Painting Music – Top 10 Albums

Music to Paint to

Since discovering the iPod I now rarely listen to whole albums while I paint as I just create play lists to suit my mood. But some albums just play well all the way through so I still use them in the studio.

Here’s Ten albums that have kept me company during the completion of a painting or two..

  1. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love & Hate
    Anything by Leonard is good to paint to though.
  2. Antony and the Johnsons – Antony and the Johnsons
    This self titled album is a beauty. Antony Hegarty sings like an angel. All his stuff is good.
  3. The Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur
    Lovely album.. how could you not love this?
  4. Angus and Julia Stone – Book Like This
    Australian brother and sister duo.
  5. Eddie Vedder – Music for the Motion Picture Into the Wild
    For some reason, this album always makes me want to give away all my possessions and travel. Perhaps it’s because I saw the movie.
  6. Joan Valent – Insula Poetica
    Beautifully haunting music.. yum. I can’t find this album online. I copied it from a friend that was dating a Spanish woman at the time, so I don’t know where you could buy it.
  7. Moby – Go the Very Best of Moby
    I sometimes need a lift in the studio.
  8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call
    This album has a habit of taking me back to darker times, so I’m careful how I use it.
  9. Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions – Bavarian Fruit Bread
    Her Mazzy Star albums are nice too.
  10. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
    I no longer have a working version of this CD but that’s because it used to live in my studio.

I really do like a lot of different types of music though. What are your TOP albums that you couldn’t live without in the studio? I need some new tunes on my itunes.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Dire Straits is one of my recent discoveries. It’s very chill and mellow, but has a great beat. It can match almost any mood.

  2. abdullahjones says:

    bob dylan serenade all my painting’s. :)

  3. Anything by Mozart.

    Aaron Copeland

    Dino Saluzzi

    Lyle Mays

  4. Bring on Elvis.

  5. Gogol Bordello

  6. Shirley Peters says:

    L. Cohen is at the top of my list for listening, and his lyrics make great titles: eg the Tower of Song, The night comes on etc.

  7. Leith O'Malley says:

    Wow, I didn’t know we shared a love of Hope Sandovals music Dion.. cool!
    Although I go through music like burnt sienna here’s some current faves for painting and Ipodville:

    The Sea and the Cake – One Bedroom
    Steely Dan – Aja
    Tom Waits – Heart Attack and Vine
    Nouvelle Vague – Bande A Part
    The Go-Betweens – Bellavista Terrace (best of)
    Bombay Dub Orchestra – (self titled)
    Laura Veirs – Carbon Glacia
    Gare Du Nord – Kind of Cool
    Bent – Programmed to Love
    Lou Reed & John Cale – Songs for Drella

  8. Leith O'Malley says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Here are some ambient, downtempo sounds. May give you nice background music for contemplation:
    Arovane – atol scrap
    Boards of Canada – music has the right to children
    Alva Noto%Ryuichi Sakamoto – insen
    Tycho – sunrise projector

  10. Donald Frazell says:

    Aaaaah now Dion, ya shouldnt have gone there. As i have recently given up the silly idea of getting a new turntable(before your time) and started to refurbish my musical trove, here goes.

    Always necessary, giving the focus and complexity of Euro classical musics but in our modern lives, with a rhythmic complexity far beyond Europes ability with their reliance on time signatures alone.

    Everything by Miles Davis. Thats about 30 some studio albums, I got 12 total now. The Matisse of Modern Music, but listening to:

    1. My Funny Valentine.
    The ballads of the famous Lincoln birthday 1964 concert at the new Lincoln Center, to fundraise for southern voter registration. The best live CD ever, with its faster paced cuts from the concert, Four and More, also in cue.

    2. Water Babies. When I heard this delayed release in 1976 when I was 17, I knew i had finally found what i was looking for. This is art. From the later freebop phase when Wayne Shorter joined the group that was above with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, the best quintet ever except for…..

    3. Kind of Blue. The best selling jazz album of all time, at 30 million and growing at 30k a month, in a few dozen years will be the best selling CD of all time, as all the old Elvis and MJ lovers drop dead. Kids dont care, but they buy Miles from all over the world. It ended the beginning of Modern music, and started the second phase of modal instead of chord based Bebop and Hard bop changes. It consumated in the 1964 concert.

