1. Plants and Rags
’Plants and rags/Ease myself into a body bag…’ That opening kind of says it all; I don’t know what else to say about this. It was like a lifeline, a revelation, a validation.
2. Good Fortune
Totally at the other end of the spectrum, this is Polly at her shiniest and most beautiful, and it fills me with joy – and it reminds me of the same in myself: wandering the streets of Hong Kong and meeting my boyfriend (not at the same time). If you see any photograph of me taken around 2001–02, odds are I’m trying to look like her in the video.
3. A Perfect Day Elise
Contains my favourite rhyming couplet of all time – ‘God is the sweat running down his back/The water soaked her blonde hair black’. The whole song is equally as spooky and stunning as that image.
The first PJ album I ever bought was Rid of Me, on cassette, which I bought because Kurt Cobain said he liked it in an interview. It changed what I thought music could be, and I was particularly intrigued by this song. Which prompted my dad nearly to crash his car and/or put me in therapy when I decided to play it for him on a long drive (to be fair, I was 12 and this song is a psychosexual cacophony about amputating a lover’s legs).
My PJ obsession was at its absolute height when Uh-Huh Her came out, and this song is just perfect.
6. That Was My Veil
Her work with John Parrish seems to be considered a kind of under-the-radar side-project and isn’t listened to enough – this beautiful song is up there with the best stuff she has ever done.
7. We Float
During a Bad Time, I used to carry the lyrics to this in my purse, and they still take me right back – offset here by the stark and haunting accompaniment.
One of the most classic bass lines of all time, and the most triumphant sound you will ever hear – it’s like a perfect, glorious battle-cry.
Another early favourite of mine; in my opinion the most ‘pop’ song on Rid of Me. Not saying much, but it made me weirdly happy when I was twelve and still does.
This may sound obvious, but it’s such a great song to drive to. Or to run to, actually. I don’t like running with music, generally, but sometimes sing this under my breath as I go. It makes me feel powerful.
11. This Mess We’re In
One of Thom Yorke’s finest moments, in my very humble opinion. Another highlight from what is pretty much a perfect album – Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea.
12. When Under Ether
My favourite from White Chalk and the newest song on here. I was surprised myself that nothing from Let England Shake made the list, but it’s nothing to due with a drop in her quality, just my personal attachments.
13. C’Mon Billy
A Flamenco-tinged lovechild saga from To Bring You My Love. My favourite to sing along to, I think.
14. Hardly Wait
Early on in her career, at least, Polly was often dismissed as being some sort of crazed, witchy sex-banshee. Thankfully, there’s a lot more to her than that, but this song is probably the closest that she gets to it, and it’s rather magical.
15. No Child of Mine
I had to have this – the album version is just a short sketch, but the full-blown song is wrangled by Polly and Marianne Faithfull on the latter’s (sublime) album Before The Poison and it had to be on here.
* I had to have 15 for Polly; I couldn’t pick just 10.