Into the Dark
A SOUNDTRACK TO THE NOVELS, VOL II
In 2005, to coincide with the publication of The Black Angel, I put together a compilation of various songs, Voices from the Dark, that reflected the mood of the books and the character of Charlie Parker, the detective at the heart of most of my work.
This second collection, Into the Dark, is slightly more eclectic than the first, featuring new folk, independent rock, americana, and electronica, and it enables readers to hear some of the songs that have been referred to in the books, either in the course of the narrative or as signposts to the action to come. Five are featured, directly or indirectly, in The Unquiet, one comes from an earlier novel, and the remainder are included because they are lyrically or tonally apt, and because, like every song on this compilation and its predecessor, I happen to like them, and the artists who perform them, a great deal.
The available songs are a playlist on Spotify; to find them, search for spotify:user:johnconnollybooks (US) or spotify:user:johnconnollybooksuk (UK).
- When In Rome Nickel Creek
- Roscoe Midlake
- Murderer Low
- The Ghost of the Girl in the Well Willard Grant Conspiracy
- Hymn The Czars
- Collecting Shields Efterklang
- The Lost You Hood
- The Good Hand Woven Hand
- Time Is For Leaving Starless & Bible Black
- Thirsty The National
- Come Undone The Delgados
- Still Waters Jim White
- John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Sufjan Stevens
- Dead King Espers
- Weaving Song Phelan Sheppard
1. When In RomeNickel Creek
"Where can a dead man go?/ A question with an answer only dead men know . . ."
The lyrics above are the first words that appear in The Unquiet, and neatly summarize the problem facing Parker in his quest for the truth behind the disappearance of the psychiatrist Daniel Clay. Nickel Creek are a comparatively young band who have taken their early bluegrass influences and used them to create a sound that is entirely their own.
(taken from the album Why Should the Fire Die?)
Further listening: Reasons Why: The Very Best; How to Grow A Woman From the Ground by Chris Thile; Blinders On by Sean Watkins
"You wish to flee, but it's not like you . . ."
I suspect Midlake will be namechecked in future books, but The Trials of Van Occupanther, the album from which this song comes, was released just a little too late to be included in The Unquiet. Still, it's one of the great albums of 2006, like a lost 70's album rediscovered three decades later.
(taken from the album The Trials of Van Occupanther)
Further listening: Banman and Slivercork
"You may need a murderer/ Someone to do your dirty work . . ."
This track comes from Low's new album, Drums And Guns. I was spoiled for choice when it came to selecting an appropriate song from the album, as "Breaker", "Dust on the Window", "Violent Past" and "Murderer" could almost have been written with The Unquiet in mind. Low just get better and better, and Drums And Guns should be recognized as one of the albums of the year.
(taken from the album Drums & Guns)
Further listening: The Great Destroyer; Things We Lost in the Fire; Secret Name
4. The Ghost of the Girl in the WellWillard Grant Conspiracy
"I was fourteen years old when I died . . ."
It was about time that I included a murder ballad on one of these compilations, and this is a brilliant duet by WGC's Robert Fisher and Kristin Hersh, formerly of Throwing Muses and now an acclaimed solo artist. Lyrically, although it tells the story of the death of a young slave, it complements The Unquiet almost perfectly.
(taken from the album Regard The End)
Further listening: Let It Roll; There But for the Grace of God: A Short History of the Willard Grant Conspiracy
5. HymnThe Czars
"Trouble is your thing/ It takes away the sting . . ."
Another fine duet, this time involving The Czars' John Grant and Sara Lov of Devics. In The Unquiet, part of the line above is quoted back at Parker by his lawyer. "Trouble is your thing," she tells him, not unreasonably.
(taken from the album Goodbye)
Further listening: The Ugly People Vs. The Beautiful People; Before . . . But Longer
"The arrow spoke to the heart . . ."
I love the image of shields being collected, suggestive of the aftermath of a battle, and that wonderful lyrical touch quoted above. Most of all, though, this is one of the most quietly haunting pieces of music I have heard in a very long time.
(taken from the album Tripper)
Further Listening: Springer; Under Giant Trees
7. The Lost YouHood
"The year of the lost you . . ."
