"Bloody Knuckles": A 10-Song Playlist of Catharsis Essentials

Finding the state of the world impossible to deal with at the moment? Join the club, sister. I’ve curated a playlist of essentials for dealing with all of the angsty, brooding, stressful emotions of 2020. I call it “Bloody Knuckles” because it is as angsty as a teenage boy about to punch a hole in drywall. I have intentionally only picked female artists because I find their music more relatable. You can find the complete playlist here on Spotify.

  1. 1. “En t’attendant” by Mélanie Laurent

    Title translates to “Waiting for you.”

    Lyric translation: “I make bubbles in the rose water / I'm drowning myself for love / On the horizon of gloomy nights / To gods I go, I run.”

    Full disclosure: I don’t speak French, nor do I understand it (my apologies to my high school French teacher). Nevertheless, I’ve had this song playing in the back of my mind for years — I love the way its energy builds, the sound of Laurent’s voice, the beautiful orchestral instrumentation, and the longing feeling it captures so well. This is definitely not the angriest song on this playlist, which is why I have it first in the preferred order — it eases me into my emotions. I think the fact that I don’t understand the lyrics without reading their translation helps me to focus on the music and the way it makes me feel, independent of language.

  2. 2. “Oh My God” by Ida Maria

    Lyrics: “Find a cure / Find a cure for my life / Oh my God / Oh, you think I’m in control / Oh my God / Oh, you think it’s all for fun.”

    I love this song so much. The pace is energetic, the instrumentation is simple and effective, and the lyrics are raw, honest, and borderline frantic. If I had to put one word to the emotion behind this song, it would be incredulous. It’s a good song for when all you can think is, “Are you KIDDING me?!”

  3. 3. “Mother Mother” by Tracy Bonham

    Lyrics: “If I tell you what you want to hear / Will it help you to sleep well at night? / Are you sure that I’m your perfect dear? / Now just cuddle up and sleep tight / I’m hungry / I’m dirty / I’m losing my mind / Everything’s fine.”

    With “Mother Mother,” we’re delving into the edgier portion of the playlist. Bonham addresses her mother, condescendingly reassuring her that “everything’s fine” now that she’s off in the world as an independent adult, and then goes on to yell that she’s “hungry,” “dirty,” and “bleeding to death” (among other things). This wonderful, emotionally rich song feels especially poignant in the context of being a young adult trying to find a place in the world in the midst of political upheaval and economic downfall. This song is loud, angry, and grungy, but it is not as loud, angry, and grungy as some of the songs on this list.

  4. 4. “Townie” by Mitski

    Lyrics: “And I want a love that falls as fast / As a body from the balcony, and / I want to kiss like my heart is hitting the ground / I’m holding my breath with a baseball bat / Though I don’t know what I'm waiting for.” 

    Like “En t’attendant,” this song, which happens to be by one of my favorite artists at the moment, confronts a sense of longing, but with a very different tone. “Townie” is more rebellious, more aggressive, and, in my opinion, more confused. This song is about being desperate for change, for freedom, and for love. It captures the excitement, instability, and anxiety of youth.

  5. 5. “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” by Mitski

    Lyrics: “I better ace that interview / I better ace that interview / I should tell them that I’m not afraid to die / I better ace that interview.”

    Okay, I don’t know if it’s against the unwritten rules of short-playlist-making to have multiple songs by the same artist, but I truly do not care because I am adding not one, not two, but three Mitski masterpieces because she is the Queen of Catharsis. Where “Townie” invoked anxieties about interpersonal relationships, “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” panics about merely existing in society, making money, and aging. Yeah, me too. The harsh, fast-paced guitar strumming heightens the anxious and angry tone (in case the repetition of the phrase “Kill me, Jerusalem” wasn’t enough to drive that home). It’s a good one for when you’re freaking out about becoming a *real* adult.

  6. 6. “Drunk Walk Home” by Mitski

    Lyrics: “For I’m starting to learn I may never be free / But though I may never be free / Fuck you and your money / I’m tired of your money.”

    For our final Mitski track, I have selected the one with the most unhinged screaming. I once played this song in the car when my sister was riding with me and she looked at me with real fear in her eyes. Like “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” this song rages against society’s rules and obligations. However, this song conveys less anxiety and more unadulterated rage. This selection pairs well with stomping and heavy-handed eyeliner. Think Azula in the final Agni Kai. If this playlist were a workout routine, this would be the all-out sprint. Next, a gradual cool-down.

  7. 7. “Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple

    Lyrics: “Every single night’s all right / Every single night’s a fight / And every single fight’s all right / With my brain, brain.”

    “Every Single Night” is quieter and more solemn than the few songs that precede it. That being said, there is an unmistakably disturbing quality to it. It has sort of a slow-march-to-insanity kind of vibe, and that just really hits in the midst of quarantine. This is a good one for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stuck in a rut.

  8. 8. “The Trapper and the Furrier” by Regina Spektor

    Lyrics: “What a strange, strange world we live in / Where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven / What a strange, strange world we live in / Those who don’t have lose, those who got get given / More, more, more, more.”

    I am such a Regina Spektor stan — her lyricism is unmatched. This song is both the most theatrical and probably the most direct in terms of narrative. Spektor laments about the pervasive exploitation of modern society and essentially says “screw capitalism” the whole time. It’s a great time! It will validate your daily anger at Jeff Bezos.

  9. 9. “I Know The End” by Phoebe Bridgers

    Lyrics: “So I gotta go, I know, I know, I know / When the sirens sound, you'll hide under the floor / But I’m not gonna go down with my hometown in a tornado / I’m gonna chase it, I know, I know, I know.”

    We’re getting softer; it’s almost over, but we’re still struggling! I love Bridger’s fantastical storytelling lyricism and the instrumental build is to die for. This song feels like being lost and hopeless, but it’s not so scary — more dreamlike.

  10. 10. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” by Lucy Dacus

    Lyrics: “I don’t wanna be funny anymore / I got a too-short skirt, maybe I can be the cute one / Is there room in the band? I don't need to be the frontman / If not, then I’ll be the biggest fan.”

    This is one of my absolute favorite songs at the moment. It’s more upbeat than many of the others on this list, yet it still touches on a point of pain and struggle. Feeling like the background character in your own life? Always a second choice? Never the prom queen? This one’s for you. But this is also about finding yourself and knowing what you can do to use your full potential to succeed! I would play this song while crying about being left out, but I’d also probably dance to it at a party. What are we if not multifaceted?