It’s bizarre that films often have accompanying soundtracks, but books don’t. If I was in charge of literally anything, issuing out book soundtracks would be my number-one priority. Don’t trust my album-book pairing capabilities? Ha-ha! Looks like you’ve already fallen directly into my trap. Take a look below and get prepared to be proven wrong once again.
7. Harvest by Neil Young // Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Inherent Vice is a movie that should not exist. Thomas Pynchon is practically infamous for writing unfilmable novels. So what the hell, right? How does something like Inherent Vice even get made, and also: how is it actually amazing?
The same answer applies to both questions: Paul Thomas Anderson. I can envision several other directors taking this project and getting something…completed. But where I struggle is coming up with a director who could’ve not only completed the film adaptation, but made it just as good if not, possibly, better than the source material. In many ways, Inherent Vice feels like an anomaly.
Not a goddamn soul on the planet ever assumed we’d see a Pynchon movie, and then bam, PTA comes out of left field with a goddamn masterpiece. That said, the novel is also incredible and should not be missed. This is a book about the end of a decade. It’s a story about a man out of time. It’s a love story where the romantic partner is nostalgia. For these reasons (and many others), I cannot recommend Neil Young’s Harvest enough to pair with Inherent Vice. Go listen to “Old Man” and tell me I’m wrong. I dare ya.
6. Haunted by Poe // House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
I might be cheating with this entry, but when you’re the person creating the rules it becomes increasingly easier to break them at your convenience. And, speaking of breaking rules, I think Mark Z. Danielewski’s debut novel shatters them all. “House of Leaves” is an impossible book about an impossible place.
It should not work, and—depending on who you ask—it doesn’t. Personally, it’s one of my favorite novels of all time. The album pairing for House of Leaves was the easiest choice out of any other entry on this list. For those unaware, Mark Z. Danielewski is the brother of Anne Decatur Danielewski—AKA Poe, the brilliant musician who released two badass albums in 1995 and 2000 then seemingly vanished from the public eye.
In my household, Poe is played on a constant loop. Will we ever see another album? Who knows? I think it’s wise to just be grateful we were blessed with two albums at all. Plus, her second record, Haunted? Did you know it’s basically an unofficial soundtrack to her brother’s novel? When was the last time you listened to it? I’m sure you already own it (right?), so go ahead and turn it on as you finish reading this article. Hell, just take a look at some of the tracks. Quickly you’ll realize you’ve owned a House of Leaves companion album your entire life and somehow never noticed.
On Haunted you’ll find songs with titles like “Exploration B”, “5&½ Minute Hallway”, and—appropriately enough—“House of Leaves.” It’s embarrassing to admit how long it took me to connect the album to the novel, so I’m not going to tell you. But yeah. These two together? Delicious.
5. A Day of Nights by Battle of Mice // Come Closer by Sara Gran
Battle of Mice is a “post-metal” supergroup consisting of Julie Christmas (Made Out of Babies), Josh Graham (A Storm of Light), Joel Hamilton (Book of Knots), Tony Maimone (Book of Knots), and Joe Tomino (Peeping Tom).
The only full-length album they’ve released back in 2006, titled A Day of Nights, is one hell of a banger. According to Christmas, the album is “written in a timeline that mirrors what was happening between Josh [Graham] and me in our growing, and then rapidly decaying, relationship.”
The music is loud, chaotic, and legitimately terrifying—which is also, coincidentally, exactly how I would describe Sara Gran’s novel, Come Closer. When folks talk about some of the scariest books of all time, for some reason they tend to forget about Come Closer. Those people are idiots. If you love insane, chaotic horror guaranteed to make you uncomfortable, “Come Closer” is the book you need. And if you want a similar atmosphere with music, A Day of Nights will undoubtedly get you there.
4. Lost Themes by John Carpenter // Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
Norman Partridge’s cult-classic horror novella, Dark Harvest, kicks off at the beginning of a small Midwestern town’s annual Halloween tradition (ritual): The Hunt for the October Boy. Who is the October Boy? Well, that’s a bit of a mystery, but let’s just say he’s a boy with a pumpkin for a head, and all he’s trying to do is make it across town. What’s stopping him? The hunters, of course—but who are the hunters? Why, it’s every goddamn kid in town, that’s who!
Every year, the children attempt to kill the October Boy. Whoever wins gets everything they’ve ever wanted in life. Their family is set-up like royalty. Money is no longer an issue. All they have to do is kill the October Boy. “Dark Harvest” is an intense, fun-as-balls horror novella that takes place during one of these hunts: a single night where ever kid in a small Midwestern town goes absolute apeshit as they attempt to murder a mythological pumpkin creature.
Late nights, long roads, mayhem in the streets…who better to direct something like that than John Carpenter? I’ve always thought a Carpenter adaptation would be killer. The odds of that actually happening do not seem likely, which means we will never get an official Carpenter Dark Harvest soundtrack—but, what we do have is Carpenter’s Lost Themes albums. Both are a ton of fun and could easily serve as the score for a potential Dark Harvest adaptation. Sometimes it’s just fun to pretend, you know?
3. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey // L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
A lot of my crime fiction friends tend to disregard the music of Lana Del Rey, and they’re all fools. She’s producing some of the best noir music out there; the best example being her 2014 album, Ultraviolence.
First off, how rad is that title? I love it. But, more importantly, the entire album is every noir lover’s wet dream. Ultraviolence is the kind of music you’d hear at a weird lounge during an old gangster movie. Lyrically, the songs are dark and gritty and oddly cinematic. It’s an album about corruption and greed and brutality and doing whatever the fuck it takes to get out ahead of everybody else.
Clearly these are themes shared with one of the best crime novels ever written: James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential. Do these two things make perfect companion pieces? I…kind of think so?
2. The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails // The Cipher by Kathe Koja
I’ve written about Kathe Koja’s masterful horror novel, The Cipher, more times than I can remember at this point. It’s one of the best examples of the genre ever written. Check out a much-longer essay I wrote about it over on LitReactor, if you’re curious to learn more.
Nine Inch Nails has released several albums that could have paired very well with Koja’s novel, but I think I gotta go with the obvious choice here. The Downward Spiral couldn’t be more appropriately titled. This is the music of a person spiraling into a deep, nauseating darkness. It is the finest representation of a human’s destruction I’ve ever witnessed, aside from maaaybe Kathe Koja’s “The Cipher.”
This album and book share so much in common, it’s actually a little frightening the more I think about it. How lucky are we for these things to exist?
1. Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen // The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska is quite possibly the quintessential American album. Many critics might disagree with me there and claim the correct answer is actually Born in the U.S.A. Well, I guess it’s a good thing they aren’t writing this article, isn’t it? Nebraska is the one, baby.
It’s an album full of blue-collar people down on their luck. People living paycheck-to-paycheck wondering how they’re going to support their families. People breaking the law after the law broke them first. The theme of “being no good” plays heavily throughout the album as we hear tale after tale of Americans doing the best they can, considering how they were designed.
Because of these reasons, I am tempted to claim Nebraska is my favorite album ever released, which is also why I think Donald Ray Pollock’s “The Devil All the Time” is my favorite novel. The themes in this book are very similar to Nebraska. We also bounce back and forth between multiple characters, all of them down on their luck and doing whatever it takes to survive in a world that never wanted them in the first place. Nebraska and The Devil All the Time are both what I would describe as “beautifully diseased”. Goddammit, they’re perfect.
Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the host of two podcasts: Ghoulish and Castle Rock Radio. He’s the author of Touch the Night, Carnivorous Lunar Activities, and several other novels. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth or visit him at www.TalesFromTheBooth.com. He lives in Texas.
More from Max Booth: 8 Musicians Who Also Published Fiction.
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