The Motivator

Lately, there’s been music. I’ve been listening more, caring more, even buying a new, larger-capacity iPod to hold more of it. And it seems like it operates on a cycle. There will be stretches where everything I hear, I love. Alternatively, there will be stretches where everything sounds horrible.
But lately, music has been the motivator. It gets me from point A to point B while struggling with a design or CSS issue. Thank goodness for “shuffle” mode.
It’s been asked repeatedly elsewhere, but what music motivates you these days?
Recently for me, it’s been recent offerings from The Killers, The Hives, The Autumn Defense (thank you, Jeff), and “shuffle standouts” Wire. Although I have a confession that is likely to have me pelted with deprecated HTML elements: anything I’ve heard on MTV from Ashlee Simpson has been downright catchy as heck. Is this completely uncool? Most definitely, but there… I said it. And I feel better now.


  1. Patrick says:

    I completely agree. Whenever doing any kind of coding or design work… music MUST be playing. To that end I have a huge ‘work’ playlist that shuffles around and mostly has weird noises and electronica stuff– even though I don’t listen to those things regularly anyway. Something about the bleeps and blips and the indescribable-ness of it helps keep me focused instead of singing along.
    I also have that damned Ashlee Simpson song on my computer– but I won’t tell if you don’t.

  2. niv says:

    there’s something completely cool about randomly falling for something completely uncool.
    more power to you

  3. Cory M. says:

    My musical tastes are considerably different from the majority… So I won’t flinch if you all stick your tongue out and groan and them. :)
    I tend to learn towards renaissance and baroque, with a touch of late classical and early modern thrown in. My favorite group is the little-known, much-revered Baltimore Consort, in particular their Scottish and Irish offerings. And I can’t help but hold a soft spot for the renaissance lute, rebec, and the viola da gamba.
    I’m probably in for a few deprecated HTML elements myself, but I’ll toss a few font tags your way. :)

  4. Rob C says:

    Absolutely, music is a must. I have a fairly large, varied collection but for programming or developing web pages, electronica is by far the best.
    Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygen I – XIII and Equinoxe are three excellent albums in their own right but are perfect for working to. I know a lot of people like Enigma but I find I enjoy it too much, to the point where I concentrate on it and not my work.

  5. Bob says:

    I admited to my friends about a month ago that I liked a Hillary Duff song… That was a difficult day.

  6. Zelnox says:

    I listen to Japanese and Chinese music. I do not understand the lyrics, but I still like it. The tempo needs to be faster late at night, since I feel it gives more energy.
    I recommend Gundam Seed Complete Best as it was what triggered my Japanese music addiction. The songs are from a good anime. (^_^)

  7. Eric says:

    I like to listen to live shows as i work because they tend to have a good flow to them that even albums lack sometimes. Same goes for standup comedy routinues.
    Currently i am listening to Fugazi live at Holyoke, MA in 2002.

  8. web says:

    My musical interests change with my mood.
    Some days when things arent going so well [bug fixing] i’m big into State of Corruption or some other heavy rock/rap type music.
    Then some days are more mellow and Ill be listening to John Mayer, Postal Service or Coldplay.
    On normal days I can be usually be caught listening to 2 hour live DJ sets [dance, trance] from England on shoutcast.
    Golly, im so Euro.

  9. Bruno says:

    These last weeks, I particularly enjoyed Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism and Marillion – Marbles

  10. Arikawa says:

    Currently in heavy rotation:
    The Shins, Oh, Inverted World
    Phoenix, Alphabetical
    The Thrills, So Much for the City

  11. Myke says:

    Since you’re in a transitional music state, I recommend some Trance. Below are some DJ’s or artists that I enjoy. It’s great for designing.
    George Acosta – Touched
    A Trip in Trance
    Cosmic Gate – Rhythm & Drums
    DJ Tiesto – In Search of Sunrise
    Enjoy ;-)

  12. Tom says:

    Oh yeah, music is a must. And darnit if I don’t like that Ashlee Simpson song myself..grrr. Funny because her sister’s music is the suck. It’s most likely an aberration.
    Anyway, here at work I utilize Launch on Yahoo. The rating system works well once you figure it out so I get a steady “shuffle” stream of music I like with some old Steve Martin thrown in. I definitely keeps the coding groove groovin!

  13. I’m also in the Classical music club. I love Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical music, as much of the music from those time periods do not necessarily require active listening (though that’s fun too when there’s time and a score). At night, I particularly enjoy listening to Gregorian Chant.

  14. Isis says:

    I’m also a big fan of the electronica, particularly while coding. Clint Mansell’s brilliant soundtrack to Pi is always a fantastic motivator, although most of the time I just set one of my electronica Smart Playlists on a hefty shuffle and let it do its thing. Recent favorites:
    Lemon Jelly
    Banco de Gaia

  15. Tim MR says:

    Yes music is a must. If I’m working on anything there is always music playing or nothing seems to get done.
    If it’s on the billboard top 50 I have it on my computer and its playing.

  16. Brandon says:

    Say Anything‘s new album is awesome. The album is dripping with sarcasm and irony. I love it.
    From a review.. Furthermore, this entire album was orchestrated by one guy: Max Bemis. He plays everything on this album, save percussion, right down to the synth riffs that randomly pop up. If anything, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard spring out of one mind alone. Sonically, I’m hard pressed to explain what Say Anything sounds like. I want to say Moneen, Bright Eyes, and Green Day thrown together, but that doesn’t really sum them up that well. On songs like “The Writhing South” you can hear hints of folk-punk like Flogging Molly. “Alive With The Glory of Love” calls to mind a Smiths/Strokes hybrid. I can’t help but hear Piebald in “Passing Slowly Through a Vector”. Also, I can’t explain it, but “Chia-like I Shall Grow” reminds me of a punked out Genesis.

  17. Yes, music certainly is a motivator. Especially SomaFM.
    Another must to stimulate the brain is Nightmares on Wax Smoker’s Delight and O.A.R. Any Day Now.

  18. Dan Benjamin says:

    Classical never gets old. Research suggests that music in this genre encourages clear, logical thought patterns and consistent energy levels.
    Recommended: Concerto in A Minor, (After Vivaldi), BWV593, Allegro

  19. Making me shake my ass in my seat…
    The Cardigans
    Now It’s Overhead

  20. Ed Knittel says:

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re using iTunes take a look at the iTunes Radio stations. Practically every genre is covered (even NPR on the West Coast). And for the trance, house, and drum ‘n’ bass freaks like myself you’ll discover an endless supply of new and fresh mixes. Then do like I do, and fire up Audio Hijack to keep those sweet live sets for later listening (or for when the firewall at work restricts mp3 streaming – curse you work!)
    BTW: this seems to be a popular topic again in the blogshpere as SvN was just discussing this (with 76 comments at last count)

  21. Jimmy Nordlund says:

    I like your taste in music Dan! Both Hot Fuss and Tyrannosaurus Hives are amongst my most played albums at the moment. Never heard of The Autumn Defense though, must check them out.
    Other recent favorites:
    Keane, Hopes and Fears
    Josh Rouse, 1972
    The Radio Dept., Pulling Our Weight
    Razorlight, Up All Night
    Sahara Hotnights, Kiss and Tell

  22. nick says:

    Nick’s Heavy Rotation (for this week):
    Pavement – Terror Twilight (album)
    Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days (album)
    Adult. – Disspassionate Furniture
    Sunchase feat Yana Kay – Remember Me
    The Mendoza Line – Baby, I Know What You’re Thinking
    Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse (album)
    Pixies – Surfer Rosa (album)

  23. Ryan says:

    My heavy rotation:
    Christie Front Drive – s/t
    !!! – Me and Giuliani down by the Schoolyard
    Hella – Hold Your Horse Is
    Xiu Xiu – Fabulous Muscles

  24. Benjamin says:

    Ashlee’s music is extremely catchy; I feel your pain.
    I’ve been listening to unhealthy amounts of Bonnie Pink lately, so much so that my friends have started criticising me. Ah well. She’s just got a catch to her lyrics and a slight accent that draws you in.
    Very good working music.

  25. Ethan says:

    Big thumbs-up for Dan’s classical music recommendation. I’d recommend Allegri’s Miserere or Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli — handily found on one excellent Tallis Scholars album, if one were interested.

  26. Hans says:

    Hmmm… Music. I don’t listen to it much at all, besides some classical when I’m reading.
    I wish I had another excuse to go get an iPod mini…
    Speaking of classical, no wonder everybody says I’m a genius. ;)

  27. Dante Evans says:

    The disco sounds of the Bee Gees, of course. Don’t forget:
    The Eagles
    George Michael
    Sir Elton John
    The Beatles/Sir Paul McCartney
    ‘Laura’ by the Scissor Sisters also helps me (no idea why)…

  28. dead pixelz says:

    Hiya, since your blog already rocks, why not link your music selections to iTunes directly, so we can click and buy from iTunes the music yer rockin’ to while cutting your code? Just a thought… =)

  29. Dante Evans says:

    Oh yeah, how can I forget “Take my Breath Away” by Berlin (not Jessica Simpsons). That song makes me relax, focus on my goals, and get them done.

  30. Another vote for classical here. For working, I tend do do best with Vivaldi concerti grossi, Bach, Bartok string quartets, Mozart’s Requiem and string quintets, Paganini violin concertos, Rimsky-Korsakov orchestral works… Though anything I’ve played before can get quite distracting as I “play” along in my head, and some favorites like Mahler symphonies and Brahms chamber music are also usually too distracting.

  31. stuart says:

    Well, nothing gets me in creative mode like knocking out a few tunes on my acoustic guitar.
    However when hard at work, im listening at the minute too:
    - idlewild
    - seafood (check them out
    - radiohead of course
    - and September gurls (fantastic!)

  32. Joel says:

    Music can do amazing things while you’re coding.
    Usually when I’m laying out a design, I’ll listen to some of my more favourite Asian artists, but when I’m really struggling with making something in Internet Explorer work, I’ll tone it down to random classical music on the radio.

  33. Shade says:

    I’m a rivethead, and thus I like industrial music. Powernoise and such. Clan of Xymox, Einsturzende Neubauten, Schattenschlag and so forth.

  34. Adam says:

    Ha! Ashlee Simpson is nothing, try The Coors MTV Unplugged CD, it’s great. I still listen to it after all these years.
    And I’ll pile on yet another vote for classical. I can’t write with worded music, so a lot of the time it’s my only other option (and even then I have to turn the volume down – weak brain I suppose).

  35. Vladimir says:

    Top of my list for great music is the new(ish) muse album, Absolution. I don’t know if you guys can get it over the pond yet, but its well worth the wait. A mix of Rock, heavy rock and classical? of all things, sounds a bit dodgy, but they pull it off with excellence

  36. Jeremy says:

    I keep a low-volume content stream of everything going while I work.
    Everything from Joe Satriani to Moonspell.
    If I have the ability, I’ll keep
    Radio Paradise playing all day. RP is a little known webstation that plays everything you want to listen to.
    Currently my favorites are some locals from Cincinnati, the Black and Tan Carpet Band and Noctaluca.

  37. zeronine says:

    Here are a couple of band that get me motivate.
    Faith No More

  38. da5id says:

    I’ve been finding just recently that any of Brian Eno’s Ambient series are double plus good for working to. Particularly “Music for Airports” and “On Land”.

  39. Daniel says:

    I’m right there with you on the killers.(Love that band) Recently after watching Garden State (review on my site), I found the band Frou Frou. The album is quite good. Compares to Dido if you like that kinda stuff. It’s mellow and inspirational for myself.

  40. Jeffrey says:

    For me it’s a lot of SomaFM. I need my GrooveSalad!
    But when the corporate overlords won’t permit streaming audio, it’s off my iPod and Boards of Canada “Music Has The Right To Children” over … and over … again …

  41. Richard says:

    I like motown. I get into the groove and start typing to the beat. I start bobbing my head, tapping my toes, swiveling my chair. Whew! That’s about all the exercise I can handle!

