Listen up! The Issue 61 Playlist Is Here.
Listen along to Issue 61’s playlist on Spotify!
Svetlana Beggs ,“The Photo” – “Звезда по имени Солнце” by Viktor Tsoi
Victor Tsoi was a necessary force of nature for USSR high school kids in the late 80s. The two main characters in my story love this song, and indeed know by heart every song by Victor Tsoi.
Janika A Oza, “Gathered Family” – “Garden Prayer” by Anju
Lindsey Baker, “Ourself, Ourself” – “Black Sands” by Bonobo
I like this song because it’s seemingly dramatic, but has swells of something that feels like humor. Or if not humor, whimsy. I think the narrators would enjoy playing it while riding with Jack in his car.
Michael Riess, “Sky Like Concrete” – “Colorblind” by Counting Crows
I chose this song because my story—like the lyrics in the song—describes a colorless landscape and a narrator unable to properly express his feelings.
Megan Pillow Davis, “We All Know About Margo” – “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar
“DNA” is the song that’s playing in the background of my story’s moment. Although Lamar is clearly speaking to the particulars of black cultural appropriation, the song still aligns well with Margo’s character because both hip-hop and the female body are often stereotyped and objectified by white culture; while certainly not identical experiences, the pain and anger that both groups feel has some small kinship. When I wrote this story, I imagined “DNA” as the kind of song my white suburban teen male narrators would play while driving around in their parents’ BMWs, listening only to its beat and completely missing its adept celebration of black history and culture and skewering of whiteness.
Tiffany Quay Tyson, “Now You See Me” – “Someday” by Steve Earle
This song really captures the feeling of being stuck in a particular place through no fault of your own. The narrator in “Now You See Me” is stuck. She hasn’t done anything wrong, but nothing goes right for her.
Steven Grassel, “Weather Person” – “Hopefulessness” by Courtney Barnett
Caroline Bock, “Government-Issued Bunnies” – “Is This the World We Created” by Queen
This song asks is this what we have created? All the hungry mouths we have to feed and all the suffering we breed, where does it lead us? It led me to “Government-issued Bunnies.”
John Mancini, “Swans” – “Poor Joan” by John Mancini Band
Like “Swans,” this song is a story about people confronting change and loss. Joan and Billy live on Back River, which is not too far from where Sherry lives on Stoney Creek.
James Amata, “Shopping ya Shilingi Elfu Tano” – “Ka Nameka” by Tabu Ley Rochereau & L’Afrisa International
Translated from Lingala as WACHA NIJARIBU, (Let Me Try). It was a competition entry at a concert. His band won!
This song so soothes me as it so encourages me to always try.
Lynn Mundell, “Sister Wives at the County Fair” – “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” by Aretha Franklin
We never see more than a flash of Husband, so a love song won’t do. Instead, in honor of the legendary Aretha Franklin, here’s an anthem perfect for sing-alongs.
Rebecca Dashiell, “If the Light, Then the Light” – “Lioness” by Songs: Ohia
I feel like this is the kind of song the filmmaker’s wife would listen to and think this is what love should look like: desperate longing and vulnerability.
Jeff Landon, “Ringo Starr” – “I Don’t Want To Control You” by Teenage Fanclub
Because I love Teenage Fanclub, and I don’t really love Ringo Starr’s music… except
“Photograph… and this song is about the exact opposite type of man as the dildo in my story.
Issue 60 Playlist
Listen along to Issue 60’s playlist on Spotify!
K.C. Mead-Brewer, “The Cover-up” – “Maneater” by Lower Dens
Lower Dens is a bright star in Baltimore’s dream pop sky. I like their cover of “Maneater” as a complement to “The Cover-up” not only for the sexual humor and cover/cover-up connection, but because it’s such a strong reinterpretation of the original song’s intention: It isn’t about a super confident, super sexy woman anymore. Now it has an almost melancholy irony to it, the titular maneater lacking the self-confidence that the lyrics imply, never letting anyone get too close.
Joy Baglio, “A Boy Who Does Not Remember His Father” – “Fantaisie for Violin and Harp in A Major, Op. 124: V. Andante con moto” Camille Saint-Saëns, Ruggiero Ricci, Susanna Mildonian
The violin in this piece creates a mood that feels akin to both the boy’s flights of imagination, as well as the loneliness, the sadness, the absence he feels. There is both a playful sense of vibrancy as well as a constant yearning, which reflects the mood of the story and seems like an apt parallel to the boy’s dreamlike visions of his father.
