New mixtape/mp3 playlist! This one’s Songs from the Apartment Complex, and I have to say this is probably one of the quirkiest mixes I’ve made in a while. The Apartment Complex story (still working on the title, folks) has evolved into an unexpected direction for me. Unlike previous book-centric playlists where most of the songs are there to set a mood, many of these tracks here are aimed at specific characters and what kind of person or being they are. Hope you enjoy it!
EDIT: As you may have seen over at Welcome to Bridgetown, I’ve put the Apartment Complex story on hiatus as I’m having even more problems with it than I thought, and need to put it aside for a while. Frustrating, yes. VERY frustrating. But I’m still keeping this up, because I think it’s a pretty interesting mix, and something I’ll listen to when I come back to the project. [And I *am* coming back to it — I just don’t know when.]
Alas, my recent fascination with 70s music has been sidetracked due to my starting in on the Meet the Lidwells project; in this case, I am now immersing myself in the poppier side of alternative rock circa 1990-1996. Not complaining, considering.
I’m trying to avoid the expected hits, the songs that still pop up from time to time: “Unbelievable” and “Right Here Right Now”, Achtung Baby and Nevermind, and so on. I’d like to dig just a little deeper than expected — something I am wont to do for my writing projects anyway — and bring back some of the tunes that were on my Walkman during my college years.
Sure, I’ve often said that the early 90s was definitely an unpredictable era of great highs and miserable lows for me personally, but that’s not the story I’m writing here. [And that’s another blog post entirely anyway.] I’m reconnecting with a lot of the great music that came out at the time, and channeling that energy into the Lidwells story.
The early 90s was an interesting time, for a multitude of reasons anyway. Musically, post-punk and college rock was becoming the new mainstream, 80s pop was aging a bit (sometimes not that well at all), and new voices and sounds were popping up from around the globe. Politically, old walls (literal and figurative) were being torn down, and soon a new President would be entering the White House. It felt like there was a weird positivity in the air that we’d almost forgotten about.
It may have been the political sea change, or it may have been something else. For me at any rate, I was thinking this was the last decade in the millennium, and that we were all looking forward to a more positive future than the sometimes dreary one we’d been recently subjected to.
Musically, I was getting into the wave of Britpop that WFNX was playing (when they weren’t playing grunge, which took me a lot longer to get into). In addition to that, Boston was experiencing a small renaissance of sorts with a hell of a lot of great local bands old and new getting some serious airplay — Manufacture, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Tribe, Heretix, The 360s, Think Tree…a bunch of bands I may not have been able to see live, but I certainly bought most of their releases when I could.
I was also doing a lot of shorter writing at the time — my fiddling with the Infamous War Novel had faded into the background; I’d created my comic character Murph and put him through all kinds of weird universes; I’d finally gotten out of the ‘doom poetry’ phase I’d put myself through and was writing some solid Flying Bohemians lyrics; I was also pushing myself to play around with new story ideas.
This is the energy that I want to use for Meet the Lidwells; a feeling of optimism and strong bursts of creativity. Sure, my story will deal with their personal ups and downs and their eventual demise as a band, but that’s only part of it. This is about celebration as much as it is about struggle.
It’s about the love (the characters’ and mine) of music. 🙂
As I mentioned previously, having a new writing project means having a new playlist. Nearly all of the Bridgetown trilogy music leaned more towards darker atmospheric moods, so the hard switch to a new musical style has felt a bit like whiplash.
Meet the Lidwells! features a family band that plays what some would call power pop: quirky and upbeat, often guitar-oriented, sometimes a bit odd, but never an uncomfortable listen.
Well-known examples would be Fountains of Wayne…
or Veruca Salt…
or Matthew Sweet…
….you get the picture.
So why power pop? Well, the story of the Lidwells is partly set in the late 80s-early 90s; they’re a band heavily influenced by the Beatles (thanks to their parents) as well as late 80s college rock (thanks to their elder siblings). Much like the Beatles, they started out writing simple poppy love songs aimed towards the young teen market. Over the course of five chart-topping albums and numerous hit singles, their sound evolves from that catchy pop to more adventurous alternative rock. And just like the Beatles, weary of the ups and downs of fame and tiring of the game, they decide to go out on a big note with their strongest album.
Right now, while I’m working on notes and piecing together a coherent story, I’m also making it a point to look for more music to listen to that would fit this project. It doesn’t necessarily have to be explicitly power pop, of course…as long as it’s somewhere in the neighborhood. And I’m specifically looking for both male and female singers, as it’s important to the story.
So yeah…if you have any suggestions/recommendations for bands and songs, please feel free to let me know in the comments! I’m always open to new tunage. 🙂
Or: Albums Wot I Listened to Incessantly While Writing the Trilogy in the Belfry, 1996-2004. It’s by no means a complete list, as I’ve left out a ton of albums that didn’t get nearly as much play but may have shown up in heavy rotation for a shorter time. I also didn’t list the albums that popped up during the revision years, which would probably be another long list in itself.
