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Audiophiles: Sympathetic Survival Guide

How to cope with your first semester living away from home.

By Entertainment

Living on your own can be tough – there will be weeks when you have to decide between food, alcohol or art supplies, because you sure as hell can’t afford it all. You may find yourself working your butt off at multiple jobs, struggling to pay rent and constantly worrying about one of the cockroaches in your shoddy apartment complex crawling into the bottom of your laundry basket. Through it all, you should know you are not alone. You can find some solace to your dejection in the following songs.


“Cheap Beer”
FIDLAR (2013)

This song epitomizes the moment when you find yourself unselfconsciously paying for a 40 oz beer with pocket change. With the chorus of “I drink cheap beer / so what / fuck you,” FIDLAR (which stands for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk”) shouts what every 20-something is thinking during that particular sloshed and turbulent instance. The music video features FIDLAR running around parties, knocking fancy beers out of the hands of other party-goers and causing a general ruckus — a fundamental anthem for the crust punks, indeed.




2. Andrew Jackson Jihad
“Survival Song”
People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in
the World (2007)

Andrew Jackson Jihad’s folk-punk hymn of bittersweet truth and human flaws is a quintessential listen for someone in a place of self-reflection. Trying to figure out where you are in the world and what any of this means can be tough, and this Andrew Jackson Jihad album is an earnest way to get through those introspective periods. “Survival Song” will guide you through your misshapen dreams towards honesty and acknowledgment; we all screw up and we can all get better.



3. Daniel Johnston
“The Story of An Artist”
The Story of An Artist (2010)

Johnston’s brutally realistic story of the struggle of being an artist while also surviving both financially and socially offers insight into the artist’s battle with his or her family, friends and, in Johnston’s case, his mental health. The sympathy that Johnston offers listeners with melancholy lyrics is so potent that in your sadness you will at least feel a little less alone.


4. The Mountain Goats
“This Year”
The Sunset Tree (2005)

“The Sunset Tree” was an album that helped me get through both high school and college. Throughout, frontman John Darnielle sings tales of optimism from a pessimist’s point of view, verbalizing the anguish and awkwardness of growing up. Singing about escaping reality, breaking free when you are still discovering who you are, and the occasional pointlessness of youthful relationships, “This Year” is one of the standout tracks on the album. Through his lyrics, Darnielle finds a way to relive and reevaluate his past from a very personal point of view that puts the listener in his position.


5. Built to Spill
“You Were Right”
Keep it Like a Secret (1999)

“You Were Right” tells a tale of the hypocrisy and the conflicts of interest in everything we’re told growing up. Built to Spill examines the messages of several classic rock songs: “You were right when you said all that glitters isn’t gold / You were right when you said all we are is dust in the wind / You were right when you said we’re all just bricks in the wall / And when you said manic depression is a frustrated mess,” referencing Neil Young, Kansas, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, respectively. The song then becomes an analysis of pop music in general, referencing the words that the bands were influenced by growing up and where these testaments fall into play today. Attesting to the bitterness of being disappointed and let down by your hopes and dreams, and both the disillusionments and honesty that rock songs feed us when we are growing up, “You Were Right” is about relating music to life.



6. Noah and the Whale
Last Night on Earth (2011)

A sweet song about getting through rough times, Britpop band Noah and the Whale’s precious melody of “life goes on” will be stuck in your head for days. If you’re not into cutesy music, this may not be the song for you; but if you are, it’s poppy, catchy and adorable! Noah and the Whale vocalist Charlie Fink sounds like a toned down Ray Davies of The Kinks in this one. The riff is also pretty similar to that of the Kinks’ “Lola,” which is definitely a good thing.



7. Cloud Cult
“No One Said It Would Be Easy”
Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) (2008)

Cloud Cult has been one of the most influential bands in my life over the past decade — they’ve been releasing incredible music for years and I feel their brilliance has gone unnoticed by many. Their music is energetic and beautifully powerful, full of honesty and vigor. “No One Said It Would Be Easy” builds up from a light piano performance and blossoms into a strong, zealous track about life and love — “When it all comes crashing down / try to understand your meaning / no one said it would be easy.” The lyrics effectively hit the nail on the head, illustrating one of college’s tacit lessons.



8. Yellow Ostrich
“Marathon Runner”
Strange Land (2012)

This song is about being stuck, about giving up on dreams, running to an unknown end, being trapped in the middle of it all and not knowing where you’re going. This is a place that we all find ourselves in when thinking about careers, the future, and where we currently stand. “I am a marathon runner / and my legs are sore / and I’m anxious to see what I’m running for,” is a metaphor that can relate to practically anything — when you do so much and aren’t quite sure what the results are going to be, anxiety runs thick. The indie-folk flexibility of Yellow Ostrich belts out this spectacle with diverse and poppy instrumentation, giving listeners something to sing along to as we continue to sprint away from responsibility.



9. The Polyphonic Spree
“Light and Day”
Light and Day (2003)

The Polyphonic Spree is a cultish orchestra of people cheering happy sentiments at their audiences and performing in a gospel-like manner. This song is similar to the Yellow Ostrich pick in that it’s a commentary about the crushing weight of life, but it ends on a much more positive note. During their first few years of touring, the band would enter stage in long white robes, performing as a choral group — it was a super weird, almost religious experience. They later switched from the robes into black military suits, offering a completely different type of theatricailty. Their upbeat and symphonic choral pop is reliably uplifting, almost transformative in the way it can encompass the listener. “Light & Day” leaves listeners with the message to stay optimistic and to live in the
present moment

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