Alvin Park, “Whale Fall” (Grand Prize Winner) – “Switzerland” by Soccer Mommy
I feel like this is a song that the narrator and She would hold in their hearts at some point. The wistfulness of hanging onto love, of wanting to get away from things and start over again.
Samantha Burns, “Dark Little Spaces” – “Trust” by Flume
I found this song when I started this piece, and while I don’t usually listen to music with lyrics when I’m writing, the strangeness of it matched the tone of the piece and helped me get in the right headspace to work on it.
Kerry Cullen, “Taking Notes” – “Amie” by Damien Rice
To me, the narrator’s journey in this story is very much a coming of age. The world around her has suddenly become unsafe, and she responds by trying to learn how to keep not only her, but her own guardian safe, by herself. She knows this progression is a part of life (“Nothing unusual, nothing strange”) but at the same time, she still feels it very deeply, and she feels the existential malaise of going through something that everyone goes through, eventually, but that is still very difficult for her. (“But I’m not a miracle/And you’re not a saint/Just another soldier/On the road to nowhere”)
Jonathan Nixon, “Anywhere We’ve Ever Wanted” – “Brand New Sun” by Jason Lytle
I think this song really captures the yearning for something new. If Lydia and Viv were ever to take their road trip, I imagine “Brand New Sun” playing loudly on the radio while wind whips through the car’s open windows.
Elaine Edwards, “Satellite” (Third Place Winner) – “Arctic” by Sleeping at Last
For an instrumental, it more than hits every beat that I try to here, the melancholy and the depth and a vital, generous wonder.
Kathryn McMahon, “The Color of the Sea at Noon” – “Sadness Don’t Own Me” by the Staves
“Sadness Don’t Own Me” by the Staves and my story are both about someone not recognizing themselves because of how pain has shaped who they’ve become. This person needs to face their fears in order to make their way back to themselves, though they doubt they’ll do it.
Theresa Hottel, “Haunt” – “Phantasmagoria in Two” by Tim Buckley
I listen to this song a lot while writing. It makes me feel restless and haunted.
Jonathan Cardew, “’I’m Ron McRain,’ said Ron McRain,” – “The Whitby Lad” by The Watersons
The lad in this song could easily be Ron McRain; Whitby is obviously Whitby; and the refrain, “Oh son oh son, what have you done?” has a repetitive circularity to it, much like the title. Also, it’s a teeny-bit a love story, I think, so this verse:
“Oh, there is a lass in Whitby town, a girl that I love full well/ And it’s if I had me liberty, along with her I’d dwell.”
Jennifer Wortman, “A Matter Between Neighbors” – “I Need You” by Nick Cave
Like many great love songs, “I Need You” is also a dirge; its tender nihilism captures something of the mood I hope to evoke with my story.
Sara Allen, “The Reader in the Square” – “Nice For What” by Drake
It’s a flipped kind of girl power anthem. To me it’s a song about women being “real” and ignoring the scrutiny of social media, which could also be seen as an extension of the male gaze. I think it’s also about the fierceness of women despite their vulnerability when they love. . . that Lauryn Hill hook is killer. Also this song contains a big stylistic nod to New Orleans where my story is set.
Lyndsie Manusos, “Everything There is to Love on Earth” – “Under Stars” by AURORA
I imagined the character Zoe listening to this song to as she contemplates and processes her parents’ absence. It has a seemingly uplifting beat, but when you listen to the lyrics, it strikes me as a song about being alone in the universe.
Jessica Cavero, “Blemish” – “I Will Never” by Sóley
I think about these girls staying together over the years and how tenuous the narrator’s sense of self might become. She might say to herself: “I love you, but it’s time to go. I will never ever be your woman.”
Josh Weston, “The Good Old Days” – “Weed Wacker” by Mark Kozelek
According to my wife, I’m not doing myself or anyone else any favors by contributing a Mark Kozelek song, but this is my current summer jam. It features a guy having an interaction with a stranger in a public place and having an existential crisis about it. Think of it as a flash lyric memoir set to a looped acoustic riff and enjoy.
