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12 Playlists on Rotation in our Home

Since Tsh is in London this week for Literary London, we’re sharing a favorite post from The Art of Simple archives. Read on for playlists that are still worth a listen!

When I recently mentioned our penchant for morning music, several of you asked what we listen to. The answer to this changes frequently for several reasons, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite playlists we listen to at home.

But first, some music talk.

I’m deeply affected by my environment, with everything from the natural lighting (or lack thereof), to the whitespace (or lack thereof), to the smells, to the sounds. This is probably because I’m an HSP, but if I can control even one or two things about my surroundings, my stress levels stay much lower.

So, music. The right songs can create the just-right ambience for whatever’s happening at home, and I sometimes take this to a ridiculous level. Not only do we play different playlists on different mornings depending on the day of the week, but I feel like music has seasons. I hear a musician, and I can tell you its time of year.

Fleet Foxes? They’re winter.
Josh Garrels? He’s for the fall.
Jack Johnson? Summer—that one’s easy.
Ingrid Michaelson is spring, as is Norah Jones, though they’re different styles.


This isn’t meant to be a blanket statement, and there are exceptions per song, of course (Lord Huron walks the fine line between summer and fall, for example). Some musicians are hard to pin seasonally, especially if they’re peppier or from my past and serve to create more a mood of nostalgia.

Nonetheless, there you go. Music has seasons, and music has times of day. The reason for this is simple: music is moody.

Here’s a sampling of what we listen to around our house these days.

1. A seasonal, annual playlist

Near the start of each season, I like to create a new playlist—it’s based on my gut, not some formula. If I like it, if it sounds like the season to me, then in it goes. I just made a fall playlist, below:

Here’s a few of my summer and spring playlists as well.

2. Morning music

Weekdays call for different moods in our house—the kids go to a school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and homeschool on Monday and Friday. Every day they need to be up and at ‘em, but especially on those three days in the middle, when we have to pull up to the schoolhouse by 8:00ish. Here’s Day 1:

We start the early morning off with classical, just to wake up the kiddos gently. A few minutes in, the playlist switches to the peppier sort that gets everyone to finish breakfast, brush their teeth, and out the door.

On each school day, we end with one of our current favorites—Andrew Peterson’s Be Kind to Yourself.

the rolling stones

(Also, here’s Day 2 and Day 3.)

For our school days at home, we keep it classical much longer, to grease the mental wheels (this school year, it’s been movie soundtracks). Unless it’s distracting, the music stays on for the length of schoolwork time.

(Day 1 for school at home is above—here’s Day 2.)

3. Dinner music

If we have company over for dinner, we like the music to set a mood for good conversation without being a major distraction. If it’s just us, it depends on how the day went and what’s on the menu.

Sometimes we cheese it up and play music that pairs with our food (it really does make the tacos seem more festive and, well, thought-out). Most of the time, though, we keep the music lighthearted yet calm, to make family dinnertime the safe place it needs to be.

steve martin and edie brickell

Soft, family-friendly background music, like the playlist above, tames our souls and helps rev our conversation.

4. Bedtime music

We announce the transition to bedtime by coming in from our post-dinner walk and playing yet another playlist. Obviously, we stick to the calmer stuff here:

5. Cooking, cleaning, and hanging out

Music is a great motivator for the household liturgies of laundry folding, veggie chopping, and toilet scrubbing—our kids associate cleaning with dance music, and the chores finish faster when the likes of Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, and OK Go pipe through the speakers.

ok go

Blah work is much more fun with peppy music:

(Treat the kids to a few OK Go videos after chores.)

And of course, anything goes when we’re just hanging out at home. Sometimes a kid who’s had a good attitude gets to pick what’s on tap (which means if you see me listening to Beastie Boys on Spotify, that means my youngest son won the prestigious prize).

Spotify is crazy handy (as are other music curations sites), but they usually don’t pay artists as much as they should (especially the up-and-coming or indie types). I like to use the service as a sampler—if I find myself consistently loving an artist, I’ll hop over to iTunes or Amazon and purchase an album. Don’t forget this step. It matters.


I love finding new music, so leave a comment with an artist, song, or playlist you can’t get enough of these days.

(From top to bottom: photos of Sandra McCracken, Josh Garrels, The Rolling Stones, Edie Brickell & Steve Martin, OK Go, and Andrew Bird)

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Barbara Thornton

    I love all this great music!! Here are some of my favorites, coincidentally, local to where I live in Utah.
    Ryan Tanner, Promised Land
    Paul Jacobsen, Paul Jacobsen and The Madison Arm
    Jayson Haws, Entelechy
    Fictionist (everything, but particularly the Free Spirit EP and Fictionist)

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Nice! Thanks for the heads up.

    • Loretta


  2. Kelly

    I love this! I am also an HSP, and most of the people in my life are not. I’m grateful for this post so I can add to my own Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz/Daniela Andrade rotation (peppered with some Rodrigo y Gabriela). Thanks again. Love your blog and your podcast. Cheers!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Kelly! I know some of those names, but not all…. Will look ’em up!

  3. Kate

    I have a morning instrumental list playing right now. Rings in all kinds of good calm. NeedtoBreathe is a favorite with me these days, especially in the carpool line.

    Fun post! Thanks for all of the good music tips! Blessings to you, Kate 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      They’re a great group, I agree!

  4. Kat

    Quite possibly my favorite post. Thank you!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Aw, well, thanks!

  5. Sarah M

    I also feel very strongly that certain music (and books!) have a seasonal flair. BTW, I first saw Andrew Bird when he toured with Ani DiFranco, and he was fantastic! Have fun. 🙂

    BTW: The Wild Reeds, Mother Falcon, Andra Day are my newest finds from Tiny Desk that I loved.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Andrew Bird + Ani DiFranco = amazing!

      I’ll make sure those Tiny Desk shows are in my queue – thanks!

  6. Marianne

    For calming, centering music I am in LOVE with Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It’s absolutely filled with simple beauty and everyday wonder. With moments of glory added in 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes! I have thoughts about him to share in an upcoming podcast. 😉 He’s AMAZING.

  7. Kristine

    A favourite over the last while has been Johnnyswim. Love their sound, and they have a new album out soon. As does Norah Jones (hearkening back to her early sound) and Michael Buble, all of which makes my soul happy! And I echo the person who mentioned Needtobreathe – their latest album is amazing!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve heard of Johnnyswim via Fixer-Upper and I keep meaning to check it out! Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Renia C

    OMG! Love this idea. I am in such a music rut, it seems like we listen to the same 50 songs over and over again. This post gave me tons of ideas for creating a new set of playlists. Thank you!

    • Tsh Oxenreider


  9. Annette

    Would you share what devotionals you listen to on the way to school? Thanks!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      We’re still working on that, actually, trying to find one that works. We’re pretty particular in this department, both in style and in content…. I’d honestly love to just have an audio recording of our catechism, but that doesn’t exist at the moment.

      Here’s a recent conversation on my Facebook wall with some good ideas. We’ve been doing Pray as You Go, which I personally love but my kids find a little…. slow. 😉 I think this next week we’ll try The Trinity Mission and see what they think. It’s simple readings from the Daily Office.

  10. Megan Mattinson

    I’m just curious what kind of standards you have for selecting what music to play for your kids. Would I be correct in assuming these playlists don’t include mature themes, language and so forth? I love introducing my kids to new stuff but don’t have a lot of time for previewing music.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      By and large, yep, Megan! I do my best to steer clear of songs with language and mature themes, though admittedly one or two words might sneak in that I simply didn’t notice…. I do my best to pay attention to that, though, and if I hear something, I’ll usually delete it from the playlist.

      Now, the dance party one might be the only one where “mature themes” might be more subjective… However, we’re mostly silly with that one and pay attention to the beats and rhythms to get us through other tasks. But still, I steer clear of overtly questionable songs.

  11. Megan Tietz

    I want to marry this entire post. Thank you for sharing your playlist genius with us!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Ha! Well, you’re welcome, friend. XO

  12. Kimberley

    Wonderful post, thanks Tsh! I’m also a HSP, so picking the right music for the situation is super important for me. My Spotify Discover feed is finally working for me (for a while it struggled with my obscure music taste!) and I recently discovered Dante Bucci – peaceful hang drums and lyric-free for focus. Another favourite is MC Yogi, who has a diverse range of sounds for pick-me-up, focus and hanging out. He also produces instrumental versions of most of his albums which is incredibly useful when I need to work. I also have to thank you for Andrew Bird! Discovered in your Upstream playlist – and now I’m smitten 🙂

  13. Kelsey O'Halloran

    I saw Andrew Bird in concert when he came to Portland in May — it was an amazing show, so I’m excited for you to enjoy it too! I wonder if you’d also like Blind Pilot — they have a similarly full sound and a very Pacific Northwest vibe.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I do like what I’ve heard from Blind Pilot! Their song Three Rounds and a Sound just about does me in every time.

  14. Janet Stacy

    Loved this article as I am a big fan of all these artists as well. Music is such a big part of my life too. I geek out at coffee shops and such that play good indie artists. I prefer music over TV in my house for myself and my two little kids. My 6 week old loves to walk around the house to Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra because, well, she just has good taste.

    Ever listen to The Head and the Heart? Their album titled “The Head and the Heart” and their album “Let’s Be Still” are my go-to albums for a relaxing drive or evening at home with my kids.

    Brandi Carlile and/or Katie Herzig are the bee’s knees too. My 5 year old son loves Katie Herzig, and I love that he knows more independent, off-the-wall artists than mainstream.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      All great artists you’ve mentioned! Thanks for the reminder.

  15. Diane

    Wow! This is brilliant – thank you!

  16. Katheryn

    Wow! I am amazed and impressed. I love the idea of having all these different playlists for different situations, but instead we hardly ever listen to music, unless the kids initiate. My excuse? While I would love to do what you do, it seems so time consuming to make the playlists. If someone else got it together for me and all I had to do was click play, I would be all over that.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Well, you’re welcome to use these playlists, Katheryn! If you want, you can follow me on Spotify because I make new playlists all the time. 🙂

      • Katheryn

        Ha! Thanks! I’m really showing my ignorance in the music world.

  17. Megan

    Bifrost Arts!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Haven’t heard of them – thanks!

  18. Elizabeth

    I love this! As soon as I saw the picture of Sandra McCracken at the top of the post, I said, “She is so cool.” I mean, I knew you were cool, but that made me happy. I can’t wait to listen to all of these! My hubby is the DJ of the family and we listen to a lot of different genres of music as well. I spend a lot of time in the car with the kids, so he makes us “Minivan Mixes.” So a few off the top of my head for you to check out if you don’t already know them: Grace and Tony, The Trigger Code, and Eric Peters.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Well, I don’t know about cool, but thanks for the thought. 😉 And I haven’t heard the rest of your suggestions, so I’ll look ’em up – thanks!

  19. Rachael

    Love this and have it playing right now! I love that you have playlists for various things through out the day. I did this without really knowing I was doing it.

  20. Sue Anne Reyes

    I’m playing it right now! Thanks to Spotify, it makes all our sound trip better. The playlists you’ve mentioned really works all day. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Claire

    Try Aoife Odonovan. She just put out a live album called man in a neon coat and it’s wonderful

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Will look her up! Thanks.

  22. Jen Miller

    Have you heard case/lang/veir? I was so excited when that album came out!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I haven’t, but I will later today. Thanks!

  23. Cath

    Wow what an amazing post! Can’t wait to try these out… i love music but struggle to find time to analyse songs and put together playlists. Am going to be looking at this post a lot!

  24. Jen

    This is a great post. I love seeing what other people are listening to. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Sandy

    Thanks for all the great music recommendations. We are big music lovers too; my husband works in the music business and is a composer. Also, since we do a hybrid school program as well, I love how music helps to move along the day smoothly.

    I’d love to add Isaac Shepard’s music to the list – his music is instrumental piano – perfect for calming background music. His new CD “Wandering Home” is great!

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts and podcasts – love what I learn from them and how they encourage me!

  26. Jenn

    This post is brilliant! The playlists are perfect for these occasions. I have been listening to School at Home 2 today, and it is making this work day go by much better. Thank you for sharing, Tsh.

  27. Jo

    Awesome! I love this so much! Thanks for the fresh injection. I’m listening to your spring mix right now (cos I’m in Australia). I’m loving “I am they” right now. Fresh indie worship/Christian music. Happy Autumn to you.

  28. Sharen

    I’m going to get lost down a deep, deep rabbit hole listening to all those playlists and looking up everyone’s suggestions!!

  29. Katherine Willis Pershey

    Lately, it’s been all Hamilton all the time around here. I’m starting to think it’s going to take a new Over the Rhine album to pry me away from Lin-Manuel Miranda!

    Love, love, love this post.

  30. Sarah Alford

    Tsh you are my favorite person to follow on Spotify–you have great music taste! Check out Beta Radio + their song ‘On the Frame.’ They’re a small band from my home state (NC!).

  31. Holly in Oregon

    This post was such a treat! Thank you for helping to expand my boring spotify playlists!

  32. Kathleen

    Great post! I’m also curious about your homeschooling hybrid! Will you share about that sometime?

    • Becky Hastings

      Yes! This is what I would love to know about too! It is my ultimate dream for a hybrid environment for my kids, but there’s nothing like that here in CT.

  33. Kelsey Jones

    I love when you share art that you love! I don’t categorize music into weather seasons, but rather seasons of life. Certain groups or albums or musicals bring back vivid memories of different phases of life, although I should probably find a tidier way to categorize my life – some great songs have had to pull double duty and years are starting to blur.
    My recs:
    Opus Orange – they did the soundtrack for “Mile, Mile and a Half” and I wonder what season you’ll find it to be?
    Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – I Need Never Get Old. Sooooo good.
    Joseph – White Flag

    Thanks again for sharing!

  34. Laura Heywood

    What speaker system do you use?

  35. Sus

    This is SO AWESOME! Thank you.

  36. Emma

    Just followed you on Spotify as your playlists are amazing! Thanks for sharing ?

  37. Katie Di Filippo

    Oh. WOW. Your fall 2016 playlist is is definitely speaking to me this time of year, especially the song the bad days. I listened to it when I really needed it, and it brought tears to my eyes and settled my disgruntled heart. Thank you so much.

  38. Emanuela

    Thank you
    I feel like I find a treasure finding you


  39. Amber

    I am a huge lover of music and loved this post. One of the best things is discovering new artists whose music I can’t get enough of.
    I have lots of favorites but my constant favorites are NEEDTOBREATHE, Mat Kearney, & Ben Rector.

  40. Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm

    The Piano Guys and Rend Collective are favorites pared with Van Morrison, Enya, Lyle Lovett, Selah. I tend to go with old friends and due to where I live, not enough bandwidth to download much of anything or anyone. I’m more of a contemplative, living in isolation and not community…not a bad thing, just a different thing due to this season of life.

  41. Katie

    My ears bleed at the thought of having so much noise going on all day. Ow! Just a different kind of HSPness–I love love love music, but need need need silence. And since that’s in rather short supply with two toddlers in the house, I’ve found I can’t listen to music/podcasts/books for very long before my ears just need a break.

    That, and on a practical level, I have not figured out a way to make any sort of music-playing quick and seamless. If I’m having to spend five minutes, or even two, fiddling with Spotify or Pandora or whomever to find what I want to listen to, get it to play, adjust the volume properly, then skip when songs inevitably pop up that rub me the wrong way that day…not worth it. Am I missing something here or does everyone else in the world just have a higher tolerance for this sort of fiddle-work than I do? Physically, practically, what exactly are you doing when you turn the music up?

  42. Charlotte Farley

    I am right with you on having seasonal soundtracks, as I like to think of them. 🙂

    For me, Autumn = anything by Hem, The Be-Good Tanyas, Regina Spektor, or Nickel Creek (especially their Why Should The Fire Die? album), so
    Winter: Ella Fitzgerald, Over The Rhine
    Spring : Feist, Cake, The Avett Brothers (although the Avetts get a lot of year-long play around our house)
    Summer: Jason Mraz
    and all year long, Harry Connick Jr. If my husband could sing like HCJ, I believe he’d never have to speak again; he could just croon to me asking for a sandwich or saying he’s running to the store. Harry’s voice is melted butter! 🙂

  43. Angela

    Your playlists for different events of the day are brilliant & inspire me to use music more often to set the mood in my own home.
    I must tell you that I followed your links, went down a rabbit trail and found out that I am likely an HSP/HSS! I had suspected that I was an HSP but now I have a better understanding of the internal conflict between being such a cautious yet high sensation seeking person. So interesting!!
    Thanks! 🙂

  44. Ashley

    Thank you for this post! I am really enjoying your Fall 2016 playlist. So many great songs perfect for the season!

  45. SarahEllen

    Anyone else having trouble getting the playlists to load on Spotify? Help!

    • Emma

      Yes, I am facing the trouble with spotify. So, I downloaded the music on music paradise pro app and played from my library. You can give it a try. Source:

  46. Melina

    I’m late to the party but I really enjoyed this post. I am also an HSP and the right (or wrong!) music can make a huge difference in how I experience something. One of my favorite bands is Pearl and the Beard. Based on your Playlist I think you’d really enjoy them.

  47. Christine Bailey

    GOOD STUFF! Love seeing Sandra McCracken and The Hunts! I’ve seen them live twice at the Wild + Free conferences here in Franklin, TN and they’re amazing.

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