Discover Daily: TBG's Playlist for Productivity

September 13, 2017 | Michelle Geczy

I can’t remember a time without music—my mom singing me to sleep as a child, blasting tunes on road trips in the car with my family, digging into my parents’ record collection of original LPs from The Beatles, The Doors and Pink Floyd. My parents always had music playing in our house. I watched The Wall with my dad around 12 (young mind blown!), when my mom was out of town, eating tacos (one of my dad’s specialties). My dad and I sang, “…we don’t need no education” at the top of our lungs (with irony since my parents are teachers). One time, I was at my aunt and uncle’s house around age 13, and, bored by adult talk, I ventured upstairs to an older cousin’s room by myself, put on his headphones and cranked up his state-of-the-art stereo, and was blown away by The Police’s Synchronicity. Musical doors were opening to me and I wanted more. I wanted it ALL.

I'm flooded with musical memories: making bootlegged cassette tape copies—yep, I’m dating myself with that reference!—of friend’s Beatles and Grateful Dead albums in middle and high school and listening to them over and over until the tape wore thin. Jamming to The Who and The Doors driving to school, windows cranked down, feeling free and open to the possibilities. Falling asleep at night with my boombox by my head, listening to pop music on the radio. Making mix tapes for friends and boyfriends (John Cusack and the power of the mix tape in High Fidelity). Moving on to trading bootlegs in college of my favorite Grateful Dead shows with friends (Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York: March 29th, 1990, bright and melodic Eyes of the World with Branford Marsalis).

My first large-scale concert was The Rolling Stones, “Steel Wheels” tour in high school. I played field hockey, and two of my best friends and I had tickets to see the Stones at RFK in Washington, DC. The high school I attended was in rural Maryland almost on the Pennsylvania border, about a two-hour drive to DC with no traffic. We had a big game that day and the three of us were starters. My coach jokingly told us if we scored a large number of goals early on between the three of us to help ensure the win, we could leave before the game was over and get on the road. Intent on getting to the show, we scored our goals, and she was a woman of her word. We headed to DC and saw a great show, epically awesome for three high school Stones fans venturing into the big city.

Other memorable concerts over the years include too many to count, seeing shows at large arenas, small, intimate venues, and festivals.  Some eclectic highlights include seeing the Grateful Dead multiple times, with a number of amazing all-star guests like Bob Dylan and Branford Marsalis, U2, Kanye West, Stevie Nicks, Lemmy and Motörhead, Buena Vista Social Club, Ray Charles at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, The xx, Oasis, and the Rollins Band (Henry Rollins post Black Flag, total high octane, at a small, cramped club in Baltimore). One of my favorites: going to see the Strokes at UMBC and the unknown opening band, Kings of Leon, stealing the show—in the UMBC gym! They played on the basketball court and the crowd was gathered around, standing right next to the band, everyone hanging out together, knowing we were experiencing something special. You could feel the energy and excitement in the air.

Influenced by my dad, my early musical tastes were firmly rooted in the folk and classic rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s, something that’s always stayed with me and that I go back to, but my ears, heart, and mind are always open to receiving new music and giving it a listen. The joy and excitement of discovering new music, whether it’s an artist new to me, or just a really great one-off song. I’ve always been fascinated by music as a fabric of culture and society, music influenced by events, or music as the influencer.

I want to listen to music and feel it, and, also know the stories behind it; about the band, about the lyrics. I enjoy diving into every musical biography and autobiography I can get my hands on. Some of my favorites from the last few years: Just Kids and M Train, Patti Smith; Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young; There Goes Gravity, Lisa Robinson; Girl in A Band, Kim Gordon; When Gods Walked the Earth: Led Zeppelin, Mick Wall; Life, Keith Richards; White Line Fever, Lemmy; and Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein. I'm also a fan of documentaries; even if you aren't a Dead fan, Amazon's six-part chronicle Long Strange Trip is a compelling look at the band's inspiring, complicated, and messy journey to make art out of chaos. 

