this post first appeared on zelda & scout on 9/10/14. it was co-written with kelsey goldman.
In New York, nothing sets the mood for your day more than your commute. Did you make your transfer, or were you running down the block, a ball of flying limbs, trying to wave down the bus driver (he’s not going to stop for you, no matter how much you may want him to)? Did you fly under the river to Manhattan faster than a speeding hipster, or did you sit festering for 15 minutes between stops because of the enigma that is “train traffic”? This month’s playlist will help you avoid these speed bumps, or at least better cope with them, and set off down the sidewalks of the borough of your choice with a confident swagger to your step. With these badass ladies in your ear, you can conquer the world (as long as the L train isn’t fucked).
1. Kiss With a Fist: Florence + The Machine – We are huge fans of Florence + the Machine’s debut album, and this song has long been a favorite. It starts with a bang: lace up your boots, put on your headphones, and head out the door to face the day. Hit rush hour right back in the face with your super cool attitude and those sensible yet trendy shoes you found at Nordstrom Rack. You got this.
2. Crash Years: The New Pornographers – This album played an integral role in the soundtrack to Zelda’s senior year of college. With sunshiney melodies and pulsing beats, plus the vocals of unequivocal badass Neko Case rising above the musical fray, this song is sure to keep you zen in those moments of commuting catastrophe. Train doors slamming in your face? Fellow commuters suffocating you? Close your eyes and whistle along. It’s all good.
3. Casino (Bad Things): Houndmouth – We told you that you hadn’t heard the last of Houndmouth. We love them, and this. Katie Toupin is one of our favorite humans — we just want to be her best friend — and this song is the badass anthem for our New York lives. It’s stomp on the cracks, avoid eye contact, swish around the corner cause you know you’re awesome, down home good times. Cheeky, full of sass, and all around cool — smudged mascara be damned.
4. Call Me: Blondie – Debbie Harry, man. This punk icon epitomizes New York cool, making regular appearances at Studio 54 with her black leather jacket and trademark platinum hair. From the opening guitar riffs and thumping drum, this song will propel you down the sidewalk with a defiant stomp, and a flip of your side pony. Warning: potential side effects include spontaneous dance parties and air drumming.
5. Back to Black: Amy Winehouse – Sometimes you need a thumping dance track to power through your day. And sometimes, when the world has stomped on you one too many times and a pigeon shat on your blazer, you need some snark and some soul. Amy has both in spades. Her sultry voice whispers sweet nothings in your ear and then yanks you back to reality. She’s the friend you call when you want to plot revenge on that asshole who never called, and stole your favorite t-shirt to boot.
6. Shake It Off: Taylor Swift – This song has been stuck in our heads non-stop ever since it first graced the internets. At first, we were angry. Then, we grooved into acceptance. Now, we just can’t help ourselves: Whether alone in our kitchens, singing in our showers, or walking down the sidewalk with hundreds of strangers, we have to dance. Haters gonna hate, y’all. We’re just gonna shake, and listen to T. Swift until we’re old and gray. What can we say — girl knows how to write a hook.
7. Dutch: Dessa – What can we say about Dessa: Anyone who can rap about the Chicago Manual of Style, Sylvia Plath, whiskey, and Vegas in the same breath is A+ awesome in our books. Scout has been a big fan of Dessa since her sophomore year of college, she introduced Zelda to her soon after, and we’ve been rocking out to her ever since. “Skeleton Key” is another badass favorite of ours, and Scout’s go-to sidewalk stompin’ jam, which nearly made it onto this playlist. We highly suggest you give it a listen.
8. Think: Aretha Franklin – This song needs no introduction (but we’re going to give it a little something anyway). If Aretha can’t make you feel empowered and like you can take on all the stalled trains MTA can throw your way, then nothing will.
