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February 20, 2014

Book Notes - Dan Goldman "Red Light Properties"

Red Light Properties

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Dan Goldman's Red Light Properties is the first volume in a series that collects his acclaimed webcomic of the same name, a fascinating world where the supernatural collides with family drama and real estate sales.

Boing Boing wrote of the book:

"Goldman's ghost stories made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle, while the bawdy slapstick interludes served only to lure me into dropping my guard for the next scare. Highly recommended."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Dan Goldman's Book Notes music playlist for his comics collection, Red Light Properties:


Real estate. Mortgage crisis. Failing marriages. Ghost stories. Psychedelic drugs. There's a lot of moving parts in this first volume of my Red Light Properties comic series about a husband/wife team of exorcist­-realtors specializing in "previously-­haunted" houses in forever­-sweaty Miami. Music played a big role over the years I spent working on the writing and the artwork for this book, helping me bring all these elements together, zero in on tones and trance out for the million hours I spent at the drawing table rendering the story.

This mix centers on the emotional landscape of our main (sha)man Jude Tobin: professional psychic, estranged son, half­-assed father, ex-­husband, broken­-hearted lover, human bridge between the living and the dead. These tracks served as musical color for places internal and external that worked their way into Jude's story through my ears during the last 4 years:

"Salpica (Miami)" – Otto Von Schirach
Let's just get the Best Miami Song Ever out of the at the top. It's absolutely filthy if you understand Spanish, but it'll still loosen your ear­wax if you don't. I can close my eyes and see Jude Tobin in his beat­up Saab stopped at a traffic light. He's trying to come down whatever he ingested at his last job, smiling at a fit young girl in tight shorts who's waiting to cross the street. He's trying to be charming but comes off creepier than he intended, leaving him lonelier than before in this sexed-­out city he calls home.

"Freak, Go Home" – Darkside
The first time we meet Jude, he's in his t-shirt and flip­-flops and hasn't brushed his teeth before meeting a client. Jude's constant use of hallucinogens to enter the spirit world for work makes his life on the living side of the Membrane a mess. This twitchy track bleeds sloppy, bouncy, sweaty energy that feels just like that: awkward and alive.

"I Feel Love" – Donna Summer
One of the classics of the twentieth century (IMHO) whose first few measures is the warping­-open of the Membrane that separates the living world from the dead for Jude to pass through. And he does this with a smile, leaving all his earthly problems of spouse and money behind to become this magical spirit only he and the ghosts can perceive, rising above his own physical body to reach out and touch the trapped spirit he's exorcising.

"Welcome Back to Earth" – Soul Oddity
This pre-­millennial classic by local Miami electronic cats Soul Oddity cements a real time and place for me, crazy rave­y nights before I moved to New York to chase my storytelling dreams. The bump and electro­-glitch in this track are the soundtrack for Jude drunk­-driving home on the causeway across Biscayne Bay in a blur of neon-­ringed palm trees, trying like hell not to get pulled over.

"Suicide Demo for Kara Walker" – Destroyer
Lots of soft anger, longings and sadness in this Destroyer song, warm almost joyous tones squeezed from a broken life. This song is Jude to Cecilia (she's "got it backwards, girl" about his feelings for her earthbound world) and the widening distance between them that's at the root of their marriage problems.

"Lyin' Eyes" – Eagles
You can't go anywhere in South Florida for more than 20 minutes without hearing either this Eagles song or "Hotel California." I chose this as it's lyrically closer to the live nerve between Jude and Cecilia and the secrets they keep from each other in order to keep themselves moving through every day.

"Soul Desert" – Julian Cope
By the time Julian Cope's throat unlocks to release the line "It takes up all my tiiiiiiiiime", I'm a puddle on the floor. Coming from a place of frustration that burns into rage, this exhausted Jude's pent-­up emotions bleeding out in all directions at the gifts that pull and stretch him like taffy, "trusting no one in these alien lands."

"Zoal, the Face Dancer" – Grimes
Dune reference in the title aside, this track makes me feel the romantic tension between Jude and his field assistant Zoya. That tension finally snaps in a late­-night underwear-­heavy scene at the RLP office, and this is the track I was listening when I wrote that. NO SPOILERS!

"A Name for My Pain" – Third Eye Foundation
This track always made me think of ghosts, years before I even came up with this series. Moreso, it makes me think of what ghosts must feel: trapped in a loop, replaying key emotional moments from their lives that keep them from dissipating and returning to the Source. Everything they were and everything they've lost scraping against forward­-flowing time in a fixed place, forever.

"My True Body" – Angels of Light
There's this point you reach with mid-­grade psychedelics where your body is a throbbing container for something more but you're still stuck inside it. It's a place you look out from, catch yourself in a reflection and think "That's me. I'm the stubbly, wrinkling flabby ape with those sad dark eyes." That feeling passes, but it's a signpost I pass in every trip I take... aware of the physical limitations of body and its expiration date. Fuck, I'm morbid...

"Lazuli" – Beach House
Let's turn this boat back into sunny waters now. This track is a glorious thing, sun coming through the clouds after a furious storm. This is the feeling in the final scene of the book – with the whole crew standing on the beach – that somehow, someway, everything's going to work out for Red Light Properties, but never in the way they expect. Beach House nails that feeling with this track and I'm crying tears of hope and relief.

"Altered Ego" – Floorplan
I work to techno often, nodding my head in my Brooklyn studio so much that my neck muscles are rippling and amazing. This track also a Jude Tobin "work track", full of thump and tension and release as he ingests whatever's necessary to connect with the spirit world and make the bad thing go away. It's also good to shake that ass to.

"In the Air Tonight" – Phil Collins
Another late­-night Miami classic by somebody who was never this cool again. The sleaze, the defiance in the face of death. I feel like this song contains a Red Light Properties ghost story I haven't even written yet; maybe it's out there, waiting for me in the rain right now.

"The Game of Love" – Daft Punk
Robot voices warbling about the Game of Love, "wanting you to stay"... It all feel so apropos for Jude and Cecilia as this epic Miami busted romance. Of course, Ceci throws Jude out (and not for the first time), but that doesn't make the hurt any worse. Plus, this track contains a synth break halfway that's so warm it melts my leg­-bones like butter.

"Let It Flow" – Spiritualized
A perennial end-­of­-the­-night track that rises slowly from cooing whisper into this oceanic orgasm of a finish; the lyrics are about surrendering to the bliss of drug addiction. That's not something I condone, but in the moment it's a gorgeous feeling of being lost in the beauty of it all. This is Jude in his clearest moments, finding peace and divinity on the other side of the Membrane before he pops back into his body and finds bills to pay and a kid to take care of.

"Space is Only Noise If You Can See" – Nicolas Jaar
I got into Nicolas Jaar recently, his stuff is amazing. This track in particular is a funky, stumbly mantra about sensory information that fits Mister Tobin like a glove. That is all.

"Princess Crocodile" – F.M. Einheit Gry
Picked for the verse about "going under the earth" it makes me think of outdoor cocktails and sex parties in the 1930s at Miami's Vizcaya garden maze. The city itself was still being built, the swamp still being drained, and the landscape full of the ghosts of laborers, conquistadors and slain Indians of long ago.

"Esclavo Moderno" – Manuel Alvarez y Sus Dangers
The "Modern Slave" in this song is all of us, born into the world where we instantly owe money for every step and breath we take. The fear of being broke and failing looms pretty large in Red Light Properties' world; this old track from Colombia's palenque genre has lots of rattling tin percussion that makes me see Cecilia wincing as every precious coin escapes her pockets.

"Everybody Wants to Rule the World" – Tears for Fears
I wanted to end this on a dreamy peaceful note: Jude's and Cecilia's in particular. While Jude dreams of proving to the world at large that his paranormal work is 100% real and legitimate, it's Cecilia who wants to franchise, franchise, franchise. Stay tuned for future volumes of the series to see how close they get to ruling the world...


Dan Goldman and Red Light Properties links:

the author's website
the webcomic
excerpt from the book

Bloody Disgusting review
Miami Herald review

Bloody Disgusting interview with the author
BuzzFeed profile of the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Online "Best of 2013" Book Lists
2013 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


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