The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

Hudson Woods throws his arms out after a play before getting into position
Hudson Woods climbs to new heights after standout sophomore season
Jonathan Jones, Sports Writer • May 18, 2024
Joshua Velasquez committed to serving his country in the U.S. Army.
Beyond basic
Margaret Edmonson, Adviser • May 17, 2024
Sydney Rakowitz will study education and training and music at the University of Incarnate Word.
Seniors sign to continue athletic, non-athletic careers
Valley Ventana, Staff • May 16, 2024
Boy Scouts of America announced on May 7 the organizations name will change to Scouting America on the organizations 115th birthday Feb. 8, 2025. Photo by JV via
Boy Scouts changing name after 115 years
Grayson Cook, Staff writer • May 15, 2024
The top 15 students in the senior class receive special recognition at graduation on May 22 due to their hard work throughout high school. 
Graphic by Alex Whelchel via Canva
Profile: Top 15 seniors
Alex Whelchel, Managing Editor • May 13, 2024

October music monthly

A recap of songs and albums from the month of October
Singer Jane Remover’s album cover for their sophomore album “Census Designated” that was released this month. Photo by Brendon Burton via deadAir Records.



“COLMILLO” by Tainy (feat. J Balvin & Young Miko)

Genre: Reggaeton, Hip-House

Rating: [8/10]

A funky, electronic take on reggaeton, taking so many different great artists and putting them together for a gauntlet like track. So many different sounds are tackled and each one is fresh and futuristic.


“Dancer” by IDLES (feat. LCD Soundsystem)

Genre: Dance-Punk

Rating: [8/10]

IDLES have always dabbled with dance-punk, but “Dancer” is as dancey as it gets.  With help from LCD Soundsystem, the two bands come together for a real earworm, reinventing their sound and showing promise for their upcoming album

“Dang” by Caroline Polachek

Genre: Art Pop

Rating: [8/10]

“Dang” is a purposefully clunky song.  Caroline Polachek follows her most recent album with a single that sounds like nothing I’ve heard.  It’s a pretty lowkey track, the beat is bare and Caroline’s vocals aren’t anything new from her, but the deconstructed, odd nature of the track is strangely hypnotizing.


“From a Man” by Young Thug

Genre: Trap

Rating: [7/10]

Some more new music from the Young Thug vault while he’s in jail and it’s pretty good.  Not as notable as a lot of his best tracks, but compared to his last album I appreciate this track being released. It’s well produced and has a lot of heart, focusing on his children and his life, which I think adds a lot.


“Jelsy” by bar italia

Genre: Indie Rock

Rating: [8/10]

A beautiful Indie Rock ballad with Nina taking forefront, another single that further solidifies bar italia’s place in the genre and reason to be excited for their upcoming project “The Twits”.


“Mother Nature” by MGMT

Genre: Indie Rock

Rating: [9/10]

I’ve been waiting for the new MGMT for three years now and it was worth the wait. Compared to the dark synthwave sound of their last album, this single is a lot lighter, taking a more jangle pop approach. The track is so intriguing and I expect nothing less for their new album “Loss Of Life”.


“Tantor” by Danny Brown

Genre: Experimental Hip-Hop

Rating: [9/10]

The first single from Danny’s long awaited “Quaranta” is wonderfully wacky.  With a simple guitar and drum loop, “Tantor” doesn’t need to be flashy to be interesting.  Danny shines through with his zany lyricism and charismatic voice, making this a highly enticing lead single.




“1989 (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift

Genre: Pop

Rating: [7/10]

Taylor’s remade version of her 2014 transition into pure pop is different, for better or worse. “1989” was a pretty big album for the world at the time of its release, even if I didn’t want it to be. I remember I heard this album religiously on the radios; my sister would constantly be playing it, and I couldn’t escape it. However, I think it gave me a better appreciation for the fun, well-written pop tunes on the album. It’s hit after hit, “Blank Space,” “Style,” “Shake It Off,” “Bad Blood,” these are some of the biggest pop songs of the 2010’s, and Taylor’s redone versions of them add a cool electronic flare to them.  Sometimes it’s a bit rougher around the edges, especially on “Bad Blood” which sounds surprisingly bumpy, and a lot of the changes can seem quite unnecessarily modernized. As far as the vault track and bonus tracks go, they’re welcomed. These would be some of the best tracks on the original, with songs like “Suburban Legends,” “Is It Over Now?,” and especially “Say Don’t Go,” are just super solid and improve the album experience as a whole tenfold.

Favorite Songs: “Welcome To New York,” “Blank Space,” “Wildest Dreams,” “Wonderland,” “New Romantics,” and “Is It Over Now?”

Least Favorites: “Bad Blood” and “Now That We Don’t Talk”


“A Great Chaos” by Ken Carson

Genre: Trap

Rating: [7.5/10] 

Ken Carson’s third full-length album is both enjoyable and genuinely impressive.  As much as I’ve enjoyed Ken’s output of music over the years, it hasn’t felt fully realized, like there was something missing to elevate his sound.  “A Great Chaos” finally feels like Ken starting to get his footing.  Whether it be the infectious “Jennifer’s Body,” the multi-layered “Me N My Kup,” or the blown out “Lose It,” AGC has a level of variety Ken’s music seriously lacked.  It’s an aesthetically interesting, well produced, and decently performed project, an exciting step in the right direction.

Favorite Songs: “Green Room,” “Jennifer’s Body,” “Fighting My Demons,” “Singapore,” “Lose It,” “Me N My Kup,” “Succubus,” “Paranoid,” “Overtime,” “Nightcore,” and “i need u”

Least Favorite: “It’s Over” and “Nightcore 2”


“And Then You Pray For Me” by Westside Gunn

Genre: Boom Bap

Rating: [6.5/10]

“And Then You Pray For Me” not only falls flat as a standalone project, but also as a follow up to 2020’s “Pray for Paris.”  The Griselda label has had a good few years, putting out success after success and finding their niche.  This is true for Westside Gunn, not only getting features on albums from the likes of Kanye West and Travis Scott, but also having his own albums gain a lot of notoriety.  However “ATYPFM,” sadly feels more like a bump in the grand scheme of things.  Spanning an hour and 20 minutes, it’s one of Gunn’s lengthiest projects yet and it suffers greatly for quantity over quality.  “Pray for Paris,” a tightly knit, packed project that had no time to wait around, where “ATYPFM” has a surplus of it.  Most of the downsides come from its length and Gunn trying too hard to reinvent himself.  Tracks like “1989” and “JD Wrist” try to achieve this cloudier, trap feel, but end up sounding laughably bad and out of place.  Some of Gunn’s best songs are riddled through here, songs like “Mamas PrimeTime” and “KITCHEN LIGHTS” are classic, hungry Gunn, but they’re too far in between for the project to feel rewarding or worthwhile.

Favorite Songs: “Mamas PrimeTime,” “Suicide in Selfridges,” “KITCHEN LIGHTS,” “FLYGOD 2x,” “Babylon Bis,” “Jalen Rose,” and “The Revenge of Flips Leg”

Least Favorites: “1989,” “JD Wrist,” “Disgusting, “LL BOOL GUNN,” and “Freddy Js”


“Census Designated” by Jane Remover

Genre: Shoegaze

Rating: [9/10]

Jane Remover’s “Census Designated” is the natural progression of a musician overflowing with talent. In 2023 we’ve seen a lot of promise from the newest shoegaze artists, whether it be Parannoul’s “After the Magic” or Asian Glow and sonhos tomam conta’s “dreamglow,” melding the fuzzy sound of the 90’s with a fresh coat of electronica. However, “Census Designated” is the clearest and most exciting take on the sound I’ve seen yet.  At its most subtle moments it’s serene, focusing on Jane and her lyrics dealing with  identity, and at its loudest it’s noisy, crafting this breathtaking wall of distorted, layered sound. The tracks are lengthy, spanning 6-8 minutes for each and it’s worth every second as the tracks morph throughout their runtime. The second single, aptly titled “Census Designated” is easily one of the best songs of the year so far, with its themes of envy and resentment being emotionally potent and well written. The rest of the track list is just as moving, with such lush soundscapes one after the other. Few albums have me as excited about the future of music as much “Census Designated,” does, it achieves all it goes for and so much more.

Favorite Songs: “Cage Girl / Cam Girl,” “Lips,” “Fling,” “Holding A Leech,” “Backseat Girl,” “Idling Somewhere,”  “Census Designated,” and “Contingency Song”

Least Favorite: “Always Have Always Will”


“Fake Sleep” by Voice Actor

Genre: Sound Collage

Rating: [7.5/10]

As a collection of tracks selected from their 2022 album “Sent From My Telephone,” an 109-track long, 4 hour project, “Fake Sleep” is much more digestible.  The English duo craft a serene, minimalist, spoken word electronic project, telling dreamy stories of a variety of unreal topics.  Often it can be overly pretentious and vague, but for the most part it’s an enthralling and beautiful project.

