The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

2024 Senior Column: Matthew Kim

Matthew Kim

I started writing music reviews because I was isolated. The pandemic, which carried the class of 2024 into high school, was difficult and long, and even if the initial spring of 2020 was the hardest, autumn was the longest. By September, I was pressed to find any hobby to pass the time, and the prospect of becoming a music reviewer seemed simple enough. Take an album, then score it — the lyrics and instrumentation are this good, the mixing is alright— and, finally, write. It’d be like moderating a dog show or grading an Advanced Placement exam. It’d be fun, I told myself.

Coming into high school, I treated much of my life like I was writing a music review, or grading an AP exam, or moderating a dog show. I was dispassionate about everything. And why not? Self-expression just seemed so inconvenient. Why waste hours introspecting when you could just live your life and let things sort themselves out? And the biggest culprit, to me, was poetry — air was useless, pretentious nonsense. 

Then, in sophomore-year English when I wrote my first poem, I discovered that I was right. Poetry made no sense. But it didn’t have to. 

That first poem was a mess. Its structure was tortured and unreadable, its language baffling; anyone besides me would have been hard-pressed to figure out what it meant. But, through that garbled mess of words, I found myself expressing the thoughts that I’d been unable to say out loud — about faith, about self-identity, about family. When confronted with the monumental task of describing those things, coherence would have felt wrong. A logical poem wouldn’t have captured the illogical complexity of existence.

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One thing I’ve learned after four years of reviewing music is that the best songs are also often incoherent. I can’t make out a single lyric in one of my favorite songs of all time, but the roaring death-metal guitars, interspersed with interludes of quiet beauty, tell me everything I need to know. (For the nerds, that’s “God of Love” by Liturgy.) Many of my favorite songs’ lyrics read like stream-of-consciousness Notes-app poetry, borne of pure desperation rather than deliberate meaning. (Like “Beach Life-in-Death” by Car Seat Headrest.) The best music doesn’t have to be logical. 

Why would it be, when nothing else around us makes sense? You just have to feel it. In my opinion, a good song or poem is felt more than it’s consumed. 

Same with the best work of art, the best day, the best first kiss — they feel correct to the gut more than they make sense to the brain. I can’t rate any of those things on a ten-point scale on the merits. I can’t judge music — or poetry, or beauty, or existence — like a dog show or an AP exam.

In middle school, I started writing music reviews to become an objective judge. Now, whenever I listen to an album, I bring every life experience I have to the table and let the music make me feel something new. In that process, the review becomes, indirectly, an essay about my soul.

In middle school, I moved through life trying to avoid introspection. Now, I know I wouldn’t have survived without it.

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Matthew Kim
Matthew Kim, Web Managing Editor

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