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Redwood Bark

Redwood Bark

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Bark beats: Four albums for four memorable years

Seniors, we made it! To commemorate the class of 2024’s time at Redwood, the Bark Beats column is returning with a review of an exciting album for each year of high school.

Freshman year: Phoebe Bridgers – “Punisher” (2020)

Photo courtesy of Dead Oceans.

Phoebe Bridgers’ first LP, “Stranger in the Alps,” came out in 2017, right when we entered sixth grade. It was fitting, then, that her much-awaited follow-up would come out as we transitioned into high school. “Punisher” is a moody, reflective album that ruminates on isolation and growing up, making it a perfect match for days spent sheltering in place or zoning out with our cameras turned off on Zoom. Even Bridgers’ striking cover art might remind a few of the surreal experience of stepping outside to red skies during the wildfires.

Standout tracks include “Kyoto,” “Chinese Satellite” and “ICU,” each showcasing Bridgers’ biting songwriting chops. One of my favorite lines of the album comes in “ICU.” “If you’re a work of art/I’m standing too close/I can see the brushstrokes.” Bridgers is at her best capturing the intricacies of her own feelings in this record. The fantastic album closer “I Know The End,” with its haunting lyrics and loud, tumultuous conclusion, offered relatability, if not solace, to listeners during a particularly apocalyptic feeling year.

 

Sophomore year: Tyler, the Creator – “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” (2021)

Photo courtesy of Columbia Records.

Over Tyler, the Creator’s career, the rapper has taken on numerous different personas. His debut album, “Goblin,” consists of dialogues between a disturbed patient and his therapist, with Tyler developing storylines between the characters and alter egos first introduced in that record. While that first LP was shocking and provocative, Tyler’s output in the thirteen years since has been interesting to watch develop and mature, with the most recent installment being “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST.”

Formatted in the style of a mixtape, complete with shouts from DJ Drama throughout, the album shows off Tyler’s confidence and artistry as he nimbly bounces between flexes and more heartfelt tracks with assistance from an impressive group of featuring artists. One standout is the nearly nine-minute “WILSHIRE,” in which Tyler muses over the course of a complicated relationship. This record was perfect for sophomore year when we started to get more comfortable being in high school and began building new friendships, finally in person.

 

Junior year: SZA – “SOS” (2022)

Photo courtesy of Top Dawg Entertainment.

“SOS” is quite the feat. SZA’s third album is composed of an impressive, almost intimidating 23-song tracklist. The titular track, “SOS,” begins with a Morse code cry for help and serves as a thesis for the record, unpacking all her anxieties, strengths and wants in one song. SZA tells us she’s over petty drama and won’t take disrespect anymore. She also pleads to be wanted and loved while rejecting a needy, clingy lover. Sounds confusing and stressful? That makes the song a perfect encapsulation of junior year when we were grinding our way through difficult classes, handling interpersonal issues and doing our best to make it look easy.

Over the course of the album, SZA flexes her skills in rap and R&B (and even country/rock as in the case of interesting genre hybrid “F2F”) and explores many moods, from desperately missing an ex in hit “Kill Bill” to complete confidence in “Smoking on my Ex Pack,” to insecurity in “Special” to feeling herself in “Shirt.” While junior year can feel like you’re as surrounded by water as SZA is on the album cover, this record makes all that stress sound great.

 

Senior year: Travis Scott – “UTOPIA” (2023)

Photo courtesy of Cactus Jack and Epic Records.

Travis Scott’s first album since 2018’s “ASTROWORLD” came out just in time for senior year, giving our grade some hits to put on graduation party playlists. The record thrives on features, defining senior year by including voices across the music industry that have soundtracked our lives so far, such as Beyoncé, 21 Savage, the Weeknd, SZA, Bad Bunny, Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti and many more. Similarly to “SOS,” the record has a long tracklist, fitting into recent trends of large, experimental rap albums so listeners can choose their favorite songs.

Scott has always inhabited a darker aesthetic within the larger world of rap, and this shines through in the production and imagery of “UTOPIA,” which, as the title suggests, deals with the possibility or impossibility of a perfect world. Although individual tracks are undeniably fun on their own, when listened to as a whole, the album fits perfectly into this gloomier overarching theme. My recommendation for your playlist is the hit “TOPIA TWINS,” which is a good one to listen to while dreaming about being at the beach instead of studying for finals.

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About the Contributor
Ava Carlson
Ava Carlson, Reporter
Ava Carlson is a senior at Redwood High School. She enjoys spending time with friends, running, coffee and finding new music.