Monday, May 14, 2012

Music in A Tree Of Bones: The Longest Post EVAR

One day to Release, and I finally make it to the Inevitable Music Post...longer and crazier, as befits the longest, craziest book I've written thus far. It also breaks down into thematic sections, so here we go:

My go-to list of Get Off Your Ass And Start Writing tracks, ie the songs I was listening to while cobbling together Book One of A Tree of Bones, which is called "Rain-Of-Fire Weather", go here. They basically describe the way my characters are supposed to feel—the Rev, Morrow, Doc Asbury, the Hex City and Bewelcome contingents, etc.--now that they've been engaged in a grindingly dreadful, quotidian mutual struggle against impossible odds for upwards of four months.
First off, we have the original version of Alexisonfire's "The Northern" (, a song which has rightfully been described as perfect for either a Supernatural or Carnivale vid, though I also think it'd do really well the The Borgias. I love the call-and-response between fuzzy guitar vs. distinct guitar, between Dallas Greene's painful hallelujah-choir vocals and the more Cookie Monsterish interjections of George Pettit. (I recently learned that they describe their aesthetic as being "the sound of two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight", which makes sense). The acoustic version of this was Sheriff Love, but THIS means full-out war.

Next up is Puscifer's "The Mission (M is for Milla Mix")" (, featuring guest vocals by—oddly enough—Milla Jovovich. Listening to the lyrics, I'm fairly certain this was developed for the soundtrack of her remake of Ms. .45; it also reminds me of the weird pseudo-New York voices the English version of Baccano has its characters affect. One way or the other, the beat definitely works, as does the tone.

Then we go straight to Agnes Obel's "Riverside" (, which apparently featured on the—pilot?—of Revenge. I love the overlapping vocals on this one as well, all Agnes herself, like a lullabye for some drowning girl caught in a wilderness of mirrors. I like the overall regret and hopelessness of it, the sense of bad decisions made for stupid reasons, the idea that whatever you do now will probably be useless at best and utterly destructive at worst. Because I'm like that.;)

And here's a double shout-out to e.e. cummings and Michael Ondaatje, by way of darkest New Zealand: "The Proximity of Death (Blue-Eyed Boy)" (, by Jordan Reyne. Her album is called How The Dead Live, and this song obviously reminds me of Chess, who everybody thinks is dead right now--down in the depths, anyhow, stranded in the Underneath with Tezcatlipoca walking 'round wearing his skin, flirting with both Morrow and the Rev while rubbing it in that he is really not him, not in any way that counts-for one thing, Chess's eyes are green. (P.S.: I found it on by typing in "dark folk", much the same way I found a lovely dirge by the Belgian group Ghent called "Kissing The Anus of a Black Cat".)

Then there's "Heavy Rain" by Torqux & Twist (, which I tripped across because somebody used it to score the American release trailer for Detective Dee & the Phantom Flame. It just seemed to work, especially since one of the ways in which Hex City has been deforming the New Mexico ecosystem has been to make is continually rain on Bewelcome. Fighting in the mud ahoy!

Then it's down to Mictlan-Seven Dials, for some family-oriented fun with Chess and his redoubtable Ma, the late "English" Oona Pargeter. 
We begin with Tom McRae's “For the Restless” (, which contains the image that perfectly encapsulates Oona for me—no, not a train-wreck beauty queen, so much, as You raised me to be cruel, you raised me like a bruise/I'm bleeding still. Part of Chess's action in this book involves coming to terms with not just the damage Oona's done to him but the damage he, all unwitting, did to her; this is a good start.
 After which we switch to Larkin Grimm's “Blonde and Golden Johns” (, a weirdly catchy look inside a hooker with no heart of gold to speak of, just a change-purse vajayjay and legs like scissors and butcher's knives, to quote Nick Cave...Oona as she ended up, as we left her, to be sure. But not as we find her.

