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I think college sucks.
There aren't many places quite like college when you're asocial and/or introverted and just want to quietly get by and eventually join the system. I'm joking. There are plenty of places like it.
"The system" — and I call it this jokingly — is a great place to be if you want to make money, fit in, and be happy. You probably won't end up improving the world in any unique or revolutionary way, but you'll at least be able to tell your grandkids about your startup that ever-so-slightly improved on something that wasn't all that in need of improving.
And you made money along the way! That's the part that matters, so don't leave that bit out.
Anyway, let's get to the music, and I'll complain about college as the music starts playing.
First off, I'd like to share an entire album. I'll just be describing the first track, but I recommend listening to the entire album.
I don't remember the first song I listened to when I first got to college, but this album is as close as it gets.
Upon arriving at [REDACTED]'s campus in the wonderful city of [REDACTED], my friend and I immediately scoped out all the local thrift shops and record stores.
This first foray into cheap pleasures soon evolved into some kind of a tradition. Every so often, and whenever we would visit other cities, we would stop by at least one thrift or record store and pick up some cheap, used CDs or vinyl.
Of course, being the kind of music shopper that buys CDs based on their visual aesthetic, the first record I ever purchased for myself AND the first album I purchased while attending [REDACTED] was Aloha's "Here Comes Everyone." Every track on this album is a hit — if you're into music that is both abrasive and catchy, all while having thought-provoking lyrics — but I'll go into detail on the first track only, because it was the first track I heard, to keep this article from outgrowing its pants.
ALOHA — "ALL THE WARS"
The opening lyrics aren't your typical song lyrics, and they're led into the song by a refreshing, if jarring, drumbeat.
You're alive thanks to a strange chain of events
That started with the death of Elvis
If this doesn't scream "you're in college now because a random chain of events happened, and this isn't even necessarily the best outcome for your life, but isn't necessarily the worst either," then I don't know what does.
And maybe these following lyrics, appearing in the first, most-memorable song I heard at college, were an omen all along.
All the bombs that avoided you
Had somebody else's name scrawled on the clipboard in haste
It was a clerical mistake
This song, to me, is about the ambiguity surrounding life's meaningfulness or significant.
It says "Sure, I personally am alive, but my life could just as well have been snuffed out at some point during the Rube Goldberg machine of pre-existing life that extruded a bit of its own lifeblood to create me."
I don't think it advocates for either life being a mistake, or life being meaningful. Instead, it sits somewhere in the middle, unsure what exactly to make of life. The questions of "why am I here?" and "why me?" don't reach the song's lips, because it's preoccupied observing the process that results in the possibility of asking these two questions.
Now, I just have to ask myself, did college have my name scrawled on a clipboard? Did I make it out alive? I'm still not sure.
Oh, and before we move on to the next song, I just want to say that I highly recommend you listen to the rest of the album. And if you listen to it all on one sitting it's probably most effective at getting across whatever message it's trying to get across, if any.
YUCK — "DON'T LOSE MY BREATH"
College is where people supposedly find out who they are.
If anything, I feel like I lost my identity once I started college, after it quickly got a firm grasp on the inside of my brain with it's filthy claws.
I'm sure I'm not alone in my thoughts towards college, but I can imagine there's a possibility you may have a differing view. If so, feel free to skip all these valueless, personal bits of text that contain only my ill-thoughts towards an institution that formally wrecked me, and nothing more. Although if I pour enough of my discontentment into them, they'll probably overflow and seep into the rest of the article. So, proceed with caution, I suppose.
"Don't Lose My Breath" starts off with one of the happiest, almost-twee-sounding guitar riffs (it's too high-quality to be twee though) that I've heard.
Oh, before I get into the song, I should say that this song comes off the first album my friend purchased while at college, which is how it made this list, despite not being the most lyrically or emotionally relevant to my college experience.
Don’t lose my breath
Don’t change your mind
No need to find out who you are
These opening lines, coupled with the happy-go-lucky, slightly-distorted guitars, make this track sound like something of an anti-college anthem, to my ears. The song playfully suggests, through the instrumentals and lightly-delivered vocals, that you don't need to find yourself anytime soon. Or at all.
Normally, it's not the first-person "me" who is instructed to hold tight or be patient. A much more common version of this song's opening lyric is "don't lose your breath."
For this reason, I imagine the song's voice — using "voice" here is simply my way of avoiding saying "the singer," who may not have written the song alone, or at all — may be attempting to rid themselves of the burden of expectation placed on them (unduly) by outside sources. Either that, or the voice has a self-derived — but unexplainable or unwarranted — obligation to find out who they are. Or to make progress of some sort.
The voice rejects that "obligation," however, as we can see in the line "Don't lose my breath."
Don’t let this all
Come crashing down on everyone
These lines also seem to suggest that the voice doesn't think finding out who it is is of great importance. Or that it needs to be done on any kind of schedule. The voice doesn't want to interrupt the flow of things and disrupt itself, and probably others, in the process of finding out who it is. This process can be put off, and should be, so that life can be enjoyed.
Over the hillside, out in the water
I’d be over the hillside out there with you
In essence, this song wants you to enjoy life.
Don't feel burdened by things that are beyond your control. They'll get done in time, perhaps. The important thing is that you enjoy life.
Sounds like most people's description of college life, right? On one hand, though, the song advocates for not finding yourself, something which is decidedly not college-like, I reckon. But, on the other hand, it is about enjoying life, which I think is something at least some people are able to do during their college years.
This song definitely does not describe how my college years went, but I'm able to appreciate the song and its message now, after the fact.
You know what I like better than the rest of this album? Yuck's previous album. It's much more raw and untamed, which is something I have an indescribable fetish for. Their older song "Get Away" is probably a more fitting description of my time at college than "Don't Lose My Breath," honestly.
THE MIDDLE EAST — "LAND OF THE BLOODY UNKNOWN"
I'm not sure the lyrics of this song relate to my college experience quite as much as the song's title does.
I think I just really dug this song's melancholy-sounding vocals. The singer is definitely not whispering, but the vocals sound quite airy and warm, perhaps due to the singer's accent. And I like this about them.
I'm also a sucker for slide guitar.
There’s a black dog watching over me in my sleep
And I stir just to toss him the bone
This line comes at the very end of the song, and is the most college-relevant portion of the song.
Though I didn't learn it until I was in my final year, my final roommate informed me that "black dog" can be synonymous with depression.
They would always joke around that they weren't taking very good care of their black dog, and would ask how mine was doing. Though nobody wants this kind of black dog, I think it made an ever-present sadness into something we could talk about openly, which was good.
I think it's helpful having someone going through the same thing nearby.
But then again, what do I know?
YELLOW OSTRICH — "MARATHON RUNNER"
I'll just get right into the lyrics for this one.
When I was a boy of seventeen
I know it's mean
But I, I told my friend to give up on her dreams
She hated me
Going into college, I had dreams, and I wanted more than nothing for these dreams to be fruitful and multiply.
I wanted to meet other dreamers and make the coolest little video games. I never wanted to make popular games. Or shiny games. Just "cool" games. The kinds of games that get made for gamejams like the Ludum Dare, but without such tight time constraints.
However, as college is wont to do to little, unsuspecting individuals with dreams that don't fit one of the available molds, my dreams withered and died off like all the songs on an album that aren't a one-hit wonder. Although, in my case, there was no one-hit wonder either.
The voice of this song tells his friend to give up on her dreams. Telling someone to give up on their dreams — those invisible forces that push one to do more than just survive and blend in with everyone else — isn't something to be taken lightly.
I'm unsure whether it's the right thing to do or not, morally, but I actually reckon I would support him in doing attempting to sabotage his friend's dreams. In the age we live in, unless your dream happens to be something that is profitable for you — or for someone else — it probably won't end up being realized without a drastic compromise of some sort.
