News: Playlists

Issue Sixty-Four Playlist

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Looking for a soundtrack while you read the new stories in Issue 64? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Here is the playlist for Issue 64.

Read more about why our authors chose their songs:


Mary Kane, “Practice” – “No. 1 Green Street” by Grant Green

My song for the playlist is Grant Green “No. 1 Green Street.” It’s a song the characters in my story listen to often in the evenings. And the dog, who doesn’t exist, likes it too.

Brooke Randel, “Concepts Like Brian” – “Our Bodies” by Emil Landman

I love the upbeat rhythms of this song and almost-ethereal chorus. The dreaminess reminds me of how the narrator tries to keep things light between her and Dane. She doesn’t want to engage in anything heavy. The chorus repeats “our bodies will collide” in the future tense, showing nothing is happening yet. It’s all out of reach.

Krys Malcolm Belc, “My Body Double Begins the Whole 30 Diet” – “Pretty Pimpin” by Kurt Vile

This little weirdo of a song begins with the lyrics “I woke up this morning/Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror/Then I laughed and I said, “Oh silly me, that’s just me”” which pretty perfectly captures the bewildered feeling my protagonist often experiences acting, and existing, alongside his body double.

Jennifer Wortman, “In Darkest Sky” –  “Sway” by the Rolling Stones

At first glance, this story seems to warrant a trippier, more frantic song,
but “Sway” captures both the debauchery and the underlying tenderness of
the piece. Plus, it’s one of my favorite songs and pretty much all I
listened to for a while, including when “In Darkest Sky” was written.

Jen Julian, “Flyover” – “Black Heart” by Calexico

Like a classic prison ballad, this song tells the story of someone suffering at the hands of a higher authority: “One man’s righteousness is another man’s long haul.” It’s so heartland noir — creeping darkness mixed with a sense of surreal, lawless wonder, exactly the tone I was going for.

Jennifer Howard – “Flat Stanley trusts” – “Let Your Love Flow” by The Bellamy Brothers

I chose Let Your Love Flow because, unlike my story, it insists on
shameless joy without ever taking it back or getting clever, or nervous, or
over-explaining. I aspire to someday be comfortable with the dumb sincerity
of this perfect song.

Caits Meissner, “Shallow Water” – “Road” by Nick Drake

This album reminds me of cozying up in an arm chair, watching the mountains on rainy days in the town I spent my summers in. The music is raw and warm and intimate—I imagined my story into this location, this song in my character’s headphones.

Jake TS Wryte “The Space of a Decade” – “Wayfaring Stranger” by Johnny Cash

This song, especially the original, is one of my favorites because of its melody and also because it captures the very core of my beliefs. It is both a sad and hopeful song, and it works great to establish the tone and atmosphere I prefer when writing.

Lucas McMillan, “ESL” – “One More Cup of Coffee” by Bob Dylan

This song perfectly captures that bone-deep tiredness of wanting to stay somewhere, but knowing you can’t — just as the class in this story is scattered to the wind.

Max Hipp, “The Least Fucked Up People” – “Black Hearted Love” by PJ Harve &, John Parish

Though the song doesn’t have any influence on “The Least Fucked Up People,” it definitely taps the same jittery longing these characters are living in, that high lonesome vibe. Between the wailing guitars and PJ Harvey’s plaintive vocal lines, you’re swimming in the same pool of emotions. A side note: I play guitar but these guitars sound so incredible it makes me want to throw mine in the dumpster.

Claudia Monpere, “What I Wore” – “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel

“Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again.” The opening lines of Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “The Sound of Silence,” speaks to the profound loneliness and loss experienced by Barbie, the character in “What I Wore.” As a child of the 60’s, she likely would have listened to this song. I like to think that it would have touched something in her.

Christopher Santantasio, “Viewfinder” – “TRIPWIRE” by Elvis Costello & The Roots

Musically, this song is an exquisite Frankenstein; fresh blood excites borrowed limbs. The lyrical content—as is the case with many of Costello’s songs—leaves me scratching my head a bit, but the struggle to make meaning is timeless and in this case, rewarding. I also love and admire Questlove’s delicately layered groove, which is drawn from one of Costello’s older songs, “Satellite,” a thematic companion to my story “Viewfinder.”

Liz Declan, “The House That Is Currently My Mother’s House (but Was Previously My Parents’ House and Will Soon Be a Stranger’s House) Is the Perfect Setting for Nightmares” – “Waving at You” by The Mountain Goats

I pick this one not just because I love The Mountain Goats (which I absolutely do) or because John Darnielle’s confessional style has been hugely influential on my writing (though it absolutely has), but also because the way this song plays with memory and the pain of memory and the need to overcome memory feels absolutely tied to “The House That Is Currently My Mother’s House” for me.

Issue 63–The Playlist

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Looking for a soundtrack while you read the 19 new stories in Issue 63? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Here is the playlist for Issue 63.

Read more about why our authors chose their songs:

Tucker Leighty-Phillps, “What Wasn’t Swallowed Was Exhaled” – “Prehistoric” by Now, Now

This is maybe my favorite album of this past decade, and it resonates really strongly with me in the colder months, being a part of my household in the winter like holiday decorations. As soon as the heat goes on, so does this album. My story kind of spawned from the atmosphere within this record, so I like to think they’re ornaments dangling from the same, sad tree.

James Braun, “The Strings Between Us” – “Young Blood” by Noah Kahan

Kahan’s music accomplishes much of what I try to do in my own writing––the subject     matter may be sad, but the voice still makes you feel good.

L.W. Nicholson, “Viva Forever” – “Tadpole” by Tristen

This tune is a lot of fun, but the lyrics are very sad. The same can be said about the Spice Girls, but in a different kind of way.

MFC Feeley, “Helicopter Parent” – “Innocent Child” by Big Audio Dynamite

The main lyric sums up the narrator’s longing:

I wish I could have seen you

when you could run wild

I  would have liked to know you

as an innocent child

She will never get to her baby as any kind of child. Hannah didn’t make it that far, and no amount of wishing on the narrator’s part can change that.

Sutton Strother, “Not Louise” – “Acrobat” by Angel Olsen

The first time I heard this song, I was instantly gutted by how purely it captures what infatuation feels like — that heady brew of sexual and romantic longing, all those mixed-up feelings of wanting a person and wanting to be like them and wanting to be something (or everything) to them all at once. I can’t think of a song that better expresses the awe and desire the narrator in “Not Louise” feels toward the object of her affection. Also that line “You are the witch / I am your cat” is really on-the-nose here.

Raven Leilani, “Airplane Mode” – “Airplane Mode” by Flamingosis

A song I feel really connects with my piece is Airplane Mode, by Flamingosis. It is a sleepy instrumental with a pretty loop, so there is a cool circular structure to the track, a limbo state I really wanted to get down on the page.

Fatima Jamal, “Comatose” – “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

One of the unique characters of this song is that it’s non-cyclical. The story presents a debate between a non-cyclical and unchangeable reality (Aziz’s coma), and the unrealistic wish of the mother that things would go back to normal. Also, the “Bismillah” phrase of the song resonates with the story.  Arabs say Bismillah not only when they start off something, but also in the time of shock as well.

Kevin Sterne, “From Your Jerry” – “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens

The refrain throughout the song is “all things go” and the line in my story is “all must go” and that really centers at the heart of it all for me. In a verse of the song Sufjan sings, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes” and so has Jerry. Oh, he definitely has. Also, Jerry lives and Chicago and this story and all stories about him take place in Chicago.

Natalie Teal McAllister, “Emma Jane Watson in a Drawer” – “Myth” by Beach House

The cadence of it works with the story, but I also think the element of myth-building works as well. Julie has created a myth of this baby. She’s stuck between past and living.

Tom DeBeauchamp, “Space Junk” – “Come Back Baby” by Pinetop Perkins

Roscoe Gordon or Pinetop Perkins show up in the first paragraphs of “Space Junk.” They’re party tunes, blues and boogie woogie style music, songs often of men-done-wrong. Maybe on their own they don’t feel toxic, in context maybe  they’re uncomfortable, expressing a masculinity like the narrator’s.

Kate Finegan, “Lion’s Tooth” – “ICE El Hielo” by La Santa Cecilia

This song was created for the #Not1More series opposing unfair deportations and speaks to the “political” (but more importantly, human) dispute simmering underneath this couple’s marriage. I admire the structure of this song, how La Santa Cecilia takes a political stand through the power of storytelling, by illuminating people’s individual and collective experiences. The political is personal, and the political is personal, which is something I was trying to explore in this story.

S.L. Bailey, “In November 2017” – “Love & Kisses” by Altered Images

This song’s lyrics contrast with the pop-y tone, which kind of mimics the contrasts within “In November 2017.”

Didi Wood, “Bone” – “Someday My Prince Will Come” by Sinead O’Connor

I grew up with the classic Disney princesses, patiently waiting (with their avian buddies) for love to find them. As an adult, it’s more fun to explore the other side of “happily ever after.”


Listen Up! The Issue 62 Playlist is Here!

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Listen to the Issue 62 playlist on Spotify! We decided to wait until after the holidays to bring this to you. Enjoy!

Brendan Stephans, “Rascal” –  “For Wanda” by Silver Mt. Zion

This is one of the few memorial songs about a dog that I know about. It also seems fitting since it is a single melody that builds and swells around it, which is kind of like my one-sentence story.

Shelli Cornelison,”Trespassers” – “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy

I chose this song because the narrator in “Trespassers” is unable to fully let go of two early relationships, or more accurately, her romanticized fixation on them, to the point those memories have a negative impact on her ability to form lasting relationships so many years later. She’s cherry-picked ideals from those almosts of her youth and uses them as comparison measures in her adulthood.

