18 Great Songs Under 2:00 In Length


When you think about it, there are very few notable songs that are less than two minutes long.  It’s just not done very much in modern music. So much of music is about repetition, about building themes and expanding on them, or emphasizing them.  Less than two minutes isn’t enough time to go verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus chorus.

But less than two minutes is still enough to hook you, with the right song.  Here are 18 tracks that weigh in at under two minutes, yet are pretty hefty in their own right.

1. Tea For The Tillerman / Cat Stevens / 1:02

I’m guessing there’s an age line for people who know this song from the Cat Stevens album and people who know it from the credits to Extras.  I’m one of the latter.  What I love about this song is that even with how short it is, it still has a great buildup.  That opening piano riff sets the tone, and when the somewhat solemn little ditty evolves into stride piano and then the choir kicks in to cap it off, it makes it seem like a complete statement even though it’s just 1 minute long.

2. Vincent of Jersey / Big Head Todd and the Monsters / 1:13

Here’s something that feels like more of a random thought.  It still paints a pretty evocative picture, but it’s a still picture.  It’s a short “slice of life” peek into a character.  The fact that it’s a solitary guitar, a bit meandering and arrhythmic, really reenforces this tone.  Of course, the sentiment of the last few lines is something that can hit you pretty hard, too, if you happen to be in a bit of a blue mood.

3. The Next Time You Say “Forever” / Neko Case / 1:45

I mean, it’s Neko Case, right?  I’m sure it means something.  I always get a kick out of the line, “The next time you say forever, I will punch you in your face.”  I’m a big fan of the end, too.  The chord progression of those last two lines really gives it an ominous kick.

4. Prelude / Bonobo / 1:18

For something called “Prelude,” this stands on its own really well.  It’s hard not to get swept away in those strings and gentle piano riffs.

5. Victory Rag / Doc Watson / 1:46

One of my all-time favorite guitar licks.  A cheerful little ditty that hides some cool technical sophistication.  It’s nice, because you can casually listen to this and it’s pleasant, but the more you focus, the more you appreciate its nuance.

6. Mystery Dance / Elvis Costello / 1:36

This song packs a great punch for a minute-thirty.  I’m not sure exactly why I flashed to this, but it could easily be a replacement for “Johnny B. Goode” if they ever remake Back to the Future.  Most of the time I like Costello’s more somber songs (“Deep Dark Truthful Mirror ” is an all-time favorite), but this one I always come back to for a fun little jaunt.

7. Cheap Day Return / Jethro Tull / 1:23

A John Stewart special, who drew my attention to the sublime stutter-step Tull pulls off on the line “the way she sh-should.”  It’s amazing how catchy this song is for being so short.  It also actually builds a theme and then plays with it, and has a real conclusion.  It’s basically like if you condensed a Yes song into 90 seconds.

8. Last Year / Akron/Family / 1:40

I like simple songs, but that are simple in an interesting way.  Repeating one line over and over shouldn’t work, but it does.  Somehow.

9. Dygnet Runt / Detektivbyran / 1:05

Now here’s a strange one.  Probably the most simple song yet.  This isn’t trying to build any themes or do anything beyond one single thought, but it’s basically a lullaby, so no problems there.  It’s beautiful like a music box, and about as precise.

10. The 59th Street Bridge Song / Simon and Garfunkel / 1:50

I’m sorry, I like this song.  WHAT?  WHAT?  YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? I like other, better things, too.  Whatever.  This song is absurd.  I like how they just give up on the idea of lyrics halfway through and start making noises.  I can’t really defend why I like this, but I do.  It’s also simple enough that two average-ish musicians can reproduce it in about 10 minutes and it sounds passable, which is a bonus.

11. Tame / The Pixies / 1:56

Because it’s kind of a microcosm of why the Pixies are awesome.  You don’t want to access this mental space at all times, but when you do, it’s hard to top a good Pixies song to do it.  In true Pixies fashion, it always seems 2 steps away from dissolving into pure noise, but never does.

12. I’m Still Here / Tom Waits / 1:49

One of the most sad/beautiful songs ever, in my opinion.  No one does “evocatively broken” like Waits.  No one.  I wrote a whole 10-minute play just to work towards an ending where I had a character who’d just been dumped play a few lines of this at a piano as the lights faded, and I have to say, it worked pretty damn well.  The ending just destroys me.  The way the chords are set up (most of the song is anticipatory, leaving you hanging, but the end is firmly a resolution) makes it walk the line between optimistic and just pure heartbreak.  I love this song.  Love it.

13. Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil / Al Di Meola / 1:46

I’ve listened to this song, according to iTunes, more than any other song I have, and over 100 times.  It does something pretty amazing.  It tells a story without words.  That moment at :45 where the meandering, wandering guitar finally breaks into rhythm just totally melts me every time.  I get the biggest smile.  My only quibble is that it fades out; I’ve always thought that was kind of a bullshit way to end a song.

14. Song for George / Eric Johnson / 1:50

Kinda reminds me of a Stephen Stills lick, in a good way.  Just an incredibly skilled guitarist taking a musical thought and polishing it up.

15. HC / Plants and Animals / 0:52 (!)

Though it’s the shortest at less than 60 seconds, this one might be the best of the lot.  I’m blown away by this song, and how it manages to do so much with so little.  3 freakin’ lines.  Short lines.  And yet so evocative.  Might not quick pack the emotional punch of Hemingway’s famous six-word short story, but it’s damn close.  The instrumental backing is just perfect as well.

16. Fugue from Prelude/Fugue No. 20 in A minor, BWV, 889 / Bela Fleck & The Flecktones  / 1:51

Because the things these guys can get their instruments to do are pretty amazing.

17. Comrade’s Twenty-Sixth / Beulah / 1:54

At just under 2 minutes, this one feels like a full-length song.  The thing I’m drawn to is that brass lick that repeats throughout the 2nd half.  It has such a good buildup as the song drives to the end.

18. The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree / Ted Leo / 1:54

Duh.

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15 Songs My Dad Hates


That isn’t my dad.  My dad actually looks very little like an angry Asian man, but that’s the first image that popped up when I searched for “Angry Dad,” so let’s just roll with it.

Somewhere between the vast generational gap and the ever-evolving landscape of music is the concept of “good,” as in, “that’s a good song.”  It’s tricky, since both objectivity and subjectivity aren’t without their flaws.  Needless to say, my dad and I disagree about any number of things when it comes to music.  This playlist is full of songs that, for one reason or another, I think have some real value.  They’re also songs I thought he would absolutely hate.  It’s a strange feeling, to really like something yet to be able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes for a moment and think, “he’d hate this.”

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying these are “Great Songs.”  These are songs that I like for one reason or another, but some of them I wouldn’t listen to frequently, some of them (most of them) have their flaws, and I wouldn’t go to the mat for all of them.

That being said; it’s an interesting test.  I was recently home for Christmas, and I played these for my dad, all at once, at a loud volume, all in a row.  Give them a listen.  Do you come down on my side, or my dad’s?

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Beating Heart Baby –  Head Automatica

I say: “A surprisingly workable twist on a standard romantic pop song.  It’s creative and dynamic and has a pretty strong dose of love worked into its framework, all of which is surprising from a pop album.  I would want to be able to play this for my girlfriend and have her not only get why I like it, but like it herself.  Also, off the same album, if you’re looking for a song to listen to while you’re running that’s capable of pushing you that last 100 meters at a sprint, give ‘At The Speed of a Yellow Bullet’ a try.”

My dad says:  “Could the beat be a little bit more subtle?  The juxtaposition of the words and music are like a pickle in hot cocoa.  This is not morning music.”

Problems – Arrah and the Ferns

I say: “Good music doesn’t always have to be serious.  The power of art is that it lets us experience strong emotion without consequence, and too often the highest examples of that art focus on the darker emotions.  People love Parks and Recreation and Community, and people love Breaking Bad and The Wire, but it’s those last two that are far more frequently cited for their artistic merit.  That doesn’t always have to be the case.  Point of the point, this album is silly, this song is silly.  It’s a Disney movie and a childhood campfire and a middle school play mixed in an Optimism Bowl.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes, that’s even required.”

My dad says:  “Music to play miniature golf by.”

Shoot Speed/Kill Light – Primal Scream

I say:  “H. L. Mencken said, ‘Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.’  This is the music isn’t quite that black, but it’s in the ballpark.  It’s certainly music for doing something intense and epic.  This song came on randomly during my last run and it legitimately made me run that mile about 45 seconds faster.”

My dad says:  “I’d rather take a hypodermic needle to the eye.”

Hold This – Child Abuse

I say: “OK, this takes a little explaining.  I’m not saying this is a good song or that I even particularly like it.  Mostly I just wanted to see my dad’s reaction.  I just started laughing at his expression at 0:55 when the main part starts.  It’s just perfectly the opposite of what my dad would enjoy in a million, billion years.  And yet some part of me sees the value if I get into the right frame of mind.  This is hardcore revenge music.  This is like, the antagonist in the movie has just crossed the Moral Event Horizon and stabbed my puppy, and I’m looking up with dark intent at a bunch of his lackeys, and then I have a katana in each hand and I’m going so insane with rage that this is the part of the narrative where it’s unclear if I’ll come back from the Dark Side.  This is hateful, hateful music that I will break things to.”

My dad says: (laughing)  “If I can’t find my bottle of Imitrex I’m going to kill myself.”

Intro – M83

I say: “I was a little late to the M83 bandwagon, but that doesn’t stop me from being enthusiastically on board now.  Picking one song off this album was tricky as hell.  Eventually I went with this one because of its intense cinematic quality, which my dad (credit where credit is due) picked up on.  This could easily be the soundtrack for a 2-minute trailer for, say, MirrorMask.  It’s dreamy, slightly narcotic, but upbeat and surprising enough to engage with.”

My dad says: (puzzled expression)  “What movie is this from?  Wake me up when the music starts.”

Bottled In Cork – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

I say:  “Ted Leo’s latest album is just as good as the stuff we listened to in college.  Living With The Living was mediocre, in my opinion, but this one is right up there with The Tyranny of Distance.  This album is more of the same, which in this case is a great thing.  Same style, same sweaty punk energy, same poppy guitar chords, and a refreshing sense of focus.  This song in particular is just a winner.  Reminds me a little of a more optimistic ‘Ballad of the Sin Eater.’  The ending in particular is golden; the multilayer vocals just melt your heartstrings into putty.  So, so heartfelt.”

My dad says:  “I’m glad I can’t understand the words.”

Blue Eyes – Destroyer

I say:  “Soft rock with a goodly amount of cheese.  But intentionally so.  Hear that wailing sax?  If you weren’t paying attention it would be easy to write this off as some kind of incomprehensible, campy 80’s music.  But there’s some subtly here that makes this music fascinating.  The catchy, layered hooks.  The surprisingly dark and clever lyrics.  It’s like a midnight snack that’s a bunch of healthy food you threw together and melted a bunch of cheese on.”

My dad says: “He reminds me of Tiny Tim.”

Middle – Jamie Woon

I say: “I wonder if this is the birth of a new genre: soulful vocals over electronic beats.  In any case, Jamie Woon’s Mirrorwriting, though it draws inevitable comparisons with James Blake, is really filling its own niche.  The vocals are pure soul, but the structure is very upbeat, almost reminiscent of Miike Snow.  This is just very modern, soulful music that’s great to sit down and chill to when you want something in that genre but less dark than, say, The Weeknd.  If you dig this particular song you should dig the whole album.”

My dad says: (Confused look)  “What are they saying in the background?  Unnum munnum?”

Jam For Jerry – Holy Ghost!

I say: “I try to stay away from comparisons (Artist X = Artist A + Artist B/Genre C), but in this case, it’s just too perfect:  Holy Ghost! = Phoenix + disco.  This album is simply fun; lyrically driven and eminently danceable.  It’s probably not the most complex or compelling music ever, but it certainly hits what it’s aiming for.”

My dad says:  “Where’s John Travolta when we really need him?”

The Morning – The Weeknd

I say: “Dark, tense, soulful, dirty R&B.  Beautiful music about terrible things.  The Weeknd takes debauchery to a sometimes creepy level, stripping the larger-than-life, sometimes whimsical attitude that you frequently find in hip-hop and making it brutally honest.  Not introducing anyone to anything new here (except my dad) because The Weeknd got a ridiculous amount of hype, but so much of it was deserved.”

My dad says: “Is there a loose wire in your speakers?”

Throne of Blood (The Jump Off) – The Dead Science

I say: “I’m not quite sure what to say about this one, only that you have to listen to the whole album – Villainaire – to give it a fair shake.  This is something I ran across almost by accident, turned on track one (the track I included), and was about 2 seconds away from turning it off, and then the drums kicked in.  Along with the vocals.  The guy singing – Sam Mickens – has an almost feminine quality that is, for lack of a better word, bizarre.  The drums are almost jazzy, and the guitar, strangely, wildly technical.  The fact that Mickens is singing and playing the guitar at the same time here is enough to praise this album on purely technical grounds.  The music itself, though, is damn compelling.  Strange, haunting, odd, but very compelling.  The genre is, I guess, experimental rock?  Which is a way of saying who the hell knows.  It’s infectious in its dissonance and beautiful in its lyricism and harmony.  I really don’t know what to say about this one, other than if you give it (the whole album) an undivided hour of your time (a lot to ask, honestly, in this day and age), and you listen to it on good speakers or headphones and really listen, with no distractions, I can just about guarantee you three to five ‘Musical Moments of Amazement’, and you guys know what I’m talking about there.”

My dad says: (horrified expression) “I thought the harp was bad but it was the best part.”

The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer – Dr. Dog

I say: “I had this one pegged as the one my dad might actually like; it’s very intentional throwback music.  There’s not much depth here, but it’s very soothing.”

My dad says: “The piano player needs more lessons.”

Get Better – Mates of State

I say: “I’m a huge sucker for catchy pop music with male/female harmonies; the fact that this is a husband and wife team just sweetens the deal.  This whole album is pretty good.  The vocals are really what make it work for me; they’re bright and clear, with a clever cadence.”

My dad says: “I like this.”

Kärlekens Alla Färjor – Detektivbyrån

I say: “Whenever I hear about a band that’s described as “transcending genre,” I’m always suspicious.  Usually that’s code for shitty modern rock, but in this case, I challenge anyone to put a label on this album.  Wikipedia says “folk/electronic,” and that’s about as good as you can do.  They play with a glockenspiel, toy piano, accordion and drums, and each song on the album is unique.  This is music for the world’s strangest carnival ride, like a carousel where all the mounts were horses with human legs. “

My dad says: “I like this too.  The little bells in the background are kind of cloying, like a drink that’s too sweet.  But the tune is cool.”

Streetlight – John Maus

I say: “This is art you can dance to.  It could be pretty standard pop except for Maus’ voice booming and echoing in the background.  The whole album has an ethereal vibe to it (I’m just now realizing that ‘ethereal’ is probably an overused word when it comes to music, but damn it, it fits).  The album – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves – is a wonderful mix of highbrow and lowbrow.  The music feels personal, like Bon Iver’s first album – it feels like one guy trying to do a thing, and so when you listen to it, you’re approaching it and not the other way around.  Despite that, it’s easy to listen to.  Even though I can hardly ever tell what Maus is saying, I find myself singing along with these tracks.”

My dad says: “If you’re already queasy, you’re going to lose your marbles and hurl chunks.”

Too Cool For Spotify


Spotify is a great tool, but it’s not perfect.  It has a lot of songs, but it doesn’t have ALL the songs, which is a problem.  Here’s a playlist composed entirely of songs that you can’t find on Spotify.

O Holy Night – Tipitina’s Foundation

Just because it was recently Christmas, here’s an old favorite covered by a New Orleans brass band including Troy Andrews aka Trombone Shorty.  This song was featured on Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived Studio 60, and was featured in the Christmas episode in a very moving finale.

Wicked Games – Coeur de Pirate

You’ve heard The Weeknd, but until you’ve heard ‘Wicked Games’ covered by the Canadian and mostly French singing Béatrice Martin with a simple piano accompaniment, you haven’t heard Shakespeare the way it was meant to be done.

Another Reflection – Nujabes

It’s hard to know what to say about this one, other than you can sit there and groove to it.  That, and I wish youtube had better sound quality.  Also, this is how much I care about lyrics: not at all.  I mean if they’re exceptional then it’s a bonus, but I straight up cannot make out the words to this song, and it doesn’t matter at all.

Crystal Blue Persuasion – Morcheeba

This is an old song covered with a generous helping of cheese.  I find something very sensual in the vocals.  I might prefer it to the original.  Hands up if you first heard the original on Breaking Bad; one, two, everybody under 50?  That’s what I thought.

Wicked Little Town – The Breeders

First of all, this is from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and if you haven’t seen it, you should do so immediately.  It’s an amazing movie built around some amazing music.  This particular song is from a tribute album where various artists – Ben Folds, the Polyphonic Spree, the Pixies – covered songs from the movie.  ‘Wicked Little Town’ is fine as a standalone, but do yourself a favor and check out the film as well.

Happy Song – Victor Wooten

This song is ‘as advertised;’ it’s super happy.  There was a time in my life when I was so psyched with Wooten that I may have OD’ed and now it’s a well I almost never go back to, but once in a while…

These Days – The Tallest Man on Earth

Here’s a special one.  Tallest Man is great, and I’m happy to see he’s finally getting some recognition.  This is him covering Jackson Browne’s “These Days” (for some reason the video link says it’s a Nico cover; that’s completely wrong).  What makes the video special is the location; the Music Inn in New York.  It’s him wandering around the music store and basically fucking around and creating a beautiful song.

The Tom and Jerry Show – Hiromi

Hiromi is probably my favorite contemporary musician.  Why?  Briefly, she has incredible chops and plays with unbridled joy.  Here’s a song that demonstrates both, though it’s more of a show piece than a compositional masterwork, of which she has several.  The amazing thing about this song is you truly don’t grasp how hard it is to make what she does look easy.  That is, until you start looking at some of the attempted covers:

Here’s one

Here’s another

What’s striking is that these are pretty competent musicians; just to get to that level to play that speed with that accuracy you have to be pretty good.  I could probably practice that song for 6 months and not get to that level.  But you can tell, right away, that they’re playing with about 5% of Hiromi’s flair and fluidity.  She’s got the incredible chops, but she’s also got incredible musicianship, creativity, and feel.  That’s a scary combination.

Reptilia – The Punch Brothers

These guys play very technically good bluegrass, but they’re creative about it too.  Known as much for their interesting covers as for their more traditional fare, this one hangs out on the far side of that dichotomy.  “Reptilia,” of course, being a Strokes song, and if you’re familiar with the original, it’s hard to imagine it being driven by mandolin, fiddle, and banjo.  Nevertheless, this works like gangbusters, capturing much of the dark urgency of the original and imbuing it with a bluegrass flair.

Latin Lover – Mi Ami

So I’m pretty comfortable with extreme hyperbole, which means if I said this was the best song of 2010, no one would care.  That doesn’t make it not true, however.  This song just bites its fangs into your neck until you get on board with the sickness.  It might seem like your standard dance-punk extendo-blast, but just feel yourself get swept up in the noise, how the guitar seamlessly morphs into a series of staccato laser blasts, the banshee wail of a voice inciting you to, basically, riot.  This song is categorized on Allmusic as “Post Punk/Noise” and the album is called Steal Your Face.  Have I sufficiently hyped it?

Piesta 8 – Keith Jarrett

Just for kicks, here’s one of my favorite songs of all time.  This is one of three songs that tops 100 plays on my iTunes library.  It’s one of the most beautiful solo piano pieces I’ve ever heard.  Check that, one of the most beautiful, period.  And it was improvised.  Chew on that for a minute.  This track is a part of the Radiance album, a totally improvised concert Jarrett played in Osaka in 2005.

Music For Writers, Part II


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In Part II of our two-part series, we continue to examine songs that are particularly helpful when it comes to writing.  Specifically, writing scenes.  It could be a scene in a novel, dialogue for a play, a piece of creative nonfiction, a screenplay, a letter to a friend recounting something important in your life – but the idea is that you’re trying to capture a mood, a feeling, a tone.  Oftentimes when I write, I run the scene through my head like a movie and I think – what song would be playing here?

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The Underdog – Spoon

Every writing session, for me at least, includes a healthy dose of vacansopapurosophobia (that might not be a real thing).  There’s something undeniably daunting and exciting about a blank page, and to swing yourself over to the correct side of that teeter-totter you need to get irrationally cocky.  This song is a perfect blend of catchy instrumentals and good old fashioned generation-bashing lyrics.

Half Asleep – School Of Seven Bells

Once you’re off and writing, you need someplace to go.  For me, the best mental state for creativity is when you’re, wait for it, half asleep.  Out of reality enough to silence a little of your internal critic, still aware enough to be sharp and playful.  The awesomely-named School Of Seven Bells has music that fits that state like a glove.  This whole album is solid; I picked this song because the chorus is triumphant.

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, ‘Pathetique’ – Hiromi

This is a cooler, a comedown song.  It takes some context.  If you know Hiromi, you know she plays at a million miles a minute, notes cascading out of the piano like a runaway train.  The last time I saw her live, she played three such songs in a row, and the whole place was almost out of breath, overloaded.  Then she started this number.  The downshift, the elegance, the smooth playfulness… it was pure pleasure.  My brother and I looked at each other with huge, impossible grins.  Right at 0:31 where it goes from classical to jazz, I could have melted.  I’ll always remember that moment, and I’ll always use this song to go to that place.

Burden of Tomorrow – The Tallest Man On Earth

This guy has some of the most evocative lyrics outside of a Waits/Dylan song.  This simple song has deceptively complex guitar work, and while Kristian Matsson’s voice isn’t for everyone, I’m a big fan.  And the lyrics…

Ah, but rumor has it that I wasn’t born,
I just walked in one frosty morn,
Into the vision of some vacant mind.

Oh once I held a pony by its flagging mane,
And once I called the shadow in the turning game
But I will fight this stranger that you should fear
So I won’t be your burden of tomorrow dear

Talk about evocative… for me, these are the kind of lyrics that suggest rather than declare.  In my mind, that’s what the best writing does as well.

Heysátan – Sigur Rós

This song is all about the mood it conjures.  It’s just intensely, achingly beautiful.  Love and tragedy supervene on this song.  This is a big gun to pull out, and I don’t do it often or lightly, but when a scene demands that level of grief, romance, and depth, this is where I go.

The Hungry Rock/The Sleuce Gate/Evening Comes Early (Reels) – John Doyle

Sometimes you hit a wall.  You’re trying to form a thought, to make it coherent, or to find the perfect word.  Whatever the situation, when the gate is down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn’t coming – use this.  It’s a musical palate cleanser; just close your eyes, put on headphones, and pay attention.  You could let this song wash over you in the background as you did something else, but you’d be missing the true pleasure here.  If you honestly focus on it, follow the winding, up-and-down guitar line, and stay with it, you’ll see what I mean.  The rhythm of the notes, the punctuation of the musical sentences, the subtle changes in a repeated phrase… you’ll come out of it refreshed and ready to write.

I’m Still Here – Tom Waits

Truthfully, you could make an entire list of Music for Writing of just Tom Waits songs.  Here’s one that will quietly break your heart with little fanfare.  If you can inject even a tenth of the pathos of this song into your writing, you’re on the right track.

Operation Ground and Pound – DragonForce

Doing a quick 180, this one is fairly self-explanatory.  At some point, you’re going to want to write a fantasy novel, and at some point in that novel, you’re going to want your main character to have an epic sword fight with twenty demons while his dragon-army battles evil wizards all around him while the moon is slowly exploding above them, well, you’ll probably want to write that scene while you listen to this song.

Hora Ca la Usari – Taraf de Haïdouks

The one will drive the point home.  Sometimes you just need to blast on through it, the frenetic, almost hypnotic beat and half chanted, half shouted words will get the job done.

Desoto – Jeremiah McLane

A song featuring accordion and concertina shouldn’t be this lovely.  As far as writing goes, this is the perfect late-night journey song.  It’s dark out, no one is around, and you’re creating worlds in your head.  That’s kind of absurd, and you have to laugh at it a little even though you have to embrace it completely.  It’s absurd, but it’s a good thing.  It’s joyful.  This song captures that.

Music for Writers, Part I


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Sometimes it’s not enough to put pen to paper; sometimes you have to give the creative state a little nudge in the right direction.  These are songs that I’ve gone back to with that in mind.  I usually write without any distractions, but when I hit a wall, I listen to one of these songs to help me with the mood.

I’ve split this into two parts, and I had to exclude some songs because while Spotify has a lot of songs, they don’t have all the songs, so in this case you’re missing out on some Chocolate Genius Incorporated and Nujabes.

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Track 1: Aceyalone / The Way It Was – use this one to get pumped up about starting in the first place; good writing should be coming straight out of the oven, hot and playful.

Track 2: Alex Clare / Damn Your Eyes – this cover of an Etta James song has a deliberate cadence and sparseness that make it perfect for writing certain kinds of passion and anger.

Track 3: Darren Korb / Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme) – this is a song from the criminally underexposed video game Bastion.  This song in particular is simple and haunting.  There’s something a little menacing about the lyrics, too.

Track 4: The Be Good Tanyas / Ship Out On The Sea – this one is warm, harmonious, even lovely.  It’s upbeat enough to not be lethargic, and it really evokes a kind of relationship that’s more platonic than romantic.

Track 5: Brandon Vance & Mark Minkler / Song For Taryn – expansive, lush… there’s something about the piano/fiddle combination that just evokes rolling green hills and scattered wildflowers.

Track 6: Corinne Bailey Rae / No Lovechild – this one is very intimate, even playful at the end.  For me this one evokes happiness and joy.  The way it builds up is perfect in a narrative sense, too… you can see how it leads somewhere.

Track 7: Cults / Go Outside – So part of the way I write scenes is to imagine them from different angles.  I’ll rehash things in different terms to see what’s really important.  In this case, I look at a bunch of scenes from the book as quick cuts of a movie trailer with this song playing in the background.  No dialogue, just a couple seconds of each scene and this song and ask myself: what story am I telling?

Track 8: Lake Street Dive / My Heart’s In the Right Place – Lake Street Dive is my current obsession.  Partly because as a pop/jazz quartet they’re just right in the middle of my wheelhouse, and partly because of this (3:30 to 3:40…and all of it) and this and basically Rachael Price’s voice in general.  This song in particular I actually use as anti-writing… it just takes me away from the current problem for a moment.  It’s a great song to just close your eyes and sink into.

Track 9: Megafaun / Kill The Horns – there’s something about the way this song is broken into discreet parts that makes it great to write dialogue to.  There’s a cadence to it that sounds almost conversational.

Track 10: Popular Computer / Lointain (Robotaki Remix) – this one is pure “let’s get this shit done” music.  And boy does it do a great job.  I’ve thought about putting a piece of tape over my macbook’s camera because I don’t want whatever government agency controls it to see me chair-dancing to this song.

Anyway, that’s Part I of the list.  If y’all dig it, I’ll get to work on Part II.