I wish someone would have told me at a young age to give up on my dreams.
I'm out of college and struggling to hold on to anything that doesn't matter to me, and am constantly wishing I never would have embarked on any sort of creative detour.
I wish that, like many of those around me, I would have just gone to school, wasted my free time away, and pursued a traditional career path, devoid of creativity or meaning.
I am living other people's lives
I can't stop putting on other people's clothes
I love them 'til I leave
I wish I could put on my Working Cap, work for The Man, and earn enough dosh to be stress-free.
But I cannot. I'm cursed to sprint back and forth, endlessly alternating between "work" and "life." I have yet to find a balance sufficient for my mental state, so I submerse myself completely in one or the other, convinced at first that one is better, but soon realizing I can't live in the present moment.
So I flee, soon to be dissatisfied with wherever I end up.
I think what I've just described is a similar predicament to the one the voice of this song is in.
He'll try on someone's clothes — try one lifestyle out — and will love it. But then, either before or after trying out someone else's clothes, he loses his previously held love for this thing.
I am a marathon runner
And my legs are sore
And I'm anxious to see what I'm running for
The one kind of clothing that is constant throughout this individual's entire life, then, is that of a marathon runner, I would presume.
Though not an explicit realization, I think the repeated singing of these lyrics implies that the voice of this song has realized that who he is is not defined by his clothing. He will always be in search of something new and will never stop outgrowing clothes, but this is fine.
One doesn't need to be the same person their entire life to live a meaningful life. For many, including the voice of this song, alternating between lifestyles is as much a lifestyle as each individual lifestyle he tries out.
College (and the rest of society) aren't really set up to support anyone who can't bring themselves to do the same thing, every day of their lives, until they're finally able to retire.
Which is sad, because there are people out there who don't fit into this mold.
Honestly, these kinds of people probably should give up on their dreams, if they have even the slightest desire to live a more stress-free life. But, nobody changed the world by being the exact same as everyone else.
That last part isn't true. Everyone can change the world by affecting those immediately around them. Some change, however, requires a larger serving of "not fitting in."
I think that, as long as you're trying to be a positive influence on the world around you, you're doing enough.
If you're looking for a description of the song, here you go — sentimental-voiced indie pop with some catchy swells and slightly-distorted vocals.
YOU WON'T — "TELEVISION"
A sad song disguised as a hopeful song. It definitely sounds more melancholy than happy, though.
It always ends the same, you know, always ends the same
This line could be take a few ways, but in the context of the rest of the song, I definitely am inclined to take it as describing a sense of hopelessness caused by nothing really mattering at all, because everything comes to an end, good or bad.
Jesus and Lucifer are mentioned in the song, and they cause the singer to feel alone and afraid of damnation, but a preacher assures him that "it always ends the same."
Now the fishes on the TV fly, in circles all the same
Like little children terrified of what they can't explain
But when the suburb and the sky, are both awash in flame
Oh the television won't survive, and it always ends the same
Everyone, or at least those who are in the public eye or in the general population — those who are "on the TV" — follows the crowd blindly. Would someone be better off if they sprouted a mind of their own, broke free from their current cyclic path, and swam off in a unique direction?
No, because it "always ends the same."
This somewhat instrumentally-minimalist song of hopeless resignation isn't the most inspiring, but it rings quite true for me, and is great at invalidating my existential angst.
Whether one joins the circle of fish or swims off on their own is irrelevant. We'll all die and nothing matters.
You can probably see why this song was a staple during my negatively-formative time spent in college.
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE — "TODAY'S SUPERNATURAL"
This track is as dense as it is descriptive of the way college affects young minds.
Come on, let go
Erratic see saw
This exploding young brain
Has gone and blown me out again
And now I don't feel the same
I hated high school.
I expected college to fill the void that high school simultaneously expanded and deprived of nutrients.
It didn't, of course. But, because it was such a letdown, thanks to all the hype my mind generated over the course of my four years in high school, you could describe it as "life changing."
