For programming one needs silence to concentrate at the problem at hand. But comes a time (often) when one has to go in auto mode, and have the hands write the ideas accumulated at the time. Good music is the best thing to let them go, and it must be non-boring, lengthy enough to avoid having to switch back and forth, with the right level of darkness and, above all, top quality. The rule I followed is 1 per author, if an author has more than one submission, they share the same slot (and most, share). So, from bottom to top:
10 – Dido – Life for Rent, No Angel
For some reason when programming sad, melancholic music feels better than a beach Boys album would, probably because I want my brain to be kidnapped by the music while the hands write like an automaton, and not my brain to start . Life for Rent has fewer good tracks than No Angel, but I’ve listened to No Angel literally too much and it’s starting to get boring.
9 – Dire Straits – Love over Gold
Dire Straits are able to reap a 9th place in this list, and it’s strange. Their music don’t fit the theme, and it’s generally not good to code with; you can’t concentrate with Twisting By The Pool. Still Love over Gold is a strange beast, and they are able to get on the list with just two songs of a single album of all their life. The first two of course.
8 – PFM – Storia di un minuto
The only italian album on the list, this is one of the highest moments of italian progressive rock of the 70s. There are two reasons for being only 8th place: first, the italian lyrics are easily distracting; second Impressioni di Settembre is too beautiful to be listened while working.
7 – Weather Report – Mysterious Traveller, Black Market
Many Weather Report albums are better than Mysterious Traveller. Ok not many, and WR quality is so high that it would not matter anyway, but Mysterious Traveller has the top qualities as a programming music, specially the first track, Nubian Sundance. Black Market, however, is Black Market; you can’t go wrong with Black Market, and code produced under the Black Market effect is basically bug-free! Try it.
6 – Portishead – Dummy
The first trip-hop album in this list (unless you include Dido in the genre but it’s a stretch I think) and there are many, and all at the top – but don’t give it too importance to this fact, infact almost all the list is shared between 70s progressive, trip-hop and jazz/fusion. Dark, disturbing, distressing. Perfect. The reason it’s not first is that it lacks positive energy. But it has plenty of negative one, so plenty to get a 6th place without debates. Plus, one of the less significant songs in this album, shares an introductory sample with another of the less significant tracks of another album in this very list. Go figure.
5 -Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, A tribute to Jack Johnson
No list of top whatever music can be missing Kind of Blue. The only issue with Kind of Blue is if you want something more dynamic. Right Off from “A Tribute To Jack Johnson” is that for a reason. This reason.
4 – Morcheeba – Big Calm, Charango
No other album from Morcheeba has the same feeling as this one. And none will ever be since Skye Edwards left the band. Oh Wait! Skye Edwards returned! But they will not do anything like Big Calm anyway, because Big Calm is unique. Charango is a good alternative, but, slow down!, it’s way beyond no Big Calm, even if you think otherwise; get along with it. And if they can’t redo it who can you trust ?
3 – Hooverphonic – A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular / The Magnificent Tree bonus album
Not everything from Hooverphonic is good, and no album satisfy the programmers needs fully. A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular is the one getting closer, but some tracks really don’t cut, with The Magnificent Tree at second place. However the two “Visions” tracks (bonus tracks of the new editions of The Magnificent Tree) are perfect; 100% pure programming tracks.
2 – Pink Floyd – every long suite, Animals, The Dark Side of the Moon
More than 20 minutes of varying tones, with up and downs and ranging from dark to charging. Never boring, you can’t go wrong with Pink Floyd long suites. Be them “Echoes”, “Atom Hearth Mother Suite” or “Shine on you crazy diamond”. Bonus points for the entire Animals album, with Dogs getting again in the >20′ range and being top quality together with Sheep and Pigs while older albums offer gems like “Careful with that Axe, Eugene” and “Astronomy Dominé”. When long suites start getting boring (after some years of continuous listening), classic Floyd albums will take their place; The Dark Side of the Moon is a pleasure to listen, from Clare Torry vocals to the odd tempo changes in Money. Beware the clocks in Time, if you are tired.
1 – Massive Attack – Mezzanine
I don’t like Massive Attack that much. But tracks 1 to 6 of Mezzanine seem to simply have been composed right for programming. Not boring, rhythmic, dark, impressive, obsessive. When almost every track is that famous, with a track used in the Matrix soundtrack and another being the soundtrack of almost everything (from House M.D. to Assassin’s Creed) and featuring Elizabeth Fraser, you can’t be wrong. Speaking of Elizabeth Fraser, of Cocteau Twins fame, if this list was of 11 places, they would be in.