Playlist of Life: Senior Reflects on High School Through Music
I try to record my life in multiple ways. Several shoe boxes sit under my bed packed with issues of the Riverdale Review, college pamphlets, notebooks from summer programs, and tattered name tags. These collections have materialized out of my fear that if life’s biggest occasions aren’t properly filed away, they’ll cease to exist. Unconsciously, I’ve created a much more portable record of my experiences, one far less systematic and much more intuitive, through playlists.
Music is a tremendously powerful tool to access vivid memories. Since 7th grade, I’ve been making new playlists at least once a month. Surfing through these playlists lets me revisit times of joy and discomfort, periods of new experiences, and slow winters. I can listen to Star Eyes by Flume and transport myself to the stressful bus ride I took on my first day at Riverdale. I can listen to Ghost by Motorama and revisit my great aunt’s terrace in the center of Cairo and the city’s fog of pollution and neon signs.
As my senior year comes to a close, revisiting my playlists has offered me a moment of self reflection. I’ve carried each song on my playlists with me through days of Constructing essays, evolving friendships, and long hours in the study center. My collection of playlists has allowed me to track my growth-- emotionally, socially, and intellectually-- throughout my four years at Riverdale and to hold onto the memories that each day here has brought me.
Without further ado, here is a very eclectic, very personal highlight reel of my high school playlists.
Ocean Bed by King Krule
At 474 plays, this is the top-played song on my computer, and it is undoubtedly a song that will always be synonymous with high school for me. King Krule’s debut album, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, is the only album that, to this day, I can listen to in its entirety on repeat. His semi-pretentious indie sound and incomprehensible British accent are what make me both love and hate his music, yet this album will alway be one that I return to.
About Today by the National
This song is one that I wouldn’t let myself listen to for a fairly long time after listening to it exclusively for two months. It was the first song that felt genuinely sacred to me, that I rarely shared with people, that I was afraid would lose its importance if I listened to it at the wrong time. I saw the National live with my older brother at the end of ninth grade. Introducing him to the band that night, a dynamic that often operates in the reverse, reinforced just how important music was to me, and pushed me to continue to find the bands and songs that inspire a similar sense of connection.
One Thing by One Direction
I recently watched Harry Styles presenting on Saturday Night Live and was reminded of the intense hours I spent analyzing, listening to, and crying over One Direction in middle school. This obsession defined my middle school experience. Wherever each member ends up in this cold, post-One Direction world, I can guarantee that a sizeable fraction of my heart will always be dedicated to the band. Sometimes it’s necessary to revisit the bands that inspired such pre-teen passions, because such all-consuming loves never truly fade and can always be easily retrieved.
Under Cover of Darkness by the Strokes
There are so many songs from the Strokes, one of my favorite bands, that I will love for the rest of my life. The band has seen many phases and many sounds throughout their lengthy career, but Under Cover of Darkness will always stick out to me as a song of theirs that is surprisingly upbeat and honest. It has served as a reminder to not take myself too seriously, an important message that often feels left out of their slow, signature “Is This It”-era sound.
Hard to Live in the City by Albert Hammond Jr.
This song has made an appearance on several playlists throughout high school.
I gravitate towards things that describe experiences in cities, specifically New York City, mainly because I, like many others, like to see myself in the media I consume. The song’s chorus is one that always seems to be stuck in my head and has followed me through many experiences, from summer trips to brand new cities, to unremarkable nights in New York, to nights spent in tents in Patagonia where I could not have been farther from city lights.
All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem has been one of my favorite groups since I first heard their song “Dance Yrself Clean” playing out of my brother’s room in 2010. I saw them live a few weeks ago and was particularly taken aback when they performed All My Friends, the final song of their set. Not only was it incredible to hear live, but one of the song’s lyrics, “To tell the truth / This could be the last time,” resonated with me for the first time. The end of my senior year has felt like a stream of potential last times. Every aspect of my life is on the cusp of change, and there is nothing I can do to protect myself or my relationships from that change. While a lot of my experiences may be last times, they are ones in which I feel fully present and that I am choosing to make the most of.