    4. In A Silent Way. As these above two ended and started new approaches to music, it did also as the first partly electronic, and studio tape cut and paste, collage type piece of jazz music ever. Rockers tried to copy it, like Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, but lead to the fusion movement, which unfortunately also was the death rattle of Modern music. Some great stuff from Weather Report and Jaco and Herbie to come, but lesser talents availed its simpler structures and minimal fundamentals. Still an incredible, mesmerizing CD. Probably amazing when stoned, I wouldnt know. :)

    5. John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, as my Judgment Chapel is based n its music, gotta keep it flowing. Huge seller in the 60s, all the hippies had it, and gave the instensity the Frisco folks wanted but in 1965, they could never come close it its power or technical virtuosity.

    6. Other Coltrane albums of this time, Coltrane, Crescent, and Kulu Se Mama. Which is about the last great album he did, hear he may have been dropping acid, which would explain his from then on descent into turmoil and emotional imbalances. His great band left, and did spacey stuff like Instellar Space and Cosmos with lesser talentstil his death in 1967. With his previous 6 years of incredible work, he was the Picasso of music. After Miles Kind of Blue album(an archaic term for CD) he left that band and with his Giant Steps CD, and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come, in the great Year of 1959(my birth) brought the maturity and peak of creative genius Modern art had from 1906 on for the next two decades. Kind of Blue being the Demoiselles d’Avignon of music, though not shocking, it was in its new found freedom and perfect simplicity.

  11. Donald Frazell says:

    for singers

    9. New Moon Daughter, by Cassandra Wilson, from about 1997. Found a way to mix folk musics from around the world, though mostly the blues in the south, and folk tunes and latin musics, it used jazz and classical musics to make something new, yet old at the same time. All acoustic, her accordion accompanied, French and cajun style, Until, is absolutely, amazingly, heart breakingly beautiful.

    10. My girl Tricia Tahara from the same year, with an great band of Wallace Roney and his wife Geri Allen on piano. He had a 8 record deal, was to be the new Miles, and could get what he wanted done. Tricia did an amazing job, her classical trained voice took on extraordinarily difficult pieces like Hancock’s Butterfly and Shorter/Miles Footprints, didnt think a singer could handle it.
    And a beautiful aria, with a freebop interlude by Wallace. Amazing, but out of print. Still trying to get her singing, but married a rich lil dud and taking art classes instead. What a waste.
    Still can be heard and bought on Amazon though.
    Tricia Tahara, Secrets

    Told you you shouldnt have.
    have a nice day.

    art collegia delenda est

  12. Robert Haines says:

    Anything by:
    Sonic Youth
    The Replacements
    Old school reggae (i.e. Marley, Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Clff, Lee “Scratch” Perry)
    Buddy Holly

    Coltrane’s A Love Supreme (in agreement with Mr. Frazell)
    Miles Davis Sketches of Spain
    The Delfonics La-La Means I Love You: The Definitive Collection
    And many more

  13. Lloyd Austins says:

    Babyshambles – Down in Albion

    Morrissey – Bona Drag

    Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F# A# (Infinity)

    Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell

    Aphex twin – Druqks

    Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling

    Joy Division – Heart and Soul (Box Set)

    Bon Hiver – For Emma Forever Ago

    Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Tender Prey

  14. Donald Frazell says:

    When doing a happier painting, I actually do a few of those, I play Stevie Wonder, mostly Talking Book, but also Innervisions.

    Also, my wife got a compliation of African pop tunes, just called Africa. pretty cool stuff, and very appropriate for my middle panel which can be Yeshua, an angel, muhammed(but didnt hear that from me), or any other holy man like Buddha who is welcoming a soul into heaven. She loves the tune A-salaam Malaikum especially, she is such a good muslim girl. Euro and American pop have no sway outside of there and the far east, Latin America and Africa have completely different pop musics, more R and B influenced with a cross current back and forth with the blues, sambas and reggae too. India is completely different.

    The panel has symbols of most remaining religions in it, mostly hidden, but couldnt fit Zoroastrians Ahura Mazda into it. That Persian religion influenced most to come, and the ideas of angels and demons and one supreme god where Judaism still had their god as the true but not only god still. Derived from the Egyptians Amon Re and Amarna style of King Tuts father. They freed the Jews from the Babylonian captivity because they counted YHWH as being in the good lower god camp.

    Still need to get The Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East, its more blues than rock, but really does rock like mad, but swings as all blues and jazz do too. Whiping Post and In Memory of Elizabeth Reed are classics, the who damn double album is, Duane Allman the best rock/blues guitarist besides Hendrix by far.

  15. Gabrielle Jones says:

    Wow – someone who shares my Antony fetish! (“I’m a birdgirl, and birdgirls go to heaven….). Eddie Vedder “Unplugged” AND from “Into the wild” are also on high rotation on my ipod. Just talking about music puts me in a great mood!.
    I love the soundtrack from the movie, “Once” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova especially “Falling Slowly”. I also love Radiohead “the Bends” and Bjork (Unbelievable in concert!) without the screeching – both for their creativity which seems to inspire me to take more risks when painting! Thanks for this list!

  16. Lennard Grahn says:

    never listens to music, can’t concentrate – listen to it on the train for inspiration

  17. Jesus has two Daddies says:

    William Orbit’s Strange Cargo 2 and Depeche Mode’s Violator got me through art school.
    Now, as a teacher, I find much inspiration from what my students bring to the studio. Some good, some bad, but always interesting.

  18. Mike Cullen says:

    Just about anything by Phillip Glass.

  19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F# A# (Infinity) – I would have to second – anything by them is interesting to paint to.

    Currently, for seated painting/drawing:

    PJ Harvey – White Chalk
    Cat Power – anything

    For standing work:

    Franz Ferdinand – Tonight
    Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

    My old standbys for painting are The Cure’s Disintegration and Pornography and things by Joy Division.

  20. Thomas Del Porte says:

    most of my painting music is brought to me by the models I paint… my biggest exceptions are:

    Debussy – Children’s music… (I actually get color flashes as I listen)

    Edith Piaf

    Keb Mo

    Johnny Cash

    Lila Downs

    Nora Jones

    And when I paint outside… I always have hardcore rap going on my ipod… not sure why, but the beats keep in time with that of the city!

  21. Robert Schaad says:

    I try not to overplay anything. But I usually reach for:

    Cabaret Voltaire
    Bill Nelson
    Andrea Parker
    John Foxx
    Clock DVA
    Ryoji Ikeda
    Sheila Chandra

  22. Fabrizio Van Marciano says:

    Cool post, thanks for sharing, Ludovico Einaudi does it for me from start to finish also like a bit of Quantic from time to time depending on the mood and the subject I’m painting. If I’m doing sunsets and seascapes its normally Einaudi or sometimes even Beethoven.

  23. Anthony is great, he does an amazing version of If it be Your Will by Leonard Cohen – gives me goosebumps.
    I’d add to the list Faithless, Nina Simone and Asian Dud Foundation.

  24. Hannah Elizabeth says:

    I always find inspiration in these albums when I’m painting:

    To The Teeth by Ani DiFranco – it’s not one of her angry chic albums. Her painterly poetry is infused with jazzier, swingin’ elements.

    Kid A by Radiohead – anything by Radiohead is filled with melodies, harmonies, and rhythms that inspire me to find the harmonies and rhythms in my work, but this album really helps me explore creativity.

    Amelie soundtrack by Yann Tiersen – some good ol’ instrumental music without getting too intellectual. Sometimes I find classical and jazz can be too intricate for me to focus on what is visual. This music helps my visual imagination run.

    Already Free by Derek Trucks – when I need to rock out to something cheerful, heavy, lyrical, soulful, I turn to this talented slide guitar player.

  25. brushinhand says:

    Great list, I share your interest in Antony and the Johnsons. Its amazing how listening to certain music can change how you paint. The influence of art on art is fascinating to me. Nice post.

  26. RADIOHEAD!! over and over again. Amnesiac, Hail To The Thief and Kid A.
    also Marsvolta’s Amputechture.

Speak Your Mind