One of the year’s most welcome reissues, the lone album by Canadian singer, songwriter, actor, and artist Mary Margaret O’Hara is a captivating and terrifying tour through madness and redemption, devastation and hope. Most of the songs were written in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but the album didn’t appear until 1988. And while O’Hara was praised in the press, and the plaintive “Help Me Lift You Up” was covered by This Mortal Coil, the record died a quiet death. But those who heard it and fell for O’Hara’s unique crooning tics—she recalls the hiccuping vocal hysterics of Kristin Hersh and the pained tonalities of Emmylou Harris—were irrevocably touched by the album’s soul-baring passion. Songs like “Body’s in Trouble” and “Year in Song” echo frightening lines from Emily Dickinson’s “The First Day’s Night Had Come” regarding the depersonalization of depression. During “Year in Song,” when O’Hara sings, “Treat me I’m getting low/High up where floaters go/Ready to put you under light sedation/I’m ready to throw you under like sedation/I’m not ready to go under/Eh, pretty/Ape pretty/Ah, that’s too much,” it sounds as if her head is swirling with poetry derived from a manic episode. Musically, the album shifts between country-tinged swayers, fractured folk songs, atmospheric guitar ballads, and quiet, angular funk. Since Miss America’s release, O’Hara has developed her other talents, acting in films and honing her visual art. Hopefully the reappearance of Miss America will signal her musical return.—Christopher Porter

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