Fall 2021 Special Issue official graphic. Check out The Statesman Back to Campus playlist. Graphic by JOCELYN CRUZ/THE STATESMAN

What better way to start off the year at Stony Brook University than with a festive frenzy of songs designed perfectly for the back-to-school season? An eclectic mix of the vintage and the modern, you’ll be humming this back-to-school playlist as you make the dreaded walk across campus this fall semester.

This playlist’s inaugural number is “Dark Red” by Steve Lacy. So niche and underground, right? And still, one of Tik Tok’s latest musical infatuations opens this mix. Pitchfork concurs the ditty is worth the number one spot, with its “big beautiful strings, a funky bassline, and coos to rival the sweetest of doves.”

Lacy’s jam worthy track is the perfect song for head-bopping on the way to class or as the backdrop for a good study sesh; the soft R&B underbelly makes it gentle on the ears for any kind of casual listening, not to mention its lyrics that will stick with you long past when the leaves change color.

The second track in this list is another recent melodic phenomenon called “Meet Me in the Hallway” by Harry Styles. The inclusion of Styles’ soft rock hit is twofold; first, the almost too obvious connection for residential Stony Brook students is the idea of meeting friends and hall-mates in the hallway between dorms, ready to engage in all the autumn activities around campus. Second, the folksy guitar-centric instrumentals offer the perfect cozy backing track for such gatherings amongst newly-made friends, offering a wonderful introduction to the fall season and to each other.

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At our halfway point, we have the recent indie-pop hit “It Gets Better” by Rex Orange County. NPR Music considered this song’s album, Pony, to be “detailed with unrelenting clarity and maturity,” making it a great addition to this mix.

“It Gets Better” is the perfect reminder that though things may seem difficult at the moment — like when the mound of textbooks on your desk only keeps growing — that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. The song’s underlying disco beat and encouraging lyrics create the perfect atmosphere for a mid-homework pick-me-up, often much needed by many Seawolves as the fall semester kicks into gear.

Fourth on this list is the grungy hit by The Smashing Pumpkins, “1979.” This ‘90s nostalgia trip caresses you with the crisp fall air as Billy Corgan’s unique vocals and infectious guitar riffs craft the perfect image of autumn adventures. The singer’s musings about the rollercoaster of emotions that come with adolescence — angst, joy and uncertainty — will hit home with nearly every college student reminiscing on their high school years. Queue up this alternative rock favorite when you need a taste of youth and bask in the captivating sound that will fill both your headphones and your heart.

The fifth track on our playlist is “Black Coffee” by Sarah Vaughan — you’ll be hard-pressed to find a college student who can’t relate to the singer’s jazzy 1949 tune. Many young academics will find themselves sighing in solidarity as Vaughan croons about her lack of sleep and struggles with the inevitable “Sunday Blues” we often feel at the start of a new school week.

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The female jazz powerhouse’s most notable track provides the perfect transition into the cooler weather with its silky vocals and sultry woodwinds, making it an excellent choice for a sleepy autumn Monday morning accompanied by a nice cup of — what else — black coffee.

To wrap up our fall-time mix, we have the seventies heartbreaker, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Stevie Nicks’ epic folk-rock masterpiece expertly illustrates the idea of coping with transition, a struggle for all college students as the new year opens; whether it’s a wide-eyed freshman or an overtired senior, every Seawolf can relate to the singer’s musings about growing up, moving on, and being terrified of the road that lies ahead.

“Landslide” made it to number five on the Billboard chart just this past year, and for good reason. The emotional track serves as the perfect refuge for times when things feel unsure; even the biggest rock stars feel lost sometimes too.

Our two honorable mentions satisfy both ends of the spectrum: those desperately clinging to the last licks of summer and those sprinting to Roth Starbucks for pumpkin spice lattes. The Neighbourhood’s “Stargazing” has an upbeat, bouncy tune that recounts reckless summer adventures, while Billie Holiday’s “Autumn in New York” offers vivid descriptions of the beauty of the city in the throes of the season.

This playlist and its lovely additions will hopefully capture the intense variety of emotions that autumn brings and provide the soundtrack for the next stage in your academic journey.

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