Music

Built to Thrill

Music to get your heart racing.

Beastie-Boys-License-to-IllLicense To Ill
Beastie Boys
1986, Def Jam/Columbia

I got my first copy of License to Ill, the debut album by the Beastie Boys, for Christmas when I was 12 years old without having asked for it. My mom must have just intuited that I had reached the proper age for the album’s intelligent, fed-up brattiness to resonate with me perfectly, and she was spot-on in this analysis (although I have to say that it’s kind of counterintuitive to be introduced to such an anti-authority album by a parent). You can hear that the Beastie Boys have had it UP TO HERE with the boring and staid things they’ve been forced to encounter day in and out; their music is all about combating that by cutting up, making snotty jokes, and generally raising hell. They are dignified grown men now, but back in 1986 they sounded like three teenage Bart Simpsons, albeit with a better grasp on language. It’s a snide, goofy, and perfect party album, too—put on “Girls” or “Brass Monkey” or, of course, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” in a packed room and watch as everyone gets instantly sillier, looser, and more receptive to shredding of all kinds. Also, if you pretend the brothers Beast are rapping the song “She’s Crafty” about you specifically, you will feel like the ultimate babe of the universe, which is always nice. You have to have this album, dudes. It will just make you a more fun person. —Amy Rose

The+Donnas+-+Get+Skintight+-+CD+ALBUM-499016Get Skintight
The Donnas
1999, Lookout

Any record that includes the line “I saw you standin’ by the Slurpee machine” is A+ driving-around-and-scream-singing material. Get Skintight, an early and stellar effort by the Donnas, is filled with bratty, funny, perfectly messy songs that would be the perfect soundtrack to the best bad-behavior moments you can think of. Highly recommended for the aforementioned drive-arounds, as well as up-all-night sleepovers, too-sleepy study sessions, and psych-up moments. —Pixie

BritneySpears_CircusCircus
Britney Spears
2008, Jive Records

Some people will argue that 2007’s Blackout is the ultimate Britney Spears comeback album, but those people are wrong—that honor goes to Circus. This album came out at the end of a year in which Britney’s tumultuous personal life was covered extensively, and it served as an important reminder that despite all the noise, the girl can put together some damn good pop songs. And so now we have this collection of cheeky electric songs about how her life is such a CIRCUS (you know, metaphorically). It’s a long album, especially if you listen to one of the versions with a trillion bonus tracks, so skip the slow songs. Seriously, nobody needs the slow songs. Now you have a perfect “getting ready to go out and have some wild adventures” soundtrack. —Anna F.

Janelle-Monae-The-ArchAndroid-album-cover
The Archandroid
Janelle Monáe
2010, Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy

Inspired by Afrofuturists like the amazing sci-fi novelist Octavia Butler and her pals in OutKast, Janelle Monáe cast herself as an actual android—Cyndi Mayweather, a robot sent from the future to save Metropolis from destruction—on this incredible concept album. Cyndi’s tale of unity and empowerment is set to infectious funk and soul and powered by love (with a couple of Debussy samples). Afrofuturism as a concept generally imagines black liberation through alternate futures, aliens, and SPACE (jazz god Sun Ra was the originator of the concept). That’s what Monáe is doing on The Archandroid: Making music for this super-positive utopia she imagines, and hopes for, in her mind. By casting herself as the world’s android savior, she’s also making herself a vessel for all oppressed people. The best thing about it is that it channels its super-intellectual, super-creative aspirations into music that is eminently danceable. —Julianne

51445gOgxiL._SL500_AA280_ Bernard Herrmann: The Essential Film Music Collection
2006, Silva America

Bernard Herrmann is responsible for some of the greatest creepy scores of all time, including the ones to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho. Herrman’s music makes you feel like you’re in serious danger, or like you’re facing something from another planet entirely. (My favorite Herrmann piece, from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, is in the latter category.) Perfect for anxiety-driven writing sessions and for freaking yourself out in a dark room. —Pixie

Smokey_Rolls_Down_Thunder_Canyon-Devendra_Banhart_480Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
Devendra Banhart
2007, Xl Recordings

When this record came out I listened to “Carmensita” on repeat in my car for days, on long trips and for car-dancing breaks when I got stuck in traffic. The dusty vocals on “Cristobal” and “Samba Vexillographica” are contemplative, but this record will never get you down, and tunes like “Lover” balance out the somber mood with bursts of cosmic goodness. This album is the perfect companion to a hazy summer’s end. —Cynthia

