“Dance PM” by Hiroshi Yoshimura
I edited The Hurricane Book in a basement bedroom while listening to Hiroshi Yoshimura’s “Music for Nine Postcards” and “Wet Land” on repeat. Yohimura’s music, minimalist ambient with textured nature sounds, elevated the arduous, at times tedious, process of excavating memories in my little underground cave.
“Perfidia” by Los Panchos
“No one understands my suffering” is the first verse of this song, which often played from my grandparents’ home stereo (it looked like ancient computer with its built-in cassette, record, and CD players, and took up half of the living room). “Perfidia” was an AM radio staple in Puerto Rico when I was growing up, even though it was released in the 1940s. It was part of the soundtrack of my childhood, which was closely linked to that of my grandparents. “The sea, mirror of my heart/ oh, how many times it’s seen me cry/ the perfidy of your love.” I had no choice but to turn out dramatic.
“Querube” by Trio Los Condes
Another AM radio bop, this was one of my grandmother’s favorites. “Querube” (cherub) included some of my earliest pop culture references: Carlos Gardel (the tango singer) and Sophia Loren. “You’re prettier than Adriana, and much prettier than Sophia Loren.” Am I? I’d ask my grandmother. Of course, she’d say. And that’s when I knew she was full of crap.
“Brujeria” by El Gran Combo and “Que Te Pedi” by La Lupe
El Gran Combo is probably one of the most important salsa groups of the 20th and 21st centuries (second maybe to the supergroup Fania All-Stars). They and La Lupe, a Cuban singer who was practically adopted by Puerto Ricans, have been mainstays of jukeboxes back home since the 1960s. I’m embarrassed by the amount of times I’ve made American friends watch YouTube videos of live performances of these songs at 2:00am. They sound like being drunk and sweaty at a party de marquesina in Rio Piedras.
“Putita” by Babasonicos – “Las Flores” by Cafe Tacvba
I started going to punk shows with my stepbrother in the early 2000s. I made some of my most life-changing friendships there. My buddies introduced me to everything from psychedelic music to new wave to alt-rock bands from other parts of Latin America, Spain, and the US. This unlocked new ways of feeling and listening for me, and moved me away from the oldies my grandparents raised me on and the top 40 stuff my classmates listened to. I went back to these songs when I wrote the second half of the memoir. Even though I don’t miss being that age, I wish music still felt the same way it did when I first fell in love, learned to drive, or planned my escape from my teenage bedroom.
“Tears in the Typing Pool” by Broadcast and “Blue Flower” by Mazzy Star
When I moved to NYC as a teenager, it took me months to take the subway. I was terrified of it. I played these songs on my iPod on my long daily walks, or while sitting alone in the park trying to look aloof. They kept me company and gave me something to sink into when I didn’t know what to do with my hands. “I never really wanted your heart” anyway.
“Good Days” by SZA and “Sligo River Blues” by John Fahey
It may seem like an unlikely pairing, but these songs both feel like an exhale, which I needed to remind myself to do while I wrote the book. When I wasn’t editing, I was going through a painful breakup, working full time, and trying to power through a major depressive episode. These helped me get back to writing.