I'm not sure when the depression initially started growing roots in my mind, but college was the first combination of food and water source that enabled unbridled growth of the invasive creature in my mind.
Come on, let go
It's not a question for your head
Come and join me in the speakers
There's a ruby in your eye
And we don't have to feel the same
These lines urge the listener to stop thinking so much — about how their mind is/was blown — and dance along to the song in the present, in the same way that the artists would dance to the song if it were being played live.
The "ruby" seen in the listener's eye could be a nifty way for the song to attribute the song's greatness to the listener. The listener has a ruby in their eye because they know greatness when they see (or hear) it.
Did the song place the ruby in the listener's eye, or was it there to begin with? The latter makes more sense to me, as it suggests that this song is only enjoyable to those who have a predisposition to like the song. A song can't make you like it. You have to have the right mindset, chemistry, or whatever in order to like any given song.
If we hold the music responsible for giving the listener a ruby with which to see/hear the song through, then the song kind of becomes a conceited song that praises itself for being so good as to single-handedly cause listeners to enjoy it.
Cause your own is the sweetest thing inside of you
Aw, how sweet of them to say this to me, the listener.
This song's chorus is where this song's value — it's "ruby" — is at, for me.
You find something you believe that you should do
And sometimes it won't come so easy
But sometimes you gotta go get mad
Music inspires people to do things. Sometimes it inspires people to do hard things. People often choose to listen to music when they need an extra little dose of motivation, or just to keep their mind off the task at hand.
I like to think this song's purpose is to initially just lure individuals into listening to it because it's catchy, mind-blowing, or even "erratic." Essentially, it knows it is something that is exciting to listen to, for the right people — those with a "ruby" in their eye.
Once the listener finds themselves captivated by the song and devoted to listening to it in its entirety, its lyrics enlighten the listener that the initial "come on, let's go" was less of an invitation to dance or party, and more of a motivational speech of sorts. Once we hear the song tell us that our "own" is our sweetest commodity, it urges us to pursue the utilization of our "own," despite it being difficult.
Being oneself — individual, unique, et cetera — is hard. It's much easier to be someone else or cease to be an individual altogether.
However, this song believes in you. It may have had to bait you at the start into listening to it, with its catchy, albeit all-over-the-place instrumentation and vocals, but once it's got you reeled in, it becomes clear that the song wants nothing more than to get you off your feet so that it can push you forward to be your own, valuable self.
Some songs want to get you off your feet so you can dance to the beat and lose yourself. This song wants you to get off your feet, go out, and find your own beat. But it's only able to do that if it's able to first "join [it] in the speakers."
Music was (kind of) the only way I was able to "motivate" myself to complete meaningless schoolwork and eventually graduate knowing nothing. Not just listening to music, but making it as well.
Only because I had such a strong desire to create music was I able to complete my work, in a mostly satisfactory way, because only when I was done with my work was I able to create music (somewhat) stress-free.
Of course, I could have put my work permanently on hold and made music non-stop, all day. But then I would have failed, and surely the total amount of stress in my life would be higher as a college dropout seeking work than as a depressed college student. The goal is to reduce the amount of stress in the short-term without causing a buildup of too much long-term stress.
I'm not sure I was right about college being less stressful than the outside world, but it's what I believed at the time.
NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL — "HOLLAND 1945"
My friend and I were lucky enough to see Neutral Milk Hotel perform during their "final tour for the foreseeable future."
I didn't listen to Neutral Milk Hotel an excessive amount, but I do think its impact on my life is more significant than most of (or all) the rest.
For one, Neutral Milk Hotel was the band that got me inspired to learn guitar and mandolin. Without "Holland 1945," I wouldn't be a decent-enough guitar and mandolin player. I know the song's easy chords play a part in this, but there are plenty of other learnable songs out there I could have chosen to learn first.
Neutral Milk Hotel has always had a soft spot in my heart. Partly because I think Mr. Mangum is an interesting person, partly because the music is unique and meaningful, and partly because it's popular "enough" that I have friends who have heard it, so I can talk about it and listen to it with them.
But now we must pick up every piece
Of the life we used to love
Just to keep ourselves
At least enough to carry on
College in a nutshell, for me.
My inner self has been significantly altered from the first time I the campus of [REDACTED].
I'm not sure it made me stronger. I'm not sure it made me a "better person." What I do know is that I'm more broken than before, with far fewer dreams, if any.
I've vocally botched this song's lyrics to an accompaniment of semi-accurate guitar playing so many times that I feel like I can't really sing it with emotion any more.
That, and the noise complains I got from neighbors has weighed on my conscience and prevents any further, loud-and-inspired performances. And what's the point of playing this song if you're not going to yell?
I still love the song though.
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH — "1904"
These description-like things are getting to be too long, and I have many more songs I want to share, so I think I might start being more concise. But we'll see.
The Tallest Man on Earth is one of my favorite musicians of all time. His albums contain no filler, his lyrics originate from some man-made well way out in the Sweden's backcountry (probably), and his guitar playing isn't groundbreaking (according to YouTube comments) but it sounds fantastic and soothing to me.
If you're ever feeling motionless and just want to sit on down on the floor, bask in the sunlight through the window or open door, you really can't go wrong with Tallest Man on Earth. His album There's No Leaving Now has gotten me through so much, and it has done this by replacing my idle or malicious thoughts with some gritty little man in my headphones who pours his heart into singing about everything from a gardener, to the King of Spain, to criminals.
You can also listen to this music when you're happy too, don't get me wrong. But happy music, when listened to at the wrong time, can worsen one's condition, ironically.
And some will say it’s not even healthy
But body is young and mind is sure
That something is alright with your thinking
Because they shook the earth in 1904
This song is apparently about an earthquake that struck Sweden in 1904.
Despite it being about something as destructive as an earthquake, this song to me is about moving on after something difficult. It doesn't imply that things will be "better than before," or that you'll be "stronger because of the hardship," just that "body is young and mind is sure."
The disaster isn't the end of the world. Life goes on, and the disaster will eventually just be a memory of a disaster.
FALLING UP — "THE WONDER"
Falling Up, fronted by lyrical-inspiration (to me) Jessy Ribordy, has been in my life since the day I was gifted a solid-red CD player & handful of CDs by my parents.
Not only does this band have an impressive and diverse discography, they also have released an audiobook and accompanying "soundtrack" of songs related to events in the story. (The audiobook is free to listen to at the previous Bandcamp link.)
If that isn't impressively creative, especially in this age of cookie-cutter-album sound-alike albums, I don't know what is.
This audiobook isn't the only way to hear Falling Up tell you a story, however.
Though I personally have not invested a significant amount of time in doing so, all of Falling Up's albums and songs are all supposedly pieces in an elaborate story. Songs from their first albums contain elements of a story that is continued from album to album. Songs released far before their audiobook contain fragments of the audiobook's story and give depth (in time and space) to this world Mr. Ribordy has forged.
I could have plucked any Falling Up song out of the rolling fields of Falling Up songs and then pored over it with rubies in my eyes, but this one was closest at hand.
And, it's lyrics are abnormally relevant to college, and life in general.
There's a circle of tangled wires
With an endless trail into bedrooms - that connected them all
These lines ignite in my mind a story which is cozy, full of awe, and mysterious. And my mind is particularly dull and uncreative.
College can easily be seen as a tangled web of wires leading back to bedrooms. I think it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to find the connection between bedrooms — where every college student called home prior to college — and a tangled circle of wires — the connections we inevitably make in college with professors, friends, peers, and ourselves.
The wires are necessarily tangled because nobody has it all figured out. It's impossible to know exactly what's going on in any web of wires, but you can slowly work to organize them better than before, and you can also rest easy knowing they lead into a comfortable bedroom — our mind's bedroom?
So you speak lies, speak your mind
But all these words can be dulled out with the pills they discovered
It's sad, but true. We have pills for everything nowadays.
