Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet, the playlist by Molly Morris

"In all my writing, music plays a really important role"

This post was written by Molly Morris, author of Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet.

What do nineties grunge, underrated pop princesses and unspeakably cool soul beats all have in common?

Well folks, they bring the vibes to Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet, a tornado of YA weirdness that follows self-described social pariah Wilson Moss and her mission to keep her recently resurrected ex-best friend Annie permanently back in the land of the living after Wilson wins the ability to bring her back from the dead in her strange little town’s contest.

In all my writing, music plays a really important role, not just in helping me write (Vitamin String Quartet, I owe you for many productive late nights), but in setting the scene for what I’m writing. When mapping out a scene for anything I’m working on, I can’t help but imagine it as a movie in my head, complete with a soundtrack that complements the energy and movement on the page, or represents certain characters and their relationships. Sometimes both.

To help set the scene for my newest book, I thought I’d give you an exclusive look at what songs you’d find playing behind Wilson and her friends as they navigate first love and tricky relationships, police encounters and even a karaoke machine, as well as why I’ve chosen these songs in the first place (there aren’t any spoilers though, don’t worry!).

The below playlist is crammed with nineties grunge (Wilson’s personal favourite), the odd oldie and even a little splash of ska – because while Wilson might say she’s painfully one-note, there’s a lot more going on with her (and her story) than she thinks. Enjoy!

“Alive” by Pearl Jam

This song is a pretty literal way to kick things off, but I tend to go literal with novel playlists. The beginning of ALINDY see the return of Annie LeBlanc from the dead, except it’s not this weird, culty ceremony in which everybody stands around a pentagram and beckons her up from the earth. She turns up in a pick-up truck, walking down her old high school’s football field while everyone in town watches.

I love to imagine this song by Pearl Jam playing in the background as she emerges, Eddie Vedder wailing the chorus “Oh, I’m still alive.” It not only perfectly summarises what’s happening, but also captures the grungy essence we’re about to be enveloped in, courtesy of Wilson’s unending obsession with nineties alt rock.

“Batmobile” by Liz Phair

I first heard this song as it played over the short documentary Dirty Girls, which was filmed in 1996 and put up on YouTube years later. The doc is about a group of high school riot grrrls that everyone speculates about but nobody understands, and while it was incredibly riveting and quite the time capsule moment for alt nineties girls, it was the song that played in it—Liz Phair’s “Batmobile”—that struck me most. Liz Phair’s voice is so melancholic, singing about not belonging where she is and needing to escape.

Wilson grows up in Lennon, California, a magic town with a mind of its own. It’s always been her home but it’s not where she feels at home, if that makes sense. Charming, and yet contrived and kind of suffocating, filled with people that just don’t get her (or so she thinks). So, I’ve always imagined her riding her bike (something I never actually have her do on the page, spoiler alert) down Main Street while this song plays in her headphones, Wilson assessing the environment in which she’s never quite found her place.

“Cherub Rock” by The Smashing Pumpkins

Wilson has a complicated relationship with her mother Jody, who was only a teenager herself when she had her. It’s Jody’s love of her childhood music—nineties grunge—that inspires Wilson to love the same, especially The Smashing Pumpkins, the frontman of which, Jody famously threw her underwear at as he performed on stage. To me, this song perfectly embodies their less-than-average mother-daughter relationship. It’s that simple.


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“I Fought the Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four

Bucking the trend of nineties alt rock, we’ve got The Bobby Fuller Four’s seminal classic, “I Fought the Law.” I know the Clash’s 1979 version is closer to the era and probably more well-known, but I love the sort of rockabilly twang of the Bobby Fuller one. It makes it feel a little silly to me, these guys in Buddy Holly glasses and suits with twangy guitars singing, “I fought the law and…the law won.” You can almost hear the sigh in that pause, like “Ah shoot, the law won.”

For most of her life, Wilson has played it safe. She’s not big into risks, she helps look after her house and her little sister, but when Annie comes back, it awakens something in her to push the envelope a little bit more. Without giving too much away, there’s a scene in ALINDY where the cops may or may not show up, and Wilson has to flee the scene. I love the image of her doing so as this song plays, almost mocking her playfully for dipping her toe in the rebel pond.

