The narrator of Etched On Me, Lesley, is an extraordinarily fierce music lover, never without her anxiety-soothing headphones, toting her guitar case everywhere from hospital rooms to Moscow Metro stations. Her favorite mix is one she calls “Best of the Screaming Women,” about whose genesis she has this to say:
“I’d made [it] mainly to annoy the shit out of my mum, but also because I reckoned that if I couldn’t scream, the next best thing was to let some other woman with a strong voice do it on my behalf.”
Here, with annotations, is Lesley’s’s Best of the Screaming Women.
#1. “Leave It Open,” Kate Bush (iTunes link)
The first track Lesley listens to after running away from home, alone in her room at a grungy hostel. Taken from Kate’s 1982 art-rock masterpiece The Dreaming (“that ancient album with her about to kiss Houdini on the cover”), it’s a distorted-vocal plea to let “weirdness” in. (“Not like I couldn’t relate to that idea, right?” Lesley says dryly.)
2. “Get Out Of My House,” Kate Bush (iTunes link)
The track Lesley has to skip in her darkest moments, and no wonder: the song is five minutes of pure terror, full of a woman’s stuttered screams and pleas for a male ghost to leave her.
3. “Sour Times,” Portishead (iTunes link)
Lesley’s “chillaxed” trip-hop calm-down song, during which she imagines a grown-up future in which she leaves the hostel behind and spends her nights relaxing at trendy cafes, being served balsamic-glazed salmon by tattooed waitresses.
4. “Suspended In Gaffa,” Kate Bush (iTunes link)
After Lesley chops off her hair with kitchen shears, this is the self-deprecating song she hears when she finally sees her botched handiwork. (“That girl in the mirror, between you and me/She don’t stand a chance at getting anywhere at all.”)
5. “Breathing,” Kate Bush (iTunes link)
This track is a 1980s Cold War cry for nuclear disarmament, but Lesley cites its directive to “breathe in deep” as a reminder of mindfulness meditation rather than one of “chips of plutonium a-twinkling in every lung.”
6. “Human Behavior,” Bjork (iTunes link)
When Lesley isn’t making Toblerone fondue for her adoptive family the Kremskys, she’s transposing this alternative-meets-electronica classic for acoustic guitar.
7. “And Dream of Sheep,” Kate Bush (iTunes link)
This quiet, poignant piano ballad about a woman adrift at sea is both Lesley’s soundtrack for a suicide attempt and a lullaby she sings to her infant daughter.
Not on Lesley’s playlist, but mentioned in the book nonetheless:
“Don’t Know Why,” Norah Jones (iTunes link)
During art therapy, Lesley’s soon-to-be-girlfriend Clare outs herself by commenting, “Oh, Norah. You’d never wonder why you didn’t come if you’d gone home with me.”
“All The Things She Said,” tATu (iTunes link)
Lesley makes a killing playing this “kitschy, shrieky song made popular by a pair of faux lesbian Russian teenagers” while busking in the Moscow Metro.