I believe that one telling characteristic of a person is the music they enjoy. So how could I not feel the same way about my characters? I think about how Ariel likes popular indie music, usually by female artists, just like I think about how she likes sushi and yoga and the color blue. For me, this is part of the process of getting to know her.
With the help of a young woman with musical tastes similar to Ariel’s, I was able to put together my character’s own distinctive list of favorite songs, nine of which are woven into her story. Her songs are
- Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”
- Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers”
- Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness”
- Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II”
- Passion Pit’s “Carried Away”
- Metric’s “Gold Guns Girls”
- AFI’s “Love like Winter”
- La Roux’s “Bulletproof”
- Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over”
When my books appear on Kindle, I link the song title in my text to the chance to purchase it on Amazon. My other electronic versions are distributed through Smashwords where no such link is allowed. I’ve tried various other approaches with my other books, but with d4 I’ve finally found the approach I like best. For every song, I’ve found a live performance that I think shows a little of a the personality of the singer and the band. I’ll admit that I’ve had a lot of fun seeking these out. Often the quality of the video isn’t as good as the more glossy clips, but I’ve picked each one for a reason.
I have removed the references to the music in the paperback version, but both the songs and their context within the story can be found below. Interested readers who do seek out these links are encouraged to support the artists and websites.
What follows is
- a short excerpt from each chapter that contains a reference to music
- my favorite video of the song and why I chose it
- links to places to buy the music and/or learn more about it.
1. (From Chapter 6) The work portion of the trip would all be at the end, so Ariel tried to enjoy the beginning of her little vacation. She packed a few good books and her warmest clothes, and delighted in a window seat as she watched the late afternoon sun set on her way into Iceland. She found a favorite song on her mp3 player and listened to the pretty shimmer of Ellie Goulding’s voice singing “Lights” as the giant Vatnajökull glacier gleamed beneath her when the plane dipped below the clouds. Ariel thought that perhaps she had never seen anything so beautiful as the various shades of blues that glistened off of the ice in the light of a sun moving low in the winter sky while the song played softly in her mind.
She joined her group at the Reykjavik airport for the evening flight on to Nuuk. The small band of mostly Icelandic travelers was quiet, but friendly, and she felt thankful to live in both a time and place where a woman could easily travel alone. Nuuk was just a quick stopover, and the next morning they boarded the pint-sized plane for Ilulissat, the main tourist destination in Greenland.
Ariel stepped off the plane to her first view of the barren rocks mottled with bright colored lichens at make up the tundra. She had never set foot inside of the Arctic Circle before. Tiny flickers and flashes erupted as her boot touched the ground.
My premonitions are stronger here, she noticed with surprise. The cold dry air? The earth’s magnetic field? There had to be a reason. She added it to her list of things to try to figure out later.
I just love Ellie Goulding’s very human introduction to her song “Lights” at the 2014 Coachella Music & Arts Festival Weekend Two in Indio, California. Hopefully you will too.
Listen to or buy Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” at amazon.com/Lights-Single-Version/dp/B004PVH8I2.
2. (From Chapter 10) “I wish I understood precollections better,” Ariel said. “When I’m touching you I see lives from the far future, and when I’m near you and touch things that you touch, I get some precollections about you. There’s never been anything about Mikkel, though. The truth is that I know very little about the man and even less about what motivates him. Do you want me to try to find out more?”
“No!” It came out a little harsher than Siarnaq had intended. “I want you to stay as far away from him as possible. Please. Promise me.”
“Hey, you do understand that I have to deal with him for work right?” Ariel’s tone was heavier than she meant it to be, filled with shades of “don’t tell me what to do.” She reminded herself that Siarnaq was only being concerned. “I’ll stay out of the mess between the two of you, though, no problem.”
“Thanks.” Siarnaq said no more.
“Let’s stay in touch about this,” Ariel finally added, working to soften her voice. “Call, text, email, I know that you do all of those. I’ll keep my ears open and if I learn anything about Mikkel that could be useful to you, I promise I’ll let you know.”
Ariel felt sadder than she expected she would when she hugged Siarnaq goodbye, and once she was on the plane she found herself gazing at Greenland’s white coastline as it receded in the distance. Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” came on as she hit the “On” button on her mp3 player, and Ariel wondered idly if she could possibly enjoy life as an Inuit. Was she capable of following Siarnaq? Was she capable of following anyone? As the song ended, Greenland was nothing more than a tiny white dot on her horizon and she had no answers.
