Friday Playlist: By Popular Demand

Every Friday we post a playlist here on Rookie. And every Friday you tell us what we’re missing, what we forgot, and how we have failed you as readers/listeners. You’ve suggested about 200 songs to us in the comments, all* of them deserving to be included in a playlist. Here, as an all-too-inadequate expression of our regret, are 20 of them.

* Maybe not all. But most!

Illustration by Minna

Dreaming and Scheming

If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
The Mamas & the Papas
1966, Dunhill

In Wong Kar-Wai’s wonderful 1994 film Chungking Express, Faye Wong plays a counter attendant at a snack bar who is obsessed with the Mamas & the Papas song “California Dreamin’” (found on this album). The song is played incessantly during her scenes in the movie as she blasts it while she works. I’m currently working a day job similar to Faye Wong’s character, except my café is in Toronto, not Hong Kong. It’s dull work, but the Mamas & the Papas get me through it. (My boss, on the other hand, insists on listening to the Top 40 radio station.) Their sunny and sad vocal harmonies make all the mundane aspects of my life feel like they are leading toward a peak, like every transitional moment is part of a montage in an engrossing movie. Sadly, Wong Kar-Wai is not directing my life, but when I listen to this album it’s easy to pretend otherwise. —Anna

Tame Impala
2010, Modular

This is a current Australian band, a fact I feel needs to be pointed out, because their music is so perfectly dreamy and hazy that you might feel like it was some long-lost record from another time when everything was easy, or maybe even a world where it’s always sunny and kids (and adults) gallop around in slow motion in a field of daisies. Some music has the ability to make you feel weird inside, which happened a lot when I was little, and this record totally makes me feel like that. It’s like it has a built-in innocence chip that will make you look at the world with wonder and feel like everything is possible. “Desire Be Desire Go” is one of my favorite songs here, because it’s a li’l bit more rocking, but then it has a really chill chorus, and I can only understand half of what they are singing (it seems really sweet). In another song they sing, “Why won’t you make up your mind? / Give me a sign.” It’s a totally heartbreaking sentiment, but Tame Impala make it seem OK to wait for this person to give me a sign, because I am grooving in this valley of sonic awesomeness. Then there’s “I Don’t Really Mind,” the last song on the record, which has this super awesome instrumental breakdown in the middle that sounds like multiple suns rising from behind a crystal cave in a new universe. Honestly, this record is pretty much perfect, and you will find yourself humming the songs after you’re done listening to it—if you can even figure out a way to turn it off. —Laia

Endless Summer
The Beach Boys
1990, Capitol

This collection of pre-1966 hits feels like a beach party in California. I remember going to Johnny Rockets (a retro chain restaurant) to get a burger and fries, putting “Surfin’ U.S.A.” on the jukebox, and pretending I was back in the ’60s. Even a sadder song like “In My Room,” which is clearly not about the beach, makes you feel like you’re resting after having already been there: “In this room I lock out all my worries and my fears / Do my dreaming and my scheming.” It’s all about creating your own world and finding yourself. The album closes with “Good Vibrations,” one of my all-time favorite Beach Boys songs. Summer really should last forever. —Tara

Blonder and Blonder
The Muffs
1995, Reprise

This album is pure pop-punk perfection that makes me picture a bunch of gorgeous bleach-blond girls in torn fishnets and thrift-store dresses running around southern California having a blast and getting revenge (in a prankster way). Oh, and screaming, randomly, at the top of their lungs. I’m not sure where I got the sunny California thing—I see that according to Wikipedia the band is from there, but I didn’t know that at time. My favorite song on this album, “Oh Nina,” makes a reference to Pasadena, though. (Nina’s from there, obvs, because it rhymes.) But the screaming thing, that’s because singer Kim Shattuck has an amazing yowl, which she showcases on that song. When I discovered the Muffs, I was on a mission to find more women who screamed as well as Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland. Mission accomplished. The difference between the Muffs and Babes, though, is that while Babes is pure rage, the Muffs sound bouncy and happy even when Kim is singing about “Agony” or being “Sad Tomorrow,” or threatening that she knows “What You’ve Done.” And sometimes that’s exactly what you need: to get all the bad feelings out while bouncing around to peppy music. It’s the perfect summer punk album. Be warned: repeat listening led to me bleaching my hair. —Stephanie

Give It Back!
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
1997, Bomp!

The Brian Jonestown Massacre was once so close to being a massive, maybe even classic band, but they blew it. The madness that allowed frontman/wannabe cult leader Anton Newcombe to perfectly channel 1960s psychedelia without sounding like a copycat is the same insanity and perfectionism that caused him to berate his bandmates until they quit. (There’s even a Gilmore Girls episode in tribute to their biggest disaster!) Thankfully for rock history, much of the saga is available to watch in one of the best music documentaries ever, Dig!, which also follows their frenemies in the (far less talented) Dandy Warhols. Newcombe is still at it, making album after album of fuzzy folk music and chasing his musical utopia, but none come close to Give It Back!, a near-perfect record that encapsulates what might’ve been, but has an underlying flower child melancholy that soundtracks the band’s downfall perfectly. —Joe

Celebrity Skin
1998, Geffen

In the four years since she became arguably the most famous widow in the world, Courtney Love went through a physical and musical transformation, trading in her torn-up babydoll dresses for designer gowns, and infusing her band’s sound with a touch of the same California glow. This is one of those perfect post-everything albums that manage to fuse sadness and anger with optimism and personal strength. Courtney is still in pain here, but she’s also smart enough to know what her new image affords her, and she finds a way to control both the pain and her image with beautiful songs that combine a knowing cynicism with a newfound hope. It’s a document of a broken heart being mended, of someone entering the next phase of who they are. The sense of loss that permeates this record is coated with the sparkle glaze of things worth holding on to. It’s as if, in all of the darkness, Courtney decided the most logical thing to do would be to turn to the sun. —Pixie

To the Principles, for the Children
YaHoWa 13
1974, Self-released

YaHoWa 13 is a psychedelic band made up of members of the Source Family, a religious cult/commune that lived in the Hollywood Hills in the 1970s and was led by Father Yod. Their music is totally improvised and was recorded in the family’s garage after their early-morning meditation routines. I know by this description you are already super-stoked to listen to it, and you should be, because it is totally crazy and amazing. Father Yod’s voice sounds really out of control at first, and you might be like OMG I CAN’T HANDLE THIS, but then you fall into the nice grooves of the music and relax. There’s a part where he sings “everything that talks to you is true if you want it to,” and the way his voice goes up and down is addictive and oddly comforting. It only gets REALLY weird towards the end, when there is a chorus of children singing, because that is always really creepy, especially when they are singing some weird hymn that just makes you think: INDOCTRINATION! But you get over it, and before you realize it you have listened to the record like five times already. It’s a weird experience, yes, but it’s soothing, and I find it really great when I have to write or do things where I need to concentrate—I could really just “tune out” and get in my brain and everything made more sense. What? Oh god, what’s going on? —Laia

Hit After Hit
Sonny and the Sunsets
2011, Fat Possum

I live in a city where it’s freezing nearly 85% of the time, and this record has been a bit of a savior for me over the past year or so, because whenever I put it on, it instantly feels like summer. Even while covered in a million blankets and shivering on the couch, I could close my eyes and picture myself dancing at a beach party, swinging around to Sonny Smith’s fun (and funny) pop songs about the weather, the sea, thugs, and home. The record feels a bit like the evolution of summer itself—starting out with songs about romance, confusion, and homesickness, and gradually winding up with a dreamy instrumental that conjures images of skipping stones on the water’s surface while sighing over a lost love. Now that summer is finally here in my frozen part of the world, I look forward to actually listening to Hit After Hit in its element, digging my toes in the sand and bobbing with the waves. —Pixie

The Only Place
Best Coast
2012, Mexican Summer

If Best Coast’s debut album, Crazy for You, was a breakup record, The Only Place is a love letter—to California. There isn’t really a huge difference, all things considered; there were odes to her home state on the last album, and a few on this one as well. The opening track is so warm and unabashed in its affection for the place, it’s as if singer/songwriter/band leader Bethany Cosentino, exhausted from her success of the past two years, wants nothing more than to stay home and just chill. If you liked her debut album, you’ll like this one. If you’ve never listened to Best Coast, they make hummable pop songs that are easy to listen to, and this album is a good start. —Anna

Our Endless Numbered Days
Iron & Wine
2004, Sub Pop

This is one of my favorite albums, and it is always soothing to listen to. I play it in times of distress, when I need to calm down, or when I can’t sleep, because Sam Beam’s voice is like honey. His music aches with nostalgia, understanding what is to be human and capturing everything from regret and sadness to fortune and bliss, and his fever dream is one I want to be a part of. —Tara

2012, 4AD

Grimes is my everything right now. Ever since I watched the AMAZING video for “Oblivion”—thanks, Hazel!—over and over and over again, I have been OBSESSED. Grimes’s high-pitched singing–although it might be a little weird at first–eventually settles into an almost soothing lullaby combined with the sickkk beats (that she does all herself!). It’s just what your brain and your body want right at this moment in time. I mean, it could also be this moment in another time, because there is something otherworldly about her music. The whole thing flows together so seamlessly that it is almost impossible to listen to one song and not want to listen to the song that comes after. “Circumambient” is hazy and romantic, but with a robotic tempo perfect for low-impact aerobics. “Be a Body” is party-ready, especially if all your friends like Grimes, and then you’re all singing the “ooh oohs” in unison, which sounds like my idea of a really good time. Then you get to this li’l ballad called “Skin” where she sings, “I hate that you’re leaving, so why don’t you talk to me / You act like nothing happened, but it meant the world to me,” and you just wanna curl up in a ball and listen to it on repeat, because it is. So. Real. Grimes, guys. GRIMES GRIMES GRIMES. —Laia

The Tarnished Gold
Beachwood Sparks
2012, Sub Pop

This album is so good. I realize that last sentence doesn’t tell you much, but let’s talk about this one. I wasn’t that familiar with Beachwood Sparks’s stuff before listening to Tarnished Gold; I was making my way through NPR’s First Listen, as I do every Monday morning. The hook on “Forget the Song” caught me completely off-guard—like, I had to stop everything else that I was doing just so I could focus on the music. The rest of the album is pretty mellow, though “Earl Jean” and “The Orange Grass Special” are immensely catchy. When the album finished, I started it again from the beginning. It is laid-back and relaxing and everything you want to listen to on warm lazy days. —Anna

Surrealistic Pillow
Jefferson Airplane
1967, RCA

Grace Slick’s voice powers an album that is as startlingly intense as it is laconic and hazy. “Somebody to Love” rings with an urgency that is both vulnerable and fierce, and “White Rabbit” captures the drugged-out atmosphere of the ’60s by imagining Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole, ending with the beseeching but somehow threatening demand to “feed your head.” It is pretty essential that you watch this performance of the song. —Tara

The Astrud Gilberto Album
Astrud Gilberto
1965, Verve

Astrud Gilberto is the queen of samba, a genre of Brazilian dance music. Have you ever heard the song “The Girl from Ipanema”? That’s Astrud Gilberto singing. Her music has been featured in movies and TV shows, including Juno, Mad Men, Girl, Interrupted and many more, so chances are, you’ve heard her music. If not, this album is the best place to start. Gilberto’s relaxing, tropical-infused love songs make the perfect summer soundtrack. —Hazel

Life Sux
2011, Ghost Ramp

The first thing I will tell you about Wavves is that they wrote a song called “I wanna meet Dave Grohl” and that it literally became my everything last fall when this EP came out. I mean the song doesn’t really have anything to do with Dave, aka my forever crush (15 years and going strong!), other than the chorus, but whatever, my heart always wished it would have a song to yell I WANNA MEET DAVE GROHL with and now I do. But the song is perfectly upbeat and the thing is that Wavves makes you wanna jump around dancing and also freak out near a beach as soon/much as possible. I am sure there are a bunch of people that you might want to dedicate “Bug,” the opening track, to, with its chorus of “You’re no fun / You’re no fun / You’re no fun,” except the song is so cheerful that it’s possible they wouldn’t even notice you are telling them how lame they are. Then there’s “Poor Lenore,” which is probably my other favorite song on Life Sux. It’s kinda slow and there’s a dirty bass rolling through the song and when it reaches the chorus you are feeling a bunch of feelings inside, although I am not sure what feelings exactly, but you are FEELING them. You’ll want to hear it over and over again, and you can, because this EP is only 20 minutes long. Take it to the beach or the country or the city. Life Sux will make your travels better, funner, and more productive. —Laia

Electric Ladyland
Jimi Hendrix
1968, Reprise

Electric Ladyland is one of the most influential rock albums of the 1960s, and always a thrill to listen to. It opens with “…And the Gods Made Love,” an experimental instrumental track that sets up what’s to come, which is a twisted and strange journey. Jimi sings of the moon turning a “fire red,” “Jupiter’s sulphur mines,” and floating “in liquid gardens”—his voice is electrifying, and his guitar is…sensual. “Voodoo Chile” is the longest song on the album, but you still don’t want it to end! —Tara

Los Angeles
1980, Slash

I love this album so much, you don’t even KNOW. I would go as far as to say that I think X is the greatest American punk band. In a scene that was sometimes more concerned with breaking shit and looking rebellious, this California band was all about the music. The album is dominated by bitter punk songs with poetic lyrics and a rockabilly edge. Fronted by John Doe and Exene Cervenka (stage names, of course), X paints the world and the city of Los Angeles as a mess of capitalism, rape, and racism. (Ironically, the band was actually awarded a certificate of recognition for their contribution to the city’s art and culture!) I recommend this to anyone who wants to listen to something AWESOME. —Hazel

Last Splash
The Breeders
1993, 4AD/Elektra

The Breeders are 100% pure pop awesomeness, but their lyrics and dirty guitars hint at something grittier and less precious than Kim and Kelley Deal’s harmonies would suggest. I don’t even know if I can pick out a favorite song, because they are all so good, and even though this record is pretty old, I am still discovering new things about it that I like. The songs on Last Splash are a perfect combination of crazy and mellow, and even “Drivin’ on 9,” with its kinda-country twinge, is like a little treasure at the end of the record. I am tempted to just go through each track one by one and tell you why each one is amazing, but I won’t because there’s not enough space for that. But you should definitely know that “Cannonball” is essential to put on a party mix, because everyone can yell, “WANT YOU! KOO KOO! CANNONBALL!” And then you can shake your head like a madman in the next guitar part (OK, maybe that’s just what I do), and then dance around because the song is total happiness. Also, “Invisible Man” and “Divine Hammer” exist in that weird mellow-happy-melancholy state that makes you feel like you heard them in a past life and they meant something to you and now you just have the feelings left in your heart, but not the reasons. Right now, though, I am grooving on “Do You Love Me Now?” and “Mad Lucas,” which are totally sad songs, but they are the kind of sad that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself. Listen to this record now. —Laia ♦

These Are Powers

Germfree Adolescents
X-Ray Spex
1978, EMI

While I had a weency bit of a shoplifting problem as a teenager, I never stole from other people. Except once. Only once. And I had to. Well, I felt compelled to. I was at a party that my adult-age band mates had brought me to and there it was on the stereo—the debut album by X-Ray Spex. I worked at a record store; I could have surely gotten it another way. I had heard of them but I thought they sounded like something else. Not like this, not like pure teen-girl fireball energy. I needed the CD and I needed to go home and listen to it right now. WHY? Well, to start, the singer, Poly Styrene, had braces. BRACES. I felt enthralled and connected by my years of orthodonture, in love with her fury and her voice and her confidence, leading this taut punk band WITH HER BRACES ON. She sounded like her aim was to terrorize, screaming, “Oh bondage, up yours!” WHAT DID THAT EVEN MEAN?! I wondered. Did she literally have a problem with people tying each other up? Was she a real prude? When I got home I just listened to this one song over and over, neglecting the rest of the album. I lived for that scream of hers, right where her scream meets the sax solo. I want to do that, be that, be her, ignite the world with braces and a saxophone. —Jessica

Zen Arcade
Hüsker Dü
1984, SST

Concept albums are cursed with the corny stamp because of terms like “rock opera” and bands like the Who (DAD!) and Green Day (guyliner!). But Hüsker Dü did it totally right on their record-long tale of a troubled runaway. Thankfully the story isn’t too obvious, so you can either spend listen after listen trying to decode the lyrics, or just tune out and bask in the blissful messiness of the music. Sometimes it sounds like you’re standing outside listening to the garage band next door right when they hit their groove, and sometimes it’s like they’re singing directly to you—alternate air guitar and misty-eyed introspection accordingly. —Joe

The Smiths
The Smiths
1984, Rough Trade/Sire

I know a lot of people disagree, but I think the best Smiths album is their self-titled 1984 debut. From the simple heartbeat percussion that opens “Reel Around the Fountain” to the gorgeous final track, “Suffer Little Children,” the band is at its most sincere, simple, and lovely on this record. Their later stuff might have more technical production or whatever, but I don’t think people really listen to the Smiths for that kind of thing. What’s more important is Morrissey’s signature soar-then-falter croon and the amazing, amazing musicianship of the other band members, and those things shine here. —Amy Rose

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
1984, Geffen

Isn’t it weird that both of my favorite albums were released in 1984? Lloyd Cole and the Commotions is without a doubt the most underrated band of the decade. Just listen to the title track of this album if you don’t believe me. It’s my favorite song of all time, and here are some lyrics from the chorus that explain why: “She looks like Eva Marie Saint / In On the Waterfront / She reads Simone de Beauvoir / In her American circumstance.” Add that to some other stuff about a girl needing a gun and the jangliest guitar line ever, and you have a perfect song. This album also has the mega-jams “Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?” and “Perfect Skin,” which are nearly as good. —Amy Rose

My Bloody Valentine
1991, Creation

The constant fuzz on Loveless wraps around you like a blanket made of best friend hugs, setting your brain static to maximum levels of warmth and dreaminess. Underneath, Kevin Shields is cooing sweet nothings, and the whole thing lulls you to a place of peace, despite being occasionally ear-splitting. Somehow the louder it goes, the more soothing it gets. —Joe

Pretty on the Inside
1991, Caroline

Ever since eighth grade, Pretty on the Inside has been my go-to album when someone or something is trying to make me feel stupid or ugly or weak. Hole’s first and most raw-sounding record opens with Courtney Love scream-singing, “When I was a teenage whore…” over a cacophony of guitars and drums. You can just picture her sneering, and as you listen, your lip will curl a little bit, too. The lyrics are angry and brash and they make no apologies. Even when Courtney is howling that she wishes she could die, you know she has no intention of doing so. She and her band will claw their way through this bloody landscape filled with garbage men and knives that stab baby angels. If you choose to accompany them, you will emerge knowing that you are million times more powerful than, say, that stupid kid in your gym class who calls you names. Next time you’re taunted by them or anyone else, you’ll hear Courtney’s voice in your head, chanting, “There is no power like my pretty power, like my pretty power, like my UGLY!” Bonus info: this gorgeous thrashfest was produced by Kim Gordon. —Stephanie

Playing With a Different Sex
Au Pairs
1981, Human

Before there was Riot Grrrl, there were Au Pairs, who sang about sex and gender equality on songs like “It’s Obvious,” where Lesley Woods sarcastically sings, “You’re equal / But different”; and “Love Song,” where she thinks about marriage: “Take out the ring / Two fates sealed / Negotiated a business deal / Is this true romance?” The Au Pairs were political, but they were also about damn good music. This is British post-punk at its angriest, most rebellious, and best. —Hazel

A New Morning, Changing Weather
The (International) Noise Conspiracy
2001, Epitaph

I am never into music WITH A MESSAGE, but the (International) Noise Conspiracy managed to completely win me over with this record. The thing about them is that even though their lyrics are all about activism and taking action and other super punk-rock shit, their songs are really dance-y and they go on weird horn or percussive tangents that are beyond any other punk band. My favorite song here, “Bigger Cages, Longer Chains,” has a sick breakdown with keyboard and horns and the best weirdo Middle Eastern-tinged jam EVER at the end. On “Breakout 2001,” front man Dennis Lyxzen sings stuff like “Hey sister, we know you wanna dance too / Without gender hanging over you / Said just wanna be free / Not some billboard advertising dream,” and you’ll be all like, YEAH! It’s an excellent record to sing at the top of your lungs. All the songs have a million quotable parts, and they all adorned my drawing portfolio freshman year of college, when this record took up 50% of my life (the other 50% went to the Strokes’ Is This It?). If there was any piece of music that was ever gonna get me off my ass and to do something, it would be this record. —Laia

Power, Corruption & Lies
New Order
1983, Factory Recordings

There’s never a time when I DON’T feel like listening to New Order, especially Power, Corruption & Lies. The guitar that opens “Age of Consent” will make you stop what you’re doing and dance; “Your Silent Face” is good for those days when you want everyone to leave you alone (but you’ll still be swaying your head to the beat). It’s pure synth-pop poetry and one of the best albums of all time. Your life will be changed, I promise! —Marie

Echo & the Bunnymen
1980, Korova

Echo & the Bunnymen specialize in a specific kind of musical brooding filled with hypnotizing guitars, wailing vocals, and angsty lyrics—you’ve probably heard their music in movies like Pretty in Pink and Donnie Darko. The star song on this, their debut album, is “Do It Clean,” a total dance song complete with a dramatic opening and tambourine! If you like Crocodiles, you’ll love everything Echo & the Bunnymen does, because they only got better after this. —Hazel

Very Necessary
1993, Next Plateau Records

You could go the rest of your life without hearing this album, but it wouldn’t be much of a life. Salt-N-Pepa make fun, danceable music with the greatest lyrics. For example, “None of Your Business,” a diatribe against slut-shaming, goes: “If I wanna take a guy home with me tonight…and if she wanna be a freak and sell it on the weekend…you shouldn’t even get into who I’m givin’ skins to…so don’t try to change my mind, I’ll tell you one more time: it’s none of your business!” Hear the whole song, and watch the video, here. —Anna

Strawberry Switchblade
Strawberry Switchblade
1985, Korova/WEA

With a name like Strawberry Switchblade, you’d expect this duo to be sassy and sweet. Well, they totally are! And not nearly well enough known. These Scottish ladies only really had one album release in the U.S., though they became slightly famous in Japan. Their self-titled LP is one of my favorites, filled with sugary synth-pop songs about being moodily in love. The best song is “Secrets,” a cheeky tune about getting boys to spill theirs. Also, have you seen these girls? Probably the most stylish humans of the whole 1980s. —Hazel

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
The Cure
1987, Elektra

The first poster I ever got was this one of Cure singer/songwriter Robert Smith. I bought it shortly after I bought Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which was my very first Cure album, because I just wanted to stare at Robert’s slightly parted lips and imagine myself sliding through them into his brain while the opening riff of “The Kiss” played in the background. I know that’s weird, but somehow it explains this album. Listening to it, I imagine that visiting Robert Smith’s mind is a lot like falling down a rabbit hole to Wonderland. There are moments of pure delight and pleasure, like the album’s best known song, “Just Like Heaven,” and “Why Can’t I Be You?” which has that totally bizarre video where Robert dances around in…what’s that? A fuzzy bear outfit and white high-tops? Next thing you know he’s telling a girl that he hates her in “How Beautiful You Are” because of the way she reacted when a poor family in Paris was staring at her. I almost broke up with a guy (and should have!) because he didn’t understand the sheer power and beauty of that song. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me spins you dizzy through love and hate, but cushions the ride in a perfect web of guitars and synthesizers. Trust me, it’s epic. —Stephanie

True Blue
1986, Sire

Don’t let anyone tell you that Madonna’s not awesome, because those people are WRONG. A great way to prove this is by pointing to one of her records—they’re so chockfull of hits that even Rihanna is all, “Wait, what?” This, Madonna’s third album, is a great example, because I think it’s a little underrated even though all the important songs are on it! It starts with “Papa Don’t Preach,” which is kind of like a song version of Juno with a slightly different outcome, and then goes into “Open Your Heart”—I love this song a bunch but also the video, where she’s dancing in the peepshow and then at the end she runs away with the young boy and she steals his hat or something and it’s adorable because you realize that Madonna is HUMAN! Anyways, back to the record: “Live to Tell” is also a killer song, even though it bums me out times infinity, and I remember slow-dancing to it in elementary and middle-school dances. Nobody did a heart-wrenching ballad like Madonna! She was also SO good at really cute songs—“True Blue” is totally in that camp. When I was little I thought “La Isla Bonita” was about Puerto Rico, then I found out that it wasn’t and I was like eh whatever, but I still dig the Spanish guitar. The rest of the songs on here are incredibly ’80s, but you forgive her for it because #1 it WAS the ’80s, and #2 she’s Madonna and she can do no wrong. —Laia

She’s So Unusual
Cyndi Lauper
1983, Portrait

Cyndi Lauper is a legend. She has perfect pitch and a four-octave range, and always looks amazing. She is the queen and the godmother of all the “unusual” girls, ever (that includes you, Lady Gaga). This album had so many hits on it: “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (which should just be the anthem of the universe), “All Through the Night,” And “She Bop,” an ode to female masturbation. For a brief moment there in the early ’80s, I swear to you, it was like, “Madonna who?” Cyndi is a miracle. She had a baby when she was 44. She is like a rainbow. —Sonja

I Could Be Happy: The Best of Altered Images
Altered Images
1997, Sony

I love love love the early-’80s Scottish New Wave band Altered Images. Such cute music! The lead singer, Clare Grogan, has a voice so high it sounds like she’s on helium, and an adorable stage presence (this Top of the Pops video makes me really happy). Their super-twee pop songs, like “Happy Birthday” and “Funny Funny Me,” are perfect for when you’re walking on sunshine. My ultimate feel-good album. —Hazel

Star Crushers

Celebrity culture has given us so many awful things—too many to name, and everyone has named them already—but there’s also a positive side to famous-people worship. Sometimes, when you need life inspiration, the most accessible examples are, paradoxically, the most distant and inaccessible human beings. The stars are so far away that they look perfect, twinkly, unflawed. We can use this! All of us have, at one time or other, REACHED FOR THE STARS for inspiration in our lives. Here are some of our personal star crushes&#8212women who have been guiding lights when we needed them most.

Courtney Love

By Stephanie

I discovered her in seventh grade, at a sleepover at the house of a friend with a cool older cousin who was always exposing us to the best music, like David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails. But the best musical discovery passed down to us was a band called Hole—in particular their lead singer. On the front of the cassette tape, she was washed out, her blonde hair and her skin as white as her baby-doll dress. Above her head was the album title: Pretty on the Inside. Those were the words that she chanted in the last song on side B: “Is she pretty on the inside? Is she pretty from the back?” Over the next two wretched years of junior high, they were words that I chanted in my head whenever I was being taunted by the boys and girls who were pretty on the outside. I dreamed of having her strength one day, the strength to scream beautiful broken poetic words at the top of my lungs like Courtney Love.

I remember seeing her on the cover of Sassy kissing the cheek of my other recently discovered idol, Kurt Cobain, and thinking how lucky she was. Not because she married a really cute rock star, but because I could tell they were two kindred spirits. Two people who had probably been outcasts, freaks like me, who made beautiful noise, and they’d found each other. It gave me hope that someday I would find my own kindred spirit.

Two years later, when he killed himself, she comforted me. I was 14. I was depressed like he obviously was, and when he died part of me was scared that even if I learned to scream like they did, it wouldn’t be enough to save me. I was glued to MTV in the days following his death. I watched the vigil for him at the Seattle Center, where they played a recording of her reading his suicide note. She told the crowd to chant “asshole” at him. “Call him an asshole and tell him that you love him.” I did, and it felt good. It felt right to be angry and sad and full of love all at the same time. Courtney understood what it was to have that whirlwind of emotion and how to channel it. Four days after he died, her record Live Through This came out. I’d been excited about it before, but I went out to buy it for comfort. “I’m not psychic, but my lyrics are,” she would say in an interview five months after his death. “If you live through this with me, I swear that I will die for you,” went her lyrics. It was bone-chilling. It was also Truth. Every single word on that album was Truth and Life and Death. I played it obsessively. I gave it to everyone I knew.

I saw her live for the first time less than six months after Kurt died. Hole opened for Nine Inch Nails. They came on late. She was high. I knew because I was in love with a junkie myself at that time, so I could see the signs: the stumbling and slurring that seem to occur in slow-motion compared with someone who is simply drunk. There was some asshole in the crowd who held up a sign saying that read “Courtney killed Kurt.” I wanted to beat the shit out of him for her. She didn’t respond, though she would, loudly and angrily, at other shows. At this one she just put on a gorgeously messy performance that she ended by howling out her version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and smashing the microphone onto the stage repeatedly before hurling herself into the crowd and letting them tear at her. She got it, how I felt on the inside, the pain that clawed at my lungs and punched at my ribs. I had no words for it, but she had both words and actions. She was my catharsis.

We had to write a massive paper in English class during my sophomore year, and I wrote one comparing my two heroines, Courtney Love and Sylvia Plath. They were both mothers, both poets, both tormented, but Courtney had lived and Sylvia had given up. I didn’t judge Sylvia for that, but my respect for Courtney only grew, even though more and more people were calling her a whore and an addict, were judging her parenting and her failings as a wife, accusing her even of her husband’s death. I saw her as a survivor, and surviving is complex. In the course of surviving sometimes you fuck up. Sometimes you fuck up a lot. But through it all Courtney kept making that incredible music.

My boyfriend and I watched her on MTV Unplugged. We were on the phone, not in the same room, because he was grounded, as usual. I said that her short lace dress was gorgeous. He said, “Of course you think so—it’s slutty.” Instead of crying, I listened to her sing. I recorded that Unplugged performance and I listened to her version of “(He Hit Me) And It Felt Like a Kiss” over and over when that guy and I broke up. Courtney helped me realize what he was, and then she helped me survive it. I listened to Pretty on the Inside and Live Through This and a couple of bootlegs I’d found that my ex had said she sounded horrible on, strung out and bad—he tried to diminish her gleaming power because it would diminish mine.

I wrote my own poetry while I listened. It was mostly bad rip-offs of her and Sylvia, but I bound it all together and took it to a Hole concert two days after my 16th birthday. It was Lollapalooza. Through sheer luck and perhaps good karma for standing in the cold at six AM the day tickets went on sale, I’d landed front-row seats. At the end of the set, I threw my poetry zine onto the stage, hoping it would reach Courtney the way she’d reached me.

The Lollapalooza tour was the first time I really saw Courtney’s flaws. It came out that she’d punched Kathleen Hanna, the singer of Bikini Kill, another heroine of mine. That made me feel sort of sick, but I reminded myself that I didn’t know the story and that Courtney was human. Even though to me she felt like all of my favorite women from Greek Mythology rolled into one—wise Athena, mother Demeter, Persephone who went to hell and back, and Medusa, and the Furies, too—she was flawed. I accepted that about her. In fact in some ways it made me love her more. She didn’t fake it while she worked out her demons in the public eye. Though those demons were often ugly—unraveling on Letterman, letting a stranger lick her breast at a Wendy’s, punching fans and people I admired, falling into addiction after it seemed she had it beat—she embraced them. Seeing her do so taught me to embrace mine and begin to tame them, make them into art the way she did with hers on all of her albums and in her movie roles.

The poetry I wrote eventually turned to stories, and 15 years after I’d hurled my zine at her, I finally met her. It was my 31st birthday, and I drove down to St. Louis from Chicago because Hole was playing there that night, and my friend Jenny, who lived there, got my love of Ms. Love in a way few of my other friends did. She was willing to wait with me in the alley behind the venue after the show, hoping for a glimpse of her.

After we’d waited for over an hour, Courtney came outside, looking tired and demure in a pair of black-framed glasses. She walked over to greet the group of 20 of us who were still waiting. She worked her way down the line, signing things. When she reached me, I asked, “Courtney, can I give you a present?”

“What is it?” she replied, looking somewhat uncertain.

“A book, one you inspired me to write about a girl rock star,” I said, handing my first published novel to her. “I thanked you in the acknowledgments.”

She studied it, beaming, then said, “Wow, this really cute!” She read the back, noting that it was published by MTV Books and that I had my MFA. “What are you doing here?” she asked, as though I was too good to be waiting a St. Louis alley for her.

“It’s my birthday and I wanted to see you.”

She thanked me, warmly and graciously. I waited to scream out of sheer joy until we were back in Jenny’s car. Who knows if Courtney ever read the book or if it got lost on her tour bus somewhere, but hopefully she did find that part in the acknowledgments that reads: “The first time I heard Courtney Love scream that she was ‘pretty on the inside’ it saved my angry, teenage girl soul.” Writing was my way of learning to scream, and I couldn’t have done that without her.

Because You Can

Eleanor for Rookie.

In the few years they’ve been designing together, Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff have become fashion darlings, as beloved for their gorgeous, candy-colored clothes as for their theatrical runway shows that gleefully celebrate all things girly. Models walk through archways studded with pastel-colored balloons, stomp the runway in intricately layered outfits to Hole songs, take out little flowered compacts and re-apply their lipstick on stage, or&#8212dressed as ballerinas&#8212twirl atop gigantic (and sadly inedible) cakes. Their shows are so dazzling that audience members sometimes break down in tears over the whole frilly spectacle of it all.

Meadham Kirchhoff Spring 2011 and 2012 via

But Meadham and Kirchhoff are sending up all that sugar-and-spice stuff, too. For their Spring 2012 collection, they said they wanted to take “the girl on the cake”&#8212 the female stereotype of starlets, beauty queens, and princesses&#8212and make her so over-the-top that she became subversive. And sure enough, if you look past the sticky-sweet surface, there’s something hauntingly off about the MK girl’s look. Her dress is acid-bright and a size too small, her tiara’s askew, the lace rots off of her sleeve, and her Manic Panic’ed hair looks like she got caught standing under the Care Bears in a rainstorm. She knows that you can wear fluff and frills without being defined by them, and she’s too cool to care that last night’s mascara is trailing down her cheeks.