I’ve put them in semi-chronological order of release. These are still some of my favorite albums; I would highly suggest checking many of them out, perhaps finding a copy or two for your collection if you don’t have them already. It’s a wide mix; there’s electronica, alternative metal, alternative rock, and even a classical album or two. A lot of these albums still pop up on rotation when I’m working.
To be honest, it does feel kind of odd to finally be listening to a different style of music for my latest project. [Meet the Lidwells! is full of power-pop goodness, so there’s a lot of Matthew Sweet and Fountains of Wayne involved, and a lot of listening to The Power Pop Show on KSCU.] But I highly doubt I’ll stop listening to Fantastic Planet or Sea Change any time soon…
One thing I’d always done during the course of a writing project is to give it a soundtrack. Whether it’s a playlist, a list of specific albums, or a mixtape, it serves to create a specific mood that I’m looking for. With The Phoenix Effect, having envisioned this as a multi-book project even then, I’d given the series the name The Eden Cycle (referencing both obvious religious imagery and EdenTree, a megacorporation that would be a part of the plot). It seemed fitting to give the mixtapes the same title.
At the time, my idea had been of souls inhabiting AI cybernetic bodies — which in hindsight created a lot more trouble than it was worth — so the imagery I was looking for was much darker and creepier. That said, however, I chose not to focus on dystopian pessimism; instead I wanted my story to ascend past that into something positive.
This is the first of four mixtapes I made during 1997-8; this one was made in mid-April of 1997, just before I went on a road trip out to Ohio to visit a friend of mine. One of the major reasons for making it was so I could listen to it during my commute and think about what I was going to write. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing the other three original volumes from this era. The links are to their YouTube/Vimeo videos (they’ll open in a separate tab), and I’ll also provide a brief background as to why I chose the song for the mix.
Hope you enjoyed my little bit of tunage sharing there! I’ll be following up with the other three volumes in the original series soon!
Say what you will about U2’s Pop, it’s an interesting album to say the least. It’s not quite an extension of their electronica-influenced albums Achtung Baby and Zooropa (or their foray into deliberate non-commercial territory under the Passengers moniker, Original Soundtracks 1) as it’s a deliberate side-step. It’s twitchy in places, barren in others. They freely admit that it was an unfinished album, a record they should have spent more time on, had they not had a major tour to prepare for.
It’s not their strongest, but I still enjoy it. It kind of reminds me of 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire in a way, as it sounds like a band in the middle of evolving. I remember when it was about to come out while I was at HMV; the PGD sales rep (back when U2 was distributed by PolyGram) was obviously trying to upsell it because hey — Big Name Band, right? But he knew he couldn’t quite pull it off. He was let down by it, having felt it was one of their weakest albums. Well…in the context of their career path, when you hit the stratosphere with The Joshua Tree and you keep getting more ridiculously popular, any move aside from UP seems like a step down. And to most critics, this one felt like a severe misstep.
To be honest, I felt the exact opposite about it. I was actually let down by Zooropa, having felt that album was more like Achtung Baby Outtakes Wot Weren’t B-Sides. Pop felt a lot stronger and more cohesive to me. It ended up being one of the first albums that received heavy rotation during my first round of writing sessions when I started The Phoenix Effect. I kind of liked its similarity to the Beatles’ White Album…it starts off pretty strong with “Discotheque” and “Do You Feel Loved”…and progressively gets stranger and darker as the album goes on. The final track, “Wake Up Dead Man” is the polar opposite of its opening track; one is dense and trippy, the other is wiry and exhausted. The whole flow of the album works perfectly for me.
This was precisely what I needed for my writing session soundtracks! I wanted to hear something that was a little left of commercial, something strong but not singles-oriented, something that had ambience. Something that inspired the tension that I’d need in the new novel I was writing.
My writing nook down in my parents’ basement (it wasn’t called the Belfry yet…that name wouldn’t come for another few years) was right near the bottom of the stairs, using one of my uncles’ old desks and one of my dad’s dusty rolling desk chairs. I had my Windows 3.1 PC that I’d bought with my own tax return money and a big heavy CRT monitor donated by my sister. I didn’t even have Word 97 at that time, as I don’t think it would have fit on the system…I wrote everything using the Write program instead, and that worked just fine for me.
When I brought my longhand work home from the Day Job, I’d sit down at the PC and start transcribing what I’d written. This is pretty much where I taught myself how to revise; I knew I’d have to flesh out a lot of what I’d written, so I figured that was the perfect time for it. I’d figure out what tone I was trying to capture with the prose and expand on it. And sometimes, the instant revision would give me an idea of what I’d need to write the following day.
It was a learning process the entire time, and I knew I’d want a writing soundtrack to go with it. Pop was one of the first, and pretty much stayed with me for a good number of years until the single novel morphed into the Bridgetown Trilogy.
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