51PG0VmDiALHot Rod: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
2007, Sony Legacy

Oh man, Hot Rod, starring Andy Samberg as a wanna-be Evel Knievel, is so dumb and so perfect. The soundtrack is, too. It features ’80s power montage tunes like Stacey Q’s “Two of Hearts” along with random bits of dialogue from the movie, like the “cool beans” sequence between Andy and Jorma Taccone that’s just stupid enough to fall on the right side of the hilarious-vs.-annoying line. If you want to feel like a death-defying daredevil hero, this is the soundtrack for you. —Pixie

portishead-portisheadPortishead
Portishead
1997, Go! Beat Records

If you have never listened to the musical phenomenon that is Portishead, I suggest you start with their 1994 debut album, Dummy. But it’s on their self-titled follow-up album that they really nail their chilling sound. It still sounds damn sexy, but there’s something a little more beautifully harrowing in Beth Gibbon’s voice. On tracks like “Over,” “Only You,” and “Western Eye,” the instruments are stripped down to the eerie basics. The moments of silence left behind allow plenty of room for your imagination to run wild. —Eleanor

Some+Girls+Wander+By+Mistake+80++83+sgwbmSome Girls Wander By Mistake
The Sisters of Mercy
1992, Merciful Releases

Named after a Leonard Cohen song, this compilation of the Sisters of Mercy’s early EPs and vinyl singles is the perfect soundtrack for late-night, end-of-summer skulking around. Singer Andrew Eldritch’s voice is dark and spooky, and the combination of the throbbing beat and lyrics like “Alice in her party dress / She thanks you kindly / So serene / She needs you like she needs her tranks to tell her that the world is clean” creates the perfect thrilling/chilling atmosphere for speeding along a dark road. The extended remix of “Temple of Love” (with the stunning addition of Israeli singer Ofra Haza) can transform your car or bedroom into a nightclub and keep you dancing until sunrise. There are also awesomely gothic covers of the Stooges’ “1969” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” —Stephanie

WIFS_CoverThe Anarchy and the Ecstasy
The World/Inferno Friendship Society
2011, Chunksaah

Trying to explain the sound of World/Inferno is a dense mouth of puzzles: It’s kinda Klezmer, punk as fuck, it’s got an accordion, keyboards, a horn section, and a lot of electric guitar. Wear your fanciest formalwear to one of their live shows, where there’s fire-blowing and ballroom-dance pits alternating with mosh pits, all staffed by a very committed group of fans known to one another as Infernites. Their lyrics reflect a history filled with amazing figures like the American actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson and the poet Dante Aligheri, and their heroes are pirates and bank robbers. The song I’m listening to right now has this wheezing zee-zee-zee-zee noise in the background and I don’t even know what it is but it’s making me ballet-waltz-run with an invisible partner around my living room and through the halls. —Lola

53906Dawnrazor
Fields of the Nephilim
1987, Situation Two

In Hebrew mythology, the Nephilim are a human/angel race described as giants, and Fields of the Nephilim’s music definitely gives you a sense of something large looming in the distance–maybe a “Preacher Man” wearing a long duster and cowboy boots. The songs on Dawnrazor are dark and heavy with a completely different vibe than most metal. Blending goth and western (not country, but the feeling of old Hollywood westerns), they have a dusty, haunting feel, like an old ghost town just after sunset. —Stephanie

Layout 1Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age
2009, Warp Records

It’s incredibly difficult to list the reasons you should listen to this record, because it is MY FAVORITE RECORD OF ALL TIME. Although it’s a daunting 23 tracks long, the album is best listened to in one 38-minute (see—not so daunting!) session, since the tracks flow seamlessly from one to the next. The vast array of chopped and screwed samples–drawn from horror movies, nursery rhymes, and something that sounds like a long lost mantra-like ritual from some faraway place a hundred years ago–create a dynamic, haunting, but still pleasant mood, which is what makes it so thrilling. It’s dark, but you kind of want to savor that darkness. Trish Keenan’s lullaby-like vocals perfectly combine with the Focus Group’s signature Ghost Box-way of mashing ancient, traditional-sounding music with something more cosmic—a kind of psychedelia uninfluenced by drugs, and solely dependent on the strength of natural imagination. —Eleanor

fever-ray-coverFever Ray
Fever Ray
2009, Rabid

This is the solo project of Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Swedish electronic band the Knife. I’m not that familiar with the Knife, but I discovered Fever Ray while on a quest for haunting electro that would give me the same feeling I get from the Cure’s first few albums–the sensation of being alone and a little lost in a forest, and not really minding it at all. A friend of mine showed me the video for “Keep the Streets Empty for Me,” and the sound was exactly what I was looking for–sparse drum beats, a chilling melody, and vocals that reminded me a little bit of Björk. “When I Grow Up” and “Now’s the Only Time I Know” are my other favorites, but the whole album is really perfect for spacing out, walking outside at dusk, and soaking in the last bits of summer by yourself, maybe while wandering in the woods. —Stephanie

Fight_Like_a_Girl_Emilie_Autumn_Single_CoverFight Like a Girl
Emilie Autumn
2012, The Asylum Emporium

Emilie Autumn’s music is probably best described as Victorian gothic rock. Her most recent album, Fight Like a Girl, is based on her book The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, which in turn is based on her real-life experience of being in a mental ward. The tunes are powerful and catchy, and the lyrics are about real-life pain and fairy-tale fantasy. The video for “Fight Like a Girl,” a circus-y take on the institutionalization on women, is much more fun than it sounds (I promise). —Rachael

220px-The_runaways,_queens_of_noiseQueens of Noise
The Runaways
1977, Mercury

Hail, hail, the Runaways, truly the queens of noise. This album of theirs is just so great, track after great track. “Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin” features one of my all-time favorite guitar riffs; “Born to Be Bad” is a girl-gang anthem; and “Midnight Music” and “Heartbeat” (the latter a mock love song to Joey Ramone) are the ultimate power ballads. The whole album makes you want to climb out your bedroom window and find a party with your best girl friends, which you totally should do before summer is over. —Stephanie ♦

13 Comments

  • Runaway August 15th, 2013 11:17 PM

    The Runaways, The Donnas, and Devendra Banhart? YES!

  • rottedteeth August 15th, 2013 11:34 PM

    License to Ill ugh freaking perfect!!

    White Lung’s It’s The Evil is the prefect get pumped and feel like a fierce bitch album. Mish Way riot grrrl screams in your ears

  • spatergator August 16th, 2013 1:43 AM

    as always, Stephanie, you make me want to be your BFF

  • grete-samsa August 16th, 2013 1:44 AM

    FEVER RAY! EMILIE AUTUMN! THE RUNAWAYS! How are you so perfect, Rookie?

  • LeavesThatAreGreen August 16th, 2013 8:13 AM

    The Donnas <3 The Runaways <3

    PORTISHEAD <3 I saw them live a couple of months ago. My god, they were good. Never been to a more magical concert.

  • AnaRuiz August 16th, 2013 9:01 AM

    Janelle Monae YES!!!

    http://anaruizwriting.blogspot.com

  • raisinbrancy August 16th, 2013 9:07 AM

    awwwwwwwww yessssssss devendra banhart and how Natalie portman was just hanging out in the carmensita vid??? is this what ur life is like once you become a relatively cool New York socialite????

  • LittleTiny August 16th, 2013 9:29 AM

    Emily Autumn’s FLAG is awesome!!!

  • KatGirl August 16th, 2013 12:24 PM

    Emilie Autumn!
    http://www.kawaiiunicornsandsparkleponies.wordpress.com

  • Ladymia69 August 16th, 2013 3:31 PM

    Props on the Portishead pick. Their self-titled album is desperate, tortured, melancholy, and dark. But so achingly beautiful to listen to.

    Eleanor, have you heard Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man’s album (called Out of Seasons)? If not, do give it a whirl! She really gets to shine on that album, and also gets to put more of her control and personality into the songs. let me know what you think.

  • Sophie ❤ August 17th, 2013 7:07 PM

    I have to mention that those you mention, all of them, deserve a YES!!!!!

    http://theneonpapaya.com

  • dessertstealer August 18th, 2013 8:39 PM

    I love the Runaways.

    rafwillyolivier.blogspot.com

  • Dayzee November 16th, 2013 5:17 AM

    THE ARCHANDROID YES YES YES