  42. Dante Evans says:

    For the classical people, may I recommend the Soviet National Anthem? I listen to it and it’s really motivational.

  43. Kenny says:

    Anything from
    You can get them on the iTunes Radio tab. Look for Groove Salad: a nicely chilled plate of ambient beats and grooves, in the Ambient stream folder.
    For ultra late-nite super ambient: listen to Drone Zone: Atmospheric ambient space music. Serve Best Chilled. Safe with most medications..
    Finally, look in the Electronica section for Secret Agent: The soundtrack for your stylish, mysterious, dangerous life. For Spys and P.I.’s too!

  44. Joe says:

    Yes! is just what the doctor ordered for all of your coding and designing listening needs. I just quit my job as a developer last week to go back to carpentry, but during my time as a developer I would stream one of the radio stations located in the ‘Ambient’ section of iTunes or winamp. Groove Salad and Limbik Frequencies being my favorites.

  45. Anonymous says:

    I’m redeveloping the website (in XHTML and CSS of course) of this Auckland, NZ alternative radio station: 95bFM. They play an ecelctic mix of tracks and we listen in the studio most days…

  46. Denis says:

    Hi, first time that I post a comment here! :)
    Never listened to the libertines?

  47. Sergei says:

    I’ve recently stumbled across some great offerings by Pedro the Lion, Nino Katamadze and Badly Drawn Boy.
    Also, a great place to check out new bands is Epitonic.

  48. Paul k says:

    Whilst pixel pushing, I can heartly recommend listening to the Mark Radciffe show on the good ole BBC Radio 2, he’s funny AND plays ace music 4 times a week, get it any time you like with at the beebs radio player!
    What more could you want?
    Air – Talkie Walkie
    The Postal Service – Give Up
    Evan Dando – Baby I’m Bored
    Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
    Goldfrapp – Black Cherry

  49. Keith says:

    I always have music playing in the background when I’m designing or coding – it’s a must.
    The only thing I dislike about using random mode is that it inevitably plays a song I’m not really in the mood to listen to. Having to bring up WinAMP and hit B (skip to next song) can be a small distraction.

  50. SomaFM: Indie Pop Rocks! is hands down the best internet radio station I’ve ever found. Both in terms of content and quality of service: almost never have buffering or other server issues.

  51. Rene says:

    Funny that I read your post and just this morning I heard the band Wire mentioned on the radio. I haven’t heard them but they were compared to a band coming to town called Controller Controller. I call the style “dark surf” but you’ll have to listen for yourself. I love Silent Seven. Controller Controller You’ll have to follow the music link.

  52. To produce a superb web site layout, it is essential that one listen to some motivational lounge, trip-hop, or breakbeat music. That always does the trick for me. My favorite artists when designing are UNKLE/DJ Shadow, Thievery Corporation, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and Rae & Christian.

  53. jim says:

    the bees.
    the republic of loose.
    anything from warp
    I think that covers everything. I cant ebven get out of bed without music let alone code a page, the radio is ALWAYS on in the office and its seems its a constant battle between developer(mainly rawk!) and designer (mainly IDM), so myself as a developer/designer does get rather confused at times ;)

  54. James says:

    Mixtapes, mixtapes, mixtapes. Uninterrupted music in 70-minute blocks is how I measure out my day. Some recent favorites:
    DJ Andy C, “Nightlife” [downright evil drum & bass]
    Thievery Corporation “DJ Kicks” [downtempo world music groove stuff]
    DJ Z-Trip “Live in LA” [insane mash-up turntablism - Danger Mouse is for weenies. Real men do it live]
    Unklesounds “Big Brother is Watching You” [UNKLE + electronic + macintalk]
    SL2 “Behind the Decks” [old school hardcore techno]
    DJ Shadow “In Time and In Tune” [live show from the UK]
    Cut Chemist “Rare Equations” [all those soul breaks you've heard in a hundred hip hop songs except these are the original records]
    et al. At this point probably only 20% of the music I buy is traditional albums, mixes are just so much better for working. The only bad part is that iTunes and the iPod can’t do gapless playback so I rip them as one track.

  55. Olly Hodgson says:

    Absolutely not uncool. Being in the UK i’ve only heard one of her tracks so far, and even then only once, but I can’t see anything wrong with liking good pop music. God knows there’s enough crap about. Britney, the Spice Girls and so on may not be ultimate on cool but they’ve all released great pop-music in the past, “Toxic” being a recent example.
    Whats working out for me at the moment is a small (as in 5cm long and holds only 128mb) MP3 player with a good little playlist on there.
    In amongst the wide variey of music (all sorts from late 80′s Talk Talk to early noughies Linkin Park via mid nineties Sneaker Pimps) are a few 30 second clips from David Holmes “Bow Down to the Exit Sign” to mix it up a bit.

  56. Small Paul says:

    I thought Toxic was alright too! I guess it’s just the dishearteningly empty careerism of the woman herself that inspires the vitriol.
    Mogwai are great. Make me wanna sing along, but as they’re mainly instrumental, it’s tricky to do so without sounding like an arse. I wish I had an operatic voice.

  57. Jeremy says:

    Blues definitely get me going at work. Nothing like some Susan Tedeschi to generate some serious posterior gyration.

  58. joel says:

    I’m also a fan of the somafm streams, particularly “indie pop rocks”. Great stuff.
    Other great “work music” for me, lately:
    The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (probably my favorite cd in the past year or so)
    Weezer Tribute cd – I’ve heard these songs so much in the past 10 years that the lyrics aren’t even lyrics anymore, they’re sounds/instruments embedded within the music. This was a nice change to all of those songs.
    Braveheart Soundtrack – relaxing and stimulating at the same time. I love this movie.
    later on in the afternoon when I’m a little restless, awake, and anxious to get going home I’ll listen to something a little more aggro and fast like:
    Botch – Anthology of Dead Ends
    Converge – Jane Doe -and/or- Petitioning the Empty Sky
    Norma Jean – Kiss the Martyr and Bless the Child

  59. Olly Hodgson says:

    To be honest Small Paul, I’m not really interested in that side of her. If the musics good, great, but I’m not bothered how many times she’s been married this month :-)

  60. Taco John says:

    “Catchy” and “have fallen in love with” are different things. So more power too you. Just as long as you never go to an Ashlee Simpson concert. Might set as a record as the worst singer to go platinum. Ah, the magic of mixing.

  61. tim says:

    posting about one’s favourite music? OK: The Beatles, Mozart, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Brubeck, RHCP and Miles Davis. And of course everything in between.
    (I must admit that I don’t know too much about classical music – but still I like listening to it from time to time.)

  62. i have to agree that music can definately make or break moods and cause you to enter creative zones neverbeforeheard.
    i can never pin down one specific group or genre that motivates me. when i’m just in that mood to sit down in front of the computer and create, i tend to just put the old playlist on random and let it take me to places i’ve never been before. i find that makes the creative experience a whole lot more illuminating.

  63. Lately my motivation music has been a band from London called Montana Pete and a band called Lapsus Linguae they are both refreshingly different to my ear so I hope some of that will rub of on me while I chomp up code.
    Lapsus Linguae bounce between hectic post punk and expansive orchestral meanderings, a bit like a cross between Tori Amos and Fugazi.
    Montana Pete are just a cool guitar band with clever, catchy lyrics and whats more I e-mailed them and they sent me all their records. For free! Check out their site for details, I could not believe it.

  64. “There will be stretches where everything I hear, I love. Alternatively, there will be stretches where everything sounds horrible.”
    And all this time I thought I was the only one who went through such phases. I suspect I need to enable shuffling more often to keep the music playing.

  65. Peter says:

    Completely agree here.
    I’m a soundtrack coder myself. Give the Gladiator, Lord of the Rings or my personal favorite, Last Samurai soundtracks a whirl. Nothing more inspiring than track 6 off the Last Samurai album.
    Hans Zimmer is the man.

  66. Mark Longman says:

    A good mix to get the creative side going is anything Ben Gibbard does. For a really good flow, try a strong cup of ‘Bucks and check out the streaming radio at
    Just a suggestion, not a promotion.

