June 16, 2014
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.
Stan Parish's shows admirable storytelling skills in his debut novel Down the Shore, an ambitiously told coming-of-age story.
GQ wrote of the book:
"In this worldly and propulsive debut by former GQ editor Stan Parish, about a Jersey kid’s misadventures with the spawn of the global financial elite, we’re going to assume that the partying happened, the drug-dealing arrest did not, and the casual sex with wanton rich girls was absolutely 100 percent, down-to-the-last-detail true."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
When we meet Tom Alison, the narrator of Down the Shore, it's Memorial Day and very hot and late at night. Here are six songs that speak to the state we find him: wide awake, reasonably intoxicated, and completely unsure what comes next.
Real Estate, "Green Aisles"
I use this track sparingly in the winter as an antidote to seasonal effective disorder: there is no quicker way to transport yourself to summer nights filled with nicely buzzed bike rides. "Green Aisles" has this muggy nostalgic vibe and vague sense of unease that I tried to capture in the sections of the novel where Tom, the narrator, returns to the beach town where he grew up to find that life has gone on without him, that his best friend has become a big-shot coke dealer, and that he loves the place he left more than can say.
The Knife, "Pass this On"
Forget the song for a second, although the song is as hot and haunting as they come, because Karin Dreijer Andersson is a genius. I'd like to direct your attention to the best music video of all time. There's a deleted scene from Down the Shore in which Tom, the narrator, finds himself at a party where he gets completely hypnotized by this video while some important action unfolds around him. The scene almost worked, and it killed me to cut it. Fortunately, the video is impervious to my failed attempt at appropriation.
Phosporescent, "A New Anhedonia"
When I first heard Muchacho, the album on which this track appears, I thought: It would be impossible for me to like this more. And then I found out that Matthew Houck of Phosporescent holed up Tulum for a week to write, something I did three or four times while I was working on Down the Shore. I liked the album even more then, and wondered what it would be like to work in a medium that allows you to knock it out of the park in a week instead of, say, three weeks over the course of six years. This song reminds me of walking onto Tulum beach after a long day of writing with this flatlined feeling that the sight and sound of the ocean gradually washes away.
Ryan Adams, "Oh My Sweet Carolina"
This is Ryan Adams at the height of his formidable songwriting powers and yet his is the second most important performance on this track. I once remarked to a friend that the backing vocals on the chorus were pretty great. My friend said, "that's Emmylou Harris," with a look that said, "you idiot." Emmylou Harris does something only Emmylou Harris can: she takes a four-line chorus, gives it this shimmering depth, and transforms the whole thing every time she comes in. And she does this without stealing the spotlight for even one second; unless you really pay attention, it's just a really pretty and very effective harmony. Fiction writing is a pretty goddamn lonely solo act, and this kind of collaboration always makes me happy.
Low, "To Our Knees"
I first heard this song in the middle of a medium-dark mushroom trip at a friend's place in Upstate New York (add "staring into campfires" to your list of things not to do on psychedelics). I think part of me latched on to Alan Sparhawk's masterful guitar playing, which is rich and textured and absolutely assured. I think that helped me to pull through. I almost never write to music or in coffee shops, but one afternoon I found myself in a coffee shop trying to drown out a particularly irritating couple and accidently accidentally played this song on loop. It took me twenty minutes to realize what I'd done because the best thing about "To Our Knees" is that you never really know where you are inside the song. I left it on repeat and two hours later I had solved two very big problems in the manuscript that had been nagging at me for years. Will this work for everyone? Probably not. If it does, you're welcome.
The Walkmen, "We Can't Be Beat "
There's nothing I don't like about Hamilton Leithauser's songwriting. At one point in the song he sings the words "so long" for about seven seconds. It starts out soaring and triumphant and then gradually flattens out, which sort of mirrors the story that he's telling here. And every time I hear it I'm reminded that art is always better when all the pieces tell the story of the whole.
Stan Parish and Down the Shore links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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