In the past, I’ve released my book playlists before the launch of the book. These tend to be inspiration playlists, not the music I find myself writing to. (If you’re interested in a “writing playlist,” let me know in the comments! I’d be happy to assemble something. There’s very much a “type” of music I listen to when writing a Bell Forging Cycle book.) Since Gleam Upon the Waves has been out for a little over a week, I thought I’d go a step further and not only share the playlist but give a few details, why I chose particular songs, and how I felt they reflected (and inspired) aspects of the story.
First, the playlist! Jam out, roaders.
Not a Spotify fan? The playlist is also over on YouTube.
⚠️ SPOILER WARNING⚠️
The following details will contain Gleam Upon the Waves spoilers. So, if you’re still reading, I’d recommend avoiding the rest of this post until after you finished the book. For the rest of you, let’s head deeper into the playlist.
Sons and Daughters – American Spirit
Sleep now child beneath
The heavy current
Dragging you along
This was the song that inspired this book. Something about life dragging you through the wringer without caring about your desires or plans cemented itself inside my head (even well before 2020.)
Chapter 1 & 2
Baltimore Blues No. 1 – Deer Tick
Can you hear the sound of the crawling flesh
Now can you smell the burning desire
This place is too small to hide
All the ghosts that’s kicking around inside
There’s something gritty to this Deer Tick song. I felt it was a nice pairing to Wal putting on airs and wearing suits—despite his intentions, he can’t hide who he is. His problems will not disappear. Lovat devours.
Gates of Dawn – Heartless Bastards
I have awoken
The footsteps sound of thunder
While this tune more positive than Wal’s experience, I thought opening a new reality deserved a song that had a similar impact. I’m also a sucker for Erika Wennerstrom’s vocals. (Probably why Heartless Bastards make an appearance a little later.)
How Deep Is The Ocean – Miles Davis
Like I wouldn’t include this in an ocean-themed playlist.
bury a friend – Billie Eilish
Why aren’t you scared of me? Why do you care for me?
When we all fall asleep, where do we go?
I had this chapter in my head since Red Little World. I also read it for Dead Drop Live last week. I loved the idea of Ashton being this ghost that haunts Wal—an echo of his past. One he weirdly cares about despite understanding that he’s an enemy. Eilish’s pop-minimalism just felt right for a decoupled avatar whom you may or may not want dead.
Wild and Wasted Waters – Kill It Kid
Wild and wasted waters
Have come to carry me on
For something so deadly, humans have an odd fascination with water. Also, this song fits with Wal being entirely out of his element. It’s helped by the Alan Lomax sample that works too well as an undercurrent for the story happening to Wal.
Chapter 6 & 7
Blood on your Bootheel – Caroline Rose
Think if you act like a man, you can alter this wheel;
You can make it in this world without that blood on your bootheels
“Altering the wheel” is something Wal has attempting for a while (since Old Broken Road, if we’re honest,) but he can’t change his destiny. He can kick against the goads as much as he wants, but fate will drag him along whether he wants it or not.
‘Round Midnight – Thelonious Monk
No lyrics, but man what a song. (If you haven’t noticed, any of the jazz numbers I call out in the books end up in my playlists.)
Chapter 9 & 10
Glitter & Gold – Barns Courtney
Do you ponder the manner of things
In the dark
The dark, the dark, the dark
Wal’s damn lucky for a guy that can’t escape his reality, eh? There’s also an element of foreshowing here. With the cult’s interest Wal can’t escape his past just like he can’t escape fate.
Lovecraft in Brooklyn – The Mountains Goats
Someday something’s coming
From way out beyond the stars
To kill us while we stand here
It’ll store our brains in mason jars
If you’ve read the last three books, it should be obvious why I included this one. Also, John Darnielle is a national treasure and should be protected at all costs.
Chapter 12, 13, & 14
Sirens – Lola Marsh
In a million years
It’ll all be over
Within a million years
It’ll all be over
Yael Shoshana Cohen’s voice is incredible. There is a vastness in this song that matched the tone of the Wasteland. It also deals with time on an epic scale, and that’s something I appreciated—it’s cosmicy without being overt.
Postcards From Hell – The Wood Brothers
I got a soul that I won’t sell
And I don’t read postcards from hell
I hope you caught how Gleam Upon the Waves reflects the other stories up until this point. Wal waking in a hospital and pushing himself out of bed is awfully familiar. Despite what he’s faced with, Wal tends not to stop. He’s relentless. Tell him things are bad, and he keeps going. His tenacity is admirable, if not a bit foolish.
