Well, NaNoWriMo is now complete, and naturally, I did not win because LOL I’m in school and that kind of takes priority. But! I have almost a month of absolutely no school. I mean, I’m taking a short, self-paced herbalism course because of course I am, but other than that, I’m going to focus on writing. Over the past month, I’ve gotten a ton of inspiration, some from my wonderful writing group that I met through the Isa Mazzei writer workshop (currently on hiatus until she finishes her newest movie) and others from various sources, like the podcast Switchblade Sisters and even my own creative consciousness.
I already started writing last month – I wasn’t completely incapable of creativity for the whole of November – but I think I really hit my stride. Music played a huge role in that, so if you wanna check out my YouTube playlist, please do. If not, here are some highlights of how I want my story’s playlist to sound. A lot of these are obviously major pipe dreams, but hey, weirder things have happened to me.
So there’s a lot of the Blue album on this part of the list, but honestly? It’s my favorite out of all of the soundtracks. And there are way more than you’d think there would be, especially since this was a single run of 26 episodes (and a movie). The red album was my first foray into the music on Cowboy Bebop, but I didn’t really realize Yoko Kanno’s brilliance until I ran across Blue. No Disc is a close second in favorites, though, so it gets sprinkled in there a bit.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this travel into the weird, wild brain of Yoko Kanno and her Crazy Batch of Musicians. I’m just going to go listen to this shit nonstop.
Anyone who reads my challenges knows that I love the soundtrack challenge days because it’s basically just another on rotation … and I get to relisten to a lot of music that I forgot I loved so much. This is no different. Yoko Kanno is a musical genius, who has done so much that it’s a damn shame she hasn’t gotten more work in the United States (I mean, if she cares about that sort of thing, I guess).
This is 100% going to be a two-parter, so be on the lookout for a second page.
It’s my last week of relative freedom – I still have work, which BOO – so I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing, specifically on my Paradiso project. I haven’t talked a lot about it because it’s still very much in its first stage, but let’s just say I’m super excited about it. Part of the fun was creating a soundtrack, and this is where I am with it now. Eep!
1 – “HURT” BY ARLO PARKS
2 – “SYNTHETIC LIFE” BY JULIAN EMBRY / DANA JEAN PHOENIX
The music entries are almost always my favorite posts in the challenges I do, and they rarely distill into a single track. By rarely, I mean never, and this trend continues with Mass Effect. So, without further ado, I give you my favorite pieces from the whole series:
NOTE: I’m splitting this into two parts because I do not want to overload the page with a bunch of YouTube videos.
And here, my friends, is Part II! Mass Effect 3 had some great pieces in it, some of them bumping earlier favorites down my list – in particular, “Rannoch.” I just love its epic feel. So freaking great.
MASS EFFECT 3
MASS EFFECT 3 DLC
And there we have it: my favorite bits from the soundtracks! I could listen to every song from the beginning – and have done so several times – but I’ll let y’all do that on your own.
Now that I’ve got my two main characters outta the way, I can go into the major characters! First up? Sunny, Jill’s longtime best friend.
Sunshine “Sunny” Colon-O’Bryan met Jill in a ballet class when they were four years old and instantly bonded (Jill quit after a couple of classes, but their parents saw how much they liked each other and organized some playdates). After she was forced to quit her career as a dancer due to an injury, Sunny became a personal trainer and group fitness instructor and helps out at her husband’s bar when he needs it. She is thankful Jill has moved back to Nashville, as she will need her best friend’s moral support as she goes to school to become a registered dietitian.
LOVES: campy horror films, bold eye looks, anything that smells like roses, the color lilac; HATES: marshmallows.
If there were any artist that perfectly embodied Sunny, it would be Santigold: offbeat and eclectic, but still super approachable. She also creates danceable music that Sunny often inserts into her fitness classes, and “Freak Like Me” is probably the most used track out of Santigold’s entire repertoire.
Any artist that Prince touted was good enough of a reason to tune into them, but Sunny’s favorite is Martika, especially since she’s Latina. There were so few mainstream Latina singers as she was growing up that she latched onto those that got any type of airplay. “Love … Thy Will Be Done” was not nearly as popular as her No. 1 hit “Toy Soldiers,” but it’s Sunny’s choice as Martika’s best work.
Center Stage is one of Sunny’s all-time favorite movies, and it’s what introduced her to one of her all-time favorite songs: Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat.” The entire soundtrack is amazing, of course – although that may be a bit of nostalgia talking – but this is the best track from it.
Continuing with the movie thread, apparently, Moulin Rouge! also ranks in Sunny’s top five. She loved the twists on pop standards, and all the dancing just made her heart sing. But her favorite? “El Tango de Roxanne.” Hands down. Passionate, sweeping instrumentals paired with the emotionally charged singing of Ewan MacGregor and Jacek Koman? You can’t get any better than that.