Here, some Meadham Kirchhoff-inspired outfits for the punk rock princesses and bedraggled beauty queens in all of us.

Clockwise from top left: Meadham Kirchhoff Spring 2011 via Spiritual Lionheart; vintage sunglasses, $45, Topshop; gloves, $75, Amazon; hat, $26, Monki; blouse, $45, Monki; pinafore dress, $70, Harrods; lace boots, $165, Fred Flare; socks, $10, Nordstrom; heart purse, $38, Zappos; paper crowns, $9, Amazon; velour choker, $22, Amazon; eyes ring, $39, Neivz.
Clockwise from top left: tiara, $28, Debenhams; lashes, $15, Benefit; yellow dress, $96, Topshop; bolero, $50, Mango; leather collar, $85, Topshop; Meadham Kirchhoff Spring 2011 via Cool & Chic; nail polish, $23, Nordstrom; blush, $28, Barneys; beetle ring, $20, Topshop; lipstick, $15, Topshop; socks, $6, Topshop; bowler bag, $72, Asos; cameo brooch, $28, Amazon; heart coin purse, $16, eBags; Mary Janes, $63, Asos.
Clockwise from top left: Meadham Kirchhoff Spring 2011 via Cool & Chic; headband, $4, Forever 21; sunglasses, $27, Asos; lace tank, $20, Monki; lip brooch, $20, Topshop; bookbag, $42, American Apparel; ‘OK’ earrings, $18, Asos; Paul & Joe lipstick in Viola 26, $20, Amazon; Cheetos wallet, $15, ModCloth; pastel wedges, $175, Topshop; socks, $6, Topshop; skirt, $90, Topshop; Manic Panic hair dye, $10, Amazon; glitter, $3, Kit Kraft; cross bracelet, $11, Asos; yellow wrap bracelet, $10, Monki.

All You Need Is…

Totally Crushed Out!
that dog.
1995, DGC

Part of having a crush is having a crush on having a crush. The act of crushing itself is fun&#8212the reality of people and palms and eye contact is not. And so, I take my crushes very seriously. I have no intentions of talking to or making something out of any crush I might have, but since it’s not gonna go anywhere, I ensure that the actual act of crushing is enjoyable, and I do this by immersing myself in movies and music and teevee that I know I won’t get as much out of or feel as strongly about at another time. This is not about whomever you’re making eyez at, this is about being part of the club. The club of people who have hormones. The Hormones Club. First, there’s the Honeymoon Stage, where you watch The Virgin Suicides and you are so tempted by the prospect of Al Green songs playing as you make eye contact with a cute person in the hallway that you forget for a moment that adolescents are actually really sweaty and, instead, you start seeing unicorns everywhere. There’s the Torture Stage, where you watch all of the Jordan episodes of My So-Called Life and you’re like, “I so get you, Angela! Why won’t Catalano even look at you!” Finally, there’s the stage where you get over it and remember that your love is based on something you learned from Netflix Instant and realize that whomever you’re crushing on is actually kind of meh. This is also known as the Wait, the Guy Who Played Catalano Is in That Band 30 Seconds to Mars? WHYYYY? stage. Throughout all of these stages, this album will speak your thoughts in pretty harmonies and angry guitar parts. It may be about crushes, but my love for it is ETERNAL. And with that, I award myself my 12th pun-making merit badge, and go back to my daydreaming ways. &#8212Tavi

Born to Die
Lana Del Rey
2012, Polydor/Interscope

Almost every Lana Del Rey song is infused with the belief that love is the ultimate. Lana has said that she likes the idea of honoring romance even when it’s over. I take that to mean that an obsession with love can sometimes be more important than the person you are/were in love with. I can get behind this. I like that she sings pop with an R&B swagger, with a sort of sneer on her face, like in the “Born To Die” video&#8212you know, just sitting on her throne, observing the media frenzy she created. Almost every song has its own vivid atmosphere, be it old Hollywood glamour (“It was like James Dean, for sure”) or summer in New York City (“Eating ice cream, Coney Island queen”). Even without “National Anthem,” there is a definite Americana feel, and what is the American Dream if not romantic? So listen to Lana croon if you are mourning a love, in the throes of one, or just dreaming about the future. &#8212Naomi

Love & War
2011, Hellcat

Growing up in the era of Riot Grrrl, I’ve always believed that women with guitars and incredible screaming abilities will save the world&#8212or at least provide us with a much-needed release when we’re hurt, angry, or confused, or just need to expend some pent-up energy in the mosh pit. There was a dark period after both the Distillers and Hole broke up when I thought, That’s it! Rock is dead and we’re screwed. Then I discovered Civet. The core of the band is two guitar-playing sisters, Liza Graves and Suzi Homewrecker. Liza has a voice as badass as her name&#8212she might even beat Brody and Courtney in a scream-singing contest!&#8212and Suzi’s backing vocals combined with the ladies’ killer riffs make their hard-and-fast songs as catchy as those of their punk foremothers, the Runaways. Love & War is perfect for every situation: falling in love (“Come On [I Wanna Be Your Girl]”), falling out of love (“Can’t Go Back”), dealing with betrayal (“Cryin’ Wolf”), staying true to who you are (“I’m Not the One”), and spending an awesome Saturday night with your girls (“L.A. Nights”). As Liza sings on “Sunset Strip,” one of the best shout-along punk songs I’ve ever heard, “We’re all bad girls, bad girls livin’ in a bad world,” and this album provides the perfect soundtrack. &#8212Stephanie

The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore
1965, Mercury

Lesley Gore has so many emotions. So. Many. Emotions. In fact, hearing this album of her “golden hits” might leave you thinking Gore is just downright bipolar. But I love her to death and, apparently, she loves to death as well. Gore wrote the most obsessive ballad ever, “I Will Follow Him,” which screams teenage heartsickness&#8212and also suggests Gore might have some stalker tendencies. (She’s willing to follow him wherever he goes.) She isn’t just obsessed with this guy, though. She’s also obsessed with “Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows,” which are things she thinks about when she’s with him. At some point he must have become her ex-boyfriend, because on “Wonder Boy,” she’s trying to figure out if he’s really in love with his new girlfriend. So, uh, yeah, she’s pretty boy-crazy, but it’s her party and she can do whatever she wants to, OK? &#8212Hazel

Speak Now
Taylor Swift
2010, Big Machine

Taylor Swift’s third album has all of the heartsick fairy-tale princess fluff it’s supposed to&#8212small towns, big dresses, disapproving parents, and kisses in the rain&#8212but it also has some secret bite. She doesn’t get enough credit for equally owning both her naiveté and her anger. “Back to December” and “Enchanted” work for mushy movie trailers and lovey-dovey singsongs, but “Mean” and “Better Than Revenge” actually sting with wonderful, twisted, self-aware lines aimed at enemies: “I think her ever-present frown is a little troubling / And she thinks I’m psycho ’cause I like to rhyme her name with things.” And then there’s “Dear John,” a nearly seven-minute power ballad that targets some famous, big-headed dope with a guitar and repurposes helplessness into Carly Simon-style sass. “The girl in the dress wrote you a song,” she sighs at the end, probably with a smirk. “You should’ve known.” &#8212Joe

Live Through This
1994, Geffen

From the moment the first chord of “Violet” rings through your speakers/headphones/whatever, Live Through This is a total force of nature. Courtney sings from the pit of her stomach and the core of her heart and the depths of her vag about sour milk and dicks and death. Even if you can’t always relate on a literal level&#8212one time my mom found a sheet of her lyrics and was all “Laia, what is this? It’s inappropriate”&#8212your entire being and your entire body will just GET IT. The imagery of profane girlhood could only come from someone so fixated on the world and womanity. Ignore everything you know or everything you think you know about Courtney and her life—this record is solid all the way through. It’s got that quiet-LOUD-quiet thing that was characteristic of ’90s music, with Love going from atonal screaming to faux-good-girl whispering (because that’s what THE PATRIARCHY wants you to sound like). The best way to experience it is to pick up a guitar, learn all the songs, and lock yourself in your room while you sing along with it at the top of your lungs. Nothing will ever be out of reach after that. &#8212Laia

The Undertones
The Undertones
1979, Rykodisc

The Undertones, an Irish punk band from the late ’70s, are one of my all-time favorite bands. They wrote one of the greatest anthems of sexual desperation, “Teenage Kicks.” The lyrics just KILL ME and the way lead singer Feargal Sharkey’s voice quavers makes him sound soooo obsessed with some girl down the street. “Get Over You” is equally crazy: “And I don’t wanna get over you / It doesn’t matter what you do / I just can’t get over you.” Whoa! Can’t get away from this dude! And with a song as cute and peppy as “Here Comes the Summer,” you would think this band had a crush on the season itself. Classic punk bands are usually about REBELLION and ANGST, but the Undertones are about crushing and crushing hard! &#8212Hazel

Little Hells
Marissa Nadler
2009, Kemado

A theremin screams and plunges over a stream of Wurlitzer organ in the opening seconds of Marissa Nadler’s Little Hells, creating a gothic, nightmarish sound that swells and deepens behind Nadler’s ethereal moaning. “You were gone / and I was gone,” she sings, and it’s a fitting start to this obsessive, all-pervasive chronicle of loss, absence, and loneliness in a world flooded with ghosts and old lovers and dead flowers and dreams. Organ whorls and an echoing tangle of lilting, romantic melodies elevate her confusion and grief into something beautiful, haunting, and sad. &#8212Emily C.

Pleased to Meet Me
The Replacements
1987, Sire

In college, there were no good radio stations for what felt like a million miles, which meant that I was always listening to the same tapes I had in my car. Yes, tapes! One of those tapes was Pleased to Meet Me, which I played over and over and over again. The Replacements were a band from Minneapolis, led by Paul Westerberg, who’s associated with all the movies you’re obsessed with (Say Anything, Singles, Can’t Hardly Wait). This record is perfect for imagining your life as a montage of scenes. Bonus points: the song “Alex Chilton,” about the Big Star front man, introduced me to one of my other all-time favorite bands. &#8212Emma S.

The Wild Heart
Stevie Nicks
1983, Modern

“Something in my heart died last night / Just one more chip off an already broken heart.” SAME HERE. Stevie sings love songs, and she is the queen of the broken heart. I can’t believe I skipped over this album until NOW. I know the hits (“If Anyone Falls” and “Stand Back”&#8212both killer), but are you familiar with the video of Stevie singing an early version of “Wild Heart”? She’s all in peach, applying her makeup with the help of her backup singers/ladies-in-waiting. The harmonies! Her huge voice! The LP art is excellent: three Stevies wearing a long hooded cape. What the world needs now is every Stevie it can get. &#8212Sonja

Father, Son, Holy Ghost
2011, True Panther

This album talks about love and girls (get it?) a lot, but it doesn’t get dull because every song has its own hook. Some have a jauntier attitude than others&#8212you can certainly hear the longing in Christopher Owens’s voice, but there’s a sense of humor to it as well, which reminds me of the Smiths. Though I think Owens really believes that the love of his life will come along eventually, whereas Morrissey knew that he was doomed from the start. &#8212Naomi

Not Creepy At All