Need a playlist for those long walks across Grounds? These University student originals will keep the good vibes going from the Corner to the Chemistry Building. From acoustic indie to alternative rock, listen to the best of the University’s creative Cavaliers.
“Burning Innocence” by tal
First-year College student Natalia Leaf recently released her first single as tal, marking the start of a promising musical career. With smoky vocals well-suited to her lyrics, tal sings about her “Burning Innocence” in a song crackling with fiery wordplay. tal packs her songwriting with vivid imagery — she’s “speeding through smoke” and can “feel the heat” of the blazing glory of her youth.
“Harder to see the truth getting older / Sixteen, I’m stuck in a world with no corners,” tal sings, ornamenting her runs with a light vibrato reminiscent of a trembling flame.
tal plans to release another single and an EP in the near future. Keep an eye on this rising talent — word of her vocal and lyrical gifts might spread like wildfire.
“Hockey Hands” by Maxwell Mitchell ft. Roisin Queally
First-year College student Maxwell Mitchell has already made his mark on the University music scene as the frontman of the Krispies, a student band that performs at local house shows. Mitchell’s solo projects, spanning three albums and a number of singles, draw on influences like Hozier, Vampire Weekend and the Beatles.
Mitchell’s indie rock-esque sound shines on “Hockey Hands,” a track off his most recent album “Human Journals.”
“Cause I still think about hockey hands and weekend plans,” Mitchell sings in a catchy pre-chorus and refrain that will get stuck in any listener’s head.
“I Don’t Hate You” by Mary Low
Second-year College student Mary Hall made her debut last semester with “I Don’t Hate You,” a forgiving ode inspired by a friendship breakup.
“If we’re both broken / Why am I the one left picking up the pieces? / Leaving my hands bloody / As you hobble back leaving a trail of glass,” Hall writes, echoing the melancholy metaphors oft-employed by her artistic influences, Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski and mxmtoon.
“I’ve always been a part of a musical family,” Hall said, who first wrote and performed an original song at thirteen.
One might hear Hall’s variety of singer-songwriter jazz in a tasteful downtown café. A saxophone riff and the swish of a drum kit underscore her soulful vocal harmonies. Hall pieced the track together in an audio studio in Clemons Library — a humble beginning for an endlessly listenable breakout single.
“Boutique” by Snivys
Lofi beats producer Snivys is first-year College student Jack Ireland, a composer and multi-instrumentalist. A growing name with over 15,000 listeners on Spotify, Snivys has produced five albums and a collection of standalone projects.
Snivys creates electronic beats and soothing soundscapes using Logic Pro X. His “Unova is Home” albums — an original video game soundtrack in two volumes — blend both styles in an auditory exploration of Pokémon Black & White’s fictional Unova region. Ireland borrows his artist name from the pokémon Snivy, a character from the same game — and Ireland’s favorite pokémon.
On “Boutique,” his most recent single, Ireland layers a jazzy keyboard melody with pulsing chords and a steady drum kit beat. With its soothing lofi ambiance, this track works equally well as a soundtrack for studying or gaming.
“I Need to See Somebody” by Hunter Carleton
“FaceTime and emojis are all we’ve got / To get this feeling of emptiness to stop.” Thus begins fourth-year College student Hunter Carleton’s all-too-relatable pandemic-era track, “I Need to See Somebody.”
The track captures the feelings of isolation, loneliness and listlessness many experienced under pandemic restrictions. Carleton’s addictive hook, punctuated with percussive lyrics, sounds like the frustrated mental spiral of a person who has been “walking down these empty streets” for too long.
An early love of guitar sparked Carleton’s musical genesis. “I Need to See Somebody” features Carleton’s father, also a guitarist, playing a solo that Carleton added in lieu of a lyrical bridge.
“He heard me recording [the track] and producing it in my room, and after I showed him what I had, he asked if he could play the solo,” says Carleton. “To which I, of course, said yes.”
“miss opportunity” by Alexandra Kerr
On her mournful piano ballad “miss opportunity,” second-year College student Alexandra Kerr sings from the perspective of a heartbroken wedding guest watching the love of her life marry someone else.
“I’m just what could have been something,” the singer laments as happily-ever-after crumbles in front of her. Kerr cites Taylor Swift as an early songwriting influence, and “miss opportunity” feels like a sadder spin on Swift’s “Speak Now.”
“I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember,” Kerr said, who taught herself production during the pandemic. Kerr plans to release an album within the year — be sure to give it a listen for more powerful vocals and thoughtful lyricism.
“Never Coming Back” by Andy Heil
Electric guitar and driving drum beats back second-year College student Andy Heil on “Never Coming Back,” a track off his 2021 rock album “Apathetic.” Heil’s sound channels 2010s-era alternative rock with a flair for emo lyricism in the vein of Green Day.
Heil independently records, composes, produces and distributes his music, which he mixes using the audio software Logic Pro X.
“I learned how to do it all in high school and I attribute it to being a big reason I got into U.Va.,” Heil says of his ability to craft textured tracks and sing them with skill. In some songs, Heil layers as many as ten vocal parts, singing in a gritty yet melodic base.
“Nighthawks” by Holly Teti
A minimalist guitar arrangement, a rich alto voice and poetic lyricism make second-year College student Holly Teti’s “Nighthawks” an intimate, reflective listen. The final track on Teti’s EP “In a Hazy Green Light” pays musical homage to the painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper, a modernist piece on display at the Chicago Art Institute.
Teti said she “was knee-deep in art history studying” at the end of her first semester at the University when she penned “Nighthawks,” spending most of her songwriting time outside of the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library.
“I wanted to capture the melancholy feeling that exists inside that painting,” says Teti of her inspiration.
Even the timbre of Teti’s voice reminds a listener of brush strokes. There’s something bittersweet and wistful in her tone as she sings about wanting to be “far away.” One can almost imagine her song painting Hopper’s modern masterpiece before their eyes, rendering a scene “where people sit and drink alone in a hazy green light.”
Spanning a range of genres and styles, these originals reflect the varied talents of the University’s student musicians. Give these emerging artists a listen for the perfect college soundtrack.
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