Chill & Mellow

Tunes for Times of Despair

Rory Buccheri | Tue, 14 Apr 2020

Tough times, it is known, require tough music…Or do they?


Discovering new music feels like being a teenager all over again: every piece, every track is, in a way, a tool to affirm who we are. Whether you were on the rebellious side of punk, or on the ballads-until-midnight side of pop, or embarking on the journey of rediscovering your grandpa’s folk records, chances are that your musical tastes – and your personal quest to find them – have shaped you as the human being you are today. But music is not just about who we are, it is also about how we feel and how we choose to feel.

…‘Tis a thing well-known that music helps a lot when going through tough times. Sometimes we crave those sad tunes that help us reaching the apex of misery, until we are forced to let it all go in tears and sobs.  Other times we are looking for something to soothe our nerves, that specific something that makes it possible to transcend a painful reality. What better time than this historical moment to seek relief in that comfortable box of musical discovery? And what better way to begin than with mellow and soothing music? This quest for calm has brought me, an individual easily overcome by difficult situations, to find rescue in one mood (not quite one genre): what I call chill & mellow.

Below you will find a list of artists – and recommended tracks to go with them – that have shaped my last weeks in isolation. Feel free to follow their musical threads, discover some tunes not featured in this list, discard the ones you don’t like and find new tracks that you’ll treasure forever. Most important of all: enjoy the journey.


1.      Sufjan Stevens

A classic if you’re into indie, ambience and, of late, heartbreaking movie soundtracks. Sufjan adapts and plays around, though he’s not one for big changes and radical shifts in his musical panorama. To many, his style might sound quite monotonous, but he has accomplished in a few years what many artists struggle to achieve in a lifetime: he’s built a brand, signature style, with his riveting whispers and his chasing chords and words with his unique voice.

Hits include: Death with Dignity, Mystery of Love, The Only Thing.


2.      Matthew and the Atlas

It can’t be said of many bands that they’re so indie they don’t even have a rough attempt at a Wikipedia page. Matthew and the Atlas, though faithful to their indie background and still flying low, have changed and improved a lot since their debut album. The latest result is a cracking record, a true uncut gem of 2019, Morning Dancer, with its soft tunes and tip-toed, quiet steps towards success. Against the background of ambient music, their tracks appear more challenging and dynamic, with quite a good deal of percussions and electronic experimenting blended with the softer acoustic guitar.

Hits Include: Can’t You See (Acoustic), White Bird, Halo.


3.      Belle and Sebastian

Immortal pop-rock complex, Belle and Sebastian’s sound is literally close to home: Glaswegian born and bred, this band has brought hit after hit in the mainstream world, yet it still retains that gorgeous and authentic flavour of Indie the group’s started with. The tracks I put forward are mostly their classic hits, but with Belle and Sebastian you can be sure that, whatever the mood you wish to dive in, chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Hits Include: The Boy with The Arab Strap, Another Sunny Day, Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying.


4.      Andrew Bird

Dynamic, eclectic, with just that right amount of folly on top. There is greatness in his music, from upbeat ballads such as Sisyphus, to bildungsroman-flavoured tracks like Manifest, all of which sprinkled with his characteristic whistle on top. Multi-instrumentalist and experimenter, Andrew Bird is one of the most interesting artists in this list, and if you are keen on Indie discovery in the music world, chances are you will fall in a rabbit hole, a true goldmine of musical projects.

Hits include: Sisyphus, Manifest, Giant of Illinois.


5.      Benjamin Francis Leftwich

This is an artist I’ve encountered while on a casual virtual walk on my Spotify. Since, of late, walks don’t happen as often as they used to, it is a true pleasure to go on roaming the web for new music. I assure you. Back to my pleasant discovery of Leftwich, never have I been more grateful to the tool which suggests similar artists before. Once again, a bit of an uncut gem, Benjamin Francis Leftwich has many more mountains to climb and peaks to reach, but he is an incredibly flavourful artist. His last EP, Elephant, is packed with good tunes, a blend of the follow-up of a trail of successful tracks he’s put out there, and brand-new musical mornings for him.

Hits include: Just as I was Waking Up, All Dressed in White, 4AM in London.


As you will have noticed by now, most of these artists are not radio greatest-hits material, and it is mainly for one reason: they fall into the category we like to call ‘indie’.  Indie is a complex music box. As many of you will already know, when approaching indie, (again capitalised or not?) it is easier to accept that you will find everything rather than to start looking for something. Nonetheless, these are, I believe, great tunes, not just in times of pandemic but anytime your mood swings towards the ‘chill and mellow’ side.

If you’re hungry for more tunes, here is a playlist I’ve made for the occasion:

In here you’ll find mostly music by the artists mentioned above, plus some immortal mellow tunes that, just like black, go well with everything. Artists include: Current Joys, Blur, Harry Nilsson, Iron & Wine.

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