Am I exposing my single brain cell’s music taste? Yes. Come and roast me.
I wanted to chat about music I love, because I love it, and I thought, “Why not tie in some books? Why not guess whether a song matches a book on my TBR, just based off the vibes? Why not be wildly inaccurate for once?” All of these are good questions, and I intend to do so.
Thus, we are here. With a list of my Spotify “On Repeat” playlist + books I haven’t read but think will match the song, just based on feeling.
I will likely be very off the book’s vibe. It will likely be very amusing to see how wrong I am, to people who have read the book. I hope I provide either (a) cool new music for you to listen to (b) book recs based on inaccurate song comps (c) entertainment for y’all!
Because my “On Repeat” is a bit….repetitive within an album, mostly because I listen to music in full albums from beginning to end, I’ve only selected (1) song from each album on the “On Repeat” list. I’ve also made a section for a few other songs that I think should have been on the “On Repeat” list!
A quick disclaimer that I am absolutely clueless about music in general, so any words I use to describe it will likely be very different than whatever the traditional music industry or anyone with more than one brain cell uses. I cannot tell you the genre of anything, even when faced under extreme pressure. Enjoy my foolishness 🙂
(Also, not to jump on the “new release train,” especially given how 2020 isn’t even over yet and how I have a wonderfully enormous backlist TBR, but I’ve been hearing a lot about 2021 books from both the 2021 database I help manage with Rachel Strolle (find it at 2021ya.tumblr.com! it’s great!) and from the #the21ders Twitter chat I went to last week! So a few of these might slip into the recommendation, and I apologize for the very long wait until we will be able to read them.)
P.S. I have made a Spotify Playlist linked here with all these songs, in case you wanted to listen without searching everything up!
Songs From My On Repeat
Who’s Gonna Save U Now? from SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama
I tried (I tried) / You made me lose my mind (my mind) / So many times, oh / I wish you well but go take it somewhere else
The vibes on SAWAYAMA are so impeccable. It feels a little bit sci-fi & mecha, but can also get super dramatic and dynamic. There are so many bops here, and Who’s Gonna Save U Now? is one of my favorites.
A Book: Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha
I definitely felt like a sci-fi story would work really well with this album, and since I’ve already read Rebelwing (which, I think would be a great fit), I’ve guessed that the upcoming (Jan. 2021) Rise of the Red Hand would also work! The story features a ruthless technocratic government, cool robotics, hackers, and themes of climate change! I’m super excited because this is absolutely a type of story I would love.
Don’t Hurt Yourself from Lemonade by Beyoncé feat. Jack White
I’m just too much for you / We just got to let it be / Let it be, let it be, let it be baby
Lemonade is such a fantastic album. It took me a while to actually listen to all the tracks besides my favorites, but I especially love Don’t Hurt Yourself because it’s so intense and powerful and angry. I would not cross Beyoncé. Ever.
A Book: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
I could be totally off on the vibes on this one, but from what I’ve heard, there is so much drama and stabby goodness in These Violent Delights, thus the reckoning Beyoncé brings in Don’t Hurt Yourself could absolutely carry over to this Romeo and Juliette retelling. Rival gangs! Betrayal! Monsters! Powerful women I would let step on me!
Poor Fake from Blood by Kelsey Lu
Taking a closer look, inspection is key / What do we have here? Could this be a forgery? / Listen / Is this real or just a poor fake?
The entire vibe on Blood is so atmospheric and haunting and beautiful. Every time I click on this album I’m immediately transported, and every single track haunts me. To me, it feels a little bit like a limbo, like you’re hovering in between reality and something else.
A Book: Ghost Wood Song by Erica L. Waters
I’ve been meaning to read Ghost Wood Song for . . . an embarrassingly long time (blame the pandemic! my ARC was trapped!) but I think this might be a good match for Poor Fake and the rest of the album because of how the main character can call ghosts with her fiddle, like her father had done, and uses it to clear her brother’s name. This limbo sort of story just feels perfect for Kelsey Lu’s otherworldly voice.
Oom Sha La La from I Need to Start a Garden by Haley Heynderickx
And I’ve been doubtful / Of all that I have dreamed of / The brink of my existence essentially is a comedy
This is one of those albums that just comes to me at random moments, and I have to listen to it on repeat dozens of times until I can stop thinking about it. I would describe it as raw? Very honest in the way that Heynderickx vocalizes things. Sometimes mundane (I NEED TO START A GARDEN SCREECH), sometimes very powerful.
