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Songs that make you glad you're alive

Considering how much fun it is, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that feels a bit like homework.


No, I don't mean the dinners, the family time or even those endless Pilgrim specials on the History Channel. Nor do I mean the actual homework you're likely to be saddled with over this weekend.

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I mean that the whole idea behind the holiday is one big guilt trip. If there's one thing that makes my appetite shrivel up, it's being told how ""thankful"" I should be for something. Even if your favorite activity is, say, shoveling snow, you're liable to lose your appetite for it if someone tells you that hard work builds character.


Fortunately, there's always an antidote to this kind of sanctimony, and that antidote is music. Here are the tracks that have made me feel most alive over the last year.


The Tornados, ""Telstar."" The only instrumental that's ever made me tear up, this deliriously manic early-'60s classic hurtles through space like a satellite, soaring high and then coming down in a sudden burst of white noise.


Sleater-Kinney, ""You're No Rock'N'Roll Fun."" The late, great Portland trio's most classically concise track, this 1999 song — from All Hands on the Bad One — coos like a Go-Gos hit and cracks the whip like a lion tamer.


Miles Davis, ""Freddie Freeloader."" Kind of Blue might be the most embarrassingly obvious choice of jazz album in the world, but its cucumber-cool mood and note-perfect performances don't age.


Paul McCartney, ""Every Night."" From McCartney's first, self-titled solo album, this forgotten piece of breezy, light pop features the man at his easygoing best. That no trendy indie flick to date has filched this for its soundtrack is baffling.


The Breeders, ""Cannonball."" Sometimes I think I'm the only person in the world who prefers Pixies bassist Kim Deal's second band to the Pixies themselves. This 1993 hit sparked one of my favorite videos ever, which consists almost entirely of the adventures of a cannonball.


Deee-Lite, ""Groove is in the Heart."" This 1990 classic featured an even better video, with what must rate as either the best or the worst dancing ever committed to film, to a giddy tune that only a professional carper could dislike.


Floyd Cramer, ""On the Rebound."" Currently featuring in the title sequence of the new film ""An Education,"" this bouncy, classy wonder was No. 1 on the British charts ever so briefly in 1961.


The Clash, ""(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais."" This gooey, glistening piece of molten metal sounds like it was recorded in a thunderstorm and culminates in the most spine-tingling minute in rock. The Clash's frontman, the great Joe Strummer, used to shout at audiences: ""Remember — you're alive."" If you want a reason to be thankful, wrap those words around yourself like a scarf this holiday season, and hold them close.


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Updated December 1, 2020