Back to School Songs



With summer over, it means that fall is drawing near and school is back upon us. WSUM DJs are here to share the songs that remind them the most of this transitional time of year; a time of moving, changing seasons, and the start of readings and homework. Take a listen to find some new study break music or maybe some study fuel.


Back to School from wsum on 8tracks Radio.





Evan Boyd


“Take It or Leave It” by Cage the Elephant – Entering a new year, I’m getting used to my new classes, as well as observing the student organizations that I might join. These first couple of weeks have all of these offers that I can take up. Thus, I have taken some opportunities so far, as well as leaving many others.


“Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra – 75 degree days with a little wind in Madison are the best days ever. Every time they come, I play this song.


“Stay up Late” by Talking Heads – Sometimes, I just wanna stay up all night.


“School” by Nirvana – Maybe just because it literally is called “School,” but I picked this because it’s Kurt Cobain complaining about having no recess and it ends with “You’re in high school again.” Thank god I’m not in high school again… but where’s my recess?





DJ Mando


“James Bong” by Wiz Khalifa – The chorus to this song describes very well what the semester holds for all students. “James Bond I’m on a mission/Bruce Lee the way I kick it….” Basically, Wiz is saying let’s work hard, but play hard too. That’s the way the school year should be.



The Band Classic Album




“Across the Great Divide” by The Band – The Band’s self-titled second album is one of the great autumnal records. This song, in particular, captures that feeling of hope that comes in the start of every school year.


“A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum – How I’ll look when I see my first exam this semester.


“Living Well is the Best Revenge” by R.E.M. – Your weekend needs a battle cry. Might as well be R.E.M.


“Blue” by The Thorns – A great Jayhawks cover that always makes me think of leaves turning darker colors while I lose any of the summer color I had.


“We Care a Lot” by Faith No More – Trying to avoid any feeling of senioritis this early, but this song is already becoming a summation of my thoughts on school.





Erik Kramer


Back to school time is a good time of year.


“School’s In (From Summer)” (“School’s Out (For Summer)” played backwards) by Alice Cooper – Everyone knows that Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” is a beginning of summer anthem, but few people know that when played backwards, Alice’s lyrics describe the excitement of returning to school with a whole new set of fun and interesting classes and seeing your old schoolmates.


“Owl, Barn- Sustained Defensive Hiss” by Cornell’s Lab Of Ornithology – This is the jam that will get you through those tough nights studying the defensive calls and shrieks of various owls of North America.







“Go with the Flow” by Queens of the Stone Age – Definitely one of my favorite driving songs, I tend to listen to this whenever I’m on a long trip. I have fond memories of ripping down I-64 on my way to St. Louis each semester while I was still an undergrad.


“We’re Going to be Friends” by The White Stripes – This might be the most on-the-head pick for a back to school song, but there really isn’t a better one. The oh-too-sweet lyrics and Jack’s plaintive singing and guitar perfectly sum of the excitement of a new school year and the opportunity of meeting new friends. This is really the anthem of freshman year.


“Glimmer” by Pelican – When I study long hours, I usually get a little frustrated by the fact that I’m not doing something more fun. For me there’s nothing better than Pelican’s instrumental metal, because it lets me blow off a little steam without distracting me from my work.


“Got the Time” by Joe Jackson – This song might be the best encapsulation of the feeling of “so much to do; so little time” that everyone feels during the semester. While other songs with the same theme might trigger panic attacks, “Got the Time” has so much bouncy energy that you can’t help but rock out and de-stress.


“Working Man” by Rush – I realize it’s an anthem for blue-collar workers, but when I’m working on a project at 2 AM, I can’t help but think that Rush is singing for me as well.





Lorenza Zebell


“Black Woman” by Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – This song makes a perfect study break. It’s nearly 10 minutes of Afro-beat goodness that will make you get up and dance, so it’s an ideal song to pep you up in the middle of a long study session. Also, if you’re a lady, the lyrics are way empowering.


“You Should Be More Like Your Brother” by Tycho – I’ve been studying to Tycho since high school, and it always seems to help my mind stay on my work. Tycho uses beautiful sounds (like rain and someone sniffling in “You Should Be More Like Your Brother”) and no real lyrics, so reading while listening is easy. Plus, all four of his albums have a very similar sound, so he can be the soundtrack to long nights in the library. I just have to make sure not to listen to him while studying in my bed, because his music will lull me to sleep.


“Unhappy” by Saint Pepsi – Going back to school really drains my energy, and I get a general morose feeling about everything. This song kind of sounds like that feeling, but in a good way.


“Y.A.L.A.” by M.I.A. – When I’m feeling drained like that I try and perk myself up with a bit of this. Not only does this song make me dance like a freak, it helps me remember that even if I die of exhaustion this semester, I will always live again (Y.A.L.A).





Petey Wehrle


“End of the Summer (live version)” by Dar Williams – This song is so perfectly haunting, capturing the hope and loss of leaving for college. The live version goes even further, putting you in the crowd so you can hear the hushed reminisces of the most female crowd, some of whom are talking about their experiences with the same themes explored in the song.


“In the Summertime” by Rural Alberta Advantage – This song looks at fleeting summer romances and unrequited loves, like one looks at an old letter jacket, breathing deeply and remembering the the smell of the perfume still present, yet fading more with each day.


“Our Way To Fall” by Yo La Tengo – This song reminds me of dancing with my wife. It was our song at our wedding. It’s perfect mix for indie kids, of slow-dancing melodies filled with lyrics of hope and promise for the future that hearken back at the same time to moments when we were much wilder.


“New Thing Now” by Shawn Colvin – This song is about new love, new experiences and new friends. It’s like the best episode of Felicity, Degrassi High and My-So-Called Life rolled into one song.


“Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane – Even as we move on to bigger and better things, there will still be places in our hearts that are unseen by all but the closest few. These are the things we carry with us to new dorms, new apartments and new futures. We never fully unpack these, choosing instead to stow these deep inside ourselves for those moments when we are most alone to remind us of the experiences we have shared with those who are near to our souls but far from our arms.