New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Staff Recs: How to romanticize the start of a new term

WSN’s arts editors spotlight a range of media to help you fight those back to school blues and start your semester right.
Max Van Hosen
From upbeat songs to novels about academia, this list will prepare you for the upcoming school year. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

We know what the first days of school are like. Whether you’re a first-year trying to navigate living in New York City for the first time or an overwrought senior ready to wrap up your collegiate years, the start of a new term always comes with a hefty mix of emotions. Palpable excitement? Looming dread? You’ve probably felt it all.

To help out, WSN’s Arts Desk has put together a list of recommendations — including boppy songs, a rising band and a contemplative book — to ease your reintegration into student life. The thought of going back to school can put a damper on anyone’s mood, but we hope that our curated collection will pique your excitement for this upcoming chapter of your college journey.


“BELEZA PULA” by Masayoshi Takanaka

— Mick Gaw, Film & TV Editor

If you are looking for the perfect song for the fall semester, look no further than “BELEZA PULA,” an upbeat, bossa-nova-inspired track by Japanese musician Masayoshi Takanaka. With the blissful memories of summer gradually sinking below the horizon, students can only expect colder days ahead as they toil away at an endless stream of assignments. Although nothing can remedy colder weather and procrastination, jazzy beach songs like “BELEZA PULA” always put me in a better mood. 

Lush vocals, tropical drum beats, and some of the most insane guitar riffs of all time make listening to “BELEZA PULA” endlessly stimulating. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I am overtaken by the urge to dance whenever “BELEZA PULA” comes up in my Spotify queue. So remember, even if you’re stuck in Bobst Library all night, Takanaka can make you feel like you are sipping on a cold beverage in Ipanema. 



— Stephanie Wong, Arts Editor

If you haven’t heard of FIZZ yet, allow me to introduce you to the new indie all-star band composed of artists you’re likely already familiar with: Martin Luke Brown, Greta Isaac, Orla Gartland and Dodie. All four members are long-time friends who have already made a name for themselves with their individual musical projects. The idea to form FIZZ came about when Brown began feeling jaded about his place in the music industry. With FIZZ, the four friends sought to come together and pursue an “egoless” venture to make music solely because they enjoy it.

The band’s fantastical debut single, “High In Brighton,” is perfectly emblematic of this goal. With its striking harmonies and psychedelic flourishes, you can imagine how much fun each member had recording this song. Since then, FIZZ has released three other singles, each as experimental and distinct as the next. Another personal favorite of mine is “Hell Of A Ride,” which pairs a groovy bassline with cynical, tongue-in-cheek lines about the relatable existential anxiety that comes with being in your 20s. Instead of dreading midterms, you can look forward to the band’s debut album, “The Secret To Life,” set to release this October. Until then, FIZZ’s trippy and catchy tunes make for a fun escape from the stress of the first few weeks of college.


Either/Orby Elif Batuman

— Alexa Donovan, Deputy Arts Editor

The novel “Either/Or” by Elif Batuman gave me an irresistible mid-July longing for academics — which was strange, considering that the month of July was the first time in a while that I had felt blissfully void of all scholastic responsibilities. It is important to note that the book is a sequel to Batuman’s “The Idiot,” but I read the series out of order and actually preferred “Either/Or.” I quickly latched onto the tales of protagonist Selin’s sophomore year at Harvard University.  The novel, which is full of dry humor and striking creativity, follows Selin’s life experiences in tandem with the books she reads for her literature classes. The title of the novel comes from Søren Kierkegaard’s first published work “Either/Or,” of which Selin’s foremost curiosity, how to lead an aesthetic life rather than an ethical life, is born.

As readers, we experience the highs and lows of Selin’s life with the same intensity as she does, all while following an excellent literature syllabus. While she explores sex, partying, mental health issues, love, loss, literature and more, I felt that I was navigating the American college experience — from both a social and academic lens — through her eyes. Batuman’s genius novel made me feel like I had a new best friend, which led to serious gratitude for the author’s words, world literature as a whole and my own college life. 


“Piano Piano” by Jeremiah Fraites

— Julia Diorio, Music Editor 

While studying, I quickly find myself exasperated because too many words circulate in my crowded brain, from the text I’m reading to the conversations near me, all on top of my own thoughts. I turn to instrumental music to help me focus. This led me to find Jeremiah Fraites and his album “Piano Piano.” Fraites, who is the co-founder of the band The Lumineers, recorded “Piano Piano” as his first solo project.

The simplicity and beauty of the tracks leaves nothing to be desired after you are gently carried through eleven emotional melodies. “Maggie,” a track about his wife’s dog, is haunting. “Arrival,” the closing track, transports me into a Jane Austen novel, as though I am dramatically looking out the window of a carriage. The song is perfect for when the weather turns cold, or those times you just need a little break from the madness outside your door. “Piano Piano” is hypnotic and mesmerizing. It makes me feel as though I’m lying on the couch with a book, listening to him play from the next room.


“Malibu” by Hole

— Clara Scholl, Arts Editor

“Malibu,” a track written by ’90s alt-rock band Hole, describes an illusion of paradise. The song uses the beach town on the coast of Los Angeles as a metaphor for idealization — even the beautiful coastline and blissful beach are not as perfect as they seem.

Within the first few weeks of school, your mind may take you back to a breezy beach day when you were lying along the shore with sand in between your toes, listening to the waves roll in and out. It’s very likely that day wasn’t as perfect as you remember it being, though. You may have conveniently forgotten about the sunburn you got or how you fell asleep and lost your wallet. 

“Malibu” reminds us that nothing is as perfect as it seems in hindsight. Instead of fixating on what once was, find the joy of the present. Or, if your summer really was that perfect, listen, close your eyes and imagine you’re relaxing in Malibu.

Contact the Arts Desk at [email protected].

About the Contributors
Clara Scholl, Arts Editor
Clara Scholl is a sophomore studying art history, economics and law. She’s from New York City and hosts a radio show called Female Hysteria on the music movement of Riot Grrrl. You can find her on Twitter @scholl_clara or on Instagram @cllscholl.
Stephanie Wong, Film & TV Editor
Stephanie Wong is a sophomore double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and English literature. She was born to Japanese and Chinese parents and grew up in Hong Kong for most of her life. In her spare time, she loves watching movies, reading, and curating bad Spotify playlists. You can find her at @_stephaniewong_ on Instagram, and unfortunately, on Letterboxd as @emima.
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