  67. Simon Lau says:

    I’m in the unfortunate position of not being able to listen to music at work. Headphones, stereos etc aren’t allowed. Anybody else in this predicament?
    My ipod has a rather odd combination of
    cheesy J-Pop and anime soundtracks, trance, jazz and Rachmaninoff.

  68. paul says:

    when all else fails: the magnetic fields – "69 love songs" and postal service. that’s the current solution.

  69. Gadgit says:

    Four words – Jethro Tull Aqua Lung

  70. A Nobody says:

    Re: Post #60
    Love the nod to Botch/Converge/and Norma Jean. I listen to that stuff among other hard music when designing.
    Between The Buried And Me have been inspiring me a lot as of late. Both of their cd’s are wonderful to listen to.
    Nine Inch Nails inspires me tremendously. In particular, the instrumental tracks off of the bonus disc called “Still” that was given with the purchase of the “And All That Could Have Been” DVD.
    Can’t leave this without giving a nod to Atmosphere as well. :)

  71. Anonymous says:

    ny times article 26 August
    This logical explanation doesn’t always jibe with users’ experiences. Dan Cedarholm, a Web designer in Salem, Mass., insists that his iPod has a predilection for the indie punk band Fugazi. Even though he only has two of the band’s albums stored on his “vintage” 5-gigabyte device, the band seems to dominate his iPod to a degree wildly disproportionate to the amount of space it occupies on his player’s memory, he said.
    “It is truly bizarre,” said Mr. Cedarholm, who no longer likes Fugazi. “Before, it was this hidden gem, and when I heard them I would be like, ‘Oh yeah. Fugazi. Cool.’ “
    Now he hits the Fast Forward button.
    Mr. Cedarholm has contemplated removing all Fugazi songs from his iPod, but he said he fears that “the baton will get passed” to some other band, like his beloved Pixies, “and God help me if I wind up hating them too.”

  72. Joe Clay says:

    Hmmm….I have such a varied musical taste so get ready:
    I’ll second classical and baroque (love ‘em)
    Chopin is great to listen to while working
    I’ll also vote for Tallis Scholars renditions of Allegri and Palestrina (a prof turned me on to them a year or two ago)
    Now for the specifics:
    John Frusciante – anything! he’s awesome!
    incubus – anything! they’re awesome!
    RHCP – anything of course (from self-titled to by the way!)
    Music from Myst, Riven, and Exile – awesome ambiance
    Paul Oakenfold – Swordfish soundtrack, Tranceport, etc.
    The Killers – Hot Fuss!
    Natalie MacMaster, Kevin Burke, Ashley MacIsaac – Irish Fiddlin’
    Russian house music – Ruki Vverh
    Arabic techno
    Bagpipe techno
    Capercailllie – celtic language is soo beautiful
    The Eagles
    Sometimes Carl Orff’s – Carmina Burana (You know, O’ Fortuna?)
    Comedy sets of Lewis Black, Dana Carvey, Chris Rock, George Carlin, etc.
    Lacuna Coil
    Sometimes Linkin Park
    OH! Mono! Mono is great! (never thought I’d say that)
    Otis Redding
    System of a Down
    80′s-90′s old school dance music (sad, I know)
    OK, I’ll stop now….if you need more visit me as I’m adding all of my favorite albums to a randomizing list, or just email me and tell me stuff you like and I’ll give you a response :)

  73. Joe Clay says:

    Oh there are two more I must mention:
    That 1 Guy – he is unbelievable live, the audience consisted of pot smokin’ hippies, young kids, businessmen, gothic people, preppy people, old people, etc. Everyone was amazed. Smoke comes out of his pipe damnit!
    LotR soundtracks….such a nice compliment to Myst music!

  74. Irene says:

    I recently been searching for eastern european (Russian, Romanian, bulgarian, hungarian, turkish) and arabic house/techno/club music – but I havent been able to find any…. do you have any reccomendations….
    I always hear it when I go out partying but have no idea where to begin finding it on my own….
    WOuld appreciate your help!