A Book: How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
I think the sort of “on the edge of laughing in the face of disaster” feeling I get from Oom Sha La La is something that would fit with How It All Blew Up. Ahmadi’s third book sounds like it has the same kind of dichotomy–devastating but also uplifting, joyful and painful at how it looks at identity and forging a new life for yourself.
1964 from Sit and Be by Blossom Caldarone
I’m not a child anymore / And I really am sure / Please don’t waste your tears
This EP is only four songs long, but it feels very nostalgic. It’s got a lot of themes about growing up and moving past childhood, and it’s really relatable for me. Maybe not for older people, but I mean! Nostalgia!
A Book: Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
The moment I read Furia‘s description, I felt like it was a perfect fit. Camile is outgrowing her family in a way–she wants to pursue her soccer dreams through her athletic scholarship to a North American university. But she also has strict parents who would never allow her a career in soccer. This fits really well with 1964‘s message about wanting to being seen as an independent person and adult with agency, I think.
Pink in the Night from Be the Cowboy by Mitski
And I know I’ve kissed you before, but / I didn’t do it right / Can I try again, try again, try again
Be the Cowboy is itself an iconic album. It’s one of those albums I lay down and listen to when I’m wallowing. (Sue me, okay.) I know Mitski isn’t for everyone, but her music has grown on me a lot, and I cling to it. Listening to Be the Cowboy feels like waiting for something, a little nervous, a little sad, but getting you ready.
A Book: A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong
A Map to the Sun is a graphic novel about second chance friendship and forming/re-forming relationships. “Trying again,” to quote Mitski. I think this makes it perfect for Pink in the Night and the growing and learning motif we see in Be the Cowboy.
Bite the Hand from boygenius by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, & Lucy Dacus
What do you wanna say? / What do you think will change? / Maybe I’m afraid of you
boygenius is such an amazing EP from a truly iconic trio, and I’m always moved and haunted by the melodies in it. It’s elegant and the harmonies are beautiful, but also a bit melancholy.
A Book: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
This is actually going to be my next read from the library, and I’m not sure how the vibes will match Bite the Hand, especially because The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea has some dark, dark pirates and adventures, but I’m riding on the hope that maybe Bite the Hand will capture some of the romance between Flora and Lady Evelyn? We shall see.
Broken Clocks from Ctrl by SZA
All that I’ve got, pieces and pages / Talking a lot, sorry I’m faded / Think I forgot, you love me
Ctrl is a great album, and SZA has so much emotion in her voice. There’s so many just little details to the album that I focus on, and certain lines or beats or melodies from the album just suddenly come to me at random moments, which I love.
A Book: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
I didn’t just pick Cemetery Boys because SZA says uwu in Broken Clocks (although, I think that’s reason enough), but also because I’m hoping that the imbalance SZA sings about is a motif we’ll see in Cemetery Boys, specifically Yadriel pushing back against his family’s traditional values. (I really am so excited for my preorder to come. I need time to go faster.)
Feel A Way from I Used to Know Her by H.E.R.
I’m too comfortable now / Ain’t feelin’ a way, nothing’s the same / I think every day that we’re lost, yeah
H.E.R. unpacks a lot in I Used to Know Her, and it feels like every time I listen, I hear something new. H.E.R.’s voice is kind of low and gentle, and I love how it contrasts against the beat in a lot of the songs. A lot the album is about grappling with relationships that don’t fit quite right.
A Book: What We Don’t Talk About by Charlot Kristensen
Thus, I think What We Don’t Talk About is an especially good fit for this, because it’s an adult fiction graphic novel about navigating an interracial relationship. I’m really excited to read it and how Kristensen explores relationships and race in What We Don’t Talk About, like H.E.R. does in Feel A Way.
Tupelo from The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
You get about a week of spring and the summer is blistering / There ain’t no one from here that will follow me there
The Nashville Sound has a very different vibe than a lot of other albums on this list, especially as it’s firmly in the “Southern rock” and “alternative country” category. (Whatever that means.) But Jason Isbell’s voice is so comforting to me and all of The Nashville Sound feels like you’re quietly sitting on a porch and being able to finally breathe. And think. And be.