Molia Dumbleton, “How Leopards Sleep” – “Father Kolbe’s Preaching” by Wojciech Kilar
Issue 59’s Spotify Playlist!
Nine of our writers in Issue 59 contributed to our issue playlist. Their songs, stories, and the reasons they chose the tune follow. Listen below or on SmokeLong’s Spotify Channel!
“Reynardine” by Anne Briggs – Maia Jenkins, “History”
This Victorian English ballad has appeared in countless guises, but Anne Briggs’ a capella version matches the bare-bones dread I hope is evoked in “History.” The gruesome contrast between Briggs’ angelic soprano with the lyrics,”She followed him, his teeth so bright did shine. And he led her over the mountain, did the sly bold Reynardine,” is something I was trying to get at as I was writing. Really, the story–an enticing creature leads a young girl away to an ambiguously horrible fate–is the same as mine, and so many others, sadly.
“Caribbean Blue” by Enya – Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor, “Watch, Watching”
Enya’s songs help me meditate, fill me with so much joy and inner peace. I listened mostly to Caribbean Blue while writing “Watch, Watching.” The main character of the story loved the song on repeat, and I could happily live with that for the period that I worked on his story. Enya’s music (alone) inspires my art.
“No Witness” by LP – Daniel Myers, “Body Snatcher”
I don’t really know if the lyrics connect with my story at all, but I listened to this song a lot while I was working on this story. The pace of the song constantly shifts, and I think this influenced my story’s tone.
“The Neighbors” by Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers – Amber Sparks, “The Noises from the Neighbors Upstairs: A Nightly Log”
So perfectly apartment living.
“A Long Time Ago” by First Aid Kit – Dana Heifetz, “Drowned”
I selected this song for a very simple reason–my netmaker said that she loves it; if she weren’t who she is, she even might have sung it to her beloved drowned.
“Pilgrim” by Balmorhea – Zach Yontz, “Winter Light”
This song reminds me of flat, quiet Midwestern nights and the silence of two people together in a car.
“This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by Talking Heads – Lori Sambol Brody, “The Sky is Just Another Neighborhood”
The song starts with a one minute musical sequence that sounds equally innocent and uneasy; then David Byrne sings of longing, resignation, love, and hope, a rumination on what is “home.” This theme and emotions reflect how I feel when I reread “The Sky Is Just Another Neighborhood.”
“Eat Your Heart Up” by The Blow – Emily Jane Young, “Parasomnia”
Maybe a little too on the nose? In choosing a song, I thought first of The Blow, because so many of their songs offer a unique take on heartbreak, and there is often a heavy beat, which you’d want for a song with a heart as the main character. I listened to this album a lot in college, and while I didn’t specifically have it in mind when I wrote “Parasomnia,” this song must have been at least a subconscious seed for the story, as it includes both images of wanting to eat “your” heart and also a heart walking around in the world.
“Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” (“Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”) by Claude Debussy – Sumita Mukherji, “Lifeline”
This tone poem from Debussy is a musical evocation of the poem “Afternoon of a Faun,” in which a half-man, half-goat creature delights in memories of forest nymphs. I love it for its impressionistic nature, as I thought of my piece in a series of images, beginning with the ending image.
Our Issue 58 Playlist Is Here
We’ve got an amazing issue for you this time–and a Spotify playlist to go along with it. After you’ve read the stories (or while you’re reading them!) check out the playlist hand-picked by our authors of songs that accompany their stories. (Note: Not all authors participated, so only select stories in the issue are represented by the playlist.)
Issue 58 Playlist Selections
Listen along here: open.spotify.com/user/smokelongquarterly/playlist/6N245OExhaXIMYSFZWpne0
“Shout” by Tears for Fears
(Caitlin Pryor, “Epistle from the Hospital of Strong Opinions” )
In my SLQ interview, Karen Craigo asked me what I would “shout in the courtyard,” as my character does, and the first thing that came to mind was Tears for Fears’ 1985 mega-hit, “Shout.” Tears for Fears co-founder Roland Orzabal has said that the song was not only a response to the writings of Arthur Janov, creator of primal scream theory (a popular 1970s psychotherapeutic approach that attempted to resolve trauma through catharsis or, in some cases, actual screaming) but also a Cold War-era incitement to protest politically and “Let it all out.”
