July 3, 2018
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Tiny Crimes is a widely varied and fascinating anthology of very short crime stories.
The Chicago Tribune wrote of the book:
"An intriguing take on crime/noir writing, this collection of 40 very short stories by leading and emerging literary voices―Amelia Gray, Brian Evenson, Elizabeth Hand, Carmen Maria Machado, Benjamin Percy, Laura van den Berg and more―investigates crimes both real and imagined. Despite their diminutive size, these tales promise to pack a punch."
One of our goals with Tiny Crimes was to show the wide variety of crime fiction. Tiny Crimes includes writers of different genres--literary, horror, SF, you name it-- investigating the criminal, the illegal, and the depraved. Crime is a universal aspect of human life, and crimes are found everywhere in fiction. Science fiction criminals in a dystopian future, surrealist detectives trying to solve absurd cases, horror fiction crimes more terrifying than ghosts and zombies. Crime is as common in music as it is in literature. Criminals and illegal acts are found all across the music spectrum, from post-punk and pop to hip-hop and country. Here’s just a small sampling of some:
“Stealing People’s Mail” by Dead Kennedys
The first song that comes to my mind with “tiny” crimes is this classic Dead Kennedys song about, well, stealing people’s mail. Not to downplay the seriousness of mail theft, but “Stealing People’s Mail” is a rare lighthearted song in the midst of the blistering satire of American life that is the DK debut album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. A favorite lyric is the description of the banality of the American mailbox: “And we got license plates, wedding gifts, tax returns / Checks to politicians from real estate firms / Money, bills, and canceled checks / Pretty funny pictures of your kids!”
“Adopduction” by Les Savy Fav
Les Savy Fav was always one of the best live bands indie rock bands, even if the music didn’t always translate as well off stage. But “Adoptduction” is brilliantly catchy song about being kidnapped and then adopted “by a guy with a moustache / and a chick with an eyepatch / who thought they could trade me back / for some quick cash.” It also has a literary connection in my mind, as I heard it around the time I read Charles Simic’s The World Doesn’t End and always think of Simic’s poem about being stolen back and forth by gypsies and parents.
“Best of All Possible Worlds” by Kris Kristofferson
One of the best cynical country songs ever, and one that bucks the normal country jingoistic patriotism for a pretty accurate summary of America “justice” system: “That policeman said Mr. Cool / if you're ain't drunk then you're a fool / I said if that's against the law tell me why I never saw / a man locked in that jail of yours who wasn't just as lowdown poor as me.”
“Thru Your Phone” by Cardi B
If you’re alive right now, you’re probably listening to Cardi B instant classic Invasion of Privacy this summer. As the title implies, there’s plenty of crimes and threats of illegal acts in here. “Through Your Phone” is one of the standouts among an album of standouts, which mixes Ali Tamposi crooning sadly about being cheated on--“I went through your phone last night / saw some things I didn't like”--with Cardi B threatening violent revenge: “I'ma make a bowl of cereal... with a teaspoon of bleach!”
“Mac 10 Handle” by Prodigy
Mobb Deep rap legend’s best solo song, “Mac 10 Handle,” isn’t about crimes exactly. Rather, it’s about a psychotic character who spends his time watching John Woo’s Hardboiled and planning crimes and vengeance. It has a great funky beat, and lyrics that alternative between the bizarre and the brutal. Only Prodigy can make the chorus of “I sit alone in my dirty ass room / staring at candles / high on drugs” sound menacing instead of ridiculous.
“Criminal Intent” by Robyn
“Somebody alert the authorities, I got criminal intent / Conspiracy to engage in lewd and indecent acts and events” is the chorus for Swedish electropop artist Robyn’s tongue-in-cheek dance tune “Criminal Intent.”
“I’m Waiting for My Man” by The Velvet Underground
Of all the types of crimes, taking illegal substances is probably the most common in rock n roll songs. Hell, the slogan of the genre is “sex, drugs, and rock n roll.” But with The Velvet Underground, instead of a typical song about the joys of partying we get a darker and more honest look at what illegal drug use is like: “I'm waiting for my man / twenty-six dollars in my hand / up to Lexington, one, two, five / feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive.”
“Long Black Veil” by Gillian Welch
“Long Black Veil” is a classic country crime ballad (if such a category exists), telling a narrative of adultery, murder, and wrongful execution. It’s been covered countless times since it was written in the 1950s by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, including by Johnny Cash, The Band, and Joan Baez. But Gillian Welch’s version is a particularly haunting one.
Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto and Tiny Crimes links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists