Playlist #54

Good Monday Morning, folks! Follow me on Patreon. I’m super excited about May’s song there. Meanwhile, here’s this week’s playlist:

  1. Dream Wife, “Hey Heartbreaker”: The chugging guitar is great, and I love the overlapping vocals at the end.
  2. Drive-By Truckers, “Outfit”: “Don’t call what you’re wearing an outfit,” the narrator’s father admonishes him, and I can admit that I have done that on numerous occasions. Oh well.
  3. Wilco, “Say You Miss Me”: A heartbreaker of a song. Love it.
  4. Tom Waits, “Goin’ Out West”: “Well, I’m goin’ out west/Where the wind blows tall,” Tom Waits begins, and things only get weirder from there. Because of course they do, this is a Tom Waits song.
  5. Spoon, “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”: A reverb-drenched shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.
  6. SaraoMusic, “Coming Home”: Sunny So-Cal indie pop at its finest.
  7. The Rolling Stones, “Factory Girl”: Always imagined this as the mid-70s version of that Shakespearean sonnet, “My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun.”
  8. The Beatles, “Two Of Us”: If there’s a better song on Let It Be, make your case in the comments.
  9. Rhett Miller, “The El”: Who doesn’t love rattling along on the El in Chicago?
  10. Josh Ritter, “Hopeful”: Taking those first few tentative steps out into the wild after a relationship collapses can be terrifying, but you gotta stay hopeful.

Playlist #49

Whoops, it’s Thursday and I totally forgot to post this week’s playlist. My bad. In my defense, it’s been Spring Break all week, and I’ve been trying my damnedest to relax the whole time. Don’t forget to give me a follow on Patreon!

  1. Bon Iver, “Blood Bank”: I remember, many years ago, sitting down in my classroom with a coworker to record him doing a selection of songs. This was one of them, and it’s been one of my favorite Bon Iver songs since even before then.
  2. Cake, “Comfort Eagle”: “He is now accepting callers for these pendant keychains.”
  3. Camper Van Beethoven, “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”: Back at Accotink, I occasionally taught a Humanities class. We spent a quarter on art, a quarter on poetry, a quarter on theater, and the final quarter on the history of popular music. I’d put together short playlists for each genre of music we covered, and then I had the kids research a genre of their choice and put together a playlist for it. One of my coworkers put together a playlist that I can’t recall the genre for, and this song was on it.
  4. The Clash, “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)”: I do dig the album London Calling, and this is one of the best songs on their best album.
  5. Traveling Wilburys, “Heading For The Light”: I used to play this song on the guitar all the time. I should relearn the chords for it.
  6. Laurie & John Stirratt, “Juniper”: Someday, I’ll put together that list of songs by bands related to Wilco. These two will appear on that list, since John Stirratt is the bass player for Wilco (and one of the musicians in The Autumn Defense).
  7. Tom Waits, “Cold, Cold Ground”: “Lay down together in the cold, cold ground.” Beautiful and weird, Tom.
  8. Mark Knopfler, “The Trawlerman’s Song”: A song about a fisherman who has to keep going out and fishing because he owes money on his boat? Classic Knopfler.
  9. Counting Crows, “Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes To Hollywood)”: One of my favorite songs off of Hard Candy, which is otherwise a pretty great album as well.
  10. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Who’ll Stop The Rain”: Still just one of the best CCR songs out there, which is saying a lot.

Playlist #46: Romeo and Juliet

So this weekend, I was listening to an album by pianist Alan Clark. He played with Dire Straits back in the ’80s (as well as acts like Bob Dylan), and it was an album of solo piano versions of mostly Dire Straits songs. One of them was the song “Romeo and Juliet,” which is a tune I absolutely adore, and so I decided to put together a playlist this week built around that pair of star-crossed lovers. Also remember that I do have a Patreon, and I’m working on not one but two versions of March’s song!

