Coffee shops have long been associated with writing, art, and ideas. The mild level of chatter and espresso machines are just the right level of noise most conducive for stimulating writing. But is it really the couple next you on a first date or the Barista who accidentally added too much soy to that latte that stimulates your creativity? I tend to disagree. Walk into any Starbucks or Panera Bread and you will most likely hear jazz music emanating from the house speakers.
Jazz is soft, yet complex. Oftentimes it is free of form and spur of the moment. It incorporates many instruments, many sounds, and thus, pulls from many ideas. Sounds a bit like the writing process, doesn’t it? Jazz and free writing? I’d say there are more similarities than differences.
But maybe Jazz isn’t your thing. I have compiled a list of vinyls I often spin while deep in the writing process.
1. The Appleseed Cast’s Sagarmatha is a superb mix of post-rock atmospheres and prime emo themes. Drawing heavily from Sunny Day Real Estate as well as post-rock contemporaries like Moving Mountains and Caspian Sagarmatha starts off with three lengthy arpeggio dominated tracks that provide great background for a writer struggling to find a groove. Finally the album breaks with track four, “The Summer Before” and diversifies with subtle acoustic numbers and aggressive, hardcore-infused tracks on the back end. This album starts off slowly but really finds a stride mid way through and finishes with a bang- the perfect summation of most of my writing sessions.
2. O’Brother’s Garden Window is a dark, aggressive bastard. This is currently number one in my rotation largely because I’m writing a screenplay about a underground fighter with PTSD. Think Fight Club and Only God Forgives. O’brother’s Garden Window certainly sets the mood for gritty, writing, but this is not a ‘headbanger’ album by any means. O’brother carefully chooses their darkest moments by crafting lengthy parabolically structured songs. I liken this album to The Republic of Wolve’s Varuna and Thrice’s Vheissu. This is definitely a heavy album, but be warned- it’s a slow burner more than anything.
3. I’ve yet to find more perfectly written lyrics than on Neutral Milk Hotel’s magnum opus In The Areoplane Over the Sea. Brand New’s The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me comes desperately close but the lead singer admitted this is the most beautiful album he ever heard. It’s hard to top an album professing a man’s love for Anne Frank. The entire album has a timeless, bizarrely nostalgic feeling that swallows you whole. And the lyrics, man. The freekin’ lyrics. They are so pure, so genuine. It is impossible to not let some of the creativity sink into your ears as you put the pen to the page.
While I do listen to a variety of music while writing, I find that music with complexity and passion influences me the most. Jazz and post-rock share many similarities in that they are often long, intricate, and challenge traditional song structure.
What music do you listen to when you write?