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June 13, 2018

Mark Haskell Smith's Playlist for His Novel "Blown"


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Dark and funny, Mark Haskell Smith's novel Blown is an engaging literary thriller.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Darkly amusing...[Smith] has a fine-tuned ear for witty repartee and a skill for embroiling even his most comically conceived characters in dramas that steer his plot through unpredictable twists and into unforeseeable outcomes. This is a surprising, memorable novel.'

In his own words, here is Mark Haskell Smith's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Blown:

I don't own a yacht. In fact, I don't think I've ever been on a yacht. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying the fantasy of yachting, that dream of a rum-soaked slow-fade into alcoholism and sun-ripened melanoma that I associate with dropping anchor in a quiet cove on the backside of St. Kitt's. Call me a romantic. It's a fantasy of leaving the work-a-day world and sailing away from ever having to answer another email or sit in a cubicle. It ‘s a popular fantasy. Just ask the “Parrotheads” singing along to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.

The Wall Street embezzler at the heart of Blown is a young man with a similar dream and, unlike me, he has access to enough money to pull it off. When he finally gets his yacht, he learns that there's a genre of music called “yacht rock.” It's the kind of music that you listen to when the sails are filled with a soft breeze and you're steering the boat with a cocktail in your hand. That's not when you want a lot of grinding guitars and pounding drums. You want something smooth, like that Pinot Grigio you're drinking. Despite its name, Yacht Rock does not rock the boat.

Hall & Oates – Sara Smile

Hall & Oates are, with Steely Dan and Michael MacDonald, part of the Holy Trinity of Yacht Rock. That they can be both smooth and rocked out, bland and soulful, is a kind of miracle in itself. They are truly masters of the form. And their songs are incredibly catchy. You could easily find yourself swabbing the deck while singing, "Baby hair with a woman's eyes, I can feel you watching in the night" and never think about how creepy the lyrics are.

Steely Dan - Peg

Famously named after a dildo in William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch, Steely Dan is the intellectual Yachtsperson's music of choice. Steely Dan is another group that defines the genre. I could've easily picked a dozen of their songs for this playlist -- Hey, Nineteen; Deacon Blues; Black Cow, etc. -- but I chose Peg because of Michael MacDonald's amazing backing vocals.

Michael MacDonald - Sweet Freedom

Does anyone sing Yacht Rock better than this man? The smoothest of the smooth. His blue-eyed crooning can turn a squall into a zephyr. Even his hair looks smooth.

Tennis - Ladies Don't Play Guitar

Yacht Rock isn't just for old white guys. This Denver-based duo is making an effort to revitalize the genre and bring some much needed lyrical irony to life on a boat. Fun fact: They actually go sailing.

Dent May - Across the Multiverse

Remember that time you were sailing off the coast of Maui and you saw a rainbow and thought it was a sign to take that leftover MDMA you had in the fridge and you ended up talking to dolphins for hours? This is the soundtrack from that day. Psychedelic Yacht Rock from a young Los Angeles-based singer songwriter.

Destroyer - Tinseltown Swimming in Blood

A Canadian band with a kind of groovy apocalyptic tale to remind you of what you left behind without disturbing the mellow vibe. Bonus: lyrics like "Flowers on the skyline, hey how was the wine?" make this a contemporary Yacht Rock classic.

Toro y Moi - Still Sound

If I had a yacht, I would only play Toro y Moi.

Washed Out - Hard to Say Goodbye

Stoner Bossa Nova from one of Toro y Moi's compatriots. I love this new American "Chillwave" music and nothing would be more perfect for a whale watching cruise through the Gulf of California.

Christopher Cross – Sailing

I don't really think of this song as classic yacht rock -- it hits your ears like a wad of cotton balls soaked in soy milk -- but it is about being on a sailboat. Lines like “The canvas can do miracles” resonate because every sailor knows it's true.

Looking Glass - Brandy

Not Yacht Rock at all, but this song about a twisted love triangle between a sailor, a bartender, and the ocean is about as epic as a song about such things can get.

Mark Haskell Smith and Blown links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Baked
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Raw

also at Largehearted Boy:

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