If anyone behaves or speaks in a way that society doesn't agree with, there are pills that exist to "remedy" that.
I choose to not read these lines at face value. The "lies" are not lies at all in the mind of the song's voice, I believe.
They are dangerous, or at least unwanted, so somebody — undoubtedly somebody with power or authority — decides it's best if these "lies" cease to be spoken.
I never took pills for anything in college. This can be attributed perhaps to having too much anxiety to ask for help or visit the college's medical facilities, or it can be attributed to my raw stubbornness.
Or even to my belief that pills may treat the here-and-now but leave the cause of the malady masked, hidden in one's mind or bloodstream, ready to return as soon as the pills stop doing their job.
Or, I just came to enjoy, to bask in, being depressed.
Your body of glass and your fingers intwined stringed
They're behind your back
Can be seen
You have made a terrible plan
Now, it's revealed that the individual --- or group, or machine --- responsible for doling out pills has malicious intent.
But I can still run
Thankfully, the voice of the song has the ability to get away from a future run by the malicious entity.
Electrical lungs can't hold back a beautiful beat
That's coursing my veins
'Cause my heart's a perfect wonder
A machine --- the aforementioned entity, I presume --- cannot stop a living, breathing person from accomplishing great things, speaking "lies," running away, et cetera.
Turning pages and signing paychecks
With a stack to Heaven and back
It stands like a towering fear
While the signal just spins around us
An invisible tangling machine
With an ominous gear
These lines describing the entity being escaped from are fine if left untouched by me, I think.
You pretend that I don't have a future that you can destroy
With the touch of your hand on my hand
The machine thinks the "lying" escapee has a destroyable future, but it is mistaken. The voice of the song believes free will can always be achieved if desired.
The system can always be escaped.
M83 — "MIDNIGHT CITY"
I haven't listened to this song of my own accord since my friend told me one late, hot, summer night that this song sounded to him like daggers being repeatedly thrust into his body. I feel too much for my friends to subject this friend's body to imagined physical pain (albeit, only in my mind) by listening to it.
My friend loves this song though, and so do I.
This song doesn't have vocals that try hard to be heard, but I would sing this song with my friend any day or night, inside or while on a walk, and it would be an enjoyable experience for the both of us.
I just wish the daggers never existed.
YOUTH LAGOON — "MUTE"
Ask anyone at my college how many times I participated in class, even those with required participation, and they'd have to think long and hard in order to remember if they'd ever heard my insignificant voice.
I had people mistake me for a visiting student all four years I attended [REDACTED]. During a summer internship where I remained on campus, a student I had previously met asked me which college I had come from, where I would be returning once summer had ended.
The mere thought of participating in class was necessary and sufficient to rattle my bones and aaaaaaaaaaaah.
Living in a 3-D world
Where the clock is in control
He sits on his throne on top of my wrist and tells me what I know
I'm sure Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers wasn't inspired to create this song after failing once again to contribute to a class discussion, but this song is a pretty nice way for a mute student to console themselves with the power of music.
I would always try to sit in a spot with a clear view of the clock, which was, undoubtedly, "in control." While I don't wear a watch like this song's protagonist, the idea is the same. Time is a tyrant.
The devil tries to plague my mind
But he can't quite get inside
Is the devil the voice in my head saying to speak out?
Or is it rather the voice of the professor telling me to just say anything?
Luckily for me, I think, my professors hardly ever said anything to me about being a terrible in-class student. (PS: I wasn't great outside the confines of class either.)
Either way, I don't listen to this voice, just like this song's protagonist.
One time, a professor pulled me aside after class and strongly advised me to participate in one of the few remaining classes. Needless to say, I did not, and I barely passed the class. I probably only passed out of sympathy.
I never listen
I never listen
I never listen
Stubbornness, or insecurity? Either way, I was unable to ever step out of the shadows using my voice.
I remained non-participatory all four years, and never stopped feeling bad about it before, during, and after class.
A Few More Songs
Now, I'll briefly share some songs that I loved in college because I loved them before college.
Some of the above songs fit this description as well, but these are the songs that I just didn't get around to describing above, or which didn't fit in lyrically with the themes of college, depression, dreams, or whatever else college reminds me of.
THE RURAL ALBERTA ADVANTAGE — "DRAIN THE BLOOD"
All of this band's songs are great.
I listened to them a lot around the time I was mega into Neutral Milk Hotel and The Mountain Goats, if that tells you anything.
KEATON HENSON — "BEEKEEPER"
You all say I've crossed a line
But the sad fact is I've lost my mind
All I want is to be left alone
Tact from me is like blood from a stone
These say all I need this song to say.
These lines are taken out of context, and the song is more likely to be about a lost relationship than a sad college student, but I think it's fine to cherry-pick the relevance in songs, if it makes you relate to and like it more.
THROW ME THE STATUE — "YUCATAN GOLD"
This song is just so unique, moderately abrasive, and poppy that I couldn't leave it out.
This song reminds me of the days when I used to play video games with [REDACTED] all day long, overheating inside in our small room filled with computer heat.
BRIGHT EYES — "FIRST DAY OF MY LIFE"
I recorded a cover of this song and sent it to someone once.
Needless to say, I never listen to this song anymore. For a while, though, it was a favorite at my roommate and I's acoustic guitar "karaoke" nights.
LEMON JELLY — "NICE WEATHER FOR DUCKS"
This song is very happy.
RABBIT! — "WHEN WE WERE YOUNG"
This song is perhaps even happier.
This band essentially makes children's music for adults, music that is quite positive but that substitutes animal sounds & fables for reminiscing and relatable stories for adults of all ages.
THE WOMBATS — "JUMP INTO THE FOG"
We feel nothing, so jump into the fog
Why not venture into an area of low visibility when feeling nothing at all?
This song is actually about something else entirely, but I'll leave that up to you to find out, if you care that much.
WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS — "IT'S THUNDER AND IT'S LIGHTNING"
Followed by a left foot
We'll guide you home before your curfew
And into your bed
All I wanted in college was to get to bed on time and to get ample sleep.
I was permitted neither of these things, and as a result, constantly was left feeling like I had no soul, no drive, no voice of my own.
This song's protagonist feels the same way. They're a slave to their feet, which tell them where they need to go, for better or for worse.
MATES OF STATE — "WHINER'S BIO"
You can wait all night
I'll never stop complaining
I feel bad about all the complaining I made my friends endure in college.
I honestly don't think anyone was too bothered by it, since it was always accompanied by humor, but I think it would have been better for both parties had I not whined my way through college.
THE KILLERS — "SPACEMAN"
This is another song that never fails to remind me of late night gaming sessions, which were always accompanied by music and laughter.
Every time I hear this song, I'm reminded of a certain Team Fortress 2 map that we used to play all the time.
FUTURECOP! — N.A.S.A. / THEOPHILUS LONDON — "HUMDRUM TOWN"
When the rain falls
And the night crawls down
Yeah you got me here
In this humdrum town
These lyrics, which come from Theophilus's addition of vocals to Futurecop!'s energetic-yet-introspective instrumental track "N.A.S.A.", pair perfectly to create the ultimate rainy-day song — regardless of whether the rain is inside your mind out outside your window.
RAY LYNCH — "CELESTIAL SODA POP"
This song, and the remainder of the album this song is a part of, became my go-to "staying up all night and most of the morning" album.
It is existent enough to not lull me to sleep, but is friendly enough to not make my ears feel fatigued, the way more aggressive music tends to do with prolonged listening.
ANBERLIN — "ALEXITHYMIA"
One of the first CDs I ever purchased was Anberlin's Cities: Special Edition. Still one of my favorite albums of all time, this alternative rock album contains plenty of songs to relate to or be introspective about.
Don't try to wake me up even if the sun really does come out tomorrow
Me, most days.
There's more to living than being alive
Also me, most days.
