I know, I know—the spring semester just ended, you can’t possibly be going back to school this/next week! I’m feeling the same way.
Regardless of whatever state of denial you happen to be in, your college/university demands your presence at move-in day. You’re going to hear the same parental complaining in the morning of “where do you intend to put all of this sh*t?”, the incessant, constant rattling of wheel bins on concrete sidewalks throughout the afternoon and then the “please don’t set the residence hall on fire/keep your illegal substances out of the dorms/no underage drinking” RA speech in the evening.
It tends to be all very rote and mundane, but it no longer does it have to be. With a good soundtrack (think of your life as a movie), anything can become exciting and even bearable. As you climb into bed after a long day of (read: overseeing your parents as they move in your things for you) moving into your new home for the year, you can prepare yourself for the new semester with this new playlist. This playlist, while perfect for your back-to-school needs, can be played throughout the semester. Featuring tracks to dance to and mellow out to, you’ll have a new song for every back-to-school feeling, positive or negative.
1. “I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler” by YACHT, to be released on their new album, I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler on October 28, 2015.
Opening up the track’s title in robotic vocals, “I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler” has an infectious beat, groovy and a disco-esque bass line (further supplemented by splashes of disco-style string arrangements).
While the song is nothing new in terms of electro-pop, the cynical song title is fitting anyone feeling disappointed in the world (through modern technology, police brutality and drones) or just plain aggravated by his or her current state at college/university. Your six-year old self is very unimpressed by the slave to education you’ve become. They thought your future would be cooler.
Crack open your textbooks and pay your exorbitant tuition. This is your future and it’s certainly not cool whatsoever.
2. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths, off of their record, Hatful Of Hollow.
Please, please, please get Morrissey a thesaurus.
The quintessential The Smiths’ song, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” is a wistful acoustic track with the even more mournful Morrissey begging “For once in [his] life / Let [him] get what [he] wants / this time.” Like a child, he repeats this throughout the song but in a way that makes the listener empathize with the perpetually sad Englishman. The song ends in a mandolin solo. How many songs do you know have a f*cking mandolin solo?
As you stare at your grades, away from the prying eyes of your parental units, you may be praying, hoping, wishing, for a better semester. One that begins with the repetition of “please, please, please” to some higher figure and ends in a nice 4.0.
3. “(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here” by Honeyblood, off of their eponymous debut.
The opening chord on this track reminds me of a wave crashing on a beach. The guitars are hypnotizingly dreamy—the drums steady as if to keep the listener from flying away. Stina Tweeddale’s lo-fi vocals are immensely open and exposed, the speaker begging an ex-lover to “I wish you’d come back to me / I miss your company / I do.” The song fades away at the end, as if the speaker has given up entirely and is a private, melancholic mess.
When it comes to waking up for that dreaded 8am Monday morning, you’ll be wishing you were “anywhere but here.” Get out of bed and get your *ss out on campus. You didn’t pay $50,000+ last month to sleep.
4. “I’ll Never Be Happy Again” by Eleanor Friedberger, off of her album, Personal Record.
Interestingly enough, the focus of this song is not the guitar melody, but the bass (and I’m all for more bass melodies). Friedberger’s voice is sweet and quiet; the guitar sounding like it’s been submerged in water. “I’ll Never Be Happy Again” is a straightforward song. It does not seek to confuse or preach a big message—it’s a simple song about heartbreak that was crafted in such painstaking detail that it stands far beyond the typical heartbreak trope.
Not only does your heart likely hurt now, but you’re also in the throes of the fall semester! Hooray! Not only do you have academic and economic pains, but you also have social and romantic strains! Because nothing is how they portray on the big screens (there will not be a toga party), sure, you’ll have your moments of bliss, but it’s only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down and you’ll “never be happy again.” Bring out your inner theatre kid.
Look, I listen to The Smiths. I’m clearly a very sad person.
5. “You’re Still A Mystery” by Bleachers, off of their record, Strange Desire.
This song opens up with an echoing recording of lead singer, Jack Antonoff, repeating, “I want to be grateful for the experiences” before launching the track into a lively electronic-synth beat. Antonoff’s voice is low and gravely on this track and juxtaposed in the right amount with the upbeat tone of “You’re Still A Mystery.” The track exits with an anthemic “whoa oh-oh” and, let’s face it, you’re not a real indie pop group unless you write some sort of anthem. It’s a feel good track to ride out the last bits of summer. Let’s be honest, after listening to Eleanor Friedberger’s “I’ll Never Be Happy Again,” you’ll be looking for something to take the edge off your auditory-induced chest pains.
Staring at your books, the new kids on your floor, the new freshmen—there’s a lot of things on campus that remain a mystery (namely, the food in the dining hall). The syllabi for your courses this semester? Yep, still a mystery.
I’ll never understand how professors jam-pack his or her syllabi and think that he or she will be organized to the point that he or she will actually get to the material. Who are you fooling?
6. “Brick Wall” by Citizens!, off of their album, European Soul.
Thomas Burke has one of the most unique voices in indie music. I dare you to find me someone who sounds even remotely close to him. With a nearly violent sugar-sweet, sing-song voice, there’s nothing this man couldn’t convince you to do (“If you stay with me tonight / It’ll be all right”–If you say so, I guess).
Citizens! in this track does a very good job in setting the auditory stage for hitting your head against a brick wall. The opening fuzzy guitar mirrors the droll, incessant overthinking frustrations tend to cause. The drums are largely absent until the bridge where Burke repeats “You’ve been banging your head against a wall,” certainly imitating such sounds that come from banging your head against the wall. “Brick Wall” has a fresh, vibrant sound that is bound to make anyone dance their negativity away.
I don’t think I need to explain why this track is perfect for the beginning of the school year. There are people you’ve been purposely avoiding this entire summer and now you have to deal with them live and in-person. Woohoo. There are plenty of brick walls for you to bash your skull in to. I’ll see you there, bashing my own head in.
7. “She Doesn’t Get It” by The Format, off of their record, Dog Problems.
Yes, the singer sounds familiar. No, you’re not going crazy. It’s Nate Ruess of the band, fun.!
This is a deceptive song. On the surface, it seems like your typical, run of the mill, pop song (think simple guitar, random flourishes of electronics and bells and a general feel-good sound). Yet, upon listening closer, the listener (you) are presented with the speaker’s complications during a one-night stand. (It seems Nate Ruess isn’t as deceptively sweet or as convincing as Tom Burke of Citizens!). It’s an interesting track in that it doesn’t romanticize the “beauty” of the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” act. The listener is shown the intimate thoughts of the speaker where you may even want to sympathize with him or her, yet the lyrics, “Can I take you home? / I know it’s wrong, but I know your type” seem almost accusatory. Whose type? My type? Back off.
The false simplicity of “She Doesn’t Get It” is not the only lie you’ll face this semester. Your professor continues to babble on about how this topic is the easiest in the course and blah, blah, blah. You don’t get it and you probably won’t until the final comes around (and even that might be a stretch).
8. “I Felt Stupid” by The Drums, off of their EP, Summertime!
This track is reminiscent of 80s new wave (think of The Cure). With the flourish of bright electronic guitar juxtaposed to the dark, emotional angst that The Drums are nearly synonymous with, you’re left with a brilliant end-of-the-summer song that breaks your heart for all the right reasons. Jonny Pierce whines throughout the track, singing the words to the song you needed when you were but a wee, sad emo kid. There’s no real pain to be found now (hopefully), but you still feel with the speaker as you sing along with the end of the anthemic chorus of “HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HEART”
It happens throughout the semester. You sit at your desk, staring at your work, cursing your professor. He or she never taught you this f*cking sh*t. You tug at your hair and conclude that your professor is definitely making you dumber.
If you don’t feel transported to some dark, cold beach with your toes in the cold water, I don’t know what to tell you, man. You might be a lost cause.
9. “Burning” by The Whitest Boy Alive, off of their album, Dreams.
This song features the soft vocals of a folk group, the bass line of an indie pop band and the guitar of (wait for it) 80s new wave! It’s all the best parts of music combined into one track that is far too short for anyone’s good.
With folky vocals, they’re inherently dreamy. The guitar and bass are working together, never once fighting for the listener’s attention. Towards the end of the song, there’s an explosion of guitar, perpetually supported by the bass line, that commands that you shoegaze to this awesome track. The end of the song fades out into nothing, but the melodic explosion still rings vividly in your memory. This is the song you need when you need to crack down and do work.
Come the second or third week of the semester, you may feel like you’re burning in hell constantly. You and everybody else, kid. Just wait until midterms.
10. “World On Fire” by The Royal Concept, off of their record, Royal.
I chose to end this playlist with a heavy electro-rock song because ending on a quiet note is not how you’re going to end this semester.
“World On Fire” opens up with a repeated synthesizer sound—a sound that is aggressively and intrinsically rock. The vocals are monotone throughout the song which, for some, might indicate something boring. The song is reserved is initially inexplicably reserved in sound and attitude. It’s almost frustrating at first, but come the chorus, the listener is granted the release he or she has been looking for. David Larson, the vocalist, lets all his emotions go during the chorus, but quickly returns to monotonic safety for the next verse until the chorus comes ’round again.
In short, you’ll be craving his next vocal explosion for the whole next verse.
Knee-deep in papers, assignments, textbook readings and presentations to prepare for, your world is simply on fire. Yet, when Mom and Dad call you and everything is “fine,” but, in reality, everything is on fire. Will you ever get those assignments done? Yes, but you’re certainly going to complain about it first. Revel in your own, personal hell, kindly known as: college.