  1. Dire Straits, “Romeo and Juliet”: “Finds a streetlight/Steps out of the shade and says somethin’ like/You and me, babe, how ’bout it?” is just one of the best lines in any song anywhere ever. And that guitar figure Knopfler picks out on what sounds like a resonator? Gorgeous.
  2. Tom Waits, “Romeo is Bleeding”: Alas, poor Romeo, he got shot while knifing a cop and is slowly dying while everyone around him remains oblivious.
  3. The Buzzcocks, “Ever Fallen In Love?” “Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t fallen in love with?” they snarl, and if that ain’t Romeo and Juliet, I don’t know what is.
  4. Duke Ellington, “The Star-Crossed Lovers (aka Pretty Girl)”: Yes, switching from the punky Buzzcocks to the jazzy Duke Ellington is a bit of tonal whiplash, but I think that’s why I like it so much.
  5. You + Me, “Love Gone Wrong”: We all know Romeo and Juliet isn’t really a love story, right? It’s about a couple of pubescent teens dumbstruck with infatuation who end up destroying both of their families (and themselves) in the process.
  6. M. Ward, “Poison Cup”: Sure, Hamlet was the play with the poison cup in it, but poison plays a major role in the final scene of this one, too, remember.
  7. Mates of State, “A Duel Will Settle This”: Mercutio vs. Tybalt is one hell of a fight, though I’m not sure it settled anything beyond that Mercutio will even use his own death to be the sassiest mofo ever.
  8. Cutting Crew, “(I Just) Died In Your Arms”: What could match the overdramatic reaction of Romeo and Juliet? An ’80s song!
  9. Indigo Girls, “Romeo and Juliet”: A cover of the Dire Straits song we started the playlist with. Almost as good as the original.
  10. Ben Harper, “Verona”: Slow, bluesy slide guitar is always some of my favorite, and it’s such a quiet, sweet song to end on.

Playlist #24: Dance Dance Revolution

Happy Monday morning and Happy Indigenous Persons Day! Today, I feel like dancing.

  1. Elliott Smith, “XO (Waltz #2)”: “Here it is, the revenge to the tune/You’re no good” is just one of the best lines ever.
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing In The Dark”: Who doesn’t want to drag Courtney Cox up onto stage to dance with the Boss?
  3. ABBA, “Dancing Queen”: Oddly enough, not the first song I thought of when I came up with this theme.
  4. Frank Turner, “Four Simple Words”: This is the song that inspired the playlist. “I want to dance/I want to dance/I want lust and love and a smattering of romance/But I’m no good at dancing/But I have to do something.” C’mon, that’s a great chorus.
  5. Van Morrison, “Moondance”: Van has gotten progressively weirder and more irascible as he’s aged, but this song (and the whole album of the same name) remains solid gold.
  6. jeremy messersmith, “It’s Only Dancing”: Dude decided a couple of years ago to decenter his ego by no longer capitalizing his name, which…that’s not how proper nouns work, Jer. That’s not how they work at all. Still a good song, though.
  7. John Mellencamp, “Dance Naked”: Excellent advice, as long as nobody’s watching.
  8. Dire Straits, “Walk Of Life”: I’m pretty sure the walk of life is a dance. If it isn’t, it ought to be.
  9. Calexico, “Sunken Waltz”: Any excuse to include a Calexico song on a playlist is fine by me.
  10. Tom Waits, “Tom Traubert’s Blues”: Included due to the “Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda/You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me” in the chorus. It’s sad and sweet and touching and heartbreaking all at once.

Playlist #20

The school year is settling in (except for my freshmen, maybe), so here’s some tunes to cruise into mid-September to.

  1. Fleetwood Mac, “Tusk”: I love the drums on this one. The high school marching band that joins in halfway through is also pretty neat.
  2. Frank Turner, “Get Better”: “I’m trying to get better ’cause I haven’t been my best,” Turner sings, and damn if I don’t feel that most days.
  3. U2, “Hawkmoon 269”: Just what the heck is a hawkmoon, anyway? My Google-Fu is useless, at least since Destiny 2 released an exotic gun of the same name.
  4. Tom Waits, “(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night”: I’m a sucker for any song title that starts with parentheses. And this song is just sad and sweet and gets me every time.
  5. Sublime, “What I Got”: I dare you not to sing along. You can’t not sing along.
  6. Walk the Moon, “Shut Up And Dance”: My niece likes this song. I think it’s pretty catchy, to the point that I find myself occasionally listening to it even when she’s not around (and sometimes putting it on a playlist, like this one).
  7. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, “Pump It Up”: It’s got a very insistent bassline and drumbeat that just gets into your brain and won’t let go.
  8. The Horrible Crowes, “Behold The Hurricane”: Brian Fallon just writes such catchy songs.
  9. Iron & Wine, “Claim Your Ghost”: Speaking of songs that are sad and sweet…
  10. The Jayhawks, “I’d Run Away”: The harmonies these guys got up to just send shivers down my spine.

Playlist #4

The end of the school year is fast approaching. Here’s some songs to ride out this week:

1. The Pixies, “Where Is My Mind”: The Wife loves the Pixies. I’m pretty okay with them most of the time.

2. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Inside”: Most ridiculous name for a band ever? It’s definitely in the top ten. Awesome song? Also definitely.

3. 2Pac, “Keep Ya Head Up”: Uplifting rap about respect for women. A good ‘un.

4. XTC, “Stupidly Happy”: It’s a goofy song that I just love to pieces.

5. William Elliott Whitmore, “Diggin’ My Grave”: This guy does more with a banjo and a stomp box than most bands do with a full ensemble. He also sounds like he’s had a few packs of cigarettes too many.

6. Traffic, “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”: If there’s a stinker on the list this week, it’s probably this song. It’s too long and pretty repetitive. The only reason I put it on is because I read that one of the Mussel Shoals Rhythm Section (who play on the album this is from) passed away this weekend.

7. Tom Waits,”Sixteen Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six”: If there’s a more sinister line than “I’m gonna whittle you into kindlin’,” I don’t think I’ve heard it.

8. Tom Lehrer, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”: First heard it many years ago on the Dr. Demento Show, and the tune holds up. Can’t help giggling every time I get to the line, “And maybe we’ll do in a squirrel or two.”

9. Tennessee Ernie Ford, “Sixteen Tons”: Sure, it’s predominantly about how awful the blue collar worker’s life is, but there’s also that verse about how you shouldn’t mess with him because he’ll kill you. And that’s pretty baller.

10. Filter, “Take a Picture”: For about two months during my freshman year of college, I was completely obsessed with this song. I even bought the CD that it was on (this is what we had to do back before you could just download whatever songs you wanted onto your phone, back in the distant 1990s). It was…not at all like the rest of the album.

Tunes!

If you’re like me – and you should all be so lucky – then writing is a process that involves music.  Lots of music.  But not just any music!  No, you must listen to specific songs or specific styles to help set the mood for your protagonist’s adventures.  Or misadventures.  Or what have you.

I have a constantly-evolving playlist on my phone of the songs I listen to while writing.  Some are on there because they fit a specific scene, while others are more about describing the characters or the mood.  The following playlist was developed while I was writing The Invisible Crown and another novel that will appear later in the series, tentatively called Death and the Dame (that one’s a love story.  Sort of).

1. Anita Kelsey, “Sway”: There have been times I’ve just written to the Dark City Soundtrack.  This is still one of my favorite songs off that collection.

2. Sting, “Perfect Love…Gone Wrong”: On there because of the smoky, steamy city jazz feel, and also the extended metaphor where Sting is a disgruntled dog amuses me to no end.

3. John Mellencamp, “The Full Catastrophe”: Perfect summation of my protagonist, Eddie Hazzard.  His life is a bit of a rolling catastrophe, and there is a minor chance he was accidentally loving your wife while you were loving his.

4. Soul Coughing, “Fully Retractable”: One that’s on there for tone/mood.  There’s a dark undercurrent, a sinister feel to this song that’s just really fitting.

5. Muddy Waters, “Rolling Stone”: Life in a blues song always sounds like it sucks.  I imagine Eddie’s life is much the same way.

6. Bob Dylan, “What Was It You Wanted”: Either the narrator is stuck in a world that makes no sense, or the guy took a shot to the head.  Either way, a Dylan song is a must-have on pretty much any playlist I put together.

7. Gorillaz, “M1A1”: Fight scene song!  Love the energy, the staccato burst of the snare, the spiky guitars…great soundtrack to a fistfight.

8. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand”: Another mood setter.  Creepy, dark alley vibe that I dig.

9. EL VY, “Happiness, Missouri”: Like I said, a lot of songs I stick on these for the general mood they set.  This one fits with the general feel of the city of Arcadia: dark, slightly mysterious, vaguely threatening and sinister.

10. Arcade Fire, “My Body is a Cage”: The contemplative, protagonist considers his actions and his destiny before launching into the story’s climactic scene song.  Love the build of it, the sense of determination and all that.

11. The Dead Weather, “Hustle and Cuss”: Basically the Eddie Hazzard theme song.  He has to be out there hustling, working his tail off, because his enemies are always a few steps ahead of him.  And cussing…well, you have to express your frustration somehow.

12. David Gray, “Dead in the Water”: While The Invisible Crown might be the first of Eddie Hazzard’s cases, it certainly won’t be the last.  I’ve got three other novels already written in the series, I’ve started working on the fifth novel, and I have plans for the sixth.  The core idea for the sixth book came from a short story I wrote a couple years back about Eddie and a particularly disturbing case and a mis-remembering of a lyric from this song.  Expect to see that book in…um…2022 or so, maybe?  I dunno.

13. Adele, “Rumor Has It”: A private detective works with whatever information he can get.  Sometimes, that information is merely rumors.  Sometimes, those rumors turn out to be true.

14. Tom Waits, “Way Down in a Hole”: Tom Waits sounds too ludicrous to even be one of my characters, and I have one antagonist who’s a head in a jar named The Fish.  Honestly, when developing characters, I just ask myself, “What would Tom Waits do?” and go from there.  It’s served me pretty well so far.

15. Modest Mouse, “Bukowski”: This always struck me as driving music, the sort of thing you’d hear on the soundtrack if TIC was turned into a movie/TV series and they had a scene of him driving from the office to an informant or chasing down a lead.

That’s my playlist!  What do you listen to when you’re writing?