Due to the nature of the playlists, major spoilers lie ahead for Shifting Furies and Band of Fallen Princes. It’s recommended you skip this blog if you intend to read those.
Throughout the Rankin Flats novels, I kept a running master list of the music that inspired scenes or whole books – sometimes even multiple books. I’ve also created a few playlists lifted directly from the pages of the novels themselves, namely Brianna’s engagement and wedding playlists. They helped me get in her mindset.
The following, if I’m doing this right, is the master list of songs that inspired scenes directly or were just a bit of pleasantry that I was listening to during the series:
The Ghost at His Back (Howell Designs):
Probably the most influential song on GAHB is Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London, which in the originally published draft was the song Garrett heard being crooned to him during his nightmarish trip through the Howell Designs building. In later drafts, I was concerned about breaking copyright laws (there were only a few words used, but still), so this was edited out to a generic “honky tonk tune.”
I tend to think of this as the song of the unnamed big bad of the series, the half-asleep red giant Virgil sees in Bone Carvers, but it bleeds over to several villains throughout the series as well. Any time you read a villain humming or thinking about a honky tonk tune, this is pretty much implied to be the song.
I mean, it’s a character named the Butcher. How am I not going to think of Butcher Pete when I’m writing this character? Thanks, Fallout.
Garrett and Murphy:
Right around the time I was coming up with the earliest parts of The Ghost at His Back (then The Ghost at My Back), I was (still am) in love with Tales from the Borderlands, a Telltale adventure game. One of the best parts of that game was the music selections for the intros and credits, and one of those songs was Jungle’s Busy Earnin’. Fast forward four years, and I still think of it as Garrett and Murphy’s song. It suits the two of them perfect, especially in their early days when Garrett was focused on building a bankroll, learning how to survive, and figuring out what he and Murphy would become vigilantes.
Despite being the arguably most bombastic main character in the series, I tend to think of Brianna’s theme as being soft and meditative. Although she shows more signs of wear and tear than anyone in the novels, she’s the rock. She’s the center. These novels are not so secretly not about a ghost and a vigilante, but about her, and in that regard, I tend to think of Goldmund’s Threnody as her theme.
Again, we have a theme influenced directly by video games – in this case, Grand Theft Auto V’s excellent “Welcome to Los Santos.” That’s sort of the grimy underbelly song I needed to define this swelling, decaying city. Rankin Flats is this great big all-consuming thing showing no signs of stopping, and it needed a great underworld theme to it. That’s Welcome to Los Santos.
There are two themes that come to mind when I think about Shifting Furies. The first is White Arcades, a haunting, soft melody that I tend to associate with Brianna’s mental breakdown. She’s seen horrors and can’t speak about them to anyone but her boyfriend, the guy who got her into all this. Her mind is slowly cracking, and White Arcades does a great job in my mind of demonstrating that.
As for the second song, this very much belongs to xx’s Infinity. This book’s secondary theme, that of love between couples even in the most trying of situations, suits this song perfectly. It’s the song I thought about exclusively during Garrett and Rose’s dance at the beginning of the novel.
Clancy’s particular brand of soulless insanity is perfectly suited to Big Data’s Dangerous. It’s exactly the sort of song I could see him playing on endless repeat while he stalks the endless streams of data within his bunker.
Rowen’s song, without question, is American Dollar’s Anything You Synthesize. I want to say it was playing just before I wrote her rescue scene, and I mentally latched onto it. It’s a beautifully simple song, it’s sweet, it’s thought-provoking, it’s… Rowen.
Sloan May/Bryant and Desmond:
Iggy Pop’s The Passenger is maybe a bit on the nose, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s perfect for Sloan and the creature she’s made her dark pact with.
Murphy and Jade:
One of my favorite unplanned surprises in the books was the relationship between Murphy and Jade. I had no idea they’d wind up “together” in the second novel. That was entirely an example of letting the characters guide me to a better book. Obviously, both of them being ghosts, they couldn’t be further away from each other even if they’re standing side-by-side, so in that regard, I tend to think of Clem Leek’s You’re So Very Far Away.
Interestingly, I associate no particular song with Bone Carvers or its characters. I think putting music to this one would be difficult. It’s very much a howling cacophony of noise as opposed to music. If you want a song to listen to during this one, find a one year old, give him a wooden spoon and a pot, and go nuts.
The Band of Princes:
Again, we have another song that’s a bit too spot-on, but for Maddox Iver, Ronnie Cooperman, Dash Pendleton, and Brett York, there’s no finer song than Tears for Fear’s Everybody Wants to Rule the World. Somewhat ironically, the power these men hold isn’t what they’re actually after. It’s a safe life, rich and comfortable away from crime that they want. It’s just that they happen to be phenomenal at being criminals, so that’s what they are – together.
Yes, Kyle Gass Band is a real thing. And yes, they’re awesome. And yes, Bro Ho is the song that stands out most for me when I think of Brianna and Garrett’s marriage.
I never do anything quite the way you’ve read them before, and that extends to vampires too. With his thirst for killing and the power it gives him, Rhys is my version of a bloodsucker. He also needed something gritty and a little insane, and in that regard, Eels’ Fresh Blood fits the role nicely for him.
Coincidence or not? When I was plotting out Smyle, I heard Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me for the very first time. And it couldn’t be a better theme for the most dangerous villain in Garrett’s rogue gallery.
Now, that said, there are moments of horrific villainy committed by Rhys and Mr. Smyle, and I wouldn’t score those. Not for a second.
Brianna’s Road to the Furniture Store Mix:
If you’ve read Shifting Furies, you’ll know what the hell I’m talking about with that header. For one of the most uplifting parts of the novels, Brianna had to make a playlist, and so I deliver it to you.
Brianna and Garrett’s Barn Rattling Mega Mix:
Much like with the prior song list, if you read Band of Fallen Princes, this song list was made when I wrote the ending to that novel. I spent hours on this thing – no, really, hours, all for something maybe all of two people have listened to. Enjoy!
That’s going to do it for this blog. Plague of Life drops Thursday!