This song is almost the dictionary definition of a `grower', and I've always thought that its combination of anger and regret, of quiet interludes and near-abrasive guitar backing, taps into something of the essence of Charlie Parker.
(taken from the album Outside Closer)
Further Listening: Cold House; Home Is Where It Hurts; Singles Compiled
8. The Good HandWoven Hand
"I am, I am my father's son . . ."
David Eugene Edwards, the lynchpin of Woven Hand, performed a similar role with Sixteen Horsepower, who recorded a version of the traditional "Outlaw Song", mentioned in Bad Men. That was a dark song. This, by contrast, has a lovely lightness of touch typical of the best of Edwards's work as Woven Hand.
(taken from the album Woven Hand)
Further Listening: Mosaic; Consider the Birds; and Secret South; Folklore (both by Sixteen Horsepower)
9. Time Is For LeavingStarless & Bible Black
"When the time is for leaving/ I would like to stay . . ."
This was the last song selected for the CD, and came via the excellent locust label in the U.S., which also provided the Espers track, "Dead King". Starless & Bible Black, though, are based in Manchester, England, their lead vocalist is French, and this track from their debut album sounds a little like a lost Sandy Denny song, which is high praise indeed.
(taken from the album Starless & Bible Black)
10. ThirstyThe National
"I don't have a hawk in my heart . . ."
The National are one of the best new American bands to have emerged in recent years, and this song builds to a fabulous interweaving of strings and voices. Parker and Louis listen to it in the course of The Unquiet, and its bird imagery is apt both for Parker himself (the collision of hawks in the heart and doves in the brain) and the evil at the core of the novel.
(taken from the album Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers)
Further Listening: Alligator; Cherry Tree; The National
11. Come UndoneThe Delgados
"This is how it feels to drown . . ."
Another group referred to directly in The Unquiet. This stunning piano-led ballad is among vocalist and songwriter Emma Pollock's finest moments, although "I Fought The Angels" nearly made the cut as well. The Delgados, incidentally, recorded a wonderful cover of ELO's "Mr Blue Sky", available on the Peel Sessions album.
(taken from the album Universal Audio)
Further Listening: Hate; The Great Eastern; The Complete BBC Peel Sessions
12. Still WatersJim White
"Well don't you know there's projects for the dead and there are projects for the living. . ."
This song is mentioned in The Killing Kind as Parker debates the wisdom of involving himself in a difficult case. The line quoted above encapsulates Parker's dilemma and the dilemma of so many detectives in the hard-boiled tradition whose empathy and sense of justice prevent them from turning their backs on the sufferings of others, but at considerable cost to themselves. For me, the killer punch in the song follows this line, but you'll have to listen to it to find out what it is. "Still Waters" is classic Southern Gothic, like William Faulkner with musical backing.
(taken from the album Wrong-Eyed Jesus)
Further Listening: No Such Place; Drill A Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See; Music From 'Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus'
13. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.Sufjan Stevens
"And in my best behavior I am really just like him/ Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid..."
These lyrics are used in The Unquiet. It's no mean feat to write an affecting, poignant song about a serial killer and his victims (perhaps only Randy Newman has managed anything comparable with "In Germany Before The War"), but Stevens is so extravagantly gifted that he makes it seem easy.
(taken from the album (Come on Feel The) Illinoise)
Further Listening: Greetings From Michigan; The Avalanche; Seven Swans; A Sun Came
14. Dead KingEspers
"Take this scarred body . . ."
This sounds like it has been around for centuries, which is part of Espers' gift: to hark back to an earlier musical tradition while still sounding very much of their time. Espers recorded a longer, more ornate version of "Dead King" for Espers II, one of my favorite albums of last year, but I still prefer the original, stark arrangement from The Weed Tree that is included here. A beautiful, eerie piece of music.
(taken from album The Weed Tree)
Further Listening: Espers; Espers II
15. Weaving SongPhelan Sheppard
No lyrics here, only a wordless female vocal refrain. Like the Efterklang song, it's the work of artists on the Leaf label, and is similarly haunting: a suitable end to this collection.
(taken from the album Harps Old Master)
Further Listening: O, Little Stars; The Good Seed by Ellis Island Sound