No matter what you're doing now, where you're doing it, or just how many years it's been since graduation, there are certain songs you used to listen to in college that will always make you feel like you're back on campus hanging out with your five favorite friends from senior year. You could be browsing instant noodle options after-hours at your local bodega, or be sardined between the two sweatiest passengers on the local train during morning rush hour. And then, before you know it, a familiar refrain sneaks its way into your sonar surroundings, and BAM — you're right back at your campus bar on Sink Or Swim Night, shoes stuck to the floor, Highlife in hand, living the good life. When the song crescendos into a memory-charged melody, it's like you're back at your favorite drinking hole where your bar tab is less than the tax on your textbook, and the bartender is your best friend... at least for the night.
For those of us not heading back to campus this fall, and because homecoming is only once a year, here's a playlist that rounds up the most nostalgia-fueled jams to take you right back to the glory days — and nights — of college. Like prized collegiate memorabilia, these carefully curated tracks will allow you to remotely relive the times we never want to forget (and others we have a hard time remembering).
1. "Ants Marching" by Dave Matthews Band
A usual suspect on the college bar scene, DMB and this bluegrass-flavored hit of theirs make for perfect university bar background music.
2. "Chicken Fried" by Zac Brown Band
Nothing else could get you to finally forget about that final exam you just took except the Southern comfort of this feel-good anthem. And maybe "a cold beer on a Friday night."
3. "All For You" by Sister Hazel
The existential undertones of this late '90s hit make it a well-suited soundtrack for undergrad life. Not to mention its lyrics cut right to the core of late-night collegiate love-connections: "It's hard to say what it is I see in you..."
4. "More Than A Feeling" by Boston
This '70s power ballad and college bar staple is about losing yourself in a familiar song that evokes powerful memories. How meta.
5. "In The Meantime" by Spacehog
The intensifying intro of this inconspicuous one-hit wonder sneaks up on you like your last SoCo Lime.
6. "Breakfast At Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something
Another one-hit wonder and '90s staple, this deceivingly carefree single forecast adulthood while we were all still dancing around, well-drinks in hand, with an innocent ease we can appreciate only now that "our lives have come between us."
7. "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows
Posting up at your university bar of choice and not hearing this Counting Crows classic at some point during the night is a downright impossibility.
8. "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba
This party ballad has earned its place as a requisite at any gathering where booze and frat stars might be present, your favorite college bar no exception.
9. "Rich Girl" by Hall & Oates
Few can resist singing along to this bar jam and karaoke favorite.
10. "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind
There's something about Third Eye Blind that never fails to take you straight back to yesteryear.
11. "Follow You Down" by Gin Blossoms
Another college bar regular, Gin Blossoms offers an impressive repertoire of catchy upbeat hits as fitting to the atmosphere as Irish paraphernalia.
12. "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show
Renew your faith in humankind with this feel-good folk song that always had the whole bar singing along in unison, regardless of race, religion, or frat house.
13. "One Headlight" by The Wallflowers
This darker jam wisely reminds us that, your Rolling Rock and college days included, "nothing is forever."
14. "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield
A mainstay of undergrad emotions, unrequited love is described flawlessly by Springfield in this '80s pop ballad.
15. "All I Want" by Toad The Wet Sprocket
This sentimental song pulls at heartstrings now just as it did then. "All I want is to feel this way" sums up college-centric nostalgia.
16. "Inside Out" by Eve 6
What more fun could be had between Quizzo rounds than lip-syncing to this infectious track and proving you knew all the words?
17. "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money
This synth-heavy rock single sounds even more epic after Long Island number two.
18. "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond
All those memories you have of your college peers finding solidarity and fist pumping simultaneously can be credited to the playing of this American classic.
19. "Closing Time" by Semisonic
When you hear the piano coming in thoughtfully over the bass, you know it's time to finish up your last round. And as a bittersweet reminder, true as ever now as it was then, "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here."
Image: Dacy Knight