Miscellaneous Playlists

I Played Baldur’s Gate 3. Here’s What Music I Think the Companions Would Listen to:

I made the choice (a poor one, perhaps) to finally purchase Baldur’s Gate 3 last month. I have a lot of opinions about it.

But since is, at its core, a music-based platform, I will sublimate my obsession interest in the game into something music-related.

While the plot and gameplay of BG3 is all well and good, what I find to be the most important is the blorbofication of the game’s characters.

Photo by Cederic Vandenberghe on Unsplash

For those unfamiliar with Baldur’s Gate 3, the game allows a player’s PC to travel in the company of several companions who seem specially-tailored to be both intensely likeable (excluding Gale) and intensely attractive.

Through gameplay and interaction, the player can learn more about these new friends (or enemies — or lovers — depending on how you swing things) and build plot-relevant relationships.

That’s all well and good, I suppose.

But beyond all the hours of carefully crafted backstory and world-building infused into BG3’s gameplay, I’m interested in imposing upon these characters my own pretentious personal ideas about music.

Nobody asked, but I will deliver.

The Selection

I digress with a brief disclaimer to highlight that this is, primarily, a joke. However, I stand wholeheartedly by all of these claims.

I also will only be covering the “main cast” of companions, so if anyone was expecting to see what kind of music Scratch or Minthara would listen to, they’ll have to decide that for themselves.

My criteria for making these assessments comes from four main factors:

  1. Personality
  2. Style
  3. Canon
  4. My personal opinions

As an English major, I have a lot of practice in the art of character analysis. As a music fan, I have a lot of experience being force-fed other people’s music opinions.

The intersection of these two realms will yield something interesting, if not accurate.


Lae’zel is a Githyanki Fighter with a Soldier background. If you’re not familiar with DND, those words will mean next to nothing to you. That’s fine. All you need to know is that Lae’zel is the modern man’s tsundere.

If I’m being honest, I struggled the most with this one. Lae’zel is characterized as being both strictly no-nonsense and highly repressed, coming from a highly militaristic society.

At the same time, however, her culture has a strong musical and artistic foundation. Githyanki music is defined as highly variable, though consistently centered around metallic, harsh and strident rhythms.

Cover for “20 Jazz Funk Greats” by Throbbing Gristle

From this perspective, I think Lae’zel’s music taste would follow similar lines. I can see her enjoying weird industrial music as well as brassy jazz.

Bands I can think of that fit this kind of idiosyncratic harshness and experimental irregularity include:

I also think she’d like insanely hard, vigorous metal. Perhaps jazz-metal fusion, like Agabas.


Also known as “God’s Favorite Princess,” Shadowheart is a half-elf Cleric with an Acolyte background.

I was pleased to find that despite my first impressions of her, Shadowheart has proven to be a well-written female character. I adore her, and if it wasn’t my goal to make all the companions fall in love with me, I would probably romance her.

Cover for “Punisher” by Phoebe Bridgers

All the same though, I don’t think her music taste would be all that spectacular. Though her outward personality projects pragmatism, I think she’d find music as an important emotional outlet. So, obviously, she’d be very into girlcore.

I can see her appreciating female artists, specifically. Such as:

I’m definitely taking this too seriously.


i will preface this by stating that I am not a misandrist.

Gale is a human Wizard with a Sage background. He’s also from Waterdeep, as he’s particularly keen on mentioning.

I don’t dislike Gale, per se, but he definitely gives off an air of instability that reminds me of several uncharismatic and overly-confident men I’ve met in my life. While I’m sure that Gale is far from the “fantasy incel” I like to pretend he is for laughs, I do think he’d listen to The Smiths.

Cover for “In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson

As someone who also listens to The Smiths, like recognizes like.

Gale also seems like the kind of person who would give over his heart to enigmatic, long-winded sprawls of progressive rock.

He’d probably smell like patchouli — and another fragrant herb — in real life.


Oh, man. I really do enjoy this mean, fruity little man.

Astarion is a high elf Rogue with a Charlatan background. He’s also a vampire, which despite being extremely obvious, is somehow a surprise to all the other characters.

I consider whether or not someone likes Astarion to be a sort of litmus test. For what exactly, I will not say.

Cover for “Getz/Gilberto” by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto

Maybe it’s trite to think this, but I see Astarion as being an appreciator of classical music and soft, smooth jazz. I like to think he may even appreciate bossa nova.

He’s 200 years old and probably sick to death of the whole music business, prefering instead just to listen to what “feels nice.”

And yes, I’m fully aware that Neil Newborn has his own Astarion playlist, and that it has “Even Flow” on it.


This is my little brother’s favorite character (because warlocks are cool.)

Wyll is a human Warlock (The Fiend) with a Folk Hero background. He has a stone eye with a heart-shaped pupil, which to me signals to the fact that he’s probably the most well-adjusted companion (and character, perhaps) in the game.

Cover for “Badmotorfinger” by Soundgarden

Though he defines himself as a warrior and monster-slayer (the “Blade of Frontiers,” which is a name he apparently gave himself?), he’s inherently kindhearted and subtly dorky.

This, combined with his red-and-black fashion motif, leads me to think of him as a big fan of dad rock. He’s into alternative sounds, but only really familiar with the more topical names.


An unequivocal representation of peak female character design, Karlach is a Tiefling Barbarian with an Outlander background. She’s also got an infernal engine in her chest, which honestly only adds to her abject hotness.

Cover for “away” by Fromjoy

Karlach is a beacon to angsty ADHD girlies everywhere. While I think she’d honestly just enjoy listening to anything upbeat and fun, I also see her as particularly drawn to heavy music a la Doom Slayer. But perhaps with an emo or nu metal twist.

A special mention goes to the track “Hyperviolence” by Omerta.

Blog Playlists

Anything But the “Monster Mash” – A Halloween Party Playlist

I’m not gonna lie, the “Monster Mash” is a classic.

But like most classics, it’s been absolutely done to death, and the odious stink of its corpse is unbearable to me.

At some point the public decided that the “Monster Mash” was The Only Halloween song, and they proceeded to totally murder it.

Photo by Sabina Music Rich on Unsplash

In response to the public’s brutal slaying of the Monster Mash, I’ve compiled my own selection of retro and campy Halloween tracks for this year’s litany of costume parties.

The Playlist

  • “Dracula’s Daughter” – Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages
  • “Evil” – 45 Grave
  • “Drac the Knife” – Gene Moss & Fred Ross

From the album “Dracula’s Greatest Hits,” this track is Dracula’s cover of Bobby Darin’s 1958 “Mack the Knife,” but specifically if Dracula was like the dad from Hotel Transylvania.

  • “Absinthe” – The Damned (specifically, this version)
  • “Jekyll and Hyde” – Jim Burgett
  • “Buried Alive” – Radio Werewolf

A musical collective active from 1984 to 1993, Radio Werewolf amassed a cult following (called the “Radio Werewolf Youth Party”) during its highly controversial ritualistic theatrical performances.

The collective’s strange activities led to its placement in Classic Rock Magazine’s “The 25 Weirdest Bands of All Time.”

  • “The House is Haunted” – The Phantom Chords
  • “Dracula Hates Photoshoots” – Messer Chups
  • “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – The 69 Cats

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” is a classic. Originally performed by (my beloved) Bauhaus, this cover by The 69 Cats has a jazzy psychobilly slant, making it highly danceable and perfect for a Halloween hootenanny.


Afterhours: Halloween Edition

It is now officially October, which as we all know, means that it is now officially Halloween. Goblins and ghouls stalk the night, among all other sorts of horrific beasts, terrifying monsters, and that will scare the average WKNC blog reader to the point that I will not discuss them.

All this, however, is missing the most important of the season: spooky music recommendations.

“Bandit!” by Turkey

Turkey consists of William Sipos and Fletcher Shears, better known as one half of the Garden. If you know that band, you know their love of the Halloween spirit, and it is exactly as prevalent here.

This song opens and closes with a sample about a gargoyle in the infamous Denver National Airport, setting the tone for many haunted delights. The rest of it carries through, of course – the lo-fi production and old-school breakbeats makes a song that feels like you should’ve found it as an obscure YouTube upload of something from the 90’s. Perhaps a ghost of electronic past…?

