What I love the most about music is its ability to capture a mood or feeling with almost pinpoint precision, while the character of the melody or a beat still retains that element of spontaneity and inspiration. The combination of hard work and artistry that makes good music is unique, and so universal that it speaks to everyone. Just as there is a perfect song or playlist for landing on a rainy runway in the dead of night, there’s another that oh-so-comfortably complements curling up with a blanket and a book at home. While we’re doing a lot more of the latter these days, that versatile quality of music is the inspiration behind this article: with a playlist of international music, I’m hoping that these artists from around the world can keep you company throughout daily life at home, our living-spaces-turned-offices, schools, studios, and so on. 

Kedr Livanskiy, Ariadna – Russia, For Thinking

Making music in Moscow under a moniker that translates to “Lebanese Cedar” and signed to a New Jersey-based label, Yana Kedrina embodies the flighty, hard-to-pin-down character that defies much definition and whose songs do the same. With a brand of electronic music that retains the angst of her early years in the punk scene, but just as often keeps a cold distance from you, it’s hard to know what to expect next from a Kedr Livanskiy project when you’re listening along… perfect for 2020, wouldn’t you say? 


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Her debut album Ariadna is the gloomier of her two full-length releases so far, with track names like “Love & Cigarettes” and “Sad One” that probably give that away — but the bounce in songs like the title track make this just as much of a comforting record as it is a melancholic one. This is a project that draws on house, pop, and trance music in such a way that the coldness of the synths and airy vocals becomes kaleidoscopic, fractal and almost glittery in how the soundscape keeps your attention. The mysterious Russian vocals and swelling synths holds a mirror up to you for a really introspective 40 minutes or so. 

Park Hye Jin, How Can I – Korea, For Gaming

Another electronic artist, Park’s DJing and club tracks started to gain a lot of popularity outside of her home in Seoul when Pitchfork and Spotify picked up her debut EP in 2018. She landed at a record label in the US and is now based in LA, by way of London and Melbourne. While the standstill of 2020 means that we won’t be enjoying one of her acclaimed live sets on the club circuit in the near future, she released another EP, How Can I, that’s rightfully receiving a lot of attention. 


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I decided this release would be good for gaming partially because the first track, “Like This,” appears on the soundtrack for the popular soccer video game FIFA 21. Each year’s FIFA soundtrack is usually a “who’s who” of up-and-coming international artists, while mainstream and esteemed names like Tame Impala making the playlist underscores Park’s rising star. The relentless pace of the tracks on How Can I is probably the closest experience you can get at home to being in a dark nightclub right now, but the minimalism of the sound makes it just as good for kicking back in your gaming chair or driving around your city. 

Khruangbin, Mordechai – America, For Cooking, Cleaning 

Hailing from Houston, Texas, this trio have had a meteoric rise to the forefront of indie stardom in the past few years, NPR Tiny Desk concert under their belt and all. This is an eclectic bunch of musicians with an equally eclectic range of influences, from Thai music of the 60s and 70s (that gave them their name, “flying machine” in Thai) to sounds from the Middle East and India and the heritage of bass player Laura Lee, whose Spanish lyricism influenced the title of their sophomore album Con Todo El Mundo and appears front and center on new tracks like “Pelota” from the record I’m recommending here, Mordechai


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Khruangbin’s music has been described as psychedelic, funk, indie, rock, jazz, pop, you name it — in my mind, the bottom line is that it’s cool. Open the dictionary to the term “vibe” and there will be a picture of a Khruangbin concert. In addition, their music is sweet, comforting, familiar, and precise, all qualities that make it perfect while you cook, clean, or otherwise perform some domestic task that you know is going to make you feel better. Their latest release Mordechai might be even more restrained and calm than their previous two records, making this ultimate feel-good music. 

James Blake, Before – England, For Deep Listening

Electronic singer/songwriter James Blake has been around for awhile now, and his sound has evolved as much as it has come full circle. The Londoner got his start making trippy, chopped-up, post-dubstep style beats in his bedroom that garnered some attention in the early 2010s, though they belied entirely his virtuosic piano playing, unique vocal style, and songwriting skills that would go on to see him lend lyric credits to the likes of Beyoncé and Frank Ocean. His 2019 album Assume Form saw him abandon some of his more experimental sonic qualities to truly flex his songwriting muscles, and to great effect. 


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Dropping a string of singles and teasing new music since that most recent album, he recently returned with the 4-track EP Before. It’s a project that nods to every aspect of his musicality, featuring similar romantic lyrics and orchestral arrangements as found on Assume Form (inspired by his long-term relationship with Jameela Jamil, of “The Good Place” fame) alongside the outside, deep-house vibes of his earlier projects. It almost sounds like it shouldn’t work, but Blake pulls it off in a way only he can. Its ambition and its short run time make this record a perfect candidate for deep listening — discard all your distractions and disappear for a while. 

Helena Deland, Someone New – Canada, For Reading

The debut album from the Canadian singer-songwriter is another recent release to make this list, having just come out in mid-October. It’s been a productive and eclectic few years from Helena Deland, who worked from everyone with Quebecois indie disco darlings Men I Trust to experimental hip-hop artist JPEGMAFIA while also releasing a song series called Altogether Unaccompanied, in several volumes. This string of projects saw Deland working with a number of different moods and genres, with some hits like “Claudion” turning almost into dance tunes while others sounded like indie folk and rebel rock. On her debut album Someone New, there’s a much more uniform sound, one that Deland has already made entirely her own at this early stage in what is sure to be a prodigious career. 


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The project sounds as you would expect it to from a look at the downcast portrait of Deland on its cover art, like stormy weather that carries an ever-so-mild threat. The songwriter doesn’t pull any punches as she explores relationships and the concept of personal space, but there’s a healthy dose of melancholy in the instrumentation and her often languid voice (not a criticism!) that makes this a sonic blanket if there ever was one. It might take awhile to settle into the atmosphere this album creates, but let that serve as a reminder never to rush through a book as you read with this in the background. 

This is part 1 of a series! I’ll be returning soon with more music recommendations from around the world. Check out our travel playlists for Chicago and NYC if you want to feel transported today!