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April 20, 2015

Book Notes - Nick Courage "The Loudness"

The Loudness

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, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Nick Courage's The Loudness is a fast-pitched entertaining debut novel, a fascinating dystopian book for middle graders as well as their parents.

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Nick Courage's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Loudness:


I first got the inspiration for The Loudness during a stretch where I listened to Vivida Vis! by Against Me! on repeat for about three days straight. But I won't be including "This Is Control" on this playlist; there's just too much cussing for a middle grade novel. If you'd like a link to that song, please have a parent or guardian send a signed note with their permission.


"Too Much Freedom" by Lou Barlow

The Loudness opens in a battered coastal city, in the aftermath of a series of devastating storms. What's left of our thirteen-year-old protagonist's hometown is overgrown and sun baked, and rather than help the remaining inhabitants rebuild, he watches their progress from an attic window. This song might as well be playing in the background.

"New Orleans" by Caves

Though the city is never explicitly named in the book, it's roughly based on New Orleans. I'm a New Orleanian, but have lived in the Northeast for most of my adult life. So long, in fact, that this UK-based punk band is able to perfectly capture the distance and road-trip longing that characterizes my relationship with the city, both in The Loudness and in everyday life.

"A Political Song About Cassette Tapes" by Mike Petruccelli

I'm terrible at keeping a lot of lyrics in my head at once; I'll listen to a text-heavy song like this and immediately forget the words. The silver lining: I can listen to "A Political Song About Cassette Tapes" a million times in a row without getting sick of it. Which is what I did while writing The Loudness, the line about "not knowing what's beyond the neighborhood" standing out each time, fresh and new.

"Indictment" by Jawbreaker

I used to think a lot about Blake Schwarzenbach as a sort of platonic ideal of Literature and Punk. My ideal, to be honest, in high school. I don't think about Blake that way anymore (like the rest of my teen idols, he's become mortal), but I still listen to a lot of Jawbreaker, and there's something about "Indictment"—a typically caustic song about writing a happy song—that captures the jaded resilience of the characters in my story.

"Unpredictable" by Sundials

I can't listen to the loopy guitar riff that runs through this song without picturing my protagonist, Henry, riding his bike down deserted city streets in big, sleepy esses.

"San Andreas" by The Visitors

I first heard this song on The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore, a compilation by the author of Spy Rock Memories (a fantastic memoir about how Larry escaped into the mountains while starting up Lookout Records). In many ways, this and the other road trip songs might be a little bit too on-the-nose for The Loudness, which (spoiler alert) includes a road trip. But this is such a perfect road trip song…

"Piano Fire" by Sparklehorse

"I can't seem to breathe with a rusted metal heart," and everything else about this track. It plays like it's off an album Henry might have salvaged from the storms: pleasantly warped, with fuzzed out riffs and built-in nostalgia.

"Never Were" by The Worriers

I love The Worriers—especially their Past Lives 7". This is song isn't on that record, but it is about the nuances of radicalism and revolution, which is also a major theme in The Loudness.

"Electrocution" by Bill Fox

I don't want to give away too many plot points, but those lightning bolts on the cover? Are there for a reason.

"The Stars Were Exploding" by Good Luck

"So we gathered up the broken stars, lit a spark, put them back up in the sky. If you can wish on their falling, imagine what you can do bringing them back to life."

"Fix My Brain" by The Marked Men

This song is too often the soundtrack to my life, and definitely would've been the soundtrack to my life when I was thirteen (that distinction goes to Operation Ivy, also on this mix). Between "Unpredictable" and "Too Much Freedom," this is also the soundtrack to thirteen-year-old Henry's life.

"Which Way To Go" by The Eddy Current Suppression Ring

I'm a big fan of road trip songs, but I'm an even bigger fan of psychic road trip songs. I should clarify: not songs about cross-country astral projections—although, I'd be into those, too. More: psychological journey songs about figuring out what to do with yourself, your life, etc. There's a whole genre of punk that I call "Tony Robbins Rock" that's basically just self-affirmation you can dance to. This is better, because it's not as sure of itself. It's a psychic road trip without a map.

"I Don't Want Solidarity If It Means Holding Hands With You" by Defiance, Ohio

"I've gotta get my voice and my fist on the same page as my heart / as my heart."


"In the Middle of the Sea" by Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves

I lived in Gainesville, Florida for a few years, during which time I fell in love with both Central Florida and No Idea Records, the label whose shirts now make up most of my wardrobe. This song, by longtime swamp rocker and No Idea MVP Chris Wollard, is basically the exact pace and tone I was trying to achieve with The Loudness.

"Unsatisfied" by The Replacements

I have another Spotify playlist that I sometimes turn to – it's just thirty minutes of "Unsatisfied" by The Replacements. If there's a more resonant and evocative rock song, I haven't heard it.

"Lungs Quicken" by Lanterns on the Lake

I don't know how many times I listened to Gracious Tide, Take Me Home while writing – hundreds? And I still couldn't tell you what the lyrics are – they just wash into the mix in a way that I find completely relaxing. I'm just now realizing that the album's cover art has a worn effect echoed by the cover of my book.

"If I Knew" by Paul Baribeau


Oh, wait… this song might be more emotionally resonant and evocative than "Unsatisfied" – although, it's not really fair to compare. Every few years I rediscover Paul Baribeau and remember that he's one of the best songwriters going. This track, specifically, captures the uncertainty and earnestness of Henry – and his placelessness (physical and otherwise). If I could hug this track, I would.

"The Crowd" by Operation Ivy

There's a lot of what I consider to be mellow or introspective songs on this mix, but The Loudness isn't a quiet novel. If it were an album, I would've wanted it to be released on Lookout Records, and more specifically: I would've wanted it to be Operation Ivy's Energy, which I've listened to at least once a month since I was thirteen years old.


Nick Courage and The Loudness links:

the author's website

Paris Review essay by the author
Tor.com contribution by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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

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
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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