairs of the block of flats for fun. I miss performing. That was my exercise! All that jumping up and down.” She’s been blasting out this playlist from her Alexa in her flat, moving to it even when she’s doing her laundry. “These tracks put your mind in a good state. They remind you one day we’re going to break out of these cages for good and fly.”
Flohio’s high-energy tracks
Sing About Me
This is for its intro, telling you how music opens a trapdoor, and locks you in.
Another energetic prince. Although he’s listing all the things I need and can’t have right now!
Oh my days, they’re just a fun bunch of boys. I go straight to the second verse – I love it.
Maison2500’s a great Nigerian rapper who grew up in London and lives in New York. You can’t sit still to this.
He’s the UK Lil’ Wayne – he looks like him! He’s always smiling, a little prankster, and this has good vibes, good energy.
I had the opportunity to see her perform this live once, and it was so crazy, I shed a tear.
This is new. I love these Afrocentric sounds and beats creeping into the mainstream.
A New Error
This is my instrumental section. This is timeless.
She Cut Me
I get lost in this, and start rapping to it in my head.
This is all energy and crazy colours, and makes my soul dance from its roots.
Au Seve (remix)
This makes me nostalgic for being in clubs with everyone shuffling.
Calvin Harris (ft Florence Welch)
Because we’re in sweet nothing right now, and Florence makes that translate!
Janelle Monáe (ft Big Boi)
Janelle Monáe’s such an active woman, a go-getter. I get so eager to get into every project she does.
This is a bubble of joy, with her South African lingo and vibe.
Sumo | Zumo
He’s like a metalhead, punk rocker, or Black Panther rapping. This is a bit aggressive to finish, but it’s good to assert yourself.