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This is an odd time for me. I’m about to graduate, but I’m only one of a handful of students graduating in December, rather than one of hundreds. My emotions are an odd mix of melancholy and excitement and trying desperately to stay focused on my final papers and projects. For this, my last Her Campus article, I decided to lean into the nostalgia air and present a playlist with songs that roughly correspond to experiences from the beginning of my freshman year to now.



Part One: “The Stable Song,” Gregory Alan Isakov; “Old Pine,” Ben Howard

Freshman year was the apex of my introversion. I met lovely people and formed the foundations for some of my most important relationships, but overall, I was lonely, confused, and scared a lot of the time. One thing that helped me get through especially low moments was listening to the Ben Howard radio station on Pandora. When I turned it on, I knew I’d hear a mix of songs that seemed to cradle me in their melodies and assure me that things would be alright. “The Stable Song” was the first song that played for me when I started the station, and it’s still one of my favorites (bonus points for an Ohio reference!). “Old Pine” is warm and contented and reminds me of my friends.


Part Two: “Elevate,” St. Lucia; “Helena Beat,” Foster the People

Sophomore year was when I really started to feel like part of the Kenyon community. At the end of the first semester, my friend Amy asked me to be an assistant stage manager for the Fall Dance Concert, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity and that I said yes. After the last performance, the tech people had our own small after party, which was the first time I heard “Elevate,” a song that perfectly captured my mood at the time. I don’t remember the first time I heard “Helena Beat,” but I do remember it affecting me so much I didn’t want to listen to it too often. One specific memory I have of it is the music video playing in my friends’ Caples suite the night before we went home: a seemingly endless, delirious, and important time.


Part Three: “Wait For It,” Leslie Odom Jr. and Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton; “River Flows in You,” Yiruma; “Meet Me in the Woods,” Lord Huron

Junior year (my time in Exeter and at home taking a semester off) was a bit of a tough time (even more so than freshman year in a lot of ways) but still had moments of happiness and grace. In Exeter, many of my flatmates and fellow Kenyon students were obsessed with the musical Hamilton. I resisted listening to the soundtrack for months, until after I’d been back in Vermont for a while, but the first song I heard was in the dining room of my Exeter flat. “Wait For It” is heartbreaking but tender, a statement of identity that doesn’t shy away from pain. In Exeter, there’s a large central building with administrative offices, classrooms, and various places to eat. There’s also a large atrium with a piano, where one day I heard someone playing the most beautiful song. Though I didn’t pull up Shazam fast enough to catch it, sometime later I heard the same song being played and found “River Flows in You.” It was as if the universe was throwing me a mental lifesaver, or at least trying to assure me not everything was darkness. “Meet Me in the Woods” is important to me in a way that’s hard to describe. Suffice to say I first heard it around this time two years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since.


Part Four: “Keep Your Head Up,” Ben Howard; “Run for Those Hills, Babe,” Tom Rosenthal; “Brand New,” Ben Rector

Ben Howard shows up again, representing a time when I found it hard to do what the song says and reminding me again of some special and loving friends (shoutout to Katherine and Amy). Now, technically I didn’t hear “Run for Those Hills, Babe,” until last year (thanks, Megan!), but the music video is so pure and lovely and hopeful, and it captures in some odd and intangible way what the whole Exeter experience meant to me, or maybe what I want it to mean. “Brand New” captures a moment of utter joy during the summer when I saw a Kenyon friend again after a long and tough six months.


Part Five: “Tokyo Sunrise,” LP; “00000 Million,” Bon Iver

LP’s song, heard on a friend’s radio show (thanks, Marc!), captures the sense of hopefulness and energy I felt at the beginning of last year and that has persisted till now, though often in subtler ways. Before last year, I knew of Bon Iver, as many songs from his self-titled album came up on the Ben Howard Pandora station, but I didn’t feel any particular excitement about his new album. Until that is, I was invited to a listening party for it on the day it was released. Listening to the album in an NCA living room, comfortable in the company of friends, was a transcendent experience, and after the last strains of “00000 Million” faded out, I felt completely at peace (and a little sad that there were no more songs).


Part Six: “About the Weather,” Tom Rosenthal; “NoLo,” Grace Mitchell; “Anna Sun,” Walk the Moon

I came to the Tom Rosenthal fan club a little late, but I’m glad I have friends with good taste in music! Maybe it’s just because of when and where I heard it, but “About the Weather” represents the bittersweet nature of college friendships—how we form into such close, important communities that have a clear end date for a certain stage of them. “NoLo” came into my life via an unknown person who suggested it for the soundtrack to Emma Brown’s “Tiny Hill Adventures” exhibit. It also taps into some personal confidence I was rediscovering at the time.

Part Seven: “New York,” The Milk Carton Kids; “Young Man in America,” Anaïs Mitchell

This section could be subtitled “or, grateful to know people with good taste in music.” At the beginning of this semester, I was introduced to The Milk Carton Kids, and I am eternally grateful. Prologue, their first album, is full of gems with delightful harmonies and guitar playing (also available as a free download on the band’s website!). I first encountered Anaïs Mitchell’s music last year when I listened to her Hadestown album, but I hadn’t gone beyond that. Then, on the long drive back from Chicago after October break (thanks, Robyn-Phalen!), I was awoken from a semi-slumber by the strains of “Young Man in America.” The song has an epic feel and makes me think of someone crossing the wilderness in search of their destiny. It also feels like a good way to end this playlist, given its forward-looking aesthetic!


While there are many more songs I’ve encountered throughout my time here at Kenyon, I kept the “official” playlist to the ones listed above for the sake of conciseness and narrative clarity. Some honorary mentions include “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy (shoutout to Emily, I can’t hear early-2000’s pop-punk without thinking of you), “Timothy” by The Tallest Man on Earth, and “The Computer Song” from Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. Thank you to everyone who’s introduced me to music, knowingly or not, and thank you, Kenyon, for the time I’ve spent here.


Images: Feature, 1, 2, 3, 4


Katie is a senior (well, basically, it's a long story) English major and history minor from Woodstock, Vermont.
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