“Don’t Look in the Closet” by VHS Head

Continuing on the retro theme, “Don’t Look in the Closet” goes all-in.

VHS Head makes his music out of old VHS tapes, and while not exactly leaning in to the more hauntological parts of that premise, the titular sample does more than enough to conjure your childhood fears of what could be lurking after a long night of trick or treating and subsequently eating way too much candy. He also also doesn’t hide the fact that this was made out of VHS tapes, adding a viewing of your choice of campy 80’s horror movie into that childhood memory. 

To keep it simple, this song is on the more fun side of the Halloween spectrum, and exceeds at doing that.

“Break Yourself (You Can’t Defeat Me) by DJ Rozwell

Combining the Satanic Panic, those shows about the supernatural that were on Discovery Channel for some reason, and swords & sorcery fantasy with instrumental hip hop is something that I think only DJ Rozwell can do.

This track feels like it could easily be a soundtrack to some old roguelike, which is perhaps the highest acclaim I could possibly give it – the album it’s from, “None of This is Real,” is intended to be played on shuffle as a roguelike album. “Break Yourself (You Can’t Defeat Me)” invites you to venture into terrifying crypts to face its lurking creatures… if you dare.

“Blood Magic” by Machine Girl

For me, it’s not a Halloween playlist without Machine Girl. To be completely honest, my own personal bias may be seeping into this specific pick in terms of my favorite albums, but it’s okay because I am statistically the biggest Machine Girl fan at WKNC.

That aside, the influence of horror movies on Machine Girl’s music is always extremely blatant, and that’s just as true here. The lyrics are about as gory as you’d expect from a song from them titled “Blood Magic,” and if any song in this article is the one that’s a straight-up horror movie, it’s this one.

“Epidermis” by Venetian Snares

Time for a throwback to 2003. Breakcore is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, but this is arguably it in its purest – and most sinister – form. It starts with a simple yet menacing bass synth and sample before the breaks kick in and from then on out, there’s no stopping.

As for the horror, the way Venetian Snares makes sure to emphasize the word “skin” in the most repeated sample along with the iconic “throw your corpse into a pit of vipers” sample makes the song feel like being on the run from a particularly messed up serial killer.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope I have given you at least one new song to add to your Halloween party or perhaps trick or treating porch playlist this October.

There’s plenty out there that summons the forces of evil in audio form, and to me, these are some of the best and spookiest. If you wish to save these dark forces, below is a Spotify playlist of these five songs. Thanks for reading!



Dreamcore: An Ethereal Wave Playlist

What is Ethereal Wave?

Ethereal wave is best understood as “dark fairy music.”

A subgenre of darkwave, ethereal wave is characterized by an atmospheric arrangement of guitar, synths and typically female vocals.

“Atmosphere” means something very specific here; the vibe of ethereal wave is dreamy and psychic like the ash-tinged smoke rippling from the burning end of an incense stick.

The Playlist

  • “In the Presence of the Frost” – Virgine Dramatica
  • “In Dreaming” – Diva Destruction
  • “Green Velvet” – The Shroud

The Shroud projects a paganistic interpretation of the ethereal wave genre.

Calling to mind images of Ophelia, The Shroud embodies the concept of the darkly beautiful feminine.

  • “For A Day” – This Ascension
  • “Drown” – Strange Boutique
  • “Invisible” – Switchblade Symphony

Switchblade Symphony is an iconic band that blends gothic rock with classical music.

Tinged with a cigarette-smoke grunginess, Switchblade Symphony exist as pioneers of female voices in a largely male-centric space.

  • “how it came to be this way” – Autumn
  • “Witches” – Faith & Disease
  • “Alle In Asche” – Mephisto Walz
“The First Release” by Mephisto Walz
  • “The Unshakable Demon” – Autumn’s Grey Solace
  • “City Moon” – Love Spirals Downwards
  • “Hitherto” – Cocteau Twins

Cocteau Twins is a classic ethereal wave band, probably among the first names to come up in association with the genre.

I feel like, for this reason, it’s integral that they be included in this playlist. However, in the name of exploring perhaps lesser-known artists, I’ve relegated them to the latter half of this playlist.

