"The Wild One" by Suzi Quatro
This is the song I would say describes how I really feel inside and who I want to be. If I could have written any song in the whole wide world, this would be the one. That riff and the way she is just not having it, the way she is announcing she is the hottest thing ever, well, I am a believer, and I am sick of feeling bad.
Note: Not available on Spotify.
"Any Party" by Feist
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I only recently got into Feist, really around the same time I got into liking LA, and this record is very much like that city. The love is so vulnerable and touching and unlike anything I put out. I would not have, previously, ever, in a million years, left any party for any guy. I left when I was good and ready. But that has changed and I get the feeling of wanting to be cozy and cuddle up and miss out on the fun and the hangover now. It’s not such a torturous trade any longer.
"The Ministry of Defence" by PJ Harvey
I have been an obsessive PJ fan since high school days. I have to admit I practically stalked her each time she came to NYC, pre-Internet. I have not been enthusiastic about every album, but when this latest one came out I went bananas and wept with joy. It is so witchy and new and political. I maxed out my credit card and flew to LA to see her at the Greek with Will Gruen after her Portland show. Worth it!
Note: Not available on Spotify.
"Mother of Pearl" by Roxy Music
An old boyfriend put this one on a mixtape for me ages and ages ago and it is still so sentimental. A PERFECT love song for a tough girl. And it has the word "mother" in it, which makes me think of all my favorite topics — nurture, torture, and origins.
"Long After Tonite's Candles Are Blown" by Comet Gain
Comet Gain is one of the best bands I have ever heard. Living here in PNW, these moody and foggy songs are perfection. This one reminds me of the fun of doing nothing with friends when I lived in Olympia.
"Number One" by Matthew Hattie Hein
Thanks to Ben Baker, I fell in love with the New Bad Things and especially MHH. I think he is a genius. A Lou Reed for Portland, which is not hyperbole. The level of detail and snark, necessary snark, and the tragic comedy of romance reframed is unbelievable. He is honest about mental illness and being broke and jealous in a way that is not annoying.
"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinéad O'Connor
Well, duh!!! This is the song in Mother Winter
that I could say is THE theme song. She is my mascot for longing and anger at unrequited love. Thanks Prince, but Ms. O’Connor owns this tune.
"Ono Soul" by Thurston Moore
was a game changer for me. This is a less obvious pick from that record, but it’s so steady, the beat, the whisper, the worship. She deserves it. Yes, do bow down to the Queen of Noise.
"I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight" by Richard and Linda Thompson
My book is very much about being working class, about being poor, and about the crude and crooked and tough ways to get out of the grind, without much success sometimes. This is my song to get ready for a night of blowing off steam. I want some magic and sugar and bright lights and I want my city to hold me and dance me off to bed. Linda is basically saying she needs some dumb fun at any cost and she is super tired from her uninspiring job. I dunno why the simplicity of this is remarkable. The horn section is on point.
"In America" by Long Hind Legs
The country I love. The country that is killing us. The country that allowed a rapist to pick judges. Well, but we crawled here and then stood up with hands on heart. It is so complicated and convoluted that I only want to be here in Portland, right now. This is the song that makes me wince and makes me want to drive to every state in the union. This duo is in my top 10 bands of all time.
"Queen Bitch" by Lil' Kim
Eat my pussy while I watch cartoons. Enough said!!!!
Note: Not available on Spotify.
"I'm Not Like Everybody Else" by The Kinks
When I feel really tender and down on people I will go to The Kinks and this one always delivers. Even though it’s a guy calling a woman darling, which can be yummy but here feels mean, I still relate to the sentiment. He is pissed and he wants her to say he is the only one, that he will be candid and vulnerable but there is a boundary. So few songs about boundaries. I need them.
"Paper Bag" by Fiona Apple
Well, Fiona is an actual genius. This is my conundrum: How do I talk about how much I admire her music without mentioning that she is a survivor of rape, that she has pretty bad agoraphobia, that she pushes on, makes art, and exists in the world as best as she can after a violation so severe? Her recent collaboration with Andrew Bird is an ache I cannot stop entering. This song is about my perennial pet peeve subject: unreliable men who want it all and do the bare minimum to achieve it, who won’t grow up. She thought she saw a bird but it was just a paper bag.
"Deceptacon" by Le Tigre
The best dance song and the best feminist song and the best kiss-off song??? Well, this is the one, babe! Schooled.
"Yes, I'm a Witch" by Yoko Ono
You have to be in the mood for the vibrations and lessons dealt out here. She is very loving and almost clinical in her approach. She is a doctor of peace and performance. Kiss my butt, I am what you accuse me of. But she does it with a bit more nuance.
"Class Historian" by BRONCHO
I have to admit it. I just want to be dirty and sweaty and have a throw-me-up-against-a-wall kinda tryst when I hear these lyrics. Not with the man singing the song, but the song reminds me that hot make-outs rule. When he says, "Single mama I wanna get that number," it’s not as sleazy as it sounds. And when he says it’s maybe been a long time but you still Got It, it doesn’t seem patronizing. It is so catchy I dare you to disagree.
"He's My Thing" by Babes in Toyland
These ladies are legends. They have a heavy rotation in my life and brain. I gave birth to my daughter with Kat screaming into my headphones. So many of their themes are about mothers, wombs, babies — really about humans as territorial animals.
"Honeycomb" by Helium
I used to be friends with a girl whom I loved and didn’t know how to be around after a while. She and I were so close and yet we were the most distant and cold kind of people. I felt like I needed to get away but missing her and feeling unsure and guilty never went away. I have had a couple of break-ups and some make-ups with my girl friends and this is the song that catches some of that torment in a sweeter way.
"I Wish I Was Him" by Noise Addict
Well, yeah, I used to wish I was him! This song expands and accepts all of us who don’t know how to be around men who are in positions of power and authority or act like they are entitled to all the cake. Growing up in a counterculture, it became desperately hard to prove that our communities were polluted by toxic masculinity couched in sensitive and fakely supportive dudes who were just scared of us and puzzled by what feminism or inclusivity really means. It kind of means: listen and learn or take a walk.
"This Year's Girl" by Elvis Costello and The Attractions
Elvis is King. And I love so many of his songs it makes it way too difficult to choose one. I chose this one because I can’t get enough of The Deuce (
like, finally, a feminist show about sex work); once, they mixed it with Natalie Bergman singing the epic line about misogyny, “You want her broken with her mouth wide open ’cause she’s this year’s girl,” and I remembered how great it really was. New take, new era.
"If You Can't Give Me Love" by Suzi Quatro
Stoked to start and end with Suzi Quatro. I am only now getting into love songs in earnest. I can really relate to this one. I just don’t have the time, the patience, or the bandwidth for anything but the gut-punch fireworks of meaningful courtship. I am OK with things cooling and just buying toilet paper and wiping noses later. I want a cold and deep plunge in a starry lake. If you can’t gimme love… I have a little black book and a vibrator, so get off my dance floor.
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emigrated from Leningrad to NYC in 1990. She is an MFA graduate of Portland State University with a second master’s degree in creative arts therapy from The School of Visual Arts. Sophia is a feminist writer and painter and lives in Portland with her two children. Mother Winter
is her first book. Visit her website