Soothing your semester scaries: your September Press-Playlist

Jaeden Pinder, Arts Editor

Let’s face it: no one is ever ready for summer to end, let alone ready to dive headfirst into a new semester. You can be a freshman or a senior, but those butterflies will flutter in your stomach nevertheless. Especially after a full year of classes on Zoom, having to readjust yet again with the return of in-person classes can be exciting but also intimidating.

Soundtracking your first month back at school and in the city, this September’s Press-Playlist is the perfect place for chill vibes to gear up for the fall semester. With so many acclaimed indie albums out this year, this edition consists of introductory songs from those records to start your semester off right.

Curated to curb any worries associated with the first month of a new school year, add these mellow tracks to your queue for library study days or your daily morning routine. You might need one song to calm your nerves before meeting new people or want some new tunes for your commute to campus; our picks are lush and cozy in their sound but introspective and relatable in their lyrics.

So sit back, relax and enjoy this month’s Press-Playlist. 

Faye Webster – Better Distractions

Faye Webster has been an anomaly of indie-folk for some time now, but with the release of her fourth album “I Know I’m Funny haha,” she has solidified her spot among the greats of this decade. The opener “Better Distractions” is a passive rumination on quarantined life and the desperate search for mental stimulation. In an interview with Pitchfork earlier this year, Webster said she was inspired by the music from the video game “Animal Crossing,” saying, “[Video games] just makes me happy. It’s nice to not take shit so seriously.” It’s clever enough that the video game served as a “better distraction” for many last March, but the score’s influence on the song is evident with her bouncy cadence. This song can hopefully be a better distraction from the intensity of the world around us.

Arlo Parks – Hurt

If you haven’t had the chance to listen to any of Parks’s music yet, no time is better than now. Coming off of winning this year’s Mercury Prize, “Hurt” is one of those tracks that tickle and scratch at the back corners of your brain in the best way possible. Reminiscent of Mitski’s “Nobody,” this song’s chorus is an instant earworm, and you’re bound to find yourself bobbing your head along even with its bleak yet hopeful lyrics. “Hurt” is familiar, enriching and inspiring when you realize that Parks is only 21 years old; anyone can empathize with her transparency. Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to get people to pay attention, and “Hurt” perfectly displays the U.K. artist’s talent and ability to do so.

Billie Eilish – Getting Older

“I’m happier than ever, at least, that’s my endeavor/To keep myself together and prioritize my pleasure” has never sounded further from the truth on the opening song of Eilish’s sophomore LP. “Getting Older” is deeply confessional, even for Billie who has lived all of her teenage life in the public eye. Lighter in its production, courtesy of FINNEAS, this opener is a different darkness from her debut record; rather than a monster hiding under your bed, this is a foreboding thunderstorm. With the ambient and plucking tones throughout the song, it almost seems like a clock ticking away as time passes by. For a young woman who has had nothing close to an ordinary life, she remains able to remain relatable to her fans and onlookers. 

Japanese Breakfast – Paprika

Michelle Zauner, the frontwoman of Japanese Breakfast, has spent two albums beautifully creating music that can make anyone grow weary just from her voice alone. Then when one reads her lyrics on paper, her work becomes even more profound. On “Paprika,” there is a focus on euphoria and relief and Zauner even sings it in the plainest of terms (“Oh, it’s a rush!”). Compared to most songs on this list, it’s by far the most maximal and complex, but it’s a welcome palate cleanser with how rhapsodic it is. “Paprika” is a triumphant march that can cure even the bluest of days and grayest skies that are to come this fall.

Clairo – Bambi

After almost quitting music altogether, Clairo turned towards folk and chamber pop with bittersweet musings of young adult life and resentments towards the music industry. She seemed to have perked up the ears of all to hear with this switch, echoing the sounds of Joni Mitchell. Being one of many artists this year to collaborate with pop’s hottest producer Jack Antonoff, this is probably the best of the batch because of how well it conveys its messages of instability without overstraining itself. Clairo’s voice, while understated, gains gravity and contains depth in “Bambi” in a way that hadn’t been fully recognized before. Even though “Sling” and this opening song came out back in July, it feels like the type of song you can strictly listen to in autumn and nothing more.

Rachel Chinouriri – Give Me A Reason

Another artist from across the pond and another artist that is extremely overlooked is Rachel Chinouriri. Originating from the drill and rap-loaded scene of Croydon, South London, she set out to define herself beyond those constraints, and “Four° in Winter’s” intro track exceeds these expectations she has set for herself. At its core, this song is the epitome of objectively beautiful R&B. But through the rest of it, the song is one that tugs at your heartstrings and bleeds with open honesty at the realization of falling out of love with someone. Even though she’s only at the beginning of her career (this being her second EP) you can already see the potential in Chinouriri’s vision. 

Lorde – The Path

Lorde wasn’t lying on “Melodrama” when she sang about disappearing into the sun given the complete change in direction on “Solar Power’s” opener “The Path.” Instead of the harsh neon lights that served as the visual markers for her previous LP, “The Path” substitutes this with natural, refreshing daylight. One of the most anticipated releases of this year thus far, “The Path” is a shocking but welcome transformation in Lorde’s career. Despite its sunny sound, the message of “The Path” is gloomy as Lorde rejects her duty as the messenger of our generation singing, “Now if you’re looking for a savior, well, that’s not me/You need someone to take your pain for you?/Well, that’s not me.” Like many artists who have been making music since their adolescence (Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, among others), it is moving to watch her mature from the angst and glamorizing of heartbreak to accepting the struggles of the human experience.