Finally, the weather is warming, the trees are budding, and I think it’s rubbing off on me--I’ve been finding myself recently with a sunnier disposition, a new spring in my step, and a renewed sense of gratitude as I remember what it is to actually enjoy time outside. Coupled with the weather, I’m newly nostalgic as I begin to realize what it means that my high school experience is drawing to a close.
I’ve always been sentimental to a fault--my room is a mess of letters, knick-knacks, tickets, posters and keepsakes--so now, closing this chapter of my life, I’ve of course been revisiting my old playlists. It’s remarkable how much my taste has changed, and how much it’s stayed the same these past couple years. It’s been a bittersweet little endeavor, relistening, because I can still feel my younger self in every one of these songs I’d forgotten--I’m reminded how she felt about high school and about the world.
Anyways, in this spirit, I’ve compiled another disjointed list of songs for you all, only some of these I love now, some I loved then and forgot, and a few I loved then and love still. They’ll be loosely grouped by high school year, but like all good music, a lot has spilled into the cracks of my life, rolling over, year after year.
Freshman year (from my playlist aptly named ‘Pretty fresh, man’):
Lost by Sorcha Richardson
This was an optimistic time, and despite the title, I actually found this to be a pretty uplifting song. The chorus sings out “I don’t wanna see you waste another day on your heartbreak… I know you're sad, baby we can dance it off, everybody's feeling lost,” and it somehow made me feel really content despite the fact that I had nothing figured out. It’s also extremely catchy, and so it was stuck in my head for a lot of freshman year.
Gold Soundz by Pavement
This song remains a great one even four years later. As a freshman, I felt extremely cool listening to any bands my older sister showed me, so when she played Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain album one morning, I immediately added Gold Soundz to my playlist. It’s a pretty relaxed song, especially as far as Pavement sometimes goes, but it goes well with any audience, any vibe, in my opinion.
Sin Triangle by Sydney Gish
I went to see Sydney Gish with a friend of mine Sophomore year, and I even wrote Not But For You Bunny up in one of my 10th-grade playlist articles. Oh, how it comes full circle. Sydney Gish is, on the whole, a goofy, catchy, tongue-in-cheek artist, and all of her songs have this very colorful, homemade feel, like a macaroni necklace or something.
Sin Triangle is bouncy, catchy and just makes me smile. Despite the hodge-podge feel of it, Gish does have a wonderful voice--she’s got a sort of boyish energy, and she's so casual and offhand with her lyrics and rhythms it’s easy to forget how talented she is, but after seeing her live, I can promise she is amazing. Some aspects of this song are sort of cringey now, like the overlaid audio of a man with a mid-Atlantic 50’s accent talking about identity--a trend that has since become objectively overdone and has lost, in my opinion, all effect--but in 10th grade, I really thought it was the coolest thing, and I can still get down with some Gish.
Not My Baby by Alvvays
This song still slaps! While it’s nothing revolutionary, it’s so solid. Alvvays is a pretty well-known indie pop band and this is one of their more popular hits. The band describes their music as “fuzzy, jangly indie-pop with infectious, sugary melodies” and I believe that’s pretty much as perfect as a definition can get. Not My Baby is a pastel-colored, gentle song, with faded vocals and bleeding, layered guitar and synth. Lead singer Molly Rankin was a solo artist before joining Alvvays, but I think her effortless, feminine vocals complement the rest of the band wonderfully, and they’re better off together.
Bill’s Mandolin by Psychedelic P*rn Crumpets
Ah, good ol’ Junior Year. This is the year that I probably consumed the most music and most diverse music of my high school career--I really got into it--and it’s also the year I went abroad. I suppose my newfound freedom made me feel quite rebellious, and that wild energy found its way into my playlists with bands like this one, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, T-Rextasy, and others with names I can’t write here. A friend of mine showed me PPC the summer before Junior year and I instantly loved them--self-defined as “a mix of sprawling, exploratory, psych-pop, prog rock, and heavy garage riffs,” the Australian band hits hard.
Bill’s Mandolin is surprisingly not in their top 5 most popular songs but I personally love it--it’s just loud and fun and messy, and it doesn’t take itself seriously. However, if you’re less of a high-energy type, check out their softer expansive and surreal song Denmark / Van Gogh & Gone.
Jumpers by Sleater-Kinney
Wow, shocking! Georgia mentions Sleater-Kinney in another newspaper article. I’m getting predictable at this point. BUT honestly, this was my favorite song for the winter of my Junior year, and it would be wrong not to pull it into this list. Jumpers is from SK’s The Woods album, which is some of their earlier, punkier work, and for a long time, was my favorite. There are a lot of aspects of Jumpers and the rest of The Woods that are simply not very palatable or harmonious but the energy of the music is just so infectious and powerful when you’re in the mood.
