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10 Bands Everyone Digs in College

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Going away to college involves more than cracking open books (and beers) and earning that very costly diploma. For many students, it’s the first taste of independence, and with that newfound freedom comes a great deal of self-discovery. Some realize their natural gifts for tossing a frisbee or landing a ping-pong ball in a red Solo cup. But perhaps more importantly, many learn about cool music and pledge undying allegiance to their new favorite bands. While tastes changes, certain musicians are perennially popular among co-eds. Here are 10 Bands Everyone Digs in College.


Theo Wargo, Getty Images
Theo Wargo, Getty Images

The Cure

 
 

The Cure are one of those quintessential college bands, what with singer Robert Smith’s gloomy musings on love, breakups, sex, love again — you get the idea. Smith often wraps the sadness in sugary pop melodies, and therein lies the secret of their lasting appeal. The years immediately following high school are one big emotional roller-coaster ride, and these British icons offer something to cling to.

 
Erik S. Lesser, Getty Images
Erik S. Lesser, Getty Images

Pixies

 
 

The Pixies were huge influences on the ‘90s alt-rock boom. Known for their soft-loud, start-stop dynamics and surreal, often indecipherable lyrics, they struck the perfect balance between cerebral and raucous. To wit: While you rage along to 'Debaser,' you're also learning about a surrealist film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. At least mom and dad can't say you're wasting your time.

 
Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images
Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images

LCD Soundsystem

 
 

James Murphy’s incredible engineering and production skills, paired with his compelling vocals and knack for making lyrically profound dance music, make LCD Soudsystem another key pick for our list of Bands Everyone Digs in College. Murphy has an unparalleled way of building tension and emotionally connecting with listeners, and in a post-‘Get Lucky’ world, his classic ‘Daft Punk Is Playing at My House’ might resonate with  co-eds today even more than it did at the time of its release in 2005.

 
Michael Buckner, Getty Images
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Arcade Fire

 
 

Like LCD, the Arcade Fire land on this list thanks to three incredibly strong LPs, with a fourth due out at the end of October. (Murphy is reportedly working with the Montreal band on the album.) Thanks to the husband-and-wife songwriting partnership between Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, as well as the large ensemble's bizarro mix of instruments (everything from a viola to a hurdy-gurdy), Arcade Fire create complex and relatable songs students can turn to in times of existential crisis. All the time, in other words.

 
Jo Hale, Getty Images
Jo Hale, Getty Images

Belle and Sebastian

 
 

Belle and Sebastian’s brand of twee indie-pop has captured the heart of many a college student. Music this whimsical might not be as universally popular among 20-somethings were it not for frontman Stuart Murdoch’s offbeat lyrics balancing things out. The contrast between sweetness and snark may be what make this Glasgow septet so irresistible. And after Econ 101, everyone can relate to 'Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying.'

 
Lawrence Lucier, Getty Images
Lawrence Lucier, Getty Images

Talking Heads

 
 

Can’t you just picture it: College kids discussing the merits of the Talking Heads while sipping on the au courant cool-kid brand of beer? Isn’t this a universal college experience? It should be. In their hey, the Heads tackled everything from art-punk to straight-up pop, with David Byrne’s esoteric lyrics acting as the anchor. It’s no wonder burgeoning academics dug these guys in '81, and it makes sense they'll be spinning 'Remain In Light' and 'Speaking In Tongues' 20 years from now. Same as it ever was.

 
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Neutral Milk Hotel

 
 

Universally revered, despite having only released only two LPs, Neutral Milk Hotel are a true anomaly. Credit the lo-fi sound -- not to mention frontman Jeff Magnum’s enigmatic lyrics -- for keeping 1996’s ‘On Avery Island’ and 1998’s ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea' on heavy rotation in cooler dorm rooms across the land.

 
Neilson Barnard, Getty Images
Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

The Flaming Lips

 
 

The Flaming Lips have forged an incredibly successful 30-year career by keeping folks guessing. They're prone to left turns and noisy digressions, but they also write super catchy pop songs with both goofy and emotionally hefty lyrics. Then, there are those theatrical, over-the-top concerts -- live manifestations of the weird accessible-experimental balance that has long gripped college students.

 
Michael Buckner, Getty Images
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Pavement

 
 

One of the most influential indie rock bands of the ‘90s, Pavement wrote lo-fi, reverb-laden songs made all the more infectious by leader Stephen Malkmus’ odd-yet-thoughtful lyrics. It's lazy journalism to call them "slackers," but there is a lax vibe to their best tunes, and that makes their music perfect for lazy afternoons that ought to be spent studying.

 
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

R.E.M.

 
 

Alt-rock trailblazers R.E.M. defined college rock, and some three decades after their formation in Athens, Ga., the band still appeals to brainy rock fans. Frontman Michael Stipe’s mumbled lyrics are hard to make out and even harder to interpret, but like all good poetry, they resonate on an emotional level. And as with the Cure and the Pixies, R.E.M.'s pop hooks keep things from getting too intense.

 

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