  • “Naturally Cruel” – Mors Syphilitica
  • “Slide” – Cranes
  • “Bare” – Lycia

Lycia demonstrates a multiplicity of styles within the realm of darkwave, electronic rock and ethereal wave.

I first encountered the band through their cold, echoing track “Failure,” which, while not ethereal in the genre-related sense, is unequivocally impactful.

“Bare” illustrates another side of Lycia’s sound, taking their abilities to another level.

Final Thoughts

Ethereal wave is a beautiful genre.

The kind of music best enjoyed on gloomy autumnal evenings, the genre’s lack of mainstream acclaim only serves to hide the massive breadth of artistry within.

For individuals who may not enjoy traditional darkwave, ethereal wave is a great way to break into the genre.


Songs You Need to Know: August 2023

Every single day, an artist somewhere releases a new song. A lot of these songs happen to be good.

What happens if a good song releases and you don’t hear it? What if in some alternate universe it becomes one of your favorite songs, but in this universe you’re stuck listening to all of the bad ones currently on your playlist?

I don’t want that to happen, so here are 12 tracks released in the past month that I think you need to hear.

Armand Hammer is gearing up for their first album since 2021, with “We Buy Diabetic Test Strips” out on Sep. 29. The duo of billy woods and E L U C I D seem to be taking their sound in a new direction, teaming up with JPEGMAFIA on production for this track. I’m excited to see where the album goes, especially with the quality of music that billy woods has been putting out this year.

Mick Jenkins’ new album “The Patience” is an excellent return to form, and is worth a listen in its entirety. But if you don’t have time for all that, I think “Show & Tell” is a great place to start.

Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist finally dropped their long-awaited collaborative album on a proprietary website that gives off the eerie feeling that it’s connected to the blockchain. This single is available on all platforms however, and does not disappoint.

Music Education Playlists

A Brief Guide to the Y2K Trance Revival

At the risk of making some readers of this article feel old: Gen Z has nostalgia for the early 2000s now. People are posting images of clunky technology and tagging it #aesthetic. Artists are selling CDs and cassettes as physical merchandise again. And, yes, this includes music genres too: Trance is back.

Many of these new releases are mostly confined to small corners of the internet, so to start on this journey into geometric fonts and really wishing they still made transparent video game consoles, I’ve selected a few landmarks in the development of the scene.


My End-of-Summmer Playlist

I like school, I really do; and I’m glad to be back at it.

But there’s something about the loss that’s involved — the loss of free time, the loss of beachside hang-outs, the loss of schematic summer-ness — that’s always painful to swallow.

Not only is it always an adjustment starting a new semester, but this fall sees a particularly vexatious surge of extra freshmen. The resulting collapse of the sanctity of college common areas weighs heavily on the psyche.

As a self-identified Person Who Listens to Too Much Music, music was a vital tool for me this week.

Below is a compilation of tracks I, as well as others, have used to soften the proverbial blow of our returning academic responsibilities.

Good luck out there!

The Playlist

If you’re anything like me (combination hyperactive-inattentive), then you tend not to stick with one particular flavor of auditory stimulus whilst weathering the tribulations of back-to-school season.

While I primarily market myself as a goth, I’ve got a real soft spot for Carhartt-Marlboro-septum ring-type garage/art/post-punk rock.

Weird songs that sound like the way cigarette smoke smells and mansplaining feels touch me in the most deepest recesses of my calcified English major heart.

It really takes the edge off.

Here are some highlights:

  • “Troglodyte” – Viagra Boys

The third track on their 2022 album “Cave World,” “Troglodyte” tickles my brain with its silly, borderline-industrial beats. The melody reminds me of “Frogstrap,” another beloved track from their 2018 album “Street Worms.”

What I like about Viagra Boys is how vocalist Sebastian Murphy always seems to be just on the cusp of madness. I think you can extrapolate the overarching relevance of that concept.

Not a new song by any means, but a similarly brain-tickly one that I find I can easily get lost in. The beats are rhythmic but unobstrusive, fading into the background or punctuating the present at the listener’s behest. It’s pleasant, easy listening for someone who so desperately needs to distance themselves from the half-dozen new syllabi they just acquired.