I also got the good fortune of being able to see Sleater-Kinney in Paris before the pandemic hit with one of my best friends, and that’s one of my fondest memories; Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker are such a powerful duo and their music has left such a massive legacy in the alt-rock world. Being in the same room, a few feet away from them as they screamed and smiled and jumped around the stage was incredibly surreal. Also, just to point out a fun little connection, Janet Wiess used to play drums for SK and then joined Pavement leader Stephen Malkmus (from my Freshman year highlights above) in their new band the Jicks.
Margaritas At The Mall by Purple Mountains
David Berman, or Purple Mountains, got his start with none other than Stephen Malkmus--the two met alongside Bob Nasanovich at UVA and began their band Silver Jews, which also slaps. I swear I didn’t plan for Stephen Malkmus to inform this entire article, I didn’t even realize what a large part of my life he was until now, he’s just everywhere. Learn something every day, wow… Anywho, Purple Mountains is Berman’s solo project and Margaritas At The Mall is a great piece of his.
Berman is a little existential in all of his music (take his most popular song, All My Happiness is Gone) and Marg’s at the Mall is no different. In the chorus, he sings “We're just drinking margaritas at the mall. That's what this stuff adds up to after all,” nodding to how absurd he feels life is.
I didn’t include this song last to be some sad, depressing conclusion to my senior year but because I find it kind of funny, and kind of liberating. It’s all been a little bit silly in hindsight, and I can’t help but laugh at all the hours I spent crying from stress or worrying about social politics in high school when faced with the oncoming dissolution of it all. The fact is, we’re all just metaphorically sipping margaritas at the mall. Also, I included this song because the lyrics are just genius.
After four years in high school, twelve at Lovett, and seventeen on earth, I think that sometimes, the very best thing you can do for yourself is to not take yourself too seriously--something I’m often guilty of. Try to notice the larger picture, laugh at yourself, try your hardest and don’t be too hard on yourself. It feels stupid to say, but I think the most difficult and most important lesson I learned in high school was to accept myself as I am and accept life as it is, with no value judgments placed on either. Life moves too fast to get so pent up in the minutiae. I’m trying hard to internalize this one and learn to enjoy myself, go easier on myself, and be proud of what I’ve done as I head into college.
As Alone by Florist
For my final song, on my final playlist article, in my final week of high school, I’m slowing it down. Florist’s “Vacation” was the song I chose for a video I made when my sister left for college, and so Florist’s “As Alone” is my choice for my own graduation.
As Alone is an extremely gentle and loving song, and I think the lyrics speak to a lot of the worries I think, the thoughts I have, and the efforts I make. Especially in this past month, I’ve been attempting to be present. This song sometimes helps. I’m going to let the lyrics do some of the talking for a moment, here are a few that stick out:
Dreaming of what I can do now,
To carry some kindness and love
And reminders that the pain will die down.
I walk and I read, I spend time in the sea
And nothing brings clarity to what makes me me
And Emily, just know that you're not as alone
As you feel in the dark, as you feel in the dark.
So it goes, natural as the falling of the snow
Just stay slow, listen to the love that I'm holding
And the beauty of unfolding
The life that is only
The living and the dying
The cycle and the ending
Flowers and honey
My hands on my body
Your hands on my body
The air on my body
The sun on my body.
Closing up this year, I wish I had time to process all that it really means to be once more--and this time semi-permanently--leaving my parents, my friends, my routines, my city, my backyard, my coffee machine, my magnolia tree, my fourteen-year-old dog, my teachers, these hallways, these classrooms, this campus, this age, this dependence, this safety, and this role.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always allow you to slow down when you want to, and I’ll likely only process this time in the future, once it’s already over. Time is rude that way, but I guess that longing is a part of why things get meaning and get remembered. I guess in that way, long after I’ve written this article and stopped listening to these songs, I’ll still have a bit of this time left with me in my incurable desire to have it back and appreciate it more.
I’m just indulging my emotional side now and dumping into this article, but it feels right to leave some of these thoughts in this space where I’ve created so much work I’m proud of and have had fun with over the past four years, and to make time for some personal reflection. In four more years, my playlists will look very different, and I’ll have learned and been quite a few more things. I’m grateful for the music, people and moments that have colored my life thus far, though, anyways, and I feel lucky that I can say I’m leaving this era happy.