Scarlet Town”, by Gillian Welch (, is about disappointment of a truly epic brand. Equally epic, meanwhile, is Sarah Jarosz's murder ballad-esque version of Edgar Allan Poe's “Annabelle Lee” (, which hints at great loves overturned and horrifying prices paid.
 But then there's the ultimate Christmas carol-turned-lullabye for a mother who spent most of her time wanting to shake her screaming, ginger, penis-gifted baby 'til something far more rewarding popped out: “Judas (Was a Red-Headed Man)”, by June Tabor & Oyster Band (couldn't find a video). This is no fairytale, for all its trappings—in a lot of ways, Oona got the son she well-deserved. But in a lot of other ways, they both deserved better.

At this point, we get into songs for one of my all-time favourite bastards, “Reverend” Asher E. Rook. All these songs are about pain, to one degree or another. They're about yearning for forgiveness, from someone specific, from God Himself. From anybody. And knowing you don't even vaguely deserve it.

“Devil with the Green Eyes”, Matthew Sweet (

The devil with the green eyes

Said you were never meant to be mine.

'Cause I came up from a dark world

And every love I've ever known,

Every love I've ever known

Every love I've ever known,
Is dead.

Black Heart”, Calexico (
One man’s close pursuit is another man’s 

Last chance, make it through the divide. 

Last chance, suffer the weight or get buried by this 

Black heart, sweeping over the land,

Black heart, crawling its way 

To the four corners of the world.

Bartholomew”, The Silent Comedy (
Ate the bread that once was stone,

Fell from a cliff, never broke a bone,
Bowed down to get the kings overthrown,
And I'm all alone, and the fire grows,

And I'm all alone, and the fire grows.

The Other Side”, David Gray (

Honey, now if I'm honest,

I still don't know what love is.

Breathless”, Dan Wilson (

Your voice is echoing again

Through catacombs inside my mind
And I've been dreaming of revenge—
To make you love me more than even you can try.

“Poison & Wine”, the Civil Wars (

Your hands can heal, your hands can bruise,
I don't have a choice but I still choose you.

Oh, I don't love you, but I always will.

“Draw Your Swords”, Angus and Julia Stone (
So come on, Love, draw your swords,

Shoot me to the ground.

You are mine, and I am yours—
Let's not fuck around.

Then a few songs that remind me of that dread item Lady Rainbow herself, the Suicide Moon, Queen Rope, She of the Traps and Snares...Ixchel-tzin, hex-ghost-goddess founder of Hex City and initiator of its bright new future, if only so as to use and discard it in the service of resurrecting a far older, far darker world.

First up is “What the Water Gave Me”, by Florence + the Machine (, about a “cruel mistress” with whom “a bargain must be made” requiring self-drowning, pockets full of stones, a sacrifice as certain as the one that initially spawned her. Like Candyman himself, Ixchel seems to have made the most of her original victimization, becoming literally larger than life (and death): Unforgettable, inescapable, the flood that sucks you down and transforms you into something cold, wet, Mictlan-Xibalba-bound. This is a definite aural expression of that sentiment.

Then again, she can also blow past like a storm, enveloping everything around her in terrible, epiphany-spawning darkness. Thus my use of “Dark Storm” by the Jezabels ( and the Scanners' “Salvation” (, which get this point across admirably—the frenzy that will sweep up even a man as firmly-rooted as Reverend Rook and whirl him headlong, 'til his groin pops and his brain leaks out his ears. I’ve been waiting for the dark to come,/My temptation and salvation/I’ve been waiting for the tide to turn...Dark eyes become divine/I need the love I crave/Your hands they burn like mine/I’ll take you to my grave.

As I think I probably indicated in my review earlier this year, there was basically only one good thing in the film Red Riding Hood, and it was a doozy: The use, in a truly freaky drunken Mediaeval “hey-we-killed-a-werewolf! (but not really)” village festival, of Fever Ray's song “The Wolf” ( It begins with what sounds like one of those Swiss alphorns blowing so low you can hear it mountains away, followed by a frenzy of ullulation and a possessed-sounding vocal eking out prophetic poetry: We took you out/From your mother’s womb/Our temple,/Your tomb/Can be your pick/Not pawned/The poison/Is blood. (Owwwwoooooooo!) Suitable for all Hex City-based rituals and revels, with Ixchel slouching on her overseer's throne, accepting—nay, demanding—constant tribute, in that same flowery substance.

And finally, we conclude with the track “Brotsjor” by Olafur Arnalds (, which I first heard on So You Think You Can Dance U.S. as the backing for a pas-de-deux between a thirst-tortured desert straggler and the sexy vulture who wanted to eat him once he died. “Sexy vulture” sounds to me like a costume Ixchel would be entirely in favour of, so there you go.;)

The rest of my playlist is divided neatly into the two halves of my central sort-of-OT3: Yancey Kloves/Ed Morrow vs. Chess Pargeter. As we all know, this is more a couple and their friend-with-benefits, a vector in which big, solid Ed forms the overtly sexual midpoint between Chess and Yancey, who can never be more to each other than platonic compadres—and even that's a bit dicey, since Chess is outright queer and Ed is a straight guy with one exception, so neither of them thinks that what they've had together in terms of physical intimacy is workable in any sort of longstanding way, not least because they're both "in love" with other people. But there's a certain emotional intimacy that all three characters share, by this point, which I've taken great pride in building.

Morrow and Yancey:

“Run”, Daughter (

When I powder my nose

He will powder his gun,

And if I try to get close
He is already gone.

Don't know what we're doing,

Don't know what we've done,

But the fire is coming

So I think we should run.

“Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”, Tim O'Brien (

Señor, señor, can you tell me where we're headin'?

Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?

Seems like I been down this way before.
Is there any truth in that, senor?

“Like A Mountain”, Timber Timbre (

Oh, the mountain-top 

Oh, the visions stop

And I will reap the locust crop,
'cause I love you like a mountain.

Oh, the mountain-top 

Oh, the bleeding's stopped

And down goes the hatchet on the chopping block,
'cause I love you like a mountain.

“Supernaturally”, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (

Once I was your heart's desire—
Now I am the ape hunkered by the fire

With my knuckles dragging through the mire.

You float by, so majestically.

You're my north, my south, my east, my west—
You are the girl that I love best.

With an army of tanks bursting from your chest.
I wave my little white flag at thee.

“Ain't No Sunshine”, Wovenhand (

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone,

Only darkness everyday...
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone

And this house just ain't no home,
Anytime she goes away.

“Sleeper in the Valley”, Laura Veirs (

So soon, so soon,

And the crows, they swoon
At the two red holes
In his right side, oh.


The Day”, Murder By Death (

It's the shifting of the guard,

Time to start anew
The old gods have all failed,

And their successors too.

My king, my king

Will wipe the slate clean,

Houses become tombs;

My king, my king

Will take the fruit 
of every single womb

And make it his own.

“Queer Eyed Boy”, Rumspringa (

Mama, why's the sky so red?

Well, folks'll say there goes that queer-eyed boy,

Always pointin' at the stars.

“Davy Brown”, Ben Nichols (

Don’t believe in Hell

But he figures somehow,

Even if it’s real,
It’s gonna spit him back out.

The Good Hand”, Wovenhand (

I am nothing without

his ghost within...

I am, I am my father's son.

See the good hand,

see what the good hand done.

Eye For An Eye”, UNKLE (

...a tooth for a tooth.

Run, run, run, but you just can't hide.

(Have you passed through this night?)

“Who Do You Love?” George Thoroughgood & The Destroyers (

Got a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind, 

I'm just twenty-two and I don't mind dying.

Who do you love?

Rum Brave,” Murder by Death (

When we meet, you will see
I will destroy everything of beauty.

When we meet, then you'll know...

I'll be the axe that clears the forest.
We were left alone, left alone,

Every king on his lonely throne.

We were left alone, left alone,

Every king on his lonely throne.


Enjoy the carnage, everybody. Tomorrow's the day.


  1. Since I didn't get a call from my local bookstore today I'm guessing they won't have it in until the end of the week, but between rereading Rope of Thorns and listening to this I should be able make it til then.


    1. Excellent! It'll be well worth the wait, I'm sure...;)