11 Essential Kim Gordon Songs


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Gordon’s epic 1990 tribute to Karen Carpenter is unlike anything else in Sonic Youth’s discography — or, really, in all of popular music. Over a chiming squall of guitar, she narrates Carpenter’s ultimately fatal battle with anorexia in a conversational and almost childlike spoken word, giving an empathetic voice to a feminized type of suffering that is too often considered unspeakable, and honoring a soft-rock legend in an uncompromising punk song.

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In the early 1990s, Gordon and her friend Julia Cafritz, the guitarist in the noise-rock band Pussy Galore, formed a side project called Free Kitten; Yoshimi P-We from Boredoms and Mark Ibold from Pavement eventually rounded out the lineup. When I spoke with Hanna for my profile, she compared Gordon’s new solo album to Free Kitten’s 1995 debut — “one of my favorite projects she ever did” — which features this cheeky response to Sonic Youth’s experience opening for Neil Young on an arena tour. “Every song was like, ‘You can’t say that!’” Hanna said, admiringly. “And it was like, ‘Oh, but she just did, and she did it in this way that you can’t really argue with.’”

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Over a churning, industrial beat, Gordon satirizes contemporary masculinity on this second single from “The Collective,” which she told me was inspired in part by the notion that “men don’t need to protect and save women anymore and ride off into the sunset or whatever, so they became kind of lost.” Embodying the character of one of those men, she approaches the idea with a wry humor: “So what if I like big truck? Giddy up!”

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The long, enveloping third track on Sonic Youth’s epochal 1988 album “Daydream Nation” is one of Gordon’s finest and most charismatic vocal performances, and also features some of her most vivid and poetic writing. As she noted in “Girl in a Band,” when she was writing these lyrics, “I was thinking back on what it felt like being a teenager in Southern California, paralyzed by the still, unending sprawl of L.A., feeling all alone on the sidewalk, the pavement’s plainness so dull and ugly it almost made me nauseous, the sun and good weather so assembly-line unchanging that it made my whole body tense.” Does that sound simple enough?

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