Lena Avery recommends music streams which will get you through this study season: “In celebration of study season, let me take you down the Lo-fi radio rabbit hole. Grab some coffee (or tea) of your choice— it’s a long way down…”
When someone talks to me about university exam season it fills me with memories. Mostly of scrabbling like an academic goblin to find the right references or chase down an unruly page of notes. Or back to the dissertation days where the schedule was one hour working, twenty minutes napping— repeat all day. The soundtrack to these memories is always distinct— It was almost always the Youtube channel ChilledCow’s 24-hour Lo-fi music stream ‘lofi hip hop radio- beats to study/relax to’ .
You might have seen this anime girl, around the internet and that’s because this station and stations like them are wonderful solutions for anyone who focuses well with some background noise. In celebration of study season, let me take you down the Lo-fi radio rabbit hole. Grab some coffee (or tea) of your choice— it’s a long way down.
My first recommendation (and the most well-known) of these channels is ChilledCow, the channel that didn’t start the lo-fi radio trend but certainly defined it and with 3.8 million subscribers they are still the top provider of chillhop vibes on Youtube today. ChilledCow even got a feature written on VICE, which is making it on the millennial internet. Similar channels in this genre include College Music and Chillhop Music. They have a reliable sound and feeling and are a great workspace for your ears.
To anyone unfamiliar, chillhop is not really a genre unto itself but a term used to describe the wildly diverse forms of jazz and hiphop, usually making heavy use of samples and electronic distortion booming in these internet spaces. What makes music chillhop then? Usually the tracks have a predilection for a lo-fi sound like it has come from an old cassette found in someone’s attic in a box with all the Blink 182 and S-club. It’s heavily influenced by vaporwave, the genre created from distorted and slightly creepy 80s nostalgia and remixes. There’s no denying the slightly off-key and mirkey tones of this music have a warming effect.
Listening to stations like these is a reliable way to find new music to explore, with playlists being updated regularly, usually by artists that have their own YouTube channels right there on the platform if you want more of that specific flavor. It’s through these mixes and streams that I found artists like ‘In Love With a Ghost’ and ‘Eery’ , both of whom share a similar vibe, with Eery being more acoustic and Ghost more electronic and boopy.
This music has become popular enough to be parodied by Polygon in ‘Study and chill with Waluigi’ (Literally just studygirl is replaced with Waluigi and they added some Waluigi noises in the stream; it’s a mood). But dive a little deeper, click a little more a whole world of music opens up. The radio stations are wonderful to let play but often these channels will have specific mixes designed to evoke a mood.
One of the best channels for mixes like these isHomework Radio. They usually try to evoke very specific feelings like ‘That 2AM Fresh Air’ and are usually very successful, especially with their use of ambient sound and effects. If you want something a little warmer the The Jazzhop Café is another channel that creates audio spaces. Jazzhop Café videos feel like they came from hundreds of tiny nooks perfect for studying or reading in. This paragraph is running long but there are so many other specific and strange channels I want to recommend–
- the bootleg boy– Mellow mixes great for sleeping or relaxing,
- nourish– Heartwarming mixes to make you feel warm inside,
- Ambition – A channel with specific mixes of music designed to help with anxiety and depression and
- relief– A personal favorite.
Another advantage to these mixes is that they have a certain length. If you’re crunching for a deadline it can be very helpful to turn on a one-hour mix and challenge yourself to get as much as you can done by the time the music runs out.
On the far end of the scale, listening to music like this is a proven way to train the mysterious YouTube algorithm to recommend you mixes in one of the thousands of satellite genres in this musical space, like:
- Synthwave (music that sounds like it comes from the 80s cyberpunk version of the future which inspired and is inspired by Stranger Things’ soundtrack),
- Future Bass (Heavy bass pop music with a heavy bent towards sampling and great synth sensibilities) and even,
- Stevenwave(yes this is a full mix using music and samples from Steven Universe).
So why listen to these particular genres of music over others? The regular beats and unobtrusive melodies can be very effective for smoothing over an anxious mind, especially if you have trouble focusing. I find with li-fi radio in my headphones that I’m not nearly as distracted by listening in on nearby conversations or getting distracted by flatmates in the other room. More than that, this diverse network of strange subgenres has cultivated one of the most supportive and trustworthy communities on YouTube, which, given the notoriety of YouTube comment sections is impressive. I just looked below the mix I am listening to as I write this read:
“If your here it’s probably late and your tired but you can’t sleep, Put your phone down sleep eat and take a nice long shower please take care of yourself I love you.”
This is not an uncommon thing to see. And as small as it is, it can be very helpful when you’re clawing time for a deadline, or even having a bad day, to come to a familiar station or mix and read a total strangers words, hoping you have a good day or reminding you to hydrate, especially if you’re feeling bad.
This is doubly so on the livestreams. As recorded in this article on Dazed, it can be something special when the beat pauses and a distorted voice says: “I’m lonely mate. I’m really lonely. And I’m sad.” , prompting some people in the live chat to say they’re feeling the same and others to jump in and start chatting with them. There is a deep well of positivity running through this community and that’s another big reason why it has a large following, especially in minority communities, with many fans and producers of this music being LGBTQIA+, latino and african american.
It is a space with relaxing music and a live chat with people who will tell you to drink water and keep trying your best if you are having a hard time. So take another sip of your hot drink of choice, try out any of these genres that interest you and try again.
You can do this.
By Lena Avery
My name is Lena B. Avery and I’m a big nerd for lofi. I’m also a nerd for writing fiction about ghosts and the supernatural (@Citylitlena on A03) and nonfiction about living as a trans and gay woman (@Pollenpunk on WordPress). If that sounds interesting to you I throw a party about it all @Citylitlena on Twitter.