When the Scissor Sisters “broke up” – they didn’t really, but they were on an indefinite hiatus – it nearly took Sunny an entire week to cope with the news. They are her go-to music for her fitness classes and are often featured on her Dance Dance Party Party playlists, with “Take Your Mama” used most frequently.
Annie’s “Chewing Gum” was Sunny’s anthem throughout most of the early 2000s, and she choreographed an entire dance routine from the music video for a showcase. Even though she doesn’t dance anymore – a motorcycle injury sidelined her for over two years – this song brings back a lot of happy memories.
“Feelin’ Love” by Paula Cole was the first song that made Sunny realize she might not be exactly straight. She and Jill were listening to the City of Angels soundtrack that came out at the end of their middle school years – oh, how badly she wanted Meg Ryan’s short curly hair from that movie – and when she focused on the words, she looked at Jill and said, “So … I might like girls?”
And speaking of Sunny’s sexuality, she has already told her husband Harvey that, if Janelle Monae ever presents herself to her, she will leave him in a second, and when he watched the video for “Yoga” with her, he said he’d completely understand.
Badass women of all walks of life inspire Sunny, and Dolly Parton is definitely a badass, particularly anytime she sings about people underestimating her. The first time Sunny heard “Dumb Blonde,” she couldn’t believe how much she ended up respecting Dolly by the time the song finished. She and Jill fan-girl all over Dolly and hope to someday meet her.
As hard as the Scissor Sisters’ breakup was, Sunny was inconsolable when Prince passed away, and every year on his birthday, she wears all purple and listens to his albums chronologically, from the first (1978’s For You) to the ones released posthumously (Piano & a Microphone 1983, in particular, is amaaaaazing). However, she always plays “P. Control” at least three times in a row.
And now onto Abby, the younger sister! Abby is a successful social media manager for a local chain of coffee shops, and she also runs a small web designing company, which is her true passion. She recently inherited the house of her biological maternal grandmother, and she and her husband, Steven, moved in shortly before her estranged sister announced she would be returning home. Without any hesitation, Abby offered to let Jill stay with them and is trying to balance repairing their relationship with the rest of her hectic life.
LOVES: K-dramas, her exercise ball chair, cheetahs, the color green; HATES: needlessly expensive children’s clothing.
Abby’s music tends to be more poppy than her older sister’s – although no less diverse – and her love of Robyn’s album Body Talk is the best evidence of that. She eagerly looks forward to whatever Robyn releases, but “Dancing on My Own” is still her absolute favorite: she and two of her friends from her book club even tried to learn the dance moves from the music video. They weren’t very successful, in case you were wondering.
As a Nashvillian, Abby grew up with country music playing all around her, and although she shunned the genre throughout her teenage years, she discovered that it wasn’t all bro-country. Maren Morris was the first country star to really catch her ear when her fourth album, Hero, was released in 2016, and Abby nearly purchased an 80s Mercedes because of the song by Morris.
Abby absolutely loves the entire lo-fi hip hop craze and is a regular listener to ChilledCow’s livestream. Now combine that with Abby’s obsession with Korean dramas, you can bet she probably heard Yerang Lee‘s new single, “Flower Garden,” on that YouTube channel.
Abby is just as susceptible to advertisements as Jill is (remember Jill’s love of the Bodyrocker’s “The Way You Move”), as she was introduced to Sofi Tukker through one of Apple’s iPhone commercials that featured “Best Friend,” but ever since then, the band has been a staple on her daily playlists, just to infuse a bit of peppy fun into it (specifically “Fuck They,” from the same album).
The first time Abby heard of Rhiannon Giddens was when she discovered the incredible music of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group that Giddens founded in Durham, NC, and Abby just naturally started following her solo career. Abby never really enjoyed Americana-style music very much until she heard Rhiannon and has since expanded her horizons there, but her she always seems to come back to her first. Giddens’ most recent full album – 2017’s Freedom Highway – is currently heavily in Abby’s music rotation, especially, “Julie.”
Abby’s first musical obsession was Madonna, and it started when she was just a little girl. She would bounce around to “Material Girl” and didn’t understand why her father had a problem with her listening to Erotica. Her favorite Madonna era, though, spanned from 1998 – 2000, particularly her Ray of Light album. Even though Madonna has proved incredibly problematic and Abby has sort of stopped trying to defend the woman, she can’t manage to keep herself from listening to the album, especially her favorite song from it, “Frozen.”
So you know how above it says Abby loves K-dramas? Well, she first got into anime when she was trying to bond with Jill in high school, and that led her to the completely incomparable Yoko Kanno, an amazing composer who has created iconic music for several anime series that somehow manages to be ageless. But Abby’s favorite? Her work on Cowboy Bebop. No matter how many times she listens to the opening theme (and the first song on the first OST), “Tank!,” she always gets lost in the music and always manages to regret stopping trumpet lessons.
Despite abandoning her training as a trumpet player, Abby maintains a special love for jazz music. She bounces from classic jazz like Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and their contemporaries to newer artists, like Kandace Springs. “Unsophisticated” was the first song Abby ever heard by her and it quickly cemented itself as one of her favorite songs of all time. And one of the quickest ways to get Abby pissed off is to tell her that jazz is on its way out or that it’s only for old, rich, white men. FYI.
