Current Tunes #5

AKMU – How People Move
Since my trek to the Blackpink concert earlier this month, my interest in K-pop has reignited a bit. I only just discovered this brother-sister duo, and I am obsessed with them. They have such a unique style and sound that is incredibly pleasant to listen to. This particular song, an upbeat, jazzy number, is easily my favorite. If you are intrigued by the intimidating world of K-pop, but aren’t a fan of “standard” pop music in general, AKMU might be the best place to start.

Blackpink – As if It’s Your Last
Aaaand speaking of K-pop, I’ve been on a Blackpink kick ever since attending their concert at the Prudential Center. This song is my hands-down favorite. It gives me “magical girl” vibes, if that makes any sense – it’s kind of like a classic anime opening, with a more modern twist in the rapping parts.

Chloe x Halle – Wolf at Your Door
This selection comes from the album “For the Throne,” which features songs inspired by Game of Thrones. It’s my favorite song on the album, mixing R&B with lyrics reminiscent of favorite characters and scenes from the series. I love the sound of this one the most, though I do have a few of the other tracks from the album on my recent playlist as well. If you’re mourning the end of the show, give this song – and the rest of the album – a listen.

Raleigh Ritchie – Time in a Tree
Aaaand speaking of Game of Thrones, Grey Worm – or Jacob Anderson, also known as Raleigh Ritchie – is a recording artist! I’ve liked a lot of his previous work, and his lyrics always convey a powerful message to make the listener think. In this song, I especially like the refrain, but also “I get wound up, from the ground up / And I don’t know why / Turn the sound up, drown the noise out / Swallow, don’t cry / Got an anxious heart, and it’s stone made / Can’t take paper or heartbreak.” He’s great – if you haven’t listened to him before, give this song a listen!

A Perfect Circle – So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish
Who doesn’t love a topical rock song that references what is afflicting society during this day and age? I sure do. And this one is super catchy. Worth listening to just for the lyrics.

Utada Hikaru – Don’t Think Twice
This song serves as the English theme for the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III, released this past January for the PS4. The predecessors of this song – Simple and Clean, and Sanctuary, the themes for Kingdom Hearts I and IIrespectively – pop up in my playlists now and again, but this one is a new addition that is frequently played. It might mean more to me as a fan of the series, because it makes me think of the game when I listen to it…. but also Utada is queen.

Zac Efron and Zendaya – Rewrite the Stars
I am not on the The Greatest Showman bandwagon. Haven’t seen it, and don’t plan to – though I love all of the actors in it. But I gotta say, the soundtrack is a banger. I’ve only recently listened to the soundtrack in depth, and I adore this song the most. Gotta love the whole “star-crossed lovers, but we can’t be together because society hates it” angle. It works, and this song sounds beautiful and has a crazy good replay factor. Also, I love Zendaya.

(My Game of Thrones season 8 post will be on Monday!)

Current Tunes #4

Judah and the LionSuit and Jacket
One of my local radio stations has recently gone from mainstream pop to alternative and indie rock, and this great song is one discovery I’ve made thus far. The whole theme of not “trading my youth for no suit and jacket” while still grappling with matters of identity and purpose is an evocative one, and this song also has a really great tune and strength behind it. It gets stuck in my head a lot recently, but I don’t even mind.

EchosGold
Echos has a subtle electric sound meshed with ethereal vocals, which offers an interesting listening experience. It makes me think of fantasy and fairy-tales – two of my favorite things! To me, it sounds like a song that’s about looking for answers, whether in someone else, in ourselves, or in a new home. And it’s super catchy!

Cold War KidsFirst
This song has an “anthem” sort of sound to it – it makes it feel like the sort of song you would sing before embarking on a long march, or engaging in battle, or resolving to accomplish some long sought-after goal. It also has visually-inspiring and poetic lyrics, such as “heavy as a feather when you hit the dirt,” which summons such a powerful mental image. I’m only upset that I didn’t discover this song sooner!

Luke Sital-SinghDark
This is a quieter, semi-depressing song with a beautiful sound, even though the lyrics lean in the direction of “sad.” Sometimes, though, it’s good to listen to music that isn’t necessarily “happy” in a traditonal sense. And if you’re going to listen to sad music, it should at least sound lovely and perhaps provide some sort of comfort, and this song absolutely does.

BastilleWorld Gone Mad
I’ve loved Bastille since the release of “Pompeii”, which I still listen to whenever it comes on the radio, and this song is one of my new faves. These days, it does feel like we live in a “world gone mad,” but music like this – so beautiful and packed with passion and meaning – gives me hope that creativity can still flourish in spite of sorrow or misfortune.

AuroraHalf The World Away
She has such a lovely and compelling sound, I’ve added a ton of her music to my current playlist and this track is a standout. Her lyrics are so evocative and she utilizes unique word choices, such as “I’m still scratching around in the same old hole, my body feels young but my mind is very old.” In a world of music that is inundated with generic pop (nothing wrong with mainstream pop, I’m just saying) Aurora presents a fresh voice that I’m eager to hear more of in the future.

Beth CrowleyEyes Wide Open
I just love, love, love her music. Literally every single song – it makes me want to read the books she writes her songs about if I haven’t already. She does a marvelous job of capturing what certain characters seem to be feeling, or how certain relationships and events are portrayed, and gives new layers to existing stories. Even if I haven’t read the books she’s singing about, I usually find a way to connect her songs to something I’ve read or experienced. This one has a nice edge to it and a great melody. If you love YA books, check out her Youtube channel and give her music a listen!

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Current Tunes #3

Some selections from my current writing playlist…

Stranger in the NorthNamewee ft. Leehom Wang (or G.E.M. Tang)
Though I was quite the J-Pop aficionado back in the day, my appreciation eventually grew to cover C-Pop and a bit of K-Pop. Though I haven’t kept up with it much in recent years, this tune caught my attention and it’s become a staple on my playlist. Both versions sound absolutely gorgeous and the official music video is stunning, I highly recommend it.

Run Don’t WalkK. Michelle
I first heard this song on the overhead at work and every time it came on, I tried to memorize the lyrics so I could look it up later. After a few failed attempts, I finally found it, and it’s been a constant on my playlist ever since. I listen to it as a “theme” of sorts for a romantic pairing I’m refining in my current MS, and it’s been a pretty big help during my editing sessions.

ZombieBad Wolves
This new cover of the brilliant Cranberries song is just as awesome and impressive as Disturbed’s recent cover of The Sound of Silence. Obviously, it’s got a different sound than the original – a bit heavier, yet still in the same realm – but the anti-war/violence message it carries is just as powerful and relevant today as it was when the song debuted in 1994. It’s also a fitting tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, who passed away earlier this year.

Me and MineThe Brothers Bright
This song has a folksy sound, but with a dark edge – exactly the way I like it! The line, “I will burn your kingdom down if you try to conquer me and mine,” is so badass, and a great line for an anthem, and really helps get the creativity pumping during writing sessions.

I Am Not Nothing Beth Crowley
I love Beth Crowley’s original songs (usually inspired by YA literature, also my favorite literature) and this recent one has been a feature on my writing playlist ever since she released it. This song, about asserting identity and worth and starting over, is beautiful and inspiring, and I never skip it when it comes on my shuffle.

All The Kings MenThe Rigs
I’m currently writing/editing a YA fantasy novel, and this song carries the perfect sound for what I’m trying to capture in my writing. Fantasy, with a bit of a dark twist and an edgy sound.

Moonlight SonataHidden Citizens 
I’ve recently discovered “epic rock” covers of classical music, and this one is definitely my favorite of the ones I’ve come across thus far. There’s something so inspiring and invigorating about classics being re-imagined in a more epic, pulse-pounding format, and it gives them a new and powerful sound. Just right for when I’m trying to write out action scenes.

 

Current Tunes #2

 Perfect – Ed Sheeran ft. Beyonce
I haven’t been the biggest fan of Ed Sheeran’s music (with the exception of “I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which I love) but the new duet with Beyonce is literally PERFECT. It’s so sweet and lovely and the lyrics totally hit the mark, and this is coming from someone who is a massive cynic with the romantic capacity of a gnat.

You are the ReasonCalum Scott
There are a lot of “love” songs on this list, as I’ve been tweaking the romance subplot in my recent manuscript, and this song is a nice, slow ballad that discusses how one person can profoundly affect another.

Blood and BonesKodaline
My new favorite song from Kodaline is Blood and Bones, with it’s evocative sound and meaningful lyrics. I just really like the sound, and Without You is another good one, though my play count for this is slightly higher.

Tell Me You Love MeBoy Epic
I had this song on repeat for like, three days a couple of weeks ago. It’s got a really great arrangement/sound (I love the piano in the beginning) and has been helping me through some writing block/inspirational woes lately. The words evoke a lot of different emotion, and the melody builds in strength as it goes, so as soon as the song is over, I’m already eager to listen to it again.

Beautifully UnfinishedElla Henderson 
This song is absolutely gorgeous and Henderson has a beautiful voice that really tugs at the heartstrings in this one. This song explores ideas of unrequited and unresolved feelings and how it feels to hate and love a person simultaneously. You know, warm and fuzzies. But seriously, this song is so lovely, and well worth a listen.

StarsSkillet
I also have Lions and Invincible on my current playlist, but Stars is my favorite. It’s got a really nice sound and the lyrics are particularly strong. I especially love the bridge, and although the song has religious undertones (at least, I’m pretty sure it does) it also features a universal message of finding your way or finding purpose after feeling lost.

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If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

Current Tunes

For a bit of a smaller post this Friday, I thought I’d take a moment to list some of the songs that feature on my current playlist and have helped to boost my motivation lately.

Lauren AquilinaFools 
I only recently discovered this artist and am super bummed she doesn’t make music anymore (performing-wise, anyway), but I love all of the songs she has put out and appreciate all the thought that seems to have gone into them. Her lyrics are amazing and so incredibly evocative! And I think Fools is my favorite; it’s such a great song, though Oceans is a close second.

Beth CrowleyBattle Cry
I love all of her songs, and Midnight is my overall favorite, but Battle Cry is probably the one I’ve listened to the most over the last few weeks. The fact that she’s inspired by YA novels is such a cool concept to me, and even if I’m not familiar with some of the series she writes songs about, I find it easy to connect with and be inspired by her music.

I PrevailAlone
Back in high school, I was a dedicated follower of hard rock, but kind of fell off that wagon and onto a more indie/folk-based wagon, though I’ve maintained and kept up with a few staples. However, I’ve been getting caught up with some bands I’ve missed out on, and when I caught this song on the radio I was hooked. I love the sound and it’s helped reignite my appreciation for this type of music, so I look forward to re-exploring more of it.

Lady GagaMillion Reasons 
I love Gaga, and though nothing will EVER usurp Bad Romance in my eyes, Million Reasons is my favorite from her recent hits. It’s pretty clear in all of her songs that she really feels the music, which comes through in her performances. It’s a song that plucks at the heartstrings, and I never skip this one when it pops up on my shuffle.

NickelbackSong on Fire
I have always been a fan of Nickelback, and genuinely don’t understand the hate that they get. Song on Fire is a nice addition to their repertoire; it’s not as “hard” as some of their music tends to be, more in the vein of Photograph or Gotta Be Somebody. It’s got a nice message and is an overall pleasant listen.

AdnaNight
Adna has a unique, folksy sound that really makes her music stand out; I’ve only just recently stumbled upon her music and I’m super glad I did. Night is a pretty chill tune; kind of haunting, but very evocative.

WILDBack To You
Probably one of my favorite recent finds, I’ve just started following WILD but I love everything I’ve heard so far. Back To You is my favorite; it’s just a nice, catchy tune with an uplifting, folk sound, stellar vocals, and lyrics that flow. I eagerly anticipate new music from them in the future.

KarminaAll The King’s Horses
I enjoy music with a sort of “fantasy” type sound, and I had this song on repeat for at least a full day after I first heard it. The lyrics are great and it has a powerful, serious sound that helps provide some motivation while I’m writing, especially since my current project is in the fantasy vein.

ValleySoldier
After the first time I heard this song, it was stuck in my head for approximately 7 hours; and I didn’t even mind or get annoyed by it. It’s got an infectious tune and great lyrics, and it’s the kind of song that sounds “fun,” if you know what I’m saying.

Fall Out BoyThe Last of the Real Ones
I have clearly been living under a rock for the last few months because I had no idea that FOB had new music out until last week. And this song IS F*CKING GREAT. I’ve loved just about all of their discography ever since the beginning, but they’ve really been hitting it out of the park with their more recent albums, and this song is no different. LOVE IT, LOOK FORWARD TO MORE.

Top Superhero Film Themes

With so many superhero and comic book films coming out over the last few years, and more still looming on the horizon, I decided to scroll back through my music library and compile a list of what I consider to be the best superhero “themes” from these films. There may be a few films I haven’t seen, so certain themes might have evaded my notice, but I have witnessed the bulk of them and here are my results!

I’ve linked a Youtube video (not mine) after each selection that contains the theme, as well as the Amazon link for purchase/listening. This isn’t sponsored or anything and I don’t own the rights to these songs; just want to have a bit of fun and spread some good hero themes around!

5.) Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Danny Elfman
Obviously I haven’t seen Tom Holland’s solo spin on our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man yet (besides his appearance in Civil War, which was excellent) but I’ll always have a place in my heart for the original Spider-Man films and Toby Maguire’s portrayal of the character. Maybe it’s because they were the first superhero films I got into, but regardless, I love both the original Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 – I actually still consider the second one to be one of the greatest superhero films to date. Not big on the third one, to be honest, but one thing is consistent throughout the three films – the music, and the amazing Spider-Man theme provided by Danny Elfman. In a way, the theme covers an “arc” – it hits different tones, from sweeping and emotional to action-packed and intense, hitting all the notes that combine to make a heroic sound. I honestly can’t even remember the theme from the second series of films; that’s not to say the music is bad, just that Elfman’s theme packed a bigger punch and has come to define the character (for me, at least.)

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase on Amazon: LINK!

4.) The Avengers (2012) – Alan Silvestri
Though I’ve loved nearly all of the Marvel solo hero films to date, I actually have trouble remembering the theme music for all of the individual characters; they’re all good in the moment, but none of them really “stuck” with me after the films ended. However, when the characters all teamed up for 2012’s The Avengers, they earned a new “team” theme, and it’s pretty great. It’s definitely the kind of song that will encourage you to finish the last strenuous laps of a running session or push you to the end of a difficult workout, and when it plays in the film, it’s easy to get pumped up about seeing a team of heroes take on a dastardly villain. It’s got the right blend of hype-building and morale-boosting, which is perfect for an ensemble film like The Avengers; it helps them sound like a team, instead of just looking like one.

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase on Amazon: LINK!

3.) Doctor Strange (2016) – Michael Giacchino
Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Doctor Strange is the most recent introduction into the MCU, and his theme music is very fitting for him as a character. Doctor Strange is enigmatic, sarcastic, and his ingenuity is as much as strength as his actual powers are; and since he is a “different” sort of hero than most of the other MCU characters, his theme is also a little strange – in the best way.  It’s definitely my favorite theme from the Marvel films, which isn’t much of a surprise, since Giacchino consistently delivers great themes and scores (Rogue One comes to mind as a recent non-superhero standout). I went into this film knowing very little about Doctor Strange, and emerged from the theater humming the theme song under my breath. It’s whimsical and heroic and evokes strength all at once; the perfect sound for a hero who defies the norm.

Here is the LINK(Youtube)
Or purchase on Amazon: LINK!

2.) Wonder Woman (2017) – Rupert Gregson-Williams / Junkie XL
One of the major highlights of 2016’s Batman V Superman was the introduction of Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman, and her solo film was released to glowing reception a little over a year later. And her theme music is absolutely BADASS – just like the character herself. The theme was initially created by Junkie XL for BvS but was also included and expanded on in the solo film, and Gregson-Williams does it justice. When this theme starts playing, it’s obviously a pulse-pounding, energetic prelude to some serious action, and it’s the perfect music to serve as the buildup and backdrop to battle. When Wonder Woman made her first appearance in BvS, this theme played to announce her arrival, and I remember sitting in the theater, listening to the music, and thinking “Wow – this is how a hero makes an entrance.” Now, every time it starts playing when Diana is fighting onscreen, I get chills; it’s everything a heroic theme should be and I hope we get to hear it in all Wonder Woman appearances to come.

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase from Amazon: LINK! (WW) and LINK! (BvS)

1.) The Dark Knight (2008) Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Though the theme from the original Batman film back in ’89 is pretty excellent as well, I think Zimmer and Howard’s theme for the caped crusader is the most definitive and powerful version thus far. Whenever this theme kicks up, it gets the energy flowing; it’s come to signify Batman as a character and really helped to mold The Dark Knight Trilogy as a whole. Like Elfman’s Spider-Man theme, this one seems to cover an arc – it hits all the notes of Batman’s character; his suffering, his heroism, his experiences, his humanity. None of these films would be what they are without their score, but I’d argue that Zimmer and Howard’s contribution to this trilogy has the biggest overall impact. It’s a theme I won’t forget, even when new incarnations of Batman take the screen; this is a theme that will endure, and whenever I think of Batman, this is the theme I associate him with. I’m still baffled the soundtrack wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar, though that’s probably because I’m biased. The Dark Knight Trilogy really revolutionized the “comic book film” genre with its gritty, dark tone and groundbreaking performances, and the music provides the a fitting, powerful soundtrack to Bale’s incarnation of the much-beloved character.

Here is the LINK! (Youtube)
Or purchase from Amazon: LINK! 

Writing Techniques: Music

When it comes to my own writing projects, I typically construct playlists to listen to while working. I LOVE when I read a great book and the author includes a list of songs they listened to while writing, either on their website or in the back pages. It helps readers get a glimpse into their process, in a way – to peek at their inspiration.

The full playlist I listened to while writing I’m With You can be found here. Now, the playlist is quite long, so for this post, I thought I’d take just a few selections from the list and explain the impact they had on the writing process. No major spoilers, though. If you’d like to read I’m With You and see the results of the playlist for yourself, here is the link to buy from Amazon! It’s available in print and e-book formats, and is also available in print on the Barnes and Noble website.

Dead Hearts by Stars
This song was pivotal in the creation and evolution of Remiel as a character. Not only for the lyrics, but also for the general sound, which I found incredibly unique from the first time I heard it. To me, this song evokes sadness, but it also seems cold and detached, even when exploring something very visceral – which was fitting for Rem’s personality.

If There Was No You by Brandi Carlile
Valkyrie and Ramus were created as characters long before the plot of I’m With You was finalized. Their original roles were quite different (one of them was originally a hit-man, one had two-toned hair, etc) and they have undergone many changes in personality and background as the narrative evolved into the final version, but their relationship (both the good aspects and the problematic) remained largely unchanged throughout development. This song was a partial inspiration in that regard, as without the other, their characters would not be complete.

Light by Sleeping at Last
A major idea I tried to explore in the novel was the idea of “family,” though not always in a typical sense. To me, this song emulates the influence/impact a person can have on another, whether it be via familial connection, friendship, or some other meaningful relationship. Since the main characters forge bonds with one another over the course of the story, weaving themselves together into a makeshift family, and they each come to be important to one another in some way, the content of this song seemed very appropriate. Also, I like how it sounds.

People Help the People by Cherry Ghost/Birdy
I think people are more familiar with Birdy’s cover of this song, which is amazing, but I will always prefer the original. I love all of Cherry Ghost’s work, which is criminally underrated. Overall, this song’s tone and sound is what I derived the most inspiration from, but one line in particular is what stands out to me the most, and that is: “And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it,” which reminded me of the sibling relationship between Ciarán and Remiel, and how they support one another.

Dead Man’s Suit by Cherry Ghost
This song sort of served a dual purpose – I consider it thematic for the novel, mostly for the unique sound it has, and also because my play count for this song was extraordinarily high when all was said and done. It’s one of those songs that really hit me when I first heard it, and I never skip it when it comes on shuffle. It is also a partial influence for the character of Ernest Morrigan, Rem and Ciarán’s father, due to some particular lines of lyrics.

Six Weeks by Of Monsters and Men
Along with Your Bones, King and Lionheart, and Silhouettes, this song was pivotal during the writing of chapters 17-19, largely for their sound and lyrical content. Six Weeks, in particular, influenced the development of Cinderflynn as a character, and it, along with some of the other Of Monsters and Men songs on this list (from their first album – the second wasn’t out at the time of the first draft) were on repeat as I wrote those portions of the story, and were a definite factor in the development of the narrative and the overall tone. Of Monsters and Men have a very distinct “mountain sound” to their work that I sought to emulate while writing those chapters, and their songs provided a lot of inspiration.

The Story by Brandi Carlile
In addition to being one of my favorite songs of all time (OF ALL TIME, I TELL YOU), this song was also one I listened to for the general feel of the story/themes. If I hit a snag with writer’s block, this song helped drag me out of it. This song was my rock. I think if the main cast had a theme song to tie them together (you know… like the Power Rangers… or the Planeteers… or the Transformers, maybe) then this would be my choice, because the main characters are bound by their own stories, as well as “the story” that brings them together.

Coming Home (pt. 2) by Skylar Grey 
I listened to this song (the version sans the rap part) while I wrote the closing chapters of the novel, as it definitely struck me as an “ending theme.” It symbolizes the end of a journey; a determination to see something through to the end, until it is time to return “home.” The final stretch of a laborious journey. Etc, etc.

My Silver LiningFirst Aid Kit
This song wasn’t released until I’m With You was in the editing phase, but it still provided a boost of motivation as I worked through rewrites and tweaks to the manuscript. Because if there is anything the main (and supporting) characters needed during their ventures, it was a “silver lining” to their respective circumstances. Also, it’s a total jam, man.

DemonsImagine Dragons
I liked this song for the overall tone and theme, but also as a partial influence for Kaz’s personality and his mentality. Several characters grapple with their own demons over the course of the narrative, so the song is fitting for the plot, but I listened to this particular tune during chapters 23-24, as I tried to convey that, though someone may be plagued by demons, it is not impossible to overcome them.

Believe by Mumford and Sons
This song didn’t come out until after I found out my manuscript was going to be published, but I added it to my playlist during the editing process. To me, the song explores what happens when belief falters and doubt sets in – but also about overcoming those difficulties, or striving to restore dedication in a cause. And that is the main plight that Ciarán faces in the story; his world gets flipped upside down, and he no longer knows what to believe. Through the course of the novel, he must learn to cope with new circumstances; to find belief again, after his perspective gets utterly rearranged.