“The “In” Crowd” by Dobie Gray

Ah, another classic. This song is everything. Again, I probably could have gone with Bryan Ferry’s 1974 version, which definitely has a more modern, electronic edge, but I just love the Dobie Gray original. It’s got such a swagger and vibe to it.

I’ve mentioned before that Wilson doesn’t feel as though she exactly fits in with her town, much less the people who live there, and even much, much less among her peers. So, when she does eventually find some people she just might jive with, I imagine her strutting down the street with them as this song plays. In that moment, she feels on top of the world, because she’s truly made it – she’s in with the in crowd.

“My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit

This song works on so many levels. The way it builds to almost a frenzied, scream sing, the lyrics (“Can we forget about the things I said, when I was drunk? I didn’t mean to call you that”). Everything about it is perfect.

There’s a moment in the novel where Wilson is singing karaoke (every good character arc needs a karaoke scene – fact), and this is without a doubt her anthem. There’s a line that says, “It’s no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy. ‘Cause every now and then I kick the living shit out of me.” If that doesn’t summarise Wilson and the perpetually negative self-image she holds and ultimately has to learn to fight against, I don’t know what does.

“Welcome to Paradise” by Green Day

The theme of nineties goodness continues! I know by this point, you’re probably tired of all the greasy haired-madness, but hang around for another couple seconds.

Because this is where it gets good, where Wilson has finally reached “paradise,” AKA the acceptance and sense of belonging she’s always looked for. But what is paradise, exactly? As Billie Joe Armstrong sings, “Some call it slums, some call it nice.” And as Wilson is about to discover, paradise isn’t always what we thought or even what we want. And more importantly, it never sticks around for long.

“Celebrity Skin” by Hole

It’ll come as no surprise that Courtney Love is a personal hero of both Wilson and her mother, both in style and her screw-you attitude. This song is all about calling out the superficiality of Southern California which, for Wilson, translates to all the people and things she feels doesn’t accept her. There’s a point in the novel where Wilson channels her inner Courtney Love, for once just letting loose and having the fun she’s known deep down she deserves.


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“Something in the Way” by Nirvana

This just might be my favourite Nirvana song, and yes, I know what that probably says about me. It’s so mournful and raw in its vulnerability. I feel like Nirvana’s music was oftentimes shrouded in this sulky existentialism, but this song feels so overt and exposed. Kurt Cobain is singing about the fact that he feels quite literally like “something in the way”, a sentiment attributed in his biography Heavier Than Heaven to possibly be from the way he had to ping pong between his mom and dad and never quite found his place in his family.

Wilson is the same. Her mom and stepdad—who she adores—split up a few years ago, obliterating the only family she’s ever known. And now she doesn’t feel like she has a place with her mom and soon-to-be husband, much less her stepdad and his new wife. She’s just in the way of their new families, their happiness, and would do anything to feel like she belongs.

“How Do I Feel” by Hoku

Okay, this song wins the award for being the most random addition to this list (and that’s saying something), but bear with me. So much of Wilson, as well as her family and her friends, is random.

Family plays a big part in everything I write, because I love a family dynamic – I love the inside jokes, the random things that trigger memories. Every time I hear Blondie’s “Maria”, I think of me and my little sister in the back of our parents’ minivan on vacation in Palm Springs. Wilson’s family and their dynamic is complicated, but like so many families, they have their good times and silly little things from their shared past that make them all laugh. While the scene in which this song by Hoku plays didn’t actually make it into the book, the song itself still very much represents Wilson, Jody, Wilson’s ex-step dad and her little sister as a unit, dancing, laughing and enjoying being the family they were and always will be.

“The Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Okay, there’s this thing on the internet called the Walk of Life Project, where someone puts Dire Straights’ “Walk of Life” over endings of classic movies under the hypothesis that this song is the perfect soundtrack to the end of literally anything: The Matrix, The Dark Knight Rises – even Jurassic Park. And it works. My god, does it work.

But I’ve got my own hypothesis – I think “The Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones has a similar effect. It’s got that same feel-good, ska twang, perfect for an upbeat ending or those of the bittersweet variety, where someone gets some news and just stares into the middle distance with tears in their eyes. That’s why this is the closer for Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet. When you read it and get to the end, I want you to imagine this song is playing overhead; I swear, it’ll be perfect.

Get your copy of Annie LeBlanc Is Not Dead Yet by Molly Morris here.

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