For for Lykke Li’s “I follow Rivers”, however, I discovered a wonderful German site called ZeitOnline. Among many other things, they offer these simple performances by the artist in an ordinary setting. I’ve fallen in love with their style. It is extra fun that my main character’s full name is Ariel Zeitman. Weird or what? Check out this totally unpretentious version of “I Follow Rivers” performed with only a lone guitar, a hand held percussion instrument, and a fellow singer who claps along to keep time. Can you imagine running into this group performing on the sidewalk?
Listen to or buy Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” at amazon.com/I-Follow-Rivers/dp/B004KRT4KQ.
3. (From Chapter 14) Over the next week a disgruntled Ariel spent a fair amount of time rereading the documents that Toby had given her while she tried to figure out the best way to send information back. She’d just walked away from a man with whom she had a special—no, make that a truly a unique relationship—and she’d done it based not only on how personally distasteful she found Baldur, but also because of Toby’s assurances that Baldur was hell-bent on taking over the world’s economy.
She had heard nothing from Siarnaq since she had bade him a cold goodbye a week ago, and she missed his ongoing funny, warm communications with her. One of her favorite musicians, Lana Del Ray, released a new album on the first day of summer. Ariel played its best single, “Summertime Sadness” over and over as she tried to learn more about the situation that had caused her rift with Siarnaq. In spite of her irritation with him, she had to admit that she was worried about him. She was pretty sure that any kind of collaboration with Baldur only ended well for Baldur.
For Lana Del Rey’s haunting Summertime Sadness I found this wonderful clip from her Paradise Tour in 2013. She’s performing in Frankfurt and her mike goes out near the start of the song. It is amazing to watch her recover her composure, stop the band, and then ask the audience to help her out by singing along with her loudly as she starts up again. Of course they oblige, making for an interesting variation on this wonderful song. Enjoy it here.
Listen to or buy Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness” at amazon.com.
4. (From Chapter 15) Ariel both reasoned and premembered that the less time she spent in Iceland the better. It was a real shame, because the country itself was gorgeous and the people outside of Baldur’s boardroom were friendly and welcoming. She’d turned on her music so she wouldn’t have to make conversation, and she had to smile when one of her favorite songs began to play. Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” was a melodic worry about endless strip malls covering the earth, and the beauty of the scenery she was driving past could not have been a better antidote to those concerns. Ariel turned up the volume, put her phone away and simply enjoyed the views for the rest of the trip.
Once they arrived, they were met by their assigned host and taken to an ultramodern lounge where they could shower privately and change into swimwear. Ariel studied the famous murky turquoise water as they walked, and the combination of all the shades of blue and green in the mist created a feeling of wonder unlike anywhere she had ever been. She marveled at the many small geysers that shot into the air and at the sheer size of the stunning lagoon.
She’d already been told that there would be a catered lunch, time to relax in the healing waters, individual massages and skin treatments, and more spa time before the group headed to what was certain to be a lavish dinner. Under other circumstances, this could have easily been the best day at work ever.
In the case of Arcade Fire, I had the great good fortune to see them perform at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion outside of Houston in April 2014. The entire concert was amazing, but the performance of Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), with so many talented musicians on stage all singing in harmony and playing more varied instruments than I had ever seen used for one song, well, it was was one of my most incredible concert experiences.
I knew then that this song would find its way into d4, and that I would find a clip from the show I had seen, or a performance very close to it. Well, I never found the video from the Woodlands concert, but this one from their performance at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival two months later could have been it. Enjoy!
You can buy Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” at amazon.com.
5. (From Chapter 18) “Fine.” Ariel’s tone was colder already, and they said very little while the valet got the car. “Was this whole weekend just so you’d have something to do while you waited for this meeting?” she asked as she pulled out into traffic.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I brought plenty of work with me,” he said, immediately realizing that perhaps that had not been the best response. “Ariel, this has been the best two days I have had in a long, long time, and that is the truth. I had no idea that this was going to happen when I told Cillian I’d stick around for this Sunday evening get-together.”
He gave her a helpless look but she ignored it, turning her music up instead so that it was plenty loud enough to prevent any further conversation. Unfortunately the song that happened to be playing was Passion Pit’s new hit “Carried Away.” Ariel liked the song, but today the lyrics hit too close to home. Mikkel didn’t say another word, but she saw him smiling as she changed the song in irritation.