“Gnossienne No. 1” by Erik Satie
(Charlotte Pattinson, “Brussels, 2004”)
Because I mention a piece of music in my story, I think it probably makes sense to have that be the song to accompany the story.
“Bad News from Home” by Randy Newman
(Geoff Kronik, “The Jumper”)
I think the song’s 1st-person singer and my story’s protagonist would relate to each other.
“All Kinds of Time” by Fountains of Wayne
(Jeff Ewing, “Parliament of Owls”)
I’ve always liked the multiple ways the football cliche “all kinds of time” can be read, and the suspension of time the song itself achieves. The moment captured is a glory days moment that automatically implies an unconstructive nostalgia. Tim’s disillusioned epiphany is hidden in there somewhere.
“You Are Never Alone” by Vic Chestnutt
(Steve Edwards, “Starlings”)
There’s a brokenness and humor and hope in Vic Chesnutt. What I love about this song in relation to “Starlings” is the litany of things—like taking pain meds or having an abortion—that are all, well, okay. You can keep on keeping on because you’re never alone. I imagine that’s part of what the narrator of my story is realizing about wanting to hang himself.
“The Evening Descends” by Evangelicals
(Pete Segall, “I Thought I Knew the Answer for a Minute”)
Here’s a track that’s barely three minutes long and feels like three or four different songs. Each one seems like it should be goofy, lite punk – but every time it’s on the verge of tipping into frivolity… it just doesn’t.
“I’ll Fly Away” by Gillian Welch & Alison Krauss
(Lee Reilly, “Pastor Bob’s Picnic”)
“Teenage Dreams” by Moniker
(Jeremy Packert Burke, “Miller Time”)
At the heart of my story is this desire to grow up faster, to skip the pain of teenage years and revel in adulthood before that innocence is lost. In Moniker’s song, there are some wonderful reflections on the pain of this, the interplay between having too much fun to worry much and worrying too much to have much fun; a lot of the same concern of my story is caught in the lines ‘These days I think I know who I am/I wish I knew who I was going to be’
“Saltbreakers” by Laura Veirs
(Josh Jones, “The Cartographers”)
I love its oceanic imagery and upbeat, celebratory tone that complements the sense of mystery and hope in my piece.
“An Ending, A Beginning” by Dustin O’Halloran
(Cheryl Pappas, “Nature.”)
Besides the aptness of the title, this song seemed perfect to me because it’s plaintive and simple, which captures the essence of my story.
“For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti” by Sufjan Stevens
(Carolyn Nims, “New Yorker Story About Michigan”)
This was an obvious choice. But also, its loveliness undercuts the story’s darkness, and its rawness echoes some of the more ragged emotions in the story.
“That’s the Spirit” by Judee Sill
(Julian K. Jarboe, “The Heavy Things”)
“How We Quit the Forest” by Rasputina
(Tessa Yang, “Princess Shipwreck”)
To me this song sounds like a spooky fable. It’s about choosing to turn away from the familiar, because the familiar isn’t actually what it seems.
“Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)” by Ray Charles
(Jonathan Nixon, “Our Father”)
In my story, a Ray Charles record can be heard playing throughout the house. I feel the song “Hard Times” not only fits the mood of the piece, but also takes on the role of the father’s voice.
“The Last of the Famous International Playboys” by Morrissey
(John Meyers, “1922 Roma Airship Disaster Tattoo”)
I was listening to Bona Drag quite a bit when I wrote the story and imagined that the hero would likely have been a big fan of this song. I’ll leave it to readers to interpret the connection.
“Night Ferry” by Anna Cline
(Allison Pinkerton, “Zelberg”)
Anna Clyne’s orchestral composition “Night Ferry” (2012) pairs well with my story “Zelberg,” which focuses on a cellist who has sprinkled his wife’s ashes all over the orchestra pit. When I listened to “Night Ferry,” I got an ominous feeling, and the strings sounded like swarming bees. “Zelberg” is told in the first-person plural. The collective voice details the orchestra’s attempts to protect Zelberg from the police, who’ve been summoned after an audience member notices the ashes and mistakenly assumes Zelberg’s a terrorist.