Ashley Kalagian Blunt, “The Unicorn” – “Who Do You Think You Are” by Spice Girls

Of course The Unicorn’s song is “Who Do You Think You Are” from the Spice Girls. The main character isn’t just channeling their fashion sense, she’s definitely got her favourite ladies on her ears buds. There’s no better mantra than trust it, use it, prove it, groove it.

Ashton Carlile, “Earlove” – “Geyser” by Mitski

In my story, the narrator goes to see a movie where there’s yelling involved to feel the vibration/release of it without having to actually scream herself. Sometimes you need someone to do the screaming for you. I listen to Mitski, particularly this song, when I feel like screaming but I’m too tired. Her voice makes everything bubble up to the surface. She just…makes me sob!

Judy Darley, “Milk and Other Lies” – “Man of A Thousand Faces” by Regina Spektor

I love Regina Spektor’s vivid, quirky imagery – she’s an amazing storyteller through her songs.

Ashan Butt, “Moon” – “The Big Sky” by Kate Bush

The song’s perpetual lift, Kate’s lyrics and her deeply touched vocals all express what I hope awaits Raheem. I wish him to be ecstatic, at peace with his isolation, wide-eyed and blissfully watching the big sky. And then the song’s video (*please* watch the video — is an uncanny stage of state propaganda. Whether Lajiristan’s or ours, it’s just… remarkably accurate.

Taryn Tilton, “Garden Snake” – “One More” by Yaeji

There’s an insufficient apology in my story, as there is in this quietly devastating song.

Ellen Rhudy, “Glory Days” – “Big Change” by Swearin’

This song captures so well the feeling of being young, discovering who you are, escaping something (or someone). I imagine my narrator will get along with this song if she manages to get out of her town.

Trevor Fuller, “A Short History of Those Who Came Before Us” – “The Power of Love (You Are My Lady)” by Air Supply

I’ve been somewhat taken with this song since I heard it at the end of Adam Wingard’s Death Note adaptation. It was a song I already knew and didn’t really care about, but I thought it was a weirdly appropriate choice there and imbued the song with new significance, and now it seems like an appropriate choice for this considering the content of my story, which has the beginnings and endings of several different relationships and is maybe a little sensational, like the song.

Brooke Fossey, “The Great Abide” – “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire. “Wake Up” is a perfect fit for “The Great Abide” because it’s a retrospective look from someone who’s escaped the likes of Ginger and Cassidy’s dad. If you play it after the read, it adds a whole different dimension to the story.

Christopher Drew, “Alligator” – “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

Maddy Raskulinecz, “What I Have Coming to Me” – “Godmother” by Holly Herndon and Jlin, featuring Spawn

Stressful and catchy. The frantic breathy noises and vocalizations remind me of my story, and there’s an exciting mother/daughter dynamic between the human artists and the computer they trained to generate the song by imitating them.

Laurinda Lind, “Itinerary” – “I’ll Fly Away” by Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss

Uses the flight metaphor, also contained in the flash piece, and the suggestion that things on the earth here aren’t terrific, and it might be so nice to get away elsewhere.

Kaitlyn Rice-Andrews, “Second Base” – “The Best of What’s Around” by Dave Matthews Band

This is a totally sincere pick, I promise. As an adult I’ve become nostalgic for the past and curious (and anxious) about the future. I’m equally fascinated and repulsed by technology, and I think the teens in “Second Base” feel this same tug-of-war, torn between wanting to be adults and wanting to be kids. It’s like when you were a kid and you thought braces were cool. Until you had braces. Not cool. “The Best of What’s Around” is one of DMB’s earliest songs, one that most exemplifies my high school years, one that I have I listened to so many times and sung at concerts so many times. Pretty sure I’m supposed to feel ashamed about this, embarrassed about my love of something that eventually became uncool, but I think that’s why I love it so. If being an adult means I have to give up this song, I don’t think I want to be an adult.

Vivien Cao,  “There Weren’t Even Any Bubbles” – “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” by Doris Day

I grew up with classic American movies and songs like this one, mindlessly blaring in the background and seeping into my subconscious. Aside from a thematic connection to my story, I hadn’t realized how sad this song actually is since I had thought of it as a whimsical song from my childhood.

Elearnor Pearson, “The Riddle” – “Toussaint Grey, First in Life and Death” by Jeremy Messersmith

It captures the same feeling of regret and nostalgia that I was aiming for with my piece.

Kathryn Kulpa, “So Silent, So Still” –  “Wonderful” by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks

I chose it because I love the old-fashioned, fairy-tale mood it evokes, with the little girl wandering off into the woods. It’s also a song that retains a sense of mystery. No matter how many times I listen to it, I’m still not sure exactly what’s happening here, but that’s okay. I like that not every question is answered.

Listen up! The Issue 61 Playlist Is Here.

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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

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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!

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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!


The List

“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

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story art

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:

“Shout” by Tears for Fears

(Caitlin Cowan, “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.