Knowing the stories and context behind things is in my nature; I’m driven in my professional and personal life by an insatiable curiosity to know the why, the reasons and meaning behind everything. I studied history in college, and it wasn’t about memorizing dates—it was about the compelling stories, about how music, and art, and politics, and religion, and other cultural and socioeconomic factors created or helped shape and influence an event in time. I’ve always had a fascination with the '60s (as well as medieval and renaissance French history, my focus in college—hard to reconcile!), not just the events, but the soundtrack that went with them. Rock & roll was firmly taking hold, underground, seedy and counter culture (don’t listen, kids!), and understanding how the music of that time was influenced by everything before, and influenced and created new genres after, is fascinating to me.

Music as motivation, music as meditation, music as inspiration. Music to help us focus and get into a coding groove. At TBG, having just the right soundtrack for any given task at hand is essential in promoting our productivity and creativity. What keeps us humming along and in harmony, facilitating creativity and collaboration? Check out TBG’s Playlist for Productivity, our musical memories, and daily download of the songs and artists that inspire us.

people in a sing a long

Music as Motivation

Joe H, Account Manager

Music in the workplace has a way of motivating me to hone in and get stuff done. When I have a big undertaking, how better to prepare than to put on some pump-up music? My first real concert experience was in DC at the 9:30 Club to see my favorite band, Our Lady Peace back in 2005. I was fresh in college and went with some new friends I barely knew, and yet, what resulted was a most memorable experience where I felt at peace (no pun intended) knowing I was surrounded by others who loved the band as much as I did and could sing all the words with just as much passion as the band. Fast forward to now at TBG, where I feel at peace with the work and the people I work with—we are very much in tune with one another and I am stoked by the many “sing-a-longs” to come. Everyone describes themselves as eclectic these days, but I have found that while I relate, I tend to go back to my favorite bands time and time again (Blink 182!) That said, I give credit to the Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify, in helping to expand my musical taste and generating excitement for what new musical experiences I can look forward to.

My Top 5:

  • Brandon Flowers, "Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes Cover)"
  • The Killers, "The Man"
  • Owl City, "Wolf Bite"
  • Mansions on the Moon, "Don't Tell (Ryan Lofty Remix)"
  • Bleachers, "Hate That You Know Me"

woman wearing earbuds with musician icons around her

The Old, the New & the Unknown

Laura, Interactive Designer

A musical pet peeve: when I ask people what kind of music they listen to and they reply with “Oh, I listen to anything!” Except...I do listen to anything! And I’ll give any genre at least one chance. Not growing up in the era of easily accessible music (what's up Spotify!), in a household where there was only one stereo and I was the youngest, forced me to listen to whatever those around me were listening. My musical taste could be defined as the collective effort of every member in my family. I spent most of my childhood and part of my teens listening to a mix of Metallica, Carlos Vives, Mozart, Hector Lavoe, Nirvana, Chopin and Julio Iglesias. So when the time to “rebel” came, I started listening to Britney Spears, N’sync and Ricky Martin—I know, I know—but then that got boring pretty quickly so I started exploring and listening to more underground artists. As a result, I have pretty eclectic taste in music. I like the old, the new, the unknown, and the popular. So I can jam to Megadeth, as well as to Selena (not Gomez, although I like her too) just the same.

My Top 5:

  • Céu, "Mais Um Lamento"
  • Arturo Márquez, "Danzon No. 2"
  • Damien Rice, "My Favourite Faded Fantasy"
  • Bomba Estéreo, "Duele"
  • Madeleine Peyroux, "Dance Me To The End of Love"
mean with headphones waits at train tracks

In the Zone with a Guy from Zomes

Ryan, Senior Developer

Depending on how I'm feeling and what I am trying to accomplish, I typically choose from a wide variety of music that helps me on my way. The ultimate song I like to wake up to and feel rejuvenated to kickstart my day is "Like the Wheel" by The Tallest Man on Earth. When I'm settling into my work and vibing on the positivity of working in a team, I reflect with "The Mighty Rio Grand" by This Will Destroy You (don't let the band's name hold you back from giving it a listen!) And when I really want to get into the coding zone, "Hallucinatorium" by Baltimore-based Lungfish takes me to the right place. (Fun fact: one of the members from Lungfish, who now makes experimental music as Zomes, went to driving school with TBG CEO, John Berndt.) When you want to hit a nail with a hammer very directly and extremely hard, check out NehruvianDOOM's "Darkness." Pusha T's "Numbers on the Board," on the other hand, reminds you that "you're plane's missin' a chef." Don't forget it! And I love hearing Nina Simone croon "Stars" to remember the room I just left and recollect the details of my day.

My Top 5:

  • Nehruviandoom, "Darkness (HBU)"
  • Pusha T, "Numbers On The Boards"
  • This Will Destroy You, "The Mighty Rio Grande"
  • Lungfish, "Hallucinatorium"
  • The Tallest Man On Earth, "Like the Wheel"
woman singing in her car

Car Karaoke

Erika, Senior Account Manager

While I listen to lots of music at work, where music really comes into play for me is on my way to and from work. To get ready for work (or to unwind on my drive home) I always sing in the car. As we learned in our stress management workshop at TBG, there are many forms of meditation, and I consider singing at the top of my list. It takes me out of my head for a bit, gets some energy out, and helps center me for the tasks ahead. Bonus—it prepares me for future Karaoke nights so I can keep my skills in check!

My Top 5:

  • Florence + The Machine, "Dog Days Are Over"
  • The Flaming Lips, "Do You Realize??"
  • Phosphorescent, "Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)"
  • David Bowie, "Soul Love"
  • Blur, "Tender"
man at computer listening to music with music streaming icons

Setting the Tone

Eric W, Senior Art Director

One of favorite things about my job is being able to listen to music while I work. For me, having just the right “soundtrack” for any given task at hand is essential in promoting productivity and creativity. What I listen to often depends on the type of work I am doing and/or the time of day. If I am working on creative design in the afternoon an upbeat album or random mix typically gives me just the push I need to keep things moving. When I find myself writing in the evening and don’t want to be distracted by vocals, classical or jazz sets the right mood. With so many online music services and varied genres to choose from, there is never a shortage of amazing music to set the tone for any given work session!

My Top 5:

  • Foster The People, "Helena Beat"
  • Q And Not U, "Soft Pyramids"
  • M83, "Don't Save Us From The Flames"
  • The Clash, "The Guns of Brixton"
  • Max Roach Quintet, "I'll Remember April"
woman playing sitar outside

Global Influences

Ami, Manager of Marketing & New Business

Listening to music while working is a mixed bag for me. As an active musician, composer, and producer—it's a part-time career for me in addition to my work at TBG—it's difficult for me to listen to music without it influencing me in some way. Sometimes it's helpful, and other times it's distracting. Like many of us at TBG, I typically listen to music without lyrics (or lyrics in other languages) to minimize distractions. Lately, I've been listening to more ambient and experimental music while working, and sometimes, especially when I'm working on a tight deadline, I listen to pulsing electronic music or anything interesting with an uptempo beat, like Afrofunk, to help me work quickly and accelerate towards the finish line of my task. I also grew up playing sitar, singing, and studying Indian classical music, and this sound palette has always inspired and motivated me.

My Top 5:

  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, EARS
  • Ash Koosha, I AKA I
  • Le Parody, Hondo
  • Lydia Ainsworth, Right From Real
  • Kaushiki Chakrabarty, Pure
man meditating with sky background

Marveling at the Mix

Diarmaid, Senior Developer

Listening to music while working is a double-edged sword for me. Sound engineering was my alternate career choice alongside programming. So when the headphones are on and I get drawn into that stereophonic spread that has fascinated me since I was a child I oftentimes can’t help but close my eyes and space out while marveling at the beauty of the mix and the skill of the musician…sometimes to the detriment of my work! For this reason, I tend to stay with my least-favorite music at work, which is upbeat instrumental dance and electronic, for the sake of the driving energy of the beat which helps me maintain concentration. Random fun fact: my first concert, Huey Lewis & the News, King’s Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1988.

My Top 5:

  • Jamiroquai, "High Times"
  • Level 42, "Forever Now"
  • Grateful Dead, "Truckin' Up to Buffalo"
  • Patrick Street, "Irish Times"
  • Mary Bergin, "Feadóga Stáin 2
smiling woman wears headphones with Flaming Lips t shirt

Peace, Love, & Rock & Roll

Michelle, COO

I don’t listen to music at work except when working at home; when in the office, I’m in too many meetings! Picking a top five is pretty impossible for me; sharing some of my favorites: so many amazing local Baltimore bands, including Great American Canyon Band, Beach House, Future Islands, Wye Oak and Ami Dang (awesomely talented TBG’er!) If I want to get fired up to play field hockey, my go to is “The Beautiful People,” Marilyn Manson or Rage Against the Machine. Any and all Led Zeppelin. The Beatles, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Across the Universe,” are go-tos. Always a fan of Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, while polarizing, can throw it back to The College Dropout, or break new ground with albums that still sound fresh, like Yeezus and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator continue to push the envelope. Everything Frank Ocean drops deserves a listen. Leon Bridges, Coming Home, is still solid, as is Solange’s, A Seat at the Table. Childish Gambino’s, Awaken My Love (“Redbone”) is a musical journey worth taking. Cigarettes After Sex is on heavy repeat these days (congratulations to bassist Randy Miller, a former TBG'er, on his success!) Just discovered: psychedelic heavy space rock UK metal band Riddles. So much music; so little time!

My Top 5:

  • Grateful Dead, “Eyes of the World”
  • The Allman Brothers Band, “Blue Sky”
  • The Flaming Lips, “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1”
  • MGMT, “Electric Feel”
  • Alabama Shakes, “Sound & Color”
smiling woman holds concert ticket

Getting into the Groove

Sam, Front-End Developer

Instead of listening to individual songs, I prefer to listen to soundtracks or full albums since they help me stay in the coding groove. I find having a familiar thematic collection of music helps keep my mind on the task at hand. I also seem to be on a sort of atmospheric/electronic/retro kick of late. My first concert was No Doubt with the openers of Lit and the Black-Eyed Peas (pre-Fergie) at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I found that ticket earlier this year in a CD which I got out of storage after acquiring a CD player after several years without one. After a hiatus of attending shows at Merriweather with a preference on smaller venues, I've been to two shows there so far this year: Bon Iver, and Jason Isbell with The Mountain Goats. It seems appropriate that I've ventured back for its 50th anniversary as a concert facility!

My Top 5:

  • Various Artists, Stranger Things, Vol. 1
  • Various Artists, Drive
  • Bon Iver, 22, A Million
  • Tennis, Yours Conditionally
  • Liz Phair, Whitechocolatespaceegg
people playing drums

Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

Jordan L, Account Manager

My first concert was TechN9ne with my brother when I was 16. Growing up in Montgomery County, there was a strong influence to listen to hip hop and I embraced a lot of different musical genres. My second concert was the complete opposite….Keller Williams and Bella Fleck. I was definitely feeling out my musical interests at a young age! I am really inspired by music, lyrics and rhythms. A good friend from college used to host drum circles. It didn’t matter if you were tapping on a cowbell or banging on a drum, it was about the community and healing your soul through music…these are some of my fondest memories when I think of how music inspires me. I definitely channel different artists at different points in my life; the general camaraderie and nature of the people I'm with is what radiates my interest level for a particular genre, whether that’s Baltimore club, bluegrass, indie or house music, etc.—I welcome it all. If I need to ramp up in the morning or focus on a deadline, I'm listening to 2 Chainz. I'm going to see him live this September @ The Fillmore, in Silver Spring—I splurged and got VIP tickets; I get to go back stage for a meet and greet w/ him, and I am super stoked!