IDLES is like Viagra Boys but from an alternate universe. This cover of a Gang of Four classic also sounds like it’s from an alternate universe, which is great when you yourself wish you were from an alternate universe where you were already finished with college.

These are Black Midi’s two top songs for a reason. Pulled from their 2022 album “Hellfire,” these tracks occupy a strange dimension between the 1940s and the 2020s. I can still remember seeing this band live and witnessing throngs of hipsters emphatically mosh to a quirky jilting guitar.

I was Jockstrappilled by the former GM of WKNC, DJ Cow Ball. She caught me at a particularly weak moment in which my ADHD was unmedicated and I was in an introductory film class. As one can expect, I quickly amassed over 100 streams.

I never know how to describe Jockstrap to people. Deeply experimental, enigmatic and hauntingly sweet, every Jockstrap song is a multilayered amalgam of sounds and sensations that will surely take your mind off the terror of The Future.

Closing Thoughts

When writing blog post playlists, I tend to keep them short. This is because I prefer to offer little morsels of stimuli rather than formidable hours-long chunks of obscure tracks.

By Rodrigo Curi on Unsplash

It’s also because I tend to listen to songs like people chew gum, mashing them obsessively between my teeth and squeezing out every last modicum of flavor. I’ll listen to a single song for hours until I’ve fully exhausted its capacity to generate dopamine.

I’m sure, in some broad and abstract way, this theme applies to the college experience.


Shells and Studs: A Surf Punk Playlist

When I was eighteen, I lived near the beach.

Living in a coastal town was certainly interesting, especially at the end of tourist season. Watching well-off middle class families fill the beaches with garbage and watching long-time residents struggle under the brunt of property damage incurred by hurricane season definitely helped radicalize me.

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

It was a strange period. I spent most of it alone, and thus listened to an exorbitant volume of music. The following playlist is a compilation of some of my favorite tracks from my time by the beach.

Not all of these bands are actually surf punk, but they share a similar energy and style that embodies the experience of summers by the coast.

The Playlist

  • “Stay Close to Me” – Bad Brains
  • “I Luv I Jah” – Bad Brains
  • “I And I Survive” – Bad Brains

These three tracks certainly play on Bad Brains’ reggae influences, with softer vocals from lead singer H.R. and a slower, twanging melody. I personally recommend the “Omega Sessions” version of “I Luv I Jah” for its cleaner vocals and smoother audio quality.

  • “A.M.” – Beach Goons
  • “Choker” – Beach Goons
  • “Anirak” – Beach Goons

Based in San Diego, Beach Goons delivers surf punk music with strong Latin influences. Their music captures the often melancholic liminality of living by the coast, with a sound that reminds me of summer humidity and fogged-up windows.

  • “Pheromones” – Meth Wax
  • “Invocation” – Meth Wax
  • “Arachnophobia” – Meth Wax

With a distorted lo-fi style, Meth Wax’s songs are consistently dazed, lustful and unusual. Though based in Athens, Georgia, Meth Wax maintains an ebullient sound that leads many fans to consider them surf punk (at least in spirit).

  • “Smoko” – The Chats
  • “Pub Feed” – The Chats
  • “The Clap” – The Chats

The Chats are a pub-punk band from Queensland, Australia. Their chaotic, disaffected attitude and rocking melodies make them a fun and youthful band with a sound that pairs excellently with summer drives through congested tourist districts.

  • “Spanish” – Jurassic Shark
  • “Pacing Tigers” – Jurassic Shark
  • “Order” – Jurassic Shark

With soft, indie-adjacent punk music, Jurassic Shark captures sensations of yearning, ephemerality and youthful excitement. Smoky lo-fi vocals contrast with clear, artsy strains of guitar.

Standalone Tracks

  • “We’re Gonna Get You High” – The Soaks
  • “Drowning” – SadGirl
  • “Wasteland” – Hooded Fang
  • “Too Drunk to Come” – Together Pangea

New Radio: A Riot Grrrl Starter Pack

This week, we explored a (very brief) history of the riot grrrl subculture and the efforts that fueled its progression.