A Book: Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
Yes, corn and Southern/Midwest vibes, but also Tupelo is about the significance of places and what it means to leave or come back, and I’m pretty sure that’s a big theme in Burn Our Bodies Down. Margot returns to her hometown and ends up exploring a lot of mystery and events behind her mother’s leaving.
A Few Other Songs that Have Haunted Me Recently
Paul from Masterpiece by Big Thief
See, you’re gentle baby / I couldn’t stay, I’d only bring you pain
Paul is another song that just suddenly comes to me at moments when I’m lying in my bed in the dark at night. Big Thief is more on the quiet end and their lead singer has a very unique voice. Like a warble from a bird at the high notes, and a gentle murmur at the low notes, creating this sound that just sticks with you.
A Book: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
The main character Marisol takes in someone’s grief in her own body to save a life in The Grief Keeper. It’s said to be tender, full of hard decisions and consequences, and I can’t help but feel like it might match with Paul and the unique sound of the singer’s voice.
First Love / Late Spring from Bury Me at Makeout Creek by Mitski
Please hurry leave me / I can’t breathe / Please don’t say you love me / 胸がはち切れそうで / One word from you and I would / Jump off of this / Ledge / I’m on / Baby / Tell me “don’t” / So I can / Crawl back in
I unquestionably listen to this specific song more than I do Be the Cowboy, so I do not understand why it’s not on my “On Repeat.” Nonetheless, someone just lay down and cry with me at this section, and also the whole album. It is my absolute Favorite song on this list. Yes, more Mitski.
A Book: A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
I can honestly say I’m not sure anything will live up to the intense devotion and heartbreak of First Love / Late Spring, but maybe A Lesson in Vengeance will (in 2021! screech!). Felicity is dealing with her girlfriend’s tragic death, and then she meets Ellis who’s researching her school’s bloody history, and they conduct a murderous experiment together. I’m hoping it will have the grief and haunting feelings of First Love / Late Spring.
Gone Tomorrow from Dead & Born & Grown by The Staves
Just give me some / Time to borrow / You’re here today / Gone tomorrow
The Staves are just. Magical. Dead & Born & Grown is their best album, and it feels like wandering through a growing forest to me. Their harmonies are fantastic, and the way their voices feel so unfiltered and raw is wonderful.
A Book: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
I know A Cuban Girl’s Guide deals with a lot of themes of leaving/staying, as Lila is temporarily living in England and missing Miami, but has more and more motivation to stay in England after she meets A Boy and falls in love with Winchester. You’ll have to listen to Gone Tomorrow to truly hear the soft, quiet feeling I think A Cuban Girl’s Guide will have.
Shivers from Good Luck, Kid by Joseph
Did I make it up? / Everything I trusted? / ‘Cause now it’s burning from the edges / Here the fire comes / Making ash and dust out of / Everything that made sense
More female singers harmonizing? Yes. Always. Joseph is a group of sisters and Good Luck, Kid is such a fantastic album, shaped almost like a movie? There’s a really clear arc through it, and I’d highly recommend not just the music, but listening to it in order. It’s a beautiful progression.
A Book: Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
Shivers is a haunting song and deals with questioning your reality and beginning to accept new changes. Only a Monster is far away in 2021, but the moment I heard about it, I was hooked. Monsters & monster slayers in London, and the protagonist Joan is dealing with a lot of changes in her life as she deals with eye-opening discoveries about people in her life, and forges new relationships with others. (Also. The love interest is a hot monster who’s a Planner™. Heh.)
Move Me from Young In All the Wrong Ways by Sara Watkins
So much is repetition / We mimic old decisions / And walk the same path / Just because we know where it will lead
Nickel Creek is weird but great bluegrass? Americana? music, but Sara Watkins’ solo folk album is also fantastic. There’s so many great buildups throughout the album, and Watkins builds intensity in so many different ways through it. Move Me is one of my favorites because of how she does this.
A Book: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Definitely not a perfect fit, because The Voting Booth is a 24 hour novel about getting your ass off the ground and going after the change you want (in this case, by making your vote count), but I also think we can see similar themes in Move Me and how it deals with change and wanting change to happen, and The Voting Booth and how it chases after the change it wants.