My Top 5:

  • Tame Impala, "The Less I Know the Better"
  • Skelelton Coast, "Rupees"
  • The Middle East, "Blood"
  • 2 Chainz, "Good Drank"
  • Lotus, "Flower Sermon"
  • The Devil Makes Three, "The Plank"
man breakdancing

Saturday Morning Soul Train

Eric S, Office Manager

As a young lad who watched Soul Train every Saturday morning, I loved early rap, funk and soul. Prince was my all-time fave. My brother turned me on to him and, ever since, I have been trying to collect everything he’s done. I’m also big into early rappers and late 70’s, 80’s R&B. Run DMC was (and still is!) fresh. I don’t know why, but my brother (who was Mr. Popular in high school), invited dorky me, along with his cool friends, to a concert at the Capital Centre to see a G-Street Express concert (1986 if I remember). The acts performing were a medley of rap and Go-Go bands. A very young LL Cool J started it all with raps from his first album "Radio." Whistle came on next (they were buggin’). Along came UTFO who was big back then with "Roxanne Roxanne." One-hit-wonder Oran Juice Jones did "The Rain." Then came Mazarati who I was most interested in but was booed by many in the audience (they were a Glam funk band started by The Revolution’s bassist, whose hit was penned by Prince). Next, followed all the local Go-Go bands with ‘The Godfather’ Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, D.C. Scorpio, Experience Unlimited (before "Da-Butt" years), Little Benny & the Masters, Rare Essence (Do You Know What Time It Is?) and, my favorite, Trouble Funk. This was my first concert. If I could turn back time knowing what I know now, I still wouldn’t trade my ticket for Miami Sound Machine. Being an awkward 16 year old getting’ down at the Capital Centre was one of the best nights of my young life (even if there was a weird scent in the air).

My Top 5:

  • LL Cool J, "Radio"
  • Whistle, "(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'"
  • Maserati, "100 MPH"
  • Trouble Funk, "Good to Go"
  • D.C. Scorpio, "Stone Cold Hustler"
woman holding vinyl record

Sign Me Up!

Joan, Senior Digital Strategist & UX Architect

My productivity playlist is not dissimilar to my exercise playlist. In general, I'm looking to get my blood pumping or to get wrapped up in a melodic trance. And it certainly helps with productivity when your colleague's work is on your playlist. Shoutout to Ami Dang! Her album "Hukam" is bril, as they say here in England. My favorite jam on it is probably "A Strange Community," which I often listen to on repeat. I'm likewise addicted to Pillar Point's, "Dove." If you have a moment, check out the music video. It's shot in my husband's homeland—Bogota, Colombia—and features Kia Labeija, a young visual artist from New York City who is a transgender woman living with HIV. She's a wonderful inspiration, and the love scene at the end of the music video is transcendent (they are a couple in real life). Lastly, Cigarettes After Sex is an eponymous debut album that hits on the melodic trance side of my playlist. I first heard a song from the album in Los Angeles, probably "K." The DJ quoted Rolling Stone's description of the music: "Melancholic, androgynous pop noir set in smoke-filled darkness." Sign me up!

My Top 5:

  • Ami Dang, "A Strange Community"
  • Pillar Point, "Dove"
  • James Vincent McMorrow, "Get Low"
  • Jaco Pastorius, "Portrait of Tracy"
  • Cigarettes After Sex, "Apocalypse"
woman wears headphones and holds vinyl records

Keeping it Kool

Melissa, Senior Digital Strategist & UX Architect

My first concert was Kool & the Gang at Merriweather Post Pavilion back in the 80's. My mom took my sister and me (we were about five and seven), and we sat on the lawn on a big blanket. I was totally in awe of the entire experience, even if I couldn't see Kool & the Gang very well. I have a vivid memory of dancing to all the funky songs they played, as the sun set through the trees behind us. While I still love some of their music today, some of their songs (the ones that have been played over and over throughout the years at weddings and sporting events) make me want to switch the station as fast as possible. Now that I have kids, I look forward to the day when I can take them to their first concert. We strive to shape their musical interests by playing classics for them, such as: The Beatles, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Edith Piaf and Simon & Garfunkel. At work I usually opt for classical music or even white noise to help me focus.

My Top 5:

  • The Beatles, "Yellow Submarine"
  • Patsy Cline, "Crazy"
  • Dolly Parton, "Jolene"
  • Edith Piaf, "Padam, Padam"
  • Simon & Garfunkel, "Cecilia"


About the Author

Michelle-avatar
Michelle Geczy

I'm the Chief Operating Officer at TBG. I live by the details. Field hockey and Swedish Fish make me happy too.

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