With fall in full swing, out-of-state students may start to wonder: “Why is it still 70 degrees?”, “Why is everyone still wearing denim cut-offs?” and “Why did I move to this cursed state in the first place?” Thankfully, many non-Californians of ere have tackled life on the Great Golden Frontier, and those crabby conquistadors left quite a body of work behind them as they trudged back to their East Coast snow storms. Here’s a playlist for when all you want is a rainy day in New York, but the closest you can get is an Angelino film major who once served cold coffee to Woody Allen. No milk, no sugar.
“California” by Quasi
Only a band from Portland would ever use the word “Epicurean” in a song, and only a late ‘90s indie-rock band would use it as a jab against Californians. If you find yourself, “slowly sinking in the vast ambivalent sea of California,” let the lovingly cynical Quasi pull you up (though they might dislocate your shoulder in the process).
“Why You’d Want to Live Here” by Death Cab for Cutie
Yes, a lot of these songs are actually about LA, but it’s all the same to an East “Coastah”! In this alt-rock track perfect for stomping around campus, Death Cab captures exactly what it’s like to speak to Econ majors from Calabasas. “You can’t swim in a town this shallow” Benjamin Gibbard sings between flirtations with distortion. Oy.
“F**k California” by The Presidents of the United States of America
In a fit of true angst, this song features The Presidents of the United States of America giving the finger to any California town they can think of (and also to weed). Here, at their absolute blusiest, they lay siege all along the West Coast, from Santa Cruz to Yreka (population: roughly 7,000). “You’ve been living on a fault line,” they insist. Uh, yeah, have you ever heard of Foothill?
“California” by Liz Phair
To Californians, a clear sky is a perfect day. To everyone else, a clear sky is a video game background. It’s hard to describe the discomfort of this uncanny valley, but somehow Liz Phair nails it on the head, all while maintaining a somewhat indistinguishable Scandi-Cleveland-Brooklyn-Toronto accent.
“In California” by Neko Case
Geeeeez. Yeah. Yeah. From the very opening lines — “In California I dream of snow” — Neko Case makes an acai bowl out of your heartstrings. And let’s not forget “Crying alone/Palm trees are laughing at me.” Eat your heart out, Hearst Avenue.
“I Wish It Would Rain” by the Temptations
Who hasn’t been there? You’re walking out of Dwinelle after a horrible midterm, your eyes are starting to well up, and you’re desperate for a gloomy spot to sit down and sob — but where? The Glade, full of happy hammockers? The steps of the Campanile, with the sun glaring down? Even Sproul is too cheerful for a good cry fest. “Sunshine, blue skies, please go away,” you’ll be whispering as you trek across campus. Don’t get tearstains on the leather seats in Morrison Library!
“Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips
In one final and triumphant tonal shift, Gladys Knight reminds us that you can always go back to “a simpler place and time.” Doesn’t this song just make you want to side-step your way back across the USA? The high speed rail system in this country doesn’t totally allow for this camp of groovy spontaneity, but a girl can dream.
“Los Angeles, I’m Yours” by The Decemberists
A bittersweet note to end on: “How I abhor this place/Its sweet and bitter taste/Has wretched, retching on all fours/Los Angeles, I’m yours.” Because, at the end of the day, going to school in California isn’t just about escaping East Coast cynicism; it’s also about posting a picture on the glade when it’s 70 degrees in December for all your hometown enemies back east to see. What’s up, Boston? Have fun with your sub-thirty winters!