A nostalgia-fueled, forward-looking playlist for students returning home

Here’s a nostalgic and reflective 10 song guide for these strange times

sharon-van-etten-belly-up-2012

Settle in with these songs from Sharon Van Etten, Hozier and more that embrace a mixture of nostalgia for the past and curiosity about the future.

Courtesy Tristan Loper

It seems pretty safe to say that everyone’s plans have just been upended in some way — certainly fourth-years’. How many things did I unknowingly do for the last time? Is there even going to be a graduation ceremony? As you set off on your travels home or are bunkered down thinking about the unexpected, you can settle in with these songs and embrace a mixture of nostalgia for the past and curiosity about the future.

“Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Responsible for catapulting the indie darling band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to notoriety in 2009, “Home” is an unrelentingly upbeat jam. The lyrics focus on not about the act of going home, but about who and what makes a home. As incredibly cheesy as that sounds, this song is a pure pick-me-up escapism that will comfort and excite you whether you are home or if you have found yourself stranded somewhere. If you’re lonely or bored, do yourself a favor and watch any live performance of the song on YouTube.

“Pictures of You” by The Cure

With everyone currently deep in their feelings and filled with questions, The Cure’s single from their 1989 album “Disintegration” epitomizes the yearning for things unreachable in the past. Perhaps your college career has come to a weird and abrupt end and you’re thinking about times and people who have come in and out of your life or you’re just going with the flow. This angst-ridden yet gorgeously melodic tune — featuring one of the all-time greatest intros — will move you whether you like it or not. 

“Moon River” by Frank Ocean

While there are touches of nostalgia, Frank Ocean’s 2018 updated cover of “Moon River” — written by Johnny Mercer and originally composed by Henry Mancini — is a slow and dreamy melodic ballad that ponders the possibilities of the future. Ocean’s crooning of his original lyrics “It’s such a crazy world you’ll see” and “We’re all chasin’ after our ends” are simple but entirely relatable. Frank Ocean is the decided master of romance, and this gorgeous performance lulls and provokes a hopeful feeling about whatever the future may have in store.

“No Plan” by Hozier

This song is the reminder to take things in stride and not let the future terrorize you. I dedicate this song to anyone currently freaking out about a lab or thesis project that is probably impossible to complete through an online portal while at home, and for those of us who have yet to make definitive graduation plans and who have now found ourselves prematurely thrusted back into our childhood bedrooms. In this song from his 2019 album “Wasteland, Baby!” Hozier assures us that at the end of the day “There’s no plan, there’s no race to be run / The harder the pain, honey, the sweeter the sun.” 

“Goin’ Home” by Dan Auerbach

Yes, this song is as sentimental as the title suggests, but sometimes an overly sentimental indie folk song is exactly what traveling requires. “Goin’ Home” is featured in the 2009 debut solo album of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach “Keep It Hid,” and is a sweet reminder to appreciate what you’ve got going for you even if you think you want more. The simple composition of the instrumentation and Auerbach’s folky voice evokes calm imagery of journeying, making it a perfect accompaniment for a flight or car ride home.

“Comeback Kid” by Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten’s “Comeback Kid” from her 2019 album “Remind Me Tomorrow” is an anthem satisfyingly rooted in rock and roll. If you feel down-and-out or are beyond sick of people asking you what you’re planning on doing with your major after graduation — an answer that’s probably even more complicated now — this song is designed to make you revel in whatever you’re doing and whatever situation you’re in. 

“The News from Your Bed” by Bishop Allen

I can’t tell whether it’s cruel or not for me to include this song, but I get a big kick out of it and it’s definitely going to apply to a lot of people going through cabin fever. From Bishop Allen’s 2007 album “The Broken String,” this song has a light, cutesy melody that is strikingly juxtaposed by the dark comedy of the lyrics. Absurdism is prominently demonstrated by the lyrics, “There’s a mouse in cupboard that nibbles your crumbs / And you talk to him every night / You say, ‘Hey, Mr. Whiskers, I’m bored and I’m numb / You can stay if you just treat me right.’” — admit it, that’s bizarrely great.

“Homecoming” by Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter’s 2015 album “Sermon on the Rocks” is just a great piece of work to listen to in general, with every song having fun, very thought-out lyrics. “Homecoming” is a perfect climbing tune that builds with emotion and anticipation about the future, but also of the exhilaration of what it means to return to the place where you spent your childhood. It’s about making plans and appreciating what has made you into who you are. There’s always time to change and for renewal. I recommend checking out the music video, which is composed of photographs of hometowns and cities around the world that were sent to Ritter by fans — Charlottesville is included.

“No Expectations” by The Rolling Stones

With pretty much all expectations for what 2020 might look like being blown out the door, you can take solace in The Rolling Stones’ 1968 song “No Expectations” as a return to an acoustic classic. The refrain “I’ve got no expectations / To pass through here again” is pretty hard-hitting — especially as it pertains to graduating fourth-years. While the song’s insistence that all things end is a melancholic sentiment, Mick Jagger’s delivery has always seemed like a soft cry to keep going despite the closing of a chapter.

“The greatest” by Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey’s 2019 album “Norman F—king Rockwell!” is how we started off the school year, and now it feels appropriate to end the year as we know it with Del Rey’s haunting ode to days gone by. She evokes simpler times, sunshine and pink and orange sunsets — a welcome reprieve from this wet, everlasting Virginia winter and the increasingly complicated state of the entire world. A dreamy encapsulation of most college-aged people’s interior struggles, “The greatest” asks whether you should allow yourself to simply drift off or begin dealing with the present — no matter how bewildering and unromantic it may be. With this being the finale of the playlist, I wish you all well. In the words of Del Rey, “If this is it, I’m signin’ off.”

related stories