Prior to this year, grabbing a coffee with a friend and walking down West Sands was a welcome break from hours spent in lectures and the library. Now, when managing to book a seat at the library brings the same rush as seeing Cascada perform live in 601, my relationship with the term “beach walk” has become somewhat complicated. With the absence of the pub (or the late-night library, I’d take either at this point), the moody beach walk has become a fixture in my calendar during deadline season. While I have managed to accumulate quite a few beach-walk specific playlists, the following songs would be my top ten for those grey and blustery days on West Sands.
“Death with Dignity” – Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens is my beach walk go-to. The entire Carrie and Lowell album is amazing and you can’t go wrong with any of the tracks. Combining gentle guitar picking and simple piano, “Death with Dignity” can be described as hopefully contemplative.
“Blinded” – Emmit Fenn
Emmit Fenn comes from Berkeley, California and is becoming well known within the indie-electronic genre. This track can only be described as cinematic, with hauntingly dramatic chords and. His cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” is also great, as are “Control” and “Painting Greys.”
“Flowers in December” – Mazzy Star
A staple of 90s pop-rock, Mazzy Star is truly a gem. Most well known for their song “Fade into You” (featured on countless TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Gilmour Girls), the group’s ethereal and dreamy sound is hard to put into words. Lead vocalist Hope Sandoval’s gentle, airy voice meandering over the slow strings of a violin makes “Flowers in December” one of their best songs in my opinion.
“I Need My Girl” – The National
I love anything by The National, especially their 2014 album Trouble Will Find Me. The gentle layering of instruments in this song is incredible, dark and moody and beautiful – this song is a masterpiece. Also highly recommend listening to “Fireproof.”
“Brothers in Arms” – Dire Straits
I’ll forever associate this song with fall 2020 – it was on repeat in our flat for about two months last semester and was a staple on those walks when the sun was setting at 4 pm. Considered one of the biggest rock bands of the 80s, I genuinely don’t think there is a single Dire Straits song that I would not recommend. Slower than their other tracks, “Brothers in Arms” is a necessary listen.
“Wildflowers” – Nicolas Jaar
Like all of Nicolas Jaar’s music, this song manages to be at once both harsh and melodic, blending experimental sounds with contemplative vocals. Known for creating an experimental deep house, his 2017 album Sirens would have to be my favorite. “Wildflowers” is perfect for those meditative and introspective walks.
“Hide and Seek” – Imogen Heap
A staple in early 2000s teen dramas like The OC, “Hide and Seek” is nothing short of a classic. Often recognized for being sampled on Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say,” the overly synthesised vocals make this is one of those songs that people either love or hate. I personally fall in the love category and suggest putting it on repeat.
“I am California” – John Craigie and Gregory Alan Isakov
Having grown up in California, listening to this song makes me instantly homesick. This is one of those songs that makes you pause for a moment, its slow melody and gentle layering of piano, guitar, and violin culminating in a song of heartbreaking beauty. This is definitely in my top ten songs that I would say everyone should listen to.
“Re: Stacks” – Bon Iver
Would it really be a moody beach walk playlist if Bon Iver didn’t make an appearance? Released in 2008, “Re: Stacks” is more stripped back than his more recent music, featuring only acoustic guitar strumming and gentle vocals. As a massive Bon Iver fan, I’d also recommend “Hey, Ma” and “8 Circle.”
“Are You Even Real” – James Blake
James Blake is in my opinion one of the most creative artists of recent years, and all of his music is worth a listen. “Are you Even Real” sounds like it exists within a dreamscape, all glittering notes and faded melodies. This is an excellent addition to the beach walk playlist, this and “Retrograde” would have to be my favorite songs of his.