I need a novel-writing soundtrack
June 26, 2008 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me set the writing soundtrack to my novels?

Hi! I've avoided asking this forever -- I've gone through and sampled the songs from every related ask thread. I've used Pandora, iTunes and Rhapsody's similar music detectors, but I'm sick of artificial intelligence. I want metaintelligence.

So I write books, and I write to a soundtrack, master-planned for each book. Problem is, books take a long time to write. By the revision stages, I'm sick of the (hours-long) playlist, and what originally set the tone becomes grating. So I'm always switching out, seeking new artists that fit. But because I'm so particular on a song-by-song basis, doing so becomes another method of vacuuming the cat. I'm looking for song and artist recommendations that somehow match the tone of these books & existing songs below. I know some of the songs don't seem to match, but there must be a common thread, because they work.

Book1: Western setting. Confused (young, possibly ff) love. Lonely, moody, poignant. "Golden" by My Morning Jacket, "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell, "Crimson and Clover" by Joan Jett, "Lydia" by Staid Cleaves, "Waiting on the Stairs" by Pela. Lots of Band of Horses.

Book2: Travel abroad. Soft adventure. Flight from an unpleasant past. Learning to let go. So obviously, "Let Go" by Frou Frou. Lots of The National. "Run" by Snow Patrol. "Don't Become the Thing You Hated" by Destroyer. "All Mixed up" by Red House Painters.

I have some Tegan and Sara and Sigur Ros on both.

So please, go crazy! Popular, obscure, any genre (though obviously different species of rock fit best). I have Rhapsody. Thanks!!
posted by changeling to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would suggest joining a website like iLike or Last.fm and find songs that are "like" or similar to the songs/artists you've listed. What's really nice about iLike is that you can often times listen to the first 15 or so seconds of the song without having to buy it or go to another website.
posted by banannafish at 10:17 AM on June 26, 2008

Try Pandora.com and the Music Genome Project.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:19 AM on June 26, 2008

I'm not quite sure I understand the question, but if I were writing a book with the keywords western, lonely, moody, & poignant, I would be listening to the album Hex; Or Printing In The Infernal Method by Earth.
posted by kidbritish at 10:30 AM on June 26, 2008

Response by poster: I'll check out iLike, but I've already used Pandora (see above). I'm looking for song, album & artist recommendations from YOU that might fit the existing songs & themes. (please)
posted by changeling at 10:36 AM on June 26, 2008

This is one of those questions where even with extra information, it's hard not to feel like you're offering a haystack to someone who wants needles. That said, I recommend looking through soundtracks -- since their purpose is generally to set moods, your yield ratio might be higher. (They're also recommended in this potentially useful thread.)

Here comes my haystack...Sofia Coppola movies have soundtracks which (to me, anyway) seem to be compatible with what you describe.
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:02 AM on June 26, 2008

Neko Case may fit Book 1. Her older stuff is solid alt-country, and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood hits "lonely, moody, poignant" hard.
posted by kwaller at 11:03 AM on June 26, 2008

Response by poster: I totally want haystacks. I am perfectly happy to sift for hours.
posted by changeling at 11:05 AM on June 26, 2008

In no particular order:

Shearwater perhaps? Check out Palo Santo and their new album Rook for lonely/moody/poignant.

There's something desolate sounding to me about Handsome Furs as well.

Pretty much anything Mount Eerie or The Microphones, but in particular his latest, Mount Eerie Parts 6 & 7; very moody and lonely.

Modest Mouse's Lonesome Crowded West really makes me think "western/desert."

Murder By Death, in particular Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left Of Them have an explicitly dark western sound.

Old school REM: Life's Rich Pageant and Fables of the Reconstruction in particular seems like it could be a good fit for book2.
posted by version control at 11:40 AM on June 26, 2008

Your description makes me think of the band Hem. Funnel Cloud, maybe.
posted by Jeanne at 11:49 AM on June 26, 2008

For Book 1:

Califone!!! They are already sound like a soundtrack. I'd suggest "Electric Fence", "Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey", "Michigan Girls", or "A Lion and Bee" to start with - also maybe "Burned By The Christians".

I second the Shearwater nomination -- specifically "Rooks" or "I Was A Cloud". I'd also throw in earlier Okkervil River, like "Kansas City" or "Listening to Otis Redding at Home"

I may come back with more.

I'm having some trouble with Book 2, so I'll think on that.

I love this question!!
posted by slo at 11:59 AM on June 26, 2008

Two Bands

Book 1: Reigning Sound

Book 2: Pretty Things
posted by metajc at 12:14 PM on June 26, 2008

Book 2:
Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country
Interpol - Next Exit

Book 1:
Neko Case, Mazzy Star, Okkervil River, Summer at Shatter Creek, Adem.
posted by hellopanda at 12:35 PM on June 26, 2008

Early Okkervil is excellent for richly textured depression. I finally got around to getting a copy of Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See the other day, and it is amazing.

For moody & poignant, I'd second Hem (though I think Rabbit Songs is more appropriate for the young love bit). What about Cowboy Junkies or the Be Good Tanyas?
posted by brennen at 12:41 PM on June 26, 2008

Book 1:
A Small, Good Thing - Slim Westerns
Mojave 3 - Excuses for Travelers
HEM - Rabbit Songs
Cowboy Junkies - Trinity Session or The Caution Horses
Black Heart Procession - 2 and Three
Bob Dylan - Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
Dirty Three - Ocean Songs

Don't have much for Book 2:
Roxy Music - Stranded
Ulrich Schnauss - Goodbye

also, listening to Both Sides Now would drive me completely insane in about three seconds. You are a strong person.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:48 PM on June 26, 2008

What about Calexico for Book 1? Specifically, I'm thinking of their album Feast of Wire, which has a lovely, melancholic vibe at times with a great Southwestern kind of sound. Specifically, I'm thinking maybe "Stevie Nicks" or "Across the Wire."

Beck's "Sea Changes" album might also work, although it's a little less explicitly Western in sound. I'm also a huge fan of KT Tunstall's cover of "Golden Age" from that Beck album, though it's definitely more of a "our young, beautiful love affair is over, and now I must live the rest of my life" kinda vibe.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:55 PM on June 26, 2008

A few more thoughts:

Book 1:

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago - specifically "Blindsided";

Palace Music (Will Oldham) Viva Last Blues - specifically "Tonight's Decision (and Hereafter)";

for some reason, most of Eleventh Dream Day's Prairie School Freakout seems to fit here, but more specifically "Tarantula", "Driving Song", "Sweet Smell" or "Among the Pines" from that album;

for more R.E.M., I've also always loved New Adventures in Hi-Fi as a lonely/moody/poignant piece;

Beck's Mutations, especially "Nobody's Fault But My Own" and "Cold Brains"

Grizzly Bear - "On a Neck, On a Spit" from Yellow House and their cover of "He Hit Me" from the Friend EP (although that may cross the line from moody to just plain creepy)

For Book 2, still struggling - which National songs best fit? That may help pinpoint the mood.

I thought perhaps the opener to Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People (I think it's "Capture the Flag") would work; maybe the Polyphonic Spree's "Running Away".
posted by slo at 1:13 PM on June 26, 2008

Also: Beulah did a slew of pretty great Western America songs, but the whole sensibility might be altogether too pop/polished. That said, fit your soundrack or not, they are well worth a listen.
posted by brennen at 2:39 PM on June 26, 2008

Response by poster: these suggestions are fantastic! and amazingly, several of the artists & songs recommended (like Beck's "Nobody's Fault But My Own" and Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country) are song I already use.
posted by changeling at 2:51 PM on June 26, 2008

Response by poster: Slo, "Fake Empire", "Mr. November" and "Mistaken For Strangers" are what I usually listen to.
posted by changeling at 2:52 PM on June 26, 2008

For book one: Valley of the Giants. David Grisman? Josh Ritter!-He's like a more folky, western Sufjan Stevens. Look into his album The Animal Years, and Golden Age of Radio. Jose Gonzalez?

I don't have any good suggestions for book 2, really.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2008

# 1 - Alejandro Escovedo (Baby's Got New Plans, many songs from More Miles Than Money), Neil Young's entire Harvest Moon album, Iron & Wine. Camper Van Beethoven, possibly? (Some of it is likely too fast. But here are a few to try: "Sad Lovers Waltz," "Heart," "All Her Favorite Fruit," "Peace & Love," "Still Wishing to Course," "Seven Languages," "The History of Utah," "Tania," possibly "She Divines Water?")
posted by salvia at 12:12 AM on June 27, 2008

Western love - Mirah's "Cold Cold Water."
posted by brookedel at 2:14 AM on June 27, 2008

LargeheatedBoy http://blog.largeheartedboy.com/ periodically features authors who discuss the songs they listened to when they were writing their novels. You might want to read what they listened to - perhaps it will give you some ideas.
posted by DudeAsInCool at 8:25 PM on July 5, 2008

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