Chapter 16 & 17
Wicked Waters – Benjamin Booker
This must be where I lose it all, darling
Throw myself into wicked waters
Again, water. Maybe our pal acted a bit too rashly?
Ding Ding Dong – Waipod Petchsuphan
For all its familiarity, Empress is a foreign place, and Wal is a stranger. This poppy Thai luk thung track from ’76 sparked similar emotions for me. It’s familiar, borrowing from common themes, but at the same time it’s different from other music of the era. It’s also a bop.
Hello, Darling – Conway Twitty
Hello darlin’, nice to see you, it’s been a long time
Should be fairly obvious.
Figure It Out – Royal Blood
Nothing better to do
When I’m stuck on you
And still I’m here
Trying to figure it out
This is a fairly big reveal, and while the theme of the song is related to Wal’s relationship with Essie, it’s even more complicated. “Figuring it out” is kinda a thing here, see?
Chapter 21, 22, & 23
You Want it Darker – Leonard Cohen
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Cohen’s last album deals with death and loss, there’s a heaviness to it, and it felt fitting for this section of the book.
Chapter 24, 25, 26
Mean Old World – Big Bill Broonzy
This is a mean old world to live in, I’m just travelin’ through
It’s a mean old world to live in, I’m just travelin’ through
Yes, sometime I get so blue, that I don’t know what to do
Another one that should be obvious. Poor Wal. Who’s the jerk that subjects him to this?
Chapter 27 & 28
Madness – Ruelle
Nowhere to run from all of this havoc
Nowhere to hide
From all of this madness, madness, madness
Eventually, you can only experience so much before it all just begins to break down.
Chapter 29 & 30
Sway – Heartless Bastards
So, I stumble and I sway into the room and I fade
I hope my darkest day are behind me
I want to stay here in the sun for a while
I hope my darkest days are behind me
There’s a spark of hope here, and I feel like there’s a spark of hope in these chapters as well. Yes, two Heartless Bastard songs in this playlist. You’re going to have to deal.
Remains – Algiers
While the captors boast
On how they lower your costs
The rich men gamble
At the foot of the cross
When you make a decision, you need to be ready to deal with the outcome.
Revival – Soulsavers
Why am I so blind
With my eyes wide open, oh?
Trying to get my hands
Clean in dirty water
A song about people doing something they feel is right even though reality clashes with that desire, and somehow, at their core, they know it. If that doesn’t fit the Deeperists, I don’t know what would.
Chapter 33 & 34
The Church Bell’s Moan – Bror Gunnar Jansson
Don’t you hear them?
Ring the bell and eventually they’ll come.
Chapter 35 & 36
Get Loud for Me – Gizzle
I see my goal and get cold as December when
Counting our sins, I don’t have no friends
I came here to win, my start is your end
Now let it begin now
FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT. Also, this is such a great reflection of the previous song that I had to include it.
Chapter 37 & 38
The End – Kings of Leon
This could be the end
This could be the end
This could be the end
This could be the end
‘Cause I ain’t got a home
A song about change and facing that change. Felt like a fitting end to this playlist.
Chapter 37 & 38… again
I See A Darkness – Johnny Cash & Bonnie “Prince” Billy
And did you know how much I love you
Is a hope that somehow you you
Can save me from this darkness?
Wait, never mind. This is even more fitting.
Chapter 37 & 38… for real this time
The Parting Glass – Hozier
Of all the comrades that ere I had, they’re sorry for my going away,
And of all the sweethearts that ere I had, they wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise while you should not,
I will gently rise and I’ll softly call, “Goodnight and joy be with you all!”
No… this one.
So, that’s Gleam Upon the Soundtrack, a Gleam Upon the Waves playlist! I hope everyone enjoyed a glimpse into my musical inspirations. It’s really fun to assemble these things and reflect on why particular songs spoke to me over another. I totally understand why other authors do it as well. This isn’t the only playlist I’ve made for my novels, you can check out the other ones here.
Once again, thanks to everyone for picking up Gleam Upon the Waves. I’m really proud of it, and I hope you enjoyed your time back in the Territories. If you haven’t nabbed your copies yet, you can do so from any of the links below.
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Finally, if you’ve finished Gleam, please leave an honest review, and if you liked it, tell your friends! Thank you for making Gleam Upon the Waves one of the books you chose to read this year. Time is finite and it’s an honor you decided to spend some of yours with my book.