A typical NYU student’s ideal London playlist

A collection of British albums that fit exceptionally well with all the facets and moods of NYU London life.

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Ellie Zwolensky

NYU London is a popular site for students interested in study away. These albums by British artists will help set the stage for your semester abroad. (Photo by Ellie Zwolensky)

By Ellie Zwolensky, Contributing Writer

LONDON — After 24 hours of chaotic first-time solo travel across the Atlantic Ocean, I was in tears: My luggage was lost, my roommate was stuck in the United States with COVID-19, I had no towels or toiletries and my phone didn’t work. It wasn’t exactly a resounding success, but I was finally where I was supposed to be: London!

Milling around aimlessly in those first few days, relatively friendless, afraid to use my GPS because I didn’t want my dad to get charged on the phone bill and without classes to distract me yet, I was quite lost. I was stuck between the life I had yet to find here and the one I had left behind there.

So to drag me out of the muck of those first few days, I decided to curate a new Spotify playlist. I checked the page of one of my favorite  — and coincidentally, English — artists and found a series of new albums that have formed the foundation of my London experience. These albums belong on any London playlist you might create.

“Somewhere In-Between” by Eloise

The first track, “Bienvenue,” welcomed me to the EP with open arms — one of the first true greetings I received from this gloomy, rainy isle. Within a few tracks, I was sucked into this dreamy, confessional narrative detailing Eloise’s love life and state of in-betweenness as she is trapped by adolescence and adulthood, love and heartbreak. The album was a coming-of-age tale written just for me, a nomadic semi-adult in a new place hoping to romanticize my emerging existence. Over the first month here it has become clear to me that “Somewhere In-Between” is the perfect accompaniment to any rainy London day — it is the romantic R&B EP that everybody needs but had no idea they were missing.

Eloise pours her heart into every ballad and you just can’t help but empathize with her. Songs like “Intertwined,” “Enough” and “Lines” immerse you in a warm, acoustic vibe — they feel like a glass of red wine by the fire after a long day beneath the chilly London overcast. Her more upbeat tracks like “BAMO” are reminiscent of the happiest Friday nights, spending too much at a dinner with your roommates and stumbling along cobblestone streets, giggling about your past loves. The song’s beat makes you want to tap your foot; it’s probably my favorite track on the album. Eloise’s smoky voice effortlessly glides through the melody, complemented by grand harmonies.

There is a sense of sadness in the EP akin to the sadness of establishing a new life and leaving your home for so long. “Somewhere In-Between” expresses that emotion without drowning you in it. Eloise is not unceasingly depressing; she is jazzy, funky and feeling. “Somewhere In-Between” embodies NYU London life for me, so it is the first EP that I suggest you add to your playlist.

“To Let A Good Thing Die” by Bruno Major

I had no idea that Bruno Major was British until I listened to the song “The Most Beautiful Thing” off his most recent album, “To Let A Good Thing Die.” The ballad depicts an unrequited transatlantic love affair in which Major’s muse is the most beautiful thing that he has never seen. “The Most Beautiful Thing” appealed to me specifically as an American away from home with romances experienced across the ocean. After listening to this song, I was hooked on the album. I now see it as a staple of my London experience.

“To Let A Good Thing Die” sounds like a walk through some grand British museum — specifically, it feels like a museum date. It’s beautifully cinematic, lo-fi with a personal affect. This R&B-pop album covers a lot of thematic ground. It deals with a breakup and a general contemplation of who we are and where we’re going. When I visit museums or wander the oldest neighborhoods in London, I am immersed in the narrative of this album. I am a romantic heroine, the subject of his songs, wondering what my place is in the world or pining after someone else. It’s the perfect album to accompany the stunning sights of London, the romantic paintings of the Victoria and Albert Museum, or the National Gallery. 

Major describes his music as “a warm cup of tea on a cold day.” It is comfort, beauty and refreshment expressed through pretty melodies and pristine vocals with the perfect touch of angst. It is the romance of London in 10 tracks. It accompanies my favorite London days when I daydream about meeting some British man in a coffee shop over an almond croissant, or when I read in my room for hours while the rain comes down in buckets outside. The warm-blanket feeling makes me swoon whenever I listen. Really, any Bruno Major track will make you do this, but this album is my favorite because it is constantly on my mind.

“This Is Really Going To Hurt” by Flyte

Flyte makes me feel the most stereotypically NYU that I possibly could. This music is my Doc Martens and my canvas tote. When I listen to this indie-rock band, I am the main character. 

My favorite song on Flyte’s newest album “This Is Really Going To Hurt” is “I’ve Got A Girl,” a fun rock track describing the girl who is going to break up the band. This song feels like the nights I spent in Liverpool and Manchester. It projects chillness without trying too hard, like live music in a dive bar outside of uppity London culture. Though the track’s vibe is an outlier on the album, the groove persists in other upbeat tracks like “Trying To Break Your Heart” and “There’s A Woman.” Most of the other songs are granola with faded vinyl-esque vocals. “This is Really Going to Hurt” is autumnal in a distinctly metropolitan way; it is cool and the melodies hit like a brisk wind in St. James’s Park. Like a leather jacket and windswept hair, it makes me feel like someone’s manic pixie dream girl. 

“Deep Down Happy” by Sports Team

“Deep Down Happy” by Sports Team awakens something within me. People must think I’m crazy walking down these London streets because I often have visceral physical reactions to these songs: I laugh out loud, furrow my brow and clench my fists at Sports Team’s funny lyrics. I don’t usually listen to rock, but oh, how I love this album!

The single “Here’s the Thing” is hysterical and creates a bond between me and the Brits that I never found before. In this song, they take on the character of a conservative, spewing some flawed ideology before they rip the rug out from under you, shouting “Lies, lies, lies, lies!” I found this album from TikTok, where ripping on American and British conservatism alike is peak British entertainment. While Europeans often generally dislike Americans, many Brits just hate outdated ideology — this is something we have in common. “Deep Down Happy” unites youth under a passionate crusade against the myth that grown-ups tell the truth. 

This album is perfect for a run — if you do that, which I don’t. It’s great if you’re feeling pent-up in your shoebox of an NYU London dorm that you pay too much for and can’t scream in because your roommates are home. It’s awesome for walking home after a class where you learned that everyone has been misquoting Adam Smith for centuries. Aside from meeting my own niche needs, this album is pure rebellious spirit with a heavy twist of humor and some uniquely British sarcasm.

These are just a few of my favorite British albums that encompass my experience of what London is to me, specifically when studying at NYU. They make me feel cool, let me daydream freely, or inspire me to rebel against what isn’t right in the world around me. The spirit of London is chic yet romantic and eternally beautiful. These albums capture this beauty without pretension or the spirit of a gaslighting boyfriend telling me I’m misinterpreting everything. If you’re coming to London or just looking for some new autumn-y music, give these a listen — I promise you won’t regret it.

Contact Ellie Zwolensky at [email protected]