9. Wings: Little Mix – There’s something irresistible about British chicks jamming about girl power to the poppiest of infectious tunes. This song takes us back to our roots, dancing around our living rooms to the bopping melodies of Ginger, Baby, Posh, Sporty, and Scary. The ladies of Little Mix were brought together by the powers of the X Factor (also responsible for a certain frenzy-inducing boy band you may have heard of), and the quartet was wildly popular in their native U.K. before crossing the pond. They are also all younger than us. We try to forget that fact. It does not help our twenty-something angst.
10. Girls: Santigold – This song holds a special place in Scout’s heart, a particularly happy bullet point at the end of her first six months in New York. Sometimes you’re walking through the Union Square Christmas Market, minding your own business, and some dudes ask you and your friends to be in a Santigold music video. Sometimes New York does right by you. Sometimes life is awesome.
11. Let Me Blow Ya Mind: Eve feat. Gwen Stefani – Allow us to take you on a little genre detour back to yesteryear, circa 2001. Twas a time of middle school dances, rocking your braces and Sketchers with as much aplomb as your gawky, body glitter-covered limbs would allow. Awkward phase associations aside, this song spins an awesome tale of female agency and creative expression, all grooving to a catchy-as-hell tune with an R&B soul. It makes our commutes, or any troubles for that matter, go down smooth.
12. Warpath: Ingrid Michaelson – Ingrid is one of our all-time favorite lady singers: she’s talented, she writes catchy hooks and heart-achingly beautiful ballads on the same album, and she’s wickedly funny to boot (a concert of hers in Louisville is in both of our top 10’s). This song is the ultimate stomp down the sidewalk, don’t let anybody stand in your way, you can take on the world jam. Scout listens to it regularly while walking the streets of Bushwick. Even the G train doesn’t seem as bad with this song in your ears (That’s a lie — the G train is always the worst — but at least with this you can rock out while you wait, and wait, and wait…).
13. Mood To Burn Bridges: Neko Case – As previously stated, Neko Case is, unequivocally, a bad ass. With her killer pipes and flaming red hair, she is the standard of cool to which we all aspire. Public transit can often put us in a mood to burn bridges, or tunnels. Rather than commit arson, we channel our frustration into this song and let Neko sing it out for us. When it seems the world (or at least every subway conductor and bus driver on whom you depend) is out to get you, Neko’s on your side. Sink into those languid choruses and just let the anger go. Some things in this world are simply out of our hands, and the speed of your commute definitely falls into that category.
14. Stone Cold Sober: Paloma Faith – Another British import, Paloma’s sultry voice combines pulsing beats with funky undertones to bring you a fast-paced IDGAF anthem. Paloma started her music career mimicking famous jazz and soul singers like Billie Holiday and Etta James, but in time she found her own sound, and style (it’s wonderfully eccentric). Her third album is coming out later this year, but this jam from her debut Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful? will always be a favorite.
15. The Wire: HAIM – This foursome out of southern California — sisters Alana, Este, and Danielle Haim, plus drummer Dash Hutton — released their debut album in September of 2013 and have since charted in the top 40 in eleven countries, while opening for everyone from Mumford & Sons to the artist formerly known as Ke$ha (how’s that for musical diversity). Their sound is something of a lovechild between Stevie Nicks and the R&B girl groups of the nineties (think TLC, Salt-n-Pepa, Destiny’s Child pre-Queen Bey world domination). The steady clapping beat of this song will keep you moving, and give you the strength to get back up when you inevitably trip over that uneven patch of sidewalk. Bonus points for hilarious crying dudes in the music video.
16. I Feel The Earth Move: Carole King – This past year in New York has been the year of Carole, with “Beautiful: The Musical” sweeping every award show and subway ad. And thank goodness, too, because we’ve all been needing more of this Brooklyn gal in our lives. Carole is the original badass music chick, writing hit after hit for the top acts of the 60s before deciding to give her own voice a chance, to the tune of countless Grammy’s, a solo show at Carnegie Hall, and the first Gershwin Prize ever awarded to a woman. Where she leads, we will follow — up the stairs and into the sunshine, where we set off to join the sidewalk fray and take over the world, one step at a time.