Favorite Songs: “HHBYTL,” “U Projected 2,” “What It’s Worth,” “Freefall,” and “Myself 2 Myself”

Least Favorite: “Let U Go”


“Fanfare” by Dorian Electra

Genre: Electropop

Rating: [7.5/10]

Dorian Electra’s third album suffers from what their last project did too well, committing to the bit.  In 2020, Dorian released their sophomore album “My Agenda” an album so good at satirizing incel culture, that it in itself became insufferable.  However, with “Fanfare,” an album supposed to thematically surround the orchestra and fan culture, it doesn’t do quite enough.  The opening tracks “Symphony” and “Idolize” play into the themes pretty well, but the rest of the tracklist fall back into the tropes of their last album.  The music in itself sounds good, tracks like “anon” and “Lifetime” are wildly catchy and exciting, but so much of Dorian Electra’s music is focused on the theme that if it isn’t fully realized, it holds it back.

Favorite Songs: “Idolize,” “Freak Mode,” “Puppet,” “anon,” “Touch Grass,” and “Lifetime”

Least Favorite: “Phonies”


“For All The Dogs” by Drake

Genre: Pop Rap

Rating: [5/10]

Another meddling release from Canada’s golden boy.  On “For All The Dogs,” Drake is trying to break free from his cartoonish persona, and once again, it falls flat. At one hour and 25 minutes, the 23 song tracklist is stretched thin with vague threats and melodies that work better than melatonin.  Every once and a while you might hit a highlight, tracks like “Virginia Beach” or “8am in Charlotte” for example, show a part of Drake we haven’t heard in a while, but for every good song there are five forgettable ones. I think what’s plagued his music lately is that he has no push to make anything new. He’s already on the top of the charts, rich, and a household name at this point, why would he need to try? It shows on the music, tracks blend together, production is unrefined, and Drake’s lyrics need a lot more time in the oven. As a whole, “For All The Dogs” does what it’s supposed to, it keeps Drake relevant and gives him a few more hits to flaunt, but in terms of being an enjoyable experience all the way through, the dogs are still hungry.

Favorite Songs: “Virginia Beach,” “Amen,” “FPS,” “8am in Charlotte,” “Rich Baby Daddy,” and “Another Late Night”

Least Favorites: “Members Only,” “Gently,” and “Polar Opposites”


“Javelin” by Sufjan Stevens

Genre: Chamber Folk

Rating: [9/10]

Sufjan Stevens has had a tough year. Whether it be last month, getting diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a condition that took away his capability to walk, having to go through extensive physical therapy to regain his walking abilities. The most shocking news however, revealed who this album was dedicated to. On a post to Instagram on the day of the album’s release, Sufjan revealed that the album was dedicated to his late partner Evan Richardson who passed away in April. This information, previously unreleased, showed the emotional charge of the album and explained its grieving nature. From the first seconds of the album, it is absolutely devastating. The music on this album is momentous, the sounds are rich and Sufjan’s voice and lyrics compliment them perfectly. The opener “Goodbye Evergreen” is one of my favorite Sufjan tracks to date, it sets the tone, hitting record time for making me cry. Just something about hearing him sing “goodbye evergreen, you know I love you” knowing it’s meant for his deceased lover is petrifying, and then the crescendo at the end is simply stunning. Following tracks take a more subtle, folky approach, but don’t stray away from the same level of quality, songs like “A Running Start,” “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?,” and “So You Are Tired,” are all equally moving and memorable. The project as a whole is just a level of emotion that I haven’t experienced in music in a while, a meaningful record for both Stevens and the listener alike.

Favorite Songs: “Goodbye Evergreen,” “A Running Start,” “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?,” “Everything That Rises,” “My Little Red Fox,” “So You Are  Tired,” and “There’s A World”

Least Favorite: None


“VOIR DIRE” by Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist

Genre: Abstract Hip-Hop

Rating: [8/10]

A clash of two titans in the abstract hip-hop scene, bound to be good.  Earl Sweatshirt, former Odd Future member, pioneer for the angsty, dissociative wave of hip-hop that has developed over the past few decades, and The Alchemist, supplier of some of the most well crafted beats your favorite artists have rapped over.  These two come together for a brief showcase of their collective power.  Across the 11 songs you have a meditative approach from Earl, staying inside his comfort zone while still keeping it interesting.  The beats present are your typical antique sounding, sample heavy Alchemist instrumentals, which complement Earl’s lax, almost spoken flows.

Favorite Songs: “100 High Street,” “Vin Skully,” “Sentry,” “27 Braids,” “Mac Deuce,” and “The Caliphate”

Least Favorite: “Heat Check”

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