June 6, 2018
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
On a line level, Chelsea Hodson's collection Tonight I'm Someone Else might be the book of the year. These essays are lyrically precise and impeccably formed.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"A unique collection about being an artist and a woman in a world that doesn't always value either."
I sometimes reference books and films in my essays, but music was also an integral part of writing my book, Tonight I'm Someone Else. Music has always been in the background of my life, whether I was going to shows in high school and falling in love with the untouchable lead singers, playing guitar alone in my room, being so inspired by songs that I wanted to write essays that felt like the songs, or writing my book’s own theme song for the book trailer. Here are a few songs in particular that have had a lasting impact on me over the years.
DM Stith — “Pigs”
I love the eerie, lush atmosphere of this song, and I’d like to think that this is what my book would sound like if it could sing. And, just now, as I’m writing this, I’ve noticed an echo between this song and my book. DM Stith: “I’m leaving out the parts I don’t believe in,” and Tonight I’m Someone Else: “I disposed of memories until everything served me.”
Lykke Li — “Sadness Is A Blessing”
This is the perfect song to play on repeat when you’re walking through Manhattan thinking, “I’m so sad I don’t even remember how to walk.” This picks your pace up a bit, and it has such a triumphant ring to it that you’ll end up pumping yourself up, like “Yeah! Sadness IS a blessing!” In my book, there’s a part where I write about not wanting the intensity of an emotion (even a negative one) to dissipate, and I think this is the musical accompaniment of that: “Oh sadness, I’m your girl.”
Bob Lind — “You Should Have Seen It”
The “Cody” character in my book used to always play this song for me. It was his way of reminding me that he never claimed to be perfect, and that my expectation of him to be perfect was unfair. The problem was that I often did perceive him as perfect. But he was always very open about disappointing me someday, and he did. There was a comfort in experiencing the ending he’d told me so much about.
The Stooges — “I Wanna Be Your Dog”
This song reminds me of certain parts of the book in which submission becomes an act of love. I like this song because it’s not sentimental or romantic—to me it speaks to the animalistic, sloppy elements of lust that can be simultaneously memorable and disposable. On a Howard Stern interview from 1990, Iggy Pop explained the song by saying: “I wanna unite with your body, I don’t wanna talk about literature.”
Pissed Jeans — “Secret Admirer”
I could have put a lot of Pissed Jeans songs on this list—“I Broke My Own Heart” was a runner-up, but ultimately I think “Secret Admirer” is the one that directly speaks to some of the more voyeuristic aspects of the book (like the essay partially about my stalker). There’s so much humor in Pissed Jeans songs, but this song has a kind of danger and wildness that I really like. At the end of the song, the speaker threatens to one day show up in the beloved’s driveway singing “la, la, la,” which is maybe one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard.
Germs — “Manimal”
This song has some of my favorite lyrics ever: “Evolution is a process too slow / To save my soul / But I've got this creature on my back / And it just won't let go.” This reminds me of my own inquiry into the differences between human and animal (spoiler alert: I don’t think they’re that different), and I also grapple with the evolution of the self in another part of the book. When I don’t understand my behavior, I’m tempted to wonder if it’s a “leftover instinct” from a wilder time.
Puce Mary — “Night Is A Trap II”
This is my favorite song from the record that I listened to constantly while writing my book. It’s so brutal and powerful—certain moments of the record are spare and beautiful, but other songs like this one sound like the soundtrack to the world’s end. I think my writing is often “quiet,” but I like to think about how I can write quietly while also injecting a kind of unexpected chaos and energy, and I think listening to music like this has helped me experiment with that balance.
Mica Levi — “Lips to Void”
This is from the Under the Skin soundtrack, which is my number one most played album. I listened to it so relentlessly while writing the book that now, when I hear it, I feel like I should be writing. It became Pavlovian—I could immediately enter the dream of my essay by just listening to the soundtrack again. There’s such a palpable tension in this song—I think listening to it helped my prose adopt a different kind of atmosphere than it would otherwise have.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs — ”Maps”
I love the simplicity of this song, but I’m also including it here because Karen O and her ex-boyfriend lived in this apartment before my boyfriend moved into it, and now I live here, too. What I’m getting at is: years ago, when things were particularly rough and I felt like I’d never be a “real writer,” I used to listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and think about Karen O writing in the room I write in, washing dishes in the sink I wash the dishes in, and sleeping in the same room I sleep in. I have no proof that she did any of these things in the same rooms I do them in, but it’s the idea that counts. “I bet Karen O thought she’d live forever in this crappy apartment, too,” I’d think to myself, hoping for some of her luck to rub off. Maybe it did, but I still live here, and I still like this song.
Rihanna — “Same Ol’ Mistakes”
This is one of the best songs that articulates the high of meeting someone new that you think understands you. It’s so intoxicating that you become blinded to everyone, even yourself, because you perceive yourself as new. From the song: “Feel like a brand new person / (But you make the same old mistakes) / I don’t care I’m in love.” This of course speaks to my title, Tonight I’m Someone Else, which is a nod to the sensation of feeling like a new person in taking on a new role, and also the sadness that we are stuck with ourselves no matter what.
Lana Del Rey — “Blue Velvet”
I’ve written about Lana Del Rey before, and I love pretty much all of her songs, but I’ve included this song because of the reference in my book to David Lynch’s film, Blue Velvet. There’s a line in the book that goes: “I long and long—my acting is an attempt to cancel something out. ‘There,’ I say, putting lipstick on a face. Now I know what that’s like.” This is of course a reference to Dennis Hopper’s unhinged performance in the film, saying, “You know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker. You receive a love letter from me, you’re fucked forever!” I used to have this line appearing in the essay itself, but I took it out and left the lipstick reference, since I thought that was enough.
Mirah — “Mt. St. Helens”
This was one of the first songs I learned on my guitar when I was in high school, so I’ve sung the lyrics hundreds of times as I practiced, and therefore I feel as if the lyrics have been tattooed into me, in a way. “You have a pressure in you / To destroy the one who loved you” — brutal.
Kevin Morby — “Come to Me Now”
This is one of my favorite songs of the last year, so I thought I would end the playlist with it, which feels to me like the sound of nostalgia. “Come to me now as you did then” is such a lovely, simple request that reminds me of writing from one’s life. I play out these memories like films, rewinding and pausing, as if they belong to me.
Chelsea Hodson and Tonight I'm Someone Else links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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