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CSP: Contemporary Studies Playlist

How do we survive this scourge? With music, of course.

[box type=”info”] Ed. note: Be advised that many of these songs contain profanity. And please, please wear headphones in the library. [/box]

The great madness is setting upon us. Essays. Exams. Seminars. How do we survive this scourge? With music, of course. It fuels the greatest works, from theses to drunken FYP papers. We’ve all got writing playlists, but why not mix it up? Inspired by the Contemporary Studies Program, I’ve devised a song list devoted to themes of isolation, insanity and existential dread. The perfect pick-me-up! Consider this your Pokemon starter song list. Feel free to mix up the order and add tunes you think complement the selection. Let’s get down to business.

Building Steam with a Grain of Salt – DJ Shadow

A relentlessly moody track driven by an unstoppable beat. The repetitive piano chords heighten the sense of dread. Perfect for walking around Halifax while waiting for essay inspiration.

Beetlebum – Blur

What else could get you in the existentialist mood better than a song about crippling heroin addiction? Beetlebum is darker than most Blur songs without sacrificing the pop appeal. It’s the harrowing voyage into inescapable drug use that’ll be stuck in your head for days.

Live Forever – Oasis

More Britpop! Dante Alighieri, poet and video game icon, tells us in Purgatory we repeat the same tasks as penance for our sins. Oasis is the embodiment of this notion, forever trapped in 1996, churning out the same bombastic arena rock anthems well past their expiry date. It was their punishment for the incredible arrogance of the Gallagher brothers, one they were relieved from when the band ascended to Heaven (a.k.a. broke up). But before they became a parody of themselves, they released this perfect confection of British rock. Hopeful yet cautious, it’s a spectacular song about the tension between dreams and reality.

LoveStoned – Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake is a philosophical genius. FutureSex/LoveSounds is clearly inspired by the thinking of the modern age and this song is no exception. Showing clear influence from infamous philosopher/pervert Georges Bataille, the song illustrates the moment where love crosses the line into death, questioning if such a line ever existed. Adoration and mortality are entwined, wrapped in a deadly ballet. Only by pushing to the furthest extreme of death can one experience true love. It’s a masterpiece of eroticism-as-philosophy. And, you know, a maddeningly catchy concoction of perfect pop. Either way, it’s a great listen.

The Healer – Mick Jenkins

In Mick Jenkins’ world, water is everything. Water drives us forward and keeps us alive. Without it, we’re lost. Jenkins is more philosophical than most rappers, making him a great fit for CSP. In this song, water is the almighty healer, a balm for all wounds. An excellent track for when you’re submerged (PUN!) in an essay.

Smooth Flow – Neil Cicierega

Neil Cicierega is a madman. An artist who reveres music while seeking to annihilate it. The epitome of a modern musician; building while destroying. No amount of academic posturing and pontificating can explain this song. You just have to listen to it. All I can say is this: Smash Mouth meets Rob Thomas in a dark alley.

Ready to Die – Andrew W.K.

Andrew W.K. is a nice guy. A genuinely nice guy. But he wants to destroy you. Destroy you and rebuild you in the image of the Party. For the Party is the truest form of life. Party brings us to the edge and dangles us over the cliff. Party is the ultimate philosophy. Ready to Die is a Viking death march, demolishing everything in its path. It is pure affirmation. Also, it gives this list a good shot of adrenaline to the heart.

1979 – Smashing Pumpkins

Nietzsche condemns nostalgia as a trap. It holds us back from the greatness of the present. 1979 is one such trap; a dreamy trip back in time. But can’t we learn from the past? Isn’t there knowledge to be gleaned from our childhoods? No? Whatever, this song’s perfect, so it stays on the list.

The Vampyre of Time and Memory – Queens of the Stone Age

A hollow husk wandering through a desolate landscape. Memory and time have been rendered meaningless. There is nothing left. Queens of the Stone Age don’t paint with bright colours, leaving the listener drained and beaten, but oddly inspired. That’s CSP.

No Exit – Childish Gambino

Jean-Paul Sartre seems to get a bad rap in philosophy. Is he just a piñata for people’s aggressions against existentialism, an effigy of frustration? Was his idea of Radical Freedom too extreme to be accepted? Or is it simply because bearded coffee-shop philosophers misquote him at every opportunity? Whatever it is, Childish Gambino gives the French thinker a fair shake with this intense, paranoid and claustrophobic nightmare song named after the famous play. Bristling with anger and madness, Gambino captures the feeling of perpetual entrapment.

My Body is a Cage – Arcade  Fire

It’s King’s. An Arcade Fire song is mandatory.

Cut Copy – Walking in the Sky

The final paragraph. A moment of elation tinged with anxiety. So close. You just need to tie everything together. Then you’re free. This is the song for the moment when you type in the final period. Pure bliss.

Backseat Freestyle – Kendrick Lamar

Aww yeah! Celebration time! You did it. You’re done. No more papers for four months. Kendrick Lamar is the best way to relish your freedom. Savour it.

Don’t like jumping between musicians? Prefer to stick with one genre? Here are a few albums that capture the CSP mentality.

  • Mick Jenkins – The Waters

  • Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

  • Radiohead – OK Computer or Kid A

  • Blur – 13

  • Neil Cicierega – Mouth Sounds/Mouth Silence

  • MGMT – Congratulations

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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