December 21, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Consisting of both a graphic novella and interactive documentary, The Next Day is yet another innovative exercise in storytelling from Pop Sandbox, and tells the stories of four people who survived suicide attempts.
John Porcellino's artwork is spare, precise, and packed with emotional heft. The Next Day is an intimate, powerful, and important examination of mental illness and suicide.
Benn Ray of Atomic Books wrote of the book:
"This is a remarkable feat of comics journalism. Here is an intimate collection of interviews from four survivors of near-fatal suicide attempts, drawn with poetic minimalism by John Porcellino. This book is exceedingly powerful."
To tell you the honest truth, these tracks may or may not have been specifically what I was listening to while working on The Next Day. But in hindsight, they might as well have been. The musical undercurrent of my writing/directing process was all about tone. The hypnotic, dream-like quality of both the graphic novella and the interactive documentary was most certainly influenced – both on a conscious and subconscious level – by the tonal qualities (among other things) of the songs listed here…
"Untitled Track 1" by Sigur Ros
Case in point. I could have listed Sigur Ros' entire "( )" album as an influence for this project. This is immersive, reflective pop at it's finest, and the fact that the band literally invented a make-believe language to construct the lyrics speaks volumes for the emotional place from which this record is conceived.
"Demon Host" by Timber Timbre
This track was indirectly brought to my attention by Sarah Polley. She was listening to it for creative inspiration, and the suggestion was made to possibly use it in a promotional video I was to edit for one of her projects. On top of being haunting and emotive from start to finish, the closing 45 seconds of this track embody every emotion The Next Day could ever hope to evoke.
"Plastic" by Portishead
The trip-hop genre itself has a tendency to be pigeonholed – usually unfairly – as background music. Portishead has a distinct way of giving the finger to this notion. The swirl of tryptic sounds that make up this track (is that a helicopter propeller I hear, chopping off-beat?) is as off-putting as it is arresting.
"Bathroom Girl" by AIR
Though slightly on-the-nose as a selection for this playlist, this track from the Virgin Suicides soundtrack needed to be included. The film and score stand together as one of my biggest influences, not only for this project, but for any of my creative work. Together they provide a glowing example of how tone can literally become a character in the story itself. The entire score was heavily referred to in my discussions with Trevor Sloan, a.k.a. Phono d'enfant, as he endeavoured to create the score for The Next Day (the "theme" of which provides the closing for this playlist).
"Ocean Of Noise" by Arcade Fire
At least half of the tracks from Arcade Fire's epic Funeral album could have made it onto this playlist. But this track from their follow-up album Neon Bible still feels like the best fit for The Next Day. Not wanting to show any likeness of our participants themselves, we instead built the animations of the interactive documentary around our central metaphor: a single, lonely house, engulfed in a thunderous storm. Arcade Fire opens this track by channeling a similar mood through the first 15 seconds, proceeding to build towards a grandiose finale which whirls around the lyric: "I'm gonna work it out."
"Harry Patch (In Memory Of)" by Radiohead
I'm sure I wouldn't be alone if I were to cite Radiohead as the single most significant musical influence I've ever encountered in my creative career. Having said that, it would have been way too easy to throw a track from Kid A into this mix (although Amnesiac's "Life in a Glass House" was THIS close…). Instead, I've included this stand-alone single, which never appeared on any Radiohead album. Thom Yorke wrote this song as a tribute to Harry Patch himself, who was the last remaining UK veteran of the 1st world war. He was 111 when he died. The tracks opening lines: "I am the only one that got through; The others died where ever they fell."
"Burn" by Ray Lamontagne
Added to this playlist for two reasons: a) it was a good bridge to connect two songs, while still feeling appropriate to the playlist itself, and b) there's something in Ray Lamontagne's voice to which The Next Day owes gratitude, and comes through most sharply in his final lyric, "I will stand here and burn in my skin".
"Good Woman" by Cat Power
This is the saddest song I've ever heard. It is drenched in tears. And I often cannot get all the way through it.
"Membrillo" by Snowblink
No actual words are sung or spoken in this track, and yet the vocals float and tickle in the most joyous way. It is short, simple, lush, and brilliant. Thus is life. This track hints at the endlessness of all possibilities, without specifying any of them.
"Coast to Coast" by Elliott Smith
I thought a lot about Elliott Smith when I was in the deepest, darkest corners of The Next Day. Smith suffered from depression, alcoholism, and drug addiction, and these topics often appear in his lyrics. At age 34, he died in Los Angeles from two stab wounds to the chest. The autopsy evidence was inconclusive as to whether the wounds were self-inflicted. At the time of his death, Smith was working on his sixth studio album, From a Basement on the Hill, from which this track is borrowed.
"Next Day" by Phono d'enfant
One brisk, overcast morning in October, 2010, I met Phono d'enfant for brunch at Clinton's Tavern on Bloor Street West in Toronto. Brunch, or as we referred to it, "music beers." This was a time when he and I would discuss music, and consume beers. He connected immediately to the sonic approach we wanted for The Next Day, and was dedicated to delivering our score, despite becoming a father to his first child before the month was through! Thank you and congratulations, Trevor Sloan, a.k.a. Phono d'enfant. (P.S. His album is called White Blossoms, check it out on iTunes.)
My soundtrack would just be Zen Arcade, by Hüsker Dü, played over and over.
Jason Gilmore and John Porcellino and The Next Day links:
Adult Books 4 Teens review
Comics and Gaming Monthly review
The Comics Journal review
The Dork Shelf review
The Globe and Mail review
Lindy Reads and Reviews review
New York Journal of Books review
New York Times review
Quill & Quire review
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists