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Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

Fall-ing Into New Music: Autumn Album Reviews

Olivia Rodrigo, Boygenius and Sufjan Stevens have released stellar new albums to begin the seaso
A cat caricature enjoys listening to the latest album by Olivia Rodrigo.

School is back in session and in the midst of college applications, impending deadlines and too many Advanced Placement classes, I turn to music for comfort in the face of an overwhelming season. My carefully curated autumn study playlist, featuring The Cranberries, Jeff Buckley and Lana Del Rey, is defrosting as we speak. The music world has been all too quiet as of late, per usual for this time of year. Reeling from a summer full of great music releases (some of which we will discuss today), many artists are in hiding, preparing for a busy winter. 


GUTS – Olivia Rodrigo

Released Friday, Sept. 8, 2023

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, SOUR, immediately shot her into stardom, as she now takes her place as a modern pop-punk icon. Expectations for Rodrigo’s sophomore album were high, and she certainly didn’t disappoint. 

GUTS begins with “all-American b****,” a 90s-inspired future pop-punk anthem. Rodrigo’s pen game is strong, as each lyric is filled with layered sarcasm ridiculing societal expectations of women. She effortlessly criticizes the double standards held for women with the line, “I’m grateful all the time/I’m sexy and I’m kind/I’m pretty when I cry.” The instrumentals are rather simple and repetitive, but this lullaby-esque melody was likely done with ironic intention.

One definite highlight from GUTS is its lead hit single, “Vampire.” This ballad begins with just a piano and slowly accelerates into an angry, heated rock song. Rodrigo’s album is filled with sudden changes in tempo, ad-libs and more unpredictability, adding a layer of nuance and excitement to an otherwise temperate album. In “Vampire,” Rodrigo sings of a toxic affair with an older, more experienced guy who took advantage of her youthful naivety: “You went for me and not her/‘Cause girls your age know better.” She eloquently creates an extended metaphor, comparing her ex to a vampire who bled her dry in more ways than one.

Unfortunately, the album’s lows combat its highs. The whispery, finger-picked, “lacy,” sounds as if it was directly ripped off of a Gracie Abrams album (sparking rumors about the possible subject of the song). Rodrigo’s more somber tracks like “Logical” and “Making the Bed” don’t particularly stand out to me. Her vocal talents shine, but these melancholy tracks come across as boring compared to the spunky highlights of GUTS

Next up on GUTS is the intriguingly titled, “Ballad of a homeschooled girl,” about the social consequences that come with homeschooling. Rodrigo’s unique element of incorporating humor in her lyrics truly shines throughout GUTS, and especially in this track. She makes fun of her own social shortcomings and self-deprecation by singing, “Everything I do is tragic/Every guy I like is gay.” Rodrigo’s genuineness and relatability are what appeal to her teen audience.  In the loud punky outro, she even lazily states, “I can’t think of a third line/La-la-la-la-la-la.” 

In “Get Him Back!” Rodrigo sings of the chaotic emotional whiplash that comes with toxic teenage love. In an ironically bored, monotone voice, Rodrigo is clearly soooo over it. Through the repetition of the phrase “get him back,” it is given a dual meaning as Rodrigo simultaneously fantasizes about both punching and kissing her ex-boyfriend. 

With GUTS, Rodrigo clearly attempted an album with a sense of emotional duality, like Lorde’s Melodrama or Lucy Dacus’ Home Video. However, the danceable, girl-punk upbeat tracks are clearly so much stronger than the quietly sorrowful ballads. Rodrigo may have to ditch the piano, as an electric guitar seems to fit much better in her hands. 


Highlighted Tracks:

“bad idea right?”

Without a doubt, the best songs on GUTS are the singles. “Bad Idea, Right?” is filled to the brim with synths, whirring and glitches that make the listeners feel dizzy and intoxicated. In this genuinely fun track, Rodrigo sings about going back to an old ex, a “bad idea” by any standards. The song begins with Rodrigo trying to control her inhibitions with the repetition of “Seeing you tonight, it’s a bad idea right?” It all crescendos in the chaotic chorus, reasoning why this hookup isn’t so horrible of an idea: “Yes I know that he’s my ex/But can’t two people reconnect?/I only see him as a friend/Biggest lie I ever said.” This has to be Rodrigo’s catchiest, most exhilarating song to date, and easily the best on the album.


Javelin – Sufjan Stevens

Released Friday, Oct. 6, 2023

Sufjan Stevens, known for his 2015 folk album Carrie & Lowell and his work on the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack, is the blueprint for a sad musician. His 10th album release, Javelin, was accompanied by art and essays: a multimedia passion project dedicated to his partner who recently passed. In one of the many essays, Stevens claims that this album is a way to explore his ever-changing definition of what love is. 

Javelin begins with “Goodbye Evergreen,” a track about navigating the connection between loss and love. He sings, “Goodbye evergreen, you know I love you,” with the phrase “I love you” echoing like the faint remainder of a bygone love. This is followed by the love song, “A Running Start,” a whimsical tune that is filled to the brim with beautiful imagery of a summer trip, a breath of fresh air by the sea. Stevens reminds his audience of his Illinois album, a personal favorite of mine, with his beautiful songwriting: “Don’t go, my lovely pantomime/Receive of me my only wish.” 

Stevens’ songwriting has always been his biggest strength. His lyrics are true poetry when looked at without the instrumentals. This skill is given center stage in the track, “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” Stevens softly sings in the outro, “Burn my body, celebrate the afterglow/Wash away the summer sins I made/Watch me drift and watch me struggle/Let me go.” 

Throughout Javelin, Stevens makes several religious allegories and allusions, especially prominent with direct Jesus references in, “Everything That Rises.” Javelin is such a thematically and musically complex album, featuring Stevens tackling tough subjects with grace and eloquence.

“Genuflecting Ghost” begins with a soft, staccato piano, and progresses into a head-banging, EDM style song. With Javelin, Stevens seamlessly blends his newer, electric music style with his older finger-plucked folksy work. In, “My Red Little Fox,” Stevens attempts a completely new style. A true, honest love song, the classically romantic lyrics state: “Kiss me like the wind/Now I sing it, won’t you kiss me from within?/Now I sing it, won’t you kiss me like the wind?” This track sounds something like heaven with its classical instrumentals combined with tinkling bells and angelic vocals. 

Surprisingly, Stevens closes Javelin with a cover. While his past works have gone out with a bang, Steven ends his 10th album softly, with a cove of Neil Young’s “There’s A World,” in his signature melancholic style. Sufjan Stevens has experienced more pain in his lifetime than fair, but through it all, he chooses to create beauty. Even when he’s at rock bottom, he sings about his faith in humanity, and his hope that things will always get better.


Highlighted Tracks:

“So You Are Tired”

In “So You Are Tired,” Stevens reaches a level of heart-wrenching that he hasn’t truly met since Carrie & Lowell. Singing of a failing relationship, Stevens says, “So you are as tired as the sun/Are you with or without a friend?/So you are tired of even my kiss/So go back to your den.” As the song magnificently progresses, it becomes clear to the audience that Stevens’ relationship is winding to an end. He sings, “I was the man still in love with you when I already knew it was done.” These weighted lyrics claim that their love was doomed from the start, but the instrumentals provide a sense of peace and acceptance, exemplifying a sense of comfort within the heartache.


The Rest – Boygenius

Released Friday, Oct. 13, 2023

Indie rock supergroup Boygenius, composed of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, has been unstoppable over the past year. (Side note: Can I still call them underground when they sold out Madison Square Garden?) Six months after the release of their full-length debut, The Record, they released a four-song EP titled, The Rest, composed of the songs that didn’t make it onto the album. 

the rest begins with “Black Hole,” the only track where all three members sing lead. Boygenius is known for loving their cosmic allusions, demonstrated throughout their discography. This track focuses on a newly discovered, mysterious black hole that seems to be creating new stars rather than destroying old ones. The short, yet sweet, song consists mainly of the staccato outro sung by Dacus and Bridgers. The lyrics, “Good day, goodnight, good talk, goodbye,” are so incredibly simple, while simultaneously being a genuine portrayal of a relationship. The keyboard synths and grimy guitar combine transcendently, providing a powerful backdrop to Boygenius’ poetry. 

Characteristically of Boygenius, the three other tracks on the EP are each led by one member, with their stylistic influences. “Afraid of Heights” is mainly sung by Dacus, about a late-night encounter that causes her to ponder her own morality. Someone tries to test Dacus’ fear of heights by asking her to jump off a cliff. She sings, “You called me a coward, I replied/‘I don’t want to live forever, but I don’t want to die tonight.” The melody is truly magical, and Dacus’ voice is as refreshing and smooth as a stream of water. 

Next on the rest is “Voyager,” with the main vocals done by Bridgers. Every Boygenius fan, myself included, knows that if Phoebe is singing lead on a track, it’s going to be devastating (re: “Revolution 0,” “Letter To An Old Poet,” “Me & My Dog”).

In Boygenius’ 2018 self-titled ep, Bridgers fantasized about leaving her heartbreak behind by going to space. Now, five years later, she’s finally landed back on Earth with the lyric, “Walking alone in the city makes me feel like a man on the moon.” Throughout her music career, Bridgers has made countless references to the moon. Her most direct one is obviously within her song, “Moon Song,” from her 2020 solo album Punisher. In “Moon Song,” Bridgers sings the iconic line, “If I could give you the moon, I would give you the moon.” Bridgers ends “Voyager” with a clear, heartbreaking callback in the line about the moon: “You took it from me, but I would’ve given it to you.” By seamlessly tying in old works to new ones, Boygenius uses the rest as a transcendent goodbye to this chapter of their career, and a welcoming to the next. 

As a chilly winter is impending, so is a season full of music releases. Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is set to release in only a few short days, on Oct. 27. Additionally, Snail Mail and Car Seat Headrest are set to release by the end of the year, which is always interesting so stay tuned. See you on the next one, music lovers!

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About the Contributor
Arna Churiwala
Arna Churiwala, A+E Editor
Hey Warriors! I’m so beyond psyched to be your Arts & Entertainment editor this year. My passions include music, film, and all things A&E. During my third and final year in the Golden Arrow, I hope to cover lots of diverse stories that represent all of the different arts throughout campus. It’s going to be a great year!