I've never not wanted to be alive, but that doesn't mean I'm always aware of what I should be doing in life, or how to live a fulfilling life/day/moment.
Oh, and alexithymia means "emotional blindness." Something I feel like I might have, if free online tests are anything to go by.
THE MOUNTAIN GOATS — "TRANSCENDENTAL YOUTH"
While the fire climbs
Sing one for the old times
One roommate and I would sing "karaoke" (me playing guitar while we both sang) so often and for so long that it actually began to affect our performance in school, I think.
Not that we were all that great at school to begin with, our late and noisy acoustic nights were certainly of no help, except they certainly had a positive effect on our mental health.
I can't speak for my former roommate, but these "apartment sessions" were one of the few occasions I felt alive, or just anything other than existential dread and melancholy-induced paralysis.
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE — "GRAPEVINE FIRES"
The firemen worked in double shifts
With prayers for rain on their lips
And they knew it was only a matter of time...
The song ends after these lyrics, but my roommate and I, for some reason, preferred a more dismal rendering of this song, replacing an implied bad ending with an explicit bad ending.
Instead of ending the song here, I would keep playing guitar, and we'd re-sing this previous portion of the song:
Before we all burn
Before we all burn
Before we all burn
Before we all burn
LITTLE GREEN CARS — "THE JOHN WAYNE"
It's easy to fall in love
It's easy to be alone
It's easy to hate yourself
When all your love is inside someone else
It's easy to take it all
It's easy to give it, too
When there's more people out there to love
Than people who love you
These lyrics speak for themselves.
I would listen to this song to make myself feel worse about myself, and the song's aggressive kick drum helps hammer home the song's message into my fragile mind, until the tempo picks up and simultaneously makes me feel both good and bad about myself.
LANGHORNE SLIM AND THE LAW — "THE WAY WE MOVE"
To me, this artist's music sounds the way summer feels on my skin.
Well all my friends got crooked tales
That’s the way I like it, that’s just what I need
I didn't fit in in college, and I don't know if my friends really did either.
I, of course, stood out far more than they did, but they were different from the run-of-the-mill [REDACTED] student in that they didn't really care for school events or trying hard to fit in and be social. They were special, but they also excelled at school.
I was only the former, and only in a bad way.
MGMT — "KIDS"
Everyone probably knows this song, so I won't say anything other than that I love this song and that listening to it was a surefire way to remind myself of home and my family.
Oh, and this version of the song is better than the version on Oracular Spectacular.
GRIMES — "GENESIS"
My friend and I saw Grimes live and it was everything you'd want a concert to be.
ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE — "UPSIDE DOWN FROM HERE"
I know what it feels like
To be upside-down from here
I played this song once at an open-mic night and botched it. I felt bad and couldn't fall asleep that night for the longest time. Then, when I woke up, I still felt bad.
If "upside-down from here" refers to confusion and sadness, I know what it feels like.
OKKERVIL RIVER — "OUR LIFE IS NOT A MOVIE OR MAYBE"
I'm taking two words from a song containing many, many other words, so that I can accurately say this song describes my time at college.
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS — "BIRDHOUSE IN YOUR SOUL"
A feel-good song about one's only friend — the "blue canary in the outlet by the light switch." But, it also might not be a friend.
This is one of those songs where the sung words flow so well that it just sounds nice to hear the singer sing them all in succession, even if you don't care to pay attention to the lyrics.
Returning to something that sucks as much as college, after being "free" for a short period of time (ie. summer), is worse than experiencing it the first time.
It's probably for this reason that my second year was a time where I cleared away all these poppy tracks to make room for punk, ska, folk-punk, and other, more "angsty" kinds of music.
I would blast this music quite loudly while I worked (if my roommate was gone), because I found that doing so was able to prevent me from feeling bad about not being able to solve any problems or make any progress on my work.
If the music is loud enough, you won't be able to hear your thoughts. This is especially ideal if your thoughts are mostly negative or useless.
All this and more, in part 2.