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5 Albums I Can't Live Without

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without: Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo

(Credit: Chris Sikich)

Name  Kay Hanley

Best known for  Letters To Cleo singer, your favorite songs from kids’ cartoons, co-founder of advocacy non-profit Songwriters of North America, and co-writer of the first ever Star Trek musical.

Current city  Los Angeles

Really want to be in  Back home in Boston. After I’ve proven my point at work, I guess.

Excited about  Letters To Cleo east coast shows with Gigolo Aunts in November! Kindergarten The Musical on Disney Junior next year!

My current music collection has a lot of  Right now I’m on an ‘80s hip-hop and ‘90s/Aughts R&B kick.

And a little bit of  Brushing up on current Broadway musicals.

Preferred format  Streaming. Hands down. I love being able to listen to whatever I want, whenever I want. I do not love how streaming platforms (do not) pay songwriters, but that’s another interview…LMK when you’re ready!

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without:


#1 Record/Radio City, Big Star

There may not be another record in existence that so permanently lives inside my body with all the joy and sadness of being in my twenties the way #1 Record does. 


Heaven or Las Vegas, Cocteau Twins

Before the internet, I did not ever question that Liz Fraser made up her own language on Cocteau Twins songs. Post internet, I learned that’s not true, that she’s singing in English, and I have never tried to find out what the actual words are. I have already made my own translations and internalized every bit of meaning from this transcendent musical landscape.


Purple Rain, Prince and the Revolution

Do you ever forget the first album you masturbated to? 


Summerteeth, Wilco

The songwriting on this record is so raw and daring. The band’s patience blows my mind. By situating [Jeff] Tweedy’s warm, sad vocals beneath and between great expanses of gorgeous/unexpected sounds and aural non-sequiturs, they showed such confidence in these amazing songs and the ability of their audience to ride the wave. Summerteeth is an intoxicant that I absolutely NEED sometimes. And then whenever I listen to the whole thing, it kind of makes me sick to my stomach on account of all the fucking feelings. 


The Muffs, The Muffs

Kim Shattuck once called Letters to Cleo a “Muffs cover band” in an interview with some snotty east coast zine and we still have never been so excited and honored to have our balls so brutally busted in public. 

Long Live The Muffs.