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Songs for a strange, difficult and beautiful year
by Jenn Pelly

1. Angel Olsen "If It's Alive, It Will" (2010)
"I have to thank you now/ You've changed the way I think"
I honestly feel like I've been searching for this song my entire life. If it were surgically possible to implant a song into your skull so that it just played on and on inside of you until the day you die, this is probably what I would want. I have spent much of my life--like all writers--perfecting the art of aloneness. It's always partially defined me, and it's liberating. This wild tune sounds isolated but full of light. It is the soundtrack to the epiphany I hope to live everyday.

2. Rita Abadzi, "Mother, Please Don't Send Me to America" (1934)
I was in the UK last month. On my last night in London, someone played me this record at her kitchen table: I'm Burning, I'm Burning: Urban Greek Songs 1933-37 by Rita Abadzi just out on Mississippi Recs. Given my circumstances, and the grim situation in the U.S., this song resonated: "Mother, don't send me to America/ I will fade away and die there/ I don't want dollars, how can I say it/ I want bread, onions, and him that I love"

3. Patti Smith, "At least it would come out" (early 70s)
A treasured clip of Patti talking about moving from Jersey to NY

4. Frankie Cosmos, "NYC is cold" (2013)
A bit of truth from 2013's im sorry im hi lets go

5. Shopping, "In Other Words" (2013)
Watching this British band perform is pure joy--the wide smile on Rachel's face when she plays guitar, never with both feet on the ground, is kind of the point of music. This record is getting a U.S. reissue next year and i think they are touring here, too.

6. Lizzy Mercier Descloux, "Room Mate" (1981)
I heard this intriguing pioneering Parisian post-punk record for the first time this year thanks to Laura S!

7. Destroy All Monsters, "Bored" (1978)
My earliest memory of Destroy All Monsters is probably fall 2012 at the MoMA Ps1 art book fair. I came across the book from Primary Information and then sought out their reissues on Ecstatic Peace. Coupled with the Mike Kelley retrospective last year, i associate this band with Ps1 now, a place where I feel like I spent a lot of time in 2014

8. Neon Blud, "Andrea's Blud/Neon Plunge" (2009)
I went back to this 2009 Tampa noise punk 7" after I went there this summer to profile Merchandise, which spurred another year with their extended discography sewn into the fabric of my day to day--I try to explain it and i always fall short, but I am still constantly inspired by these people. This is so fucked sounding and I'll never get sick of it.

9. Neo Boys, "I'm Free" (1979)
The late 70s Portland punk OGs cover the Stones. From their reissue set last year on K.

10. The Honey Bees, "Slow Poke" (1960)
I picked up this LP, Great American Country Hits, at a record store in Hudson when I was there for Basilica. Playing it transports me back to that small town upstate in the fall.

11. Vivien Goldman, "Private Armies" (1981)
Thanks Brett for sending me this magic 12". Robert Wyatt played on this, which reminds me of one of my favorite moments of the year: I walk into Geoff Travis' office at Rough Trade to interview him, and he says, "This is Robert Wyatt's favorite street in London." I spent the rest of the day reading at a cafe on that block.

12. Sinead O'Connor, "I Want Your Hands on Me" (ft. Mc Lyte) (1987)
A vivid summer memory: watching the video for this song projected onto the wall of a living room

13. Arthur Russell, "Don't Forget About Me" (2008)
I still listen to Arthur Russell more than anyone else and speaking on a panel about his music/life at Housing Works this year was so surreal. This is a simple, sad and beautiful song that is made even more sad/beautiful learning about how Arthur had such high hopes for it.

14. Emy Jackson, "Crying in a Storm" (1966)
60s Japanese surf pop that always made its way into my girl group "DJ" sets this summer

15. KSMB, "Sex noll Tv" (1981)
One of the best films of the year was We Are the Best by Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, and interviewing him at BAM was one of the most unexpected, fun things i got to do this year. The most prominent song in this film--about three girls who start a punk band in early 80s Sweden--is called "Hate the Sport", which they wrote about how they hate gym class. But this song by KSMB also features prominently. There's a scene where Hedvig (the only technically proficient member of the band) is about to play electric guitar for the first time. These two older men basically try to mansplain guitar to her. Then she picks up the guitar and shreds a really beautiful cover of this.

16. Excuse 17, "Watchmaker" (1995)
Exploring the Sleater-Kinney catalog this year reminded me how deeply I have always needed that band. Carrie Brownstein also played guitar and sang in Excuse 17. I wrote a review of SK's catalogue this year, and the day it was published, I bought a used copy of this album from Academy Records in Greenpoint

17. Dead Moon, "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" (1988)

18. Swans, "Love Will Save You" (1991)
By the time Swans played their headlining set at the Basilica fest in Hudson this fall, I was feeling this very inspired culmination of energy from the whole day. It was a rare thing. After a weekend like that--full of breathless reading and live music played in the dark--you feel like you can and will create anything

19. The 3Ds, "Beautiful Things" (1993)
I woke up one sunday morning in the late summer and the sun was pouring through my window. I had just moved into a new bedroom. Having previously lived in a tiny windowless room, I have a newfound appreciation for the simple luxury of natural light, and despite not having listened to this song since college, it instantly came into my head.

20. Joanna Gruesome, "Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love With Me?" (2013)
The only album I bought from the Rough Trade shop on Talbot Road when I went there last month

21. The Raincoats, "In Love" (1979)
I listened to The Raincoats all year. How great is it that the repetition in this song came from Gina trying to recreate Echo and delay with just her voice. "I'm so happy/ Happy sad/ In-in-in love-love is so-soo tough/ On my-my-my-my e-e-e-mo-o-tion"

22. Bikini Kill, "Outta me" (1993)
"Push the walls open/ I wanna see my memories bleed"

23. Fred Neil, "Dolphins" (1967)
Sometimes I feel like my capacity for loving animals is much greater than it will ever be for loving other people (maybe Pier knows this--she sent me the song--thanks Pier!) "Dolphins" is a pained ode to a lost love, a protest song for peace, and a tribute to man's best underwater friend--written by a folk singer who penned songs for Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Harry Nilsson before abandoning music to devote himself to fighting for the lives of dolphins. How great is this: "I've been searching for the dolphins in the sea/ And sometimes I wonder/ Do you ever think of me?"

24. David Bowie, "Helden" (1977)
Thank you Lindsay for sending me this version of "Heroes" and for exploring Berlin with me. We should go baaaack

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