I listen to a lot of music when I’m writing because it helps me to find mood and structure. Some people don’t like lyrics but I do, and sometimes the fragments of phrases or the stories that I imagine as I listen are very useful. Songs create images and narratives in my mind: I’m a child of the golden age of music videos, and though the MTV of my youth is long past, much of my fiction ends up being transcribed to a soundtrack. I think—I hope—it helps the process.
1. “I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him” by The Drums
For some reason, this song has become one of the themes of the novel I’m writing right now. There’s something about the mix of tones: the melancholy register, the superficially hopeful chorus mixed with a lingering sinister key—I imagine someone who I love and trust coming toward me with a machete, smiling and grooving a little to that sweet, hand-clappy chorus, steadily maneuvering me to a corner. “What’s wrong?” they murmur. “You look nervous.”
2. “Little Motel,” by Modest Mouse
I guess this is one of my favorite songs of all time, and certainly it’s my favorite music video. It taught me the power of backwards narrative, and though I’ve watched it probably a hundred times it still astonishes and inspires me every time with its quietly tragic and assured movement.