Let’s get one thing clear: music is the life of the mind-made manifest and there is perhaps no other time in life that needs extremely specific music than graduate school. For those grad students who are going into this new phase of their lives, I have taken it upon myself to assemble a number of albums that relate to extremely graduate school-specific moods for you to either enjoy or feel utter despair through.
“The Great War” by Sabaton (Nuclear Blast, 2019) for inspiration
Do you like Swedish power metal? Do you like history? Do you like songs about history played by a Swedish power metal band? Then you, my friend, have extremely specific tastes. This most recent effort by Sabaton, the leading purveyors of historically themed metal, is just right for those of us who not only need some inspirational material for historical essays, but also uplifting and empowering rock anthems. And there’s an acapella rendition of the song “In Flanders Fields,” so there.
“Wasting Light” by Foo Fighters (Roswell/RCA, 2011) for uplift
The Foo Fighters are always writing songs about new beginnings, overcoming adversity and just generally being in the faces (but in an eloquent way) of those who’ve wronged you. So I can’t imagine a better package deal for graduate students than “Wasting Light.” The centerpiece of the album is the closing track “Walk” and its accompanying music video, which portrays Dave Grohl as a pent-up salaryman wandering through a city just trying to get over his frustration. This album ranks among the band’s best, and its uplifting spirit is the kind of thing that all grad students should take with them into the professional world.
“Jar of Flies” by Alice in Chains (Columbia, 1994) for utter despair
I mean, yeah. If you’re going to be consumed by an inescapable mass of paralyzing existential dread, you might as well have a kicking EP to soundtrack it. The second track on this album, “Nutshell,” is on my shortlist as one of the saddest, most hopeless songs ever written in the English language. This record barely clocks in at over half an hour, and as such it is perfect for repeated playing. I don’t know about you, but if I ever find myself in such a quandary as I have described earlier in this paragraph, I don’t want to be bothered to switch out the record on my vintage gramophone with Louis XIV inlays (don’t ask).
“Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” by Dead Kennedys (Cherry Red Records, 1980) for earth-shattering and cataclysmic frustration the likes of which the world has never seen
When you will inevitably have a mental breakdown and be overwhelmed by a desire to go on a destructive rampage and gnaw at the ankles of a society that has seen fit to burden you with this way of life, please just listen to this album instead. Hardcore punk is designed to process and release those frustrations and petty grievances in a safe way, and Dead Kennedys is one of those bands that could not be less concerned with propriety and ordinary life. This makes them ideal for the kind of inconceivable anger that grad school can imbue you with.
Please do take what I have written with the satirical caveat that I hope has been made obvious. This has been a load of fun and there is an element of truth to the moods I have witnessed in graduate students (having lived with one for some time in my life, I suppose I can say that I know what I’m talking about). For you graduate students out there, please do whatever you want with what I have recommended to you. You might even find a completely different use for the albums, and in that case that’s pretty cool.