2. K. Flay, “Blood in the Cut”
Before things went south (so, so south), my ex-husband and I both loved to listen to K. Flay, whose dark-but-poppy lo-fi hip-hop sound has always entranced me. Her 2017 album Every Where Is Some Where is the first I’ve listened to without him, the first release that I felt like I could truly own for myself; “Blood in the Cut” has been my most-played track, and its lyrics urged me along while writing this flash piece about excruciating quiet: “Say something, do it soon / It’s too quiet in this room / I need noise / I need the buzz of a saw / Need the crack of a whip / Need some blood in the cut.”
3. The Used, “The Taste of Ink”
I heard “The Taste of Ink” playing at a bar around the time I was working on this story, and it took me right back to high school in 2002. Its lyrics feel deeply tied to the kinds of feelings I drew on to write this story about silence and isolation: for weeks after being reintroduced to it, I would crank it up in the shower and scream “Is it worth it? Can you even hear me?” and “The taste of ink is getting old, it's / Four o’clock in the fucking morning / Each day gets more and more like the last day.”
4. Middle Kids, “Edge of Town”
While working on this story, I was simultaneously working on an essay about trying to refocus my creative life. The essay centers on the band Middle Kids, and their incredible 2017 single, "Edge of Town." These lyrics about the tension between feeling loss and expressing it, the same struggle my protagonist has, have been pulling me closer and closer for months: "Hey guys / I got something on my mind / / Tick, tock / could you take it for a while..."
5. Jon Hopkins, “The Wider Sun”
Though there are no words in this stunning free-form electronic/instrumental song, there's so much power behind Jon Hopkins' "Wider Sun." I felt even closer to that power when I performed it as a violin/cello duet with my dear Bess Whitby in October; we had been rehearsing it for weeks, right around the time I was tweaking this weird little story about silence.
6. Princess Nokia, “Brujas”
My dear friend and collaborator Trista Edwards held a launch party for her handmade candle brand, Marvel + Moon, on Friday, October the 13th this year (a couple days before I submitted this story to SLQ). During that spooky evening of sisterhood, she introduced me to Princess Nokia's ass-kicking "Brujas,"which has inspired me to keep making my own weird brand of magic.
7. The Owls, “Isaac Bashevis Singer”
Before I left for the aforementioned M + M launch party, I pulled my daily tarot card and was rewarded with The World. Jessa Crispin's fantastic The Creative Tarot lists Isaac Bashevis Singer's 1978 Nobel Prize speech as inspirational further reading for understanding this card about endings and beginnings. In researching Singer, an excerpt from his banquet speech captivated me, and I mentioned it to Trista that evening. When asked about the benefits of writing for children, Singer said “Number 1) Children read books, not reviews. They don't give a hoot about the critics.” Trista and I are at work on a YA novel, so this all came together quite wonderfully, and empowered me to keep at all my writing projects. This unusual little song by The Owls, a kind of aural love letter to "Isaac Bashevis Singer," makes me think of all this synchronicity in one fell swoop.
8. Fleetwood Mac, “Gold Dust Woman”
This song puts me in a seize-your-power mood: "Rock on, ancient queen / Follow those who pale in your shadow." In an October 1997 interview with Spin magazine, Stevie Nicks said that "Gold Dust Woman" was a "symbolic look about somebody going through a bad relationship, and doing a lot of drugs, and trying to… just make it, trying to live, trying to get through it to the next thing." That woman reminds me of my own protagonist in this story, too. I've also read that Nicks wrapped her head in a black scarf during the final take in the recording studio for this song as a kind of sensory deprivation so she could really tap into her emotions. I find that image captivating: a bewitching blend of creative voice and frustrated silence.
9. Creepoid, “Yellow Wallpaper”
Named after the same short story that inspired my piece, "Yellow Wallpaper" by Creepoid is, well... creepy. "If I could find a way / To pull it from my head / And raise it like a flag / Would you believe me then?" the lyrics ask. The protagonist of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," the speaker of this 2014 song, and my own protagonist all feel alienated from the outside world and disbelieved by those closest to them. I really like the way this band is able to reflect the tension and creeping (heh) paranoia of the titular story.
10. Dave Matthews Band, “Pay for What You Get”
What can I say about Jenny Molberg? She's my best reader, best friend, and the only person in my life with whom I can have deep conversations about DMB. They were the soundtrack to my adolescence, and because a conversation I had with Jenny inspired this piece, the last song on this list has to be dedicated to her. The lyrics to this "Pay for What You Get" released in 1994, make me think of my story's protagonist and her sad, false sense that she's responsible for the isolation she feels:
Everybody asks me how she's doing...
Thanks for reading and listening, y'all!
CAITLIN COWAN has been getting way too excited about setting poetry up on a blind date with popular culture since the early 1990s. This is her website.