As a quick recap, riot grrrl is a subculture that started in the 90s out of Olympia, Washington in response to the pervading sexism of the punk scene.

Photo by Marc Newberry on Unsplash

Branching off from the punk subculture, riot grrrl built its culture through the dissemination of fanzines, original art and music.

This playlist aims to capture some of the sounds that built the riot grrrl movement and continue to change the lives of girls and women in the scene.

The Playlist

  • “New Radio” – Bikini Kill
  • “Alien She” – Bikini Kill
  • “Suck My Left One” – Bikini Kill

Bikini Kill changed me.

I don’t even mean that as an exaggeration. Vocalist Kathleen Hanna’s particular brand of unrestrained rage truly speaks to me, and what it says is that I need to get a new facial piercing.

  • “Eating Toothpaste” – Bratmobile
  • “Bitch Theme” – Bratmobile
  • “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” – Bratmobile

Bratmobile is a classic riot grrrl band. With their hit song “Cool Schmool,” they give off a disaffected “cool girl” style that I really love.

  • “Jenny” – Sleater-Kinney
  • “Words and Guitar” – Sleater-Kinney
  • “Don’t Think You Wanna” – Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney presents a rolling, twangy rock sound that evokes orange-tinged skies and flannel shirts.

  • “Bluebell” – Babes in Toyland
  • “Hello” – Babes in Toyland
  • “Pain in My Heart” – Babes in Toyland

Babes in Toyland presents a similarly unrestrained sound as Bikini Kill, with moaning vocals giving way to full-on screams. Though it also has a grungy slant, as though the music were being diffused through smoke.


Playlist: Queer Goth Songs for Queer Goths

The goth subculture is, for many, inherently queer. In fact, a running joke between me and several of my goth friends is that gayness in the goth community is considered “boring” due to the sheer volume of bi and pansexuals populating the subculture.

There are many different reasons as to why goths are so queer, and I doubt I’m wholly qualified to speculate. I will do so anyways.

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Perhaps the marriage of the anti-establishment ethos from which goth was born and its darkly Victorian aesthetics gave way to the dissolution of contemporary markers of gender and sexuality.

Below is a short compilation of some of my favorite tracks by queer goth artists. Some of these songs focus on themes related to queerness while others simply intersect with the artist’s identity.

The Playlist

  • “Deathwish” – Christian Death
  • “Spiritual Cramp” – Christian Death

Christian Death is one of my all-time favorite goth bands. To me, they represent what I would consider to be the archetypal goth sound: doomy guitar, moody vocals and flippantly dark lyrics. Original frontman Rozz Williams was known for dressing in drag in opposition to the hypermasculinity of the punk scene, an act which solified him as something of a queer icon.

Cover for “The Iron Mask” by Christian Death
  • “Burial Ground” – Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows
  • “Deathhouse” – Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows

Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows is a largely underrated pioneer of the goth scene. I adore her work so much that I’ll probably dedicate an entire blog article to her in the future. The mastermind behind Sopor Aeternus (meaning Eternal Sleep or Sleep of Death) is Anna Varney, a trans woman whose experiences largely fuel her music. Varney’s 2020 album, “Island of the Dead” captures the despair of being in a relationship with someone who cannot accept their partner’s transness and is based on real-life experiences.

Cover for “Island of the Dead” by Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows
  • “Inked in Red” – Vision Video
  • “Death in a Hallway” – Vision Video

Vision Video is a band based in Athens, Georgia that is quickly mobilizing to change the goth subculture for the better. In my article about the band, I touched on the rich political commentary the band touches on in their songs as well as the work of frontman Dusty Gannon in cultivating a safer, more accessible goth scene.

Cover for “Death in a Hallway” by Vision Video
  • “Dark” – Secret Shame
  • “Who Died in Our Backyard” – Secret Shame

Based in Asheville, Secret Shame brings an interesting contemporary sound to the traditional goth style. With a slant bordering on alternative rock and a vocalist who sounds like a centuries-old ghost, Secret Shame produces songs right on the cusp of the goth scene.

Cover for “Dark Synthetics” by Secret Shame