Another way to piss Abby off is to talk shit about Mariah Carey. She still blissfully owns the DVD to Glitter and has every single album she has ever released. She is also eagerly awaiting the autobiography coming out in September 2020 (who isn’t??) and has felt the need to relisten to the entirety of her discography, although she does tend to revisit 1997’s Butterfly more often than many of the others. She doesn’t mean to be partial, but damn, it has “Fourth of July” on it.
Michael Kiwanuka is one of Abby’s most recent musical discoveries, and she literally can’t get enough of him. He reminds her of the old 1960s and 1970s soul artists she and her father would listen to when she was younger, and just the sheer emotion behind his voice is enough to bring her to tears. “Cold Little Heart” just happens to be one of the first songs on her wake-up playlist that starts her day, and she’ll often skip over several of the ones before it just so she can hear it.
I’m trying to get to know the two main characters of my novel (to be turned into TV script or scripts), and I’m trying to branch out in ways that I haven’t before. I’ve created (goes to count) five Pinterest boards that are dedicated to Jill & Abby, and I’ve created playlists for most of the main characters.
First up: Jill.
Jill has just moved back to her hometown of Nashville, TN, after leaving her husband of five years, and is living in the basement of her younger sister and brother-in-law’s house. Jill is struggling to adjust to life as a newly-single woman: finding a job, reestablishing friendships, and just figuring out who she is now that she doesn’t have her husband in tow. She is an artist, primarily visual, and hopes to one day have a gallery showing, despite her losing her inspiration.
LOVES: llamas/alpacas, Wassily Kandinsky, the colors teal and coral; HATES: grammar police.
The opening scene of the original script (which honestly, I’m keeping because I freaking love this scene) has Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” blasting, because Jill’s favorite music genre is 1970s glam rock. “Looking for a Kiss” by the New York Dolls happens to be my favorite of this genre, but I figure that Jill would love this song, too.
Nelly Furtado’s music pops up into my head quite frequently when I think of Jill, but a lot of that comes from Jill and I being the same age: I loved this album when it came out and have followed Furtado ever since hearing that first track, “Hey, Man.” She’s incredibly underrated and versatile and deserves way more attention than she gets.
Although Jill doesn’t always agree with Amanda Palmer (e.g. not paying artists because they should want to perform with her for free or some shit), she absolutely loves her music, and seriously, you should go check out the live version of “Melody Dean,” because this song is so hard to sing without nearly passing out. (Side note: this record was actually recorded in Nashville, a fact I just recently discovered.)
Back in the early 2000s, Diet Coke was doing a seriously good job picking music for their ads, and I’m assuming that this is how Jill first heard Bodyrockers’ “The Way You Move.”
Trip-hop was pretty much all Jill listened to in college (other than her daily glam rock wake-up call), and Morcheeba was her top artist. “Blindfold” is probably their most well-known song, but the rest of the album The Big Calm is such great studying music. And sex music … just saying.
Now, I didn’t discover Brody Dalle until I watched a makeup tutorial video by Pixiwoo, and that’s also how I imagine Jill found out about her: she wanted the best way to wear her makeup to keep people wondering if she did it on purpose or just forgot to wash her face after a late night. Her music, particularly “Don’t Mess with Me,” is badass, though, so it all worked out.
Jill and her best friend, Sunny, have a healthy love for all things Dolly Parton and hope to one day meet their idol, going to Dollywood every year, in efforts to just run into her. Jill has every single one of Dolly’s albums saved on her Spotify, so she just randomly puts it on shuffle, and it just so happens to “Backwoods Barbie” is the first song that pops up.
Jill and her father, Chaz, bond over their mutual love of soul music, and Mavis Staples’ Only for the Lonely was the first LP he ever bought for her. Its first track, “I Have Learned to Do Without You,” was played over and over again when she broke up with her first boyfriend in high school.
The very first job Jill had was as a clerk at Nashville’s Tower Records (RIP) and she found all sorts of diverse music, including the indomitable Love Psychedelico, who just recently came out with a new single, “Swingin’.”
And finally, Kate Bush’s “Babooshka” was the inspiration for Jill’s high school senior year Halloween costume. Her school held a Halloween dance to keep the kids from being hooligans and egging people’s houses. She was almost sent home but was able to convince the teachers/chaperones that, if they sent her home, they’d have to send the boys who were shirtless home too. She then continued to use Kate Bush as a fashion icon for the next five years.
Alrighty, stay tuned for next week. I’ll be introducing you guys to Abby!
There is just something about the music challenge day that gets me excited, and Griffin is just a master. I own the majority of The Adventure Zone OSTs through Bandcamp, even though I could technically listen to them for free, because I truly believe in his talent. He can move you to tears or pump you up; it just depends on what his evil end goals are, I suppose.
But without further ado, here – in no particular order – are my favorites: