By: Kyla Dowling, Staff Writer and Alliteration Aficionado
If you’re anything like me (and for your sake, I really hope you’re not), the only thing getting you through university is pretending that you’re the main character of a dark academia novel. Yes, I may have spent an extraordinary amount of money on blouses and houndstooth skirts to fit the aesthetic, and yes, my roommate does have to physically drag me away from old bookstores whenever we go for a walk downtown. However, all you truly need to get in the dark academia zone is music (and coffee, probably).
The only thing nearly as enchanting as Ruelle’s expressive voice is the amount of control she has over it. Her voice lingers at the top of her range before sultrily slinking down to a gorgeous alto. Both the lyrics and the production are sparse, yet haunting. Ruelle hums along to the piano melody between verses, her voice giving weight to the song. She sings, over and over: “My only rival is within.” These lyrics encourage you to stop comparing yourself against others, and to compete only with yourself. It speaks to both the solitary and intelligent aspects of the dark academia aesthetic, telling you that your goals are the ones you must aim to beat.
Look, the dark academia aesthetic is deeply Eurocentric and many novels in that genre rely heavily on Greek mythology as the “be all, end-all” of education, but I do maintain that this song, based on the myth of Achilles, is a brilliant piece of art. The song packs an emotional journey, an existential crisis, and a candid discussion of nihilism into a whopping seven minutes. The vocalist urges Achilles to find meaning in his life after the death of his beloved, pleading: “See how the most dangerous thing is to love / How you will heal and you’ll rise above.” With a symphony of strings, French musings on death, and battling voices pushing Achilles in different directions, this song is beautifully unique.
Listening to this song feels like living in an apartment complex with incredibly thin walls. Everything sounds just a little far away, as if your neighbour is baring his soul, armed with a guitar. With lyrics referencing addiction, philosophy, and unrequited feelings, Tomo expresses vulnerability in a way that makes the listener feel like they’re intruding. The song is miserable and uncomfortable in all the best ways. The lyrics encapsulate the tragedy of being dependent, whether it be on a lover, like Tomo is, or on substances, like his lover is. Next time you’re having an existential crisis and mourning the fact that you ever allowed yourself to be attached to anything, just listen to this song. It might make your crisis worse, but it’ll help cement your brooding dark academia vibes that match perfectly with the themes of unrequited love and addiction.
Do you really have a dark academia aesthetic if you don’t listen to orchestral music? Yes, absolutely, because I refuse to be elitist, but I do highly recommend this piece. With a title synonymous with one of the most popular dark academia novels of all time — Donna Tartt’s The Secret History — this song has made itself onto many studying and dark academia playlists. The piece, described as a blend between a film score and a contemporary classical work, has a mysterious yet thrilling energy to it. At the 2:40 mark, the score grows in passion, evoking a sense of careful urgency as the violin soars above the rest of the orchestra with a gripping harmony. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like the main character as you write an essay, exhausted yet energized by the sheer beauty of learning, this is the piece for you.