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A Soundtrack for Our “Happy City”

A Soundtrack for Our “Happy City”
Photo by Audrey Rodriguez

Audrey Rodriguez

Staff Writer 

UC Santa Barbara (UCSB)’s literary magazine The Catalyst and this year’s UCSB Reads pick, Charles Montgomery’s “Happy City”, teamed up to hold an exhibition on the first floor, mountain-side of the Davidson Library to showcase UCSB students’ interpretation of Isla Vista (I.V.). The neighborhood community has many of the components key to Montgomery’s description of a “Happy City” with its ample bike paths and green spaces, but I.V. might also be just distant enough from any big cities that it falls into the traps of suburbia with which Montgomery is concerned. Here are 10 songs inspired by I.V. and “Happy City” to listen to while walking around I.V. or checking out the exhibit!

Photo by Audrey Rodriguez

“Bike” by Pink Floyd

Whether you have collided yourself, or at least witnessed one of the unfortunate bicycle crashes that sometimes take place at UCSB, the bike follies that are staples of the UCSB experience feel just as disorienting as this song. Biking is a great way to get around a “Happy City,” but don’t forget to lock your bike so it is not “borrowed!”

“Ma City” by BTS

When returning to I.V. or your hometown, this song is a great upbeat and funky track to celebrate being home. We certainly “[k]now how to party” in I.V., and BTS is ready to help us welcome visitors with pride at that fact. 

“Super Rich Kids” by Frank Ocean

One complaint about I.V. that might ring especially true is that it is home to many “[s]uper rich kids with nothing but loose ends.” Especially around Deltopia and Extravaganza season, many may indulge in “[t]oo many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce” and “[s]tart [their] day up on the roof.”

“Jesus of Suburbia” by Green Day

The commuter-suburban lifestyle is one of the issues Montgomery points to as causing a less happy American public. The underlying frustration that many feel — being forced to live in this way — is well studied in Green Day’s sarcastic celebration of the all-too-familiar sitting on the couch in “[t]he living room, or my private womb / While the moms and Brads are away / To fall in love and fall in debt / To alcohol and cigarettes and Mary Jane” that all ultimately serves “[t]o keep me insane.” Green Day brings the dejected anger many of those residing in suburbia feel to the forefront as opposed to the depression it can cause.

“Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear is more on the nose in terms of describing the “routine malaise” in which these communities feel trapped. We are lucky enough to be able to escape this malaise with impromptu trips to the beach or hikes to the hot springs, and that’s what sets us apart as more of a Happy Town than a Happy City or a sad suburb. As frustrating as commuting in any way can be, Grizzly Bear reminds us it is important to try and “[m]ake it easy” and “[t]ake your time” with this contentedly resigned track.

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire is “already bored, already bored” at the idea of a suburban war and trying to comprehend “moving past the feeling again.” Again, they express the tendency towards escapism that many embody in suburban areas. The new Interactive Learning Pavillion sticks out on UCSB’s campus and adds urgency to Arcade Fire’s claim that “all the walls that they built / In the seventies finally fall” because most of the other buildings on UCSB’s campus are getting a bit old.

“Long Train Runnin’” by Doobie Brothers

One thing we have not quite figured out in the United States is efficient long-distance trains. The Doobie Brothers ask “[w]here would you be right now? / Without love,” and it seems our answer would have to be stuck in four-hour rush hour traffic. We must prioritize efficiency in travel time and natural resources used, so we can finally get to “keep on movin’!”

“American Teen” by Khalid

This album is a classic for any American kid who went to public high school when it came out. Its title track, “American Teen,” exemplifies the nostalgia of reluctantly waking up to the alarm sound the track begins with and being “high off my American dream.” Khalid immediately acknowledges the problems with this dream and how we do not always ensure the happiest cities by lamenting that he has “been waiting all year / To get the hell up out of here.” He conversely ends with a chorus of a jovial group singing that they are proud to be American; a disconnect Montgomery names is the continued misplaced belief in the possibility of the suburban “American Dream.”

“Right as Rain” by Adele

Okay, enough complaining about the suburbs! Adele reminds us to seek out enjoyment in strife, saying that even unfortunate events can cause “[y]ou [to] get excitement in your bones / And [to feel] everything you do’s a game.” Write poetry and prose like The Catalyst students, or visit the beach and lagoon to heal and “feel things!” 

“Never Felt Better” by Yu Ishii

Ishii is a local gem who has experienced UCSB and I.V. life firsthand, allowing her to perfectly capture the feeling of confidence and enjoyment of warmth that comes with I.V. summer vibes! This groovy pop track will make you realize that with the freedom college affords, you likely have “never felt better” and are “[c]alm cool forever” when relaxing by the Pacific. 

I.V. may not be perfect, but it is such a beautiful town with so many opportunities to appreciate nature that it seems fair to name it a Happy Town. Check out the “Happy City” exhibit in the Library and bask in the delightfully blustery summer days we have ahead of us with this soundtrack!

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