Music to Rock School With

As I pointed out last week, school is back, and most of us now have a list filled with last minute things to do. Sure, topping it might be practical things like textbooks, binders, pens, and party juice, and that means a lot of hours spent frantically spending far too much money on ergonomic ‘deluxe’ plastic binders at the chain-store office rip-off that is Staples. Last minute cleanses like mine last week (impractical and deadly when they tell you not to drink your usual insane doses of caffeine on a daily basis) might be thinning you down for Frosh, or just for getting a head start on cafe food; credit card statements might be screaming in protest with money spent on current heights of fashion that are bound to be thrown aside in favour of sweatpants on any given day of res life. With all this shopping going on, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve forgotten to buy (and/or download) arguably the most important thing you’re gonna need for the school year: new music that’s either the height of pop culture, so obscure you can impress Lunik with it, or jazzy enough you can turn your bed/res room into a mini Starbucks.

This year’s back to school season, which I’m going to count up to around November, is already heating up between three big releases – the edgy, brash Gaga and ARTPOP, Katy Perry’s radio-friendly, typical pop Prism, and the wildcard, Miley Cyrus with Ballerz. As a devout Lady Gaga fan, my natural preference is towards ARTPOP, but I’m not too blind to accept that Applause is by far not the best or most innovative single that’s out from the three of them yet. There’s a reason she’s stressing that Applause almost didn’t get on the album – her record insisted it be the lead single, which obviously wasn’t the smartest decision. If you’re lucky enough to find an unpitched version of Aura/Burqa, that’s the sound I’m hoping ARTPOP follows.

Right now, I’m actually throwing myself on to the crazy bandwagon of Miley Cyrus, because she’s creating the most discussion and most polished music of the three, while challenging what everyone has come to think of her. So, if only to balance the wild, controversial We Can’t Stop, Miley’s second single is supposed to show her vulnerable, mature side, which Wrecking Ball does quite nicely.

Now, I can hear music lovers screaming that Miley Cyrus is about as unclassy and untalented as can be. For you difficult people who like the accessibility of pop music but prefer a bit of the rockier edge, I offer up the band Parachute as tribute. They’re like Hedley, or old school Boys Like Girls, except fairly unheard of (other than some songs used to advertise Nivea commercials – #sellouts). They’re on to their third album, Overnight, and I’d choose Higher, Overnight, Waiting For That Call, and Meant to Be as my favs from the album.

Now to get more obscure. Some of my favourite indie and alt rock bands that have been on constant play lately are a band by the name of San Cisco, especially Beach, which has a pretty awesome synth background to it.  Another band, Relient K, is actually pretty well known, but because of their Christian label don’t get near the respect they deserve – their new album, Collapsible Lung, has some great songs like the title song, Don’t Blink (quite relevant for uni), PTL, and If I Could Take You Home.

Another great alt rock band would be The 1975, which is starting to get recognized. Their English accents are priceless, and their most recent single, Chocolate, is starting to rack up the views. My favourite song by them is called Sex (above). Another good eighties-sounding British band is the group CHVRCHES, which until now has been doing mostly remixes of other artist’s songs. Check out Gun by them, as well as Lies.

For a flair of French (though unfortunately sang 95% in English), Paris-area band Phoenix had a new album out this summer as well, one made for driving in my mind. S.O.S. in Bel Air was on in my car at home for the entire four days I was back in Ottawa, and has a great shout-out-loud lead.

Lastly, to inject a little bit of LGBT* into your playlist, two great and very different artists have just come on to the music scene with really good media coverage. The first, Steve Grand, is getting attention as ‘the first openly gay country music singer’ (which is kind of a lie), and the second, Mary Lambert, is famous for a certain chorus with Macklemore. Both videos are adorable and have all the feelz, but there’s a trick to watching Mary Lambert’s, called She Keeps Me Warm. Go to this website and watch the video there – it isn’t officially available on Vevo yet. Steve Grand’s video, meanwhile, is below, and if you say I’m biased towards him, I’ll say take one look at his biceps and try not agreeing with me 🙂

All those songs are guaranteed to get you studying harder every night, and some can even be conversation starters. Of course, poor student budget means that you might not get new music again for a while, so stock up on your parents’ or siblings’ iTunes while you can! If you have a favourite song for the new school year, let me know below ! In the meantime, download all the songs in bold to get you started, and don’t forget to take a breather in the back-to-school panic!

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