I was impressed by this simple yet well done video of Passion Pit performing “I Get Carried Away” at Lollapalooza Chile 2013. You get nice close-ups of the performers and also a few chances to enjoy the energy of the crowd responding to the music.
I also like this far more widely circulated video of Passion Pit performing “I Get Carried Away” on Saturday Night Live in October of 2012. It’s fun as well, with close-ups of all the band members as their love of music (and their lack of showiness) come through.
Finally, you can also listen to or buy Passion Pit’s “Carried Away” here at Amazon.
6. (From Chapter 20) Once he was inside her apartment, he waited patiently. She wondered what his instructions were if she ran. She saw no point in finding out. Going to work for Baldur was exactly what she needed to do right now.
Once she boarded the plane, Ariel put her earbuds in and turned up her music. The last thing she wanted was to make polite conversation. She treated herself to every snack in the well stocked little jet, but forced herself to avoid the alcohol, tempting though it was. She needed to stay sharp.
A courteous co-pilot checked on her twice, but otherwise left her alone. She laughed aloud when Metric’s song about insatiable greed, “Gold Guns Girls,” came on and wished she had a set of speakers with her so that she could blast the song out for the whole plane to hear.
There were a couple of songs by Metric that I wanted Ariel to appreciate in my novel, but I finally narrowed it down to this wonderful ode to there never being enough. It fit the theme of my book so well. For my link I picked this live performance in Montreal in 2012. It’s a simple, clean video of excellent quality, but my favorite thing about it is how well you can see Emily Haines’ face as she performs. She is a serious artist, but an occasional hint of smile let’s you see how she is enjoying herself. It’s fun to watch.
You can also listen to or buy Metric’s “Gold Guns Girls” at Amazon.
7. (From Chapter 23) She fretted and dozed at the Reykjavik airport for more than five hours before her small plane finally took off into a cloud-filled night, with pockets of slightly warmer air causing it to bounce around mercilessly. Ariel turned on her trusty music, only to find herself listening to the old indie song “Love like Winter” by the San Francisco group AFI. It was good music, but it made her shiver in her seat as she held on tight to her armrest. She forced herself to search for a happy future premory, anything that would assure her that she would be alive in a week or two and need not worry.
Some of the far fringes returned nothing but blackness, and Ariel realized with a sinking feeling that those were futures in which she had ceased to exist. Very faint, unlikely, but planes did go down in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, and if you considered everything, then that future without her was there.
I used to think of AFI as a cold band, as reflected in their songs of winter and death, and I thought that “A Fire Inside” was an odd name for this group of musicians. Though I wasn’t a real fan, I found their music haunting and sometimes beautiful. I’ve never seen them perform.
When their song “Love Like Winter” was the perfect selection for Ariel’s MP3 player in the scene above, I embraced their sound more and went searching for the best video link. I was so happy to find this one of a live performance at Lollapalooza Brasil in June of 2014. I love the passion of their performance, and the passion of the crowd as well, as they sing along and as the band includes them. I watched this video quite a few times, in fact, and liked it better each time. I now have to say, I think that “A Fire Inside” is the perfect name for these musicians.
You can buy AFI’s “Love like Winter” at Amazon.
“Any special plans?” he asked.
“No. Just preparing,” she said. He didn’t ask for more.
The day turned out to be one of those unusual winter days when the sky is bright blue and the temperature climbs into the sixties. Ariel smiled at her good fortune as she took the little car the company leased for her and headed north out of Dublin, planning to drive for as long as it sounded good, and then to stop and do yoga somewhere along the shore.
Ireland doesn’t have much in the way of sandy beaches. Much of the coast is ancient granite and volcanic remains, and much of its rocky core is old limestone, formed from the remains of tiny sea creatures that led happy lives nearly half a billion years ago, back when Ireland was located near the equator and no mammal had yet set foot on the Earth. Ariel reached for her music, and spent a minute picking her song. She decided on “Bulletproof” by La Roux; it was the perfect choice.
She drove far enough to find a rocky bit of shore that was deserted, spread out her mat, and worked on clearing her mind. The poses came to her in a random sequence, without thought. The table. The cat. The bow. The plough.
Her goal was to calm down, and gather her strength. To make herself as bulletproof as possible.
Downward dog into a cobra into a sun salute and repeat it again. Warrior poses. Low warrior. Warrior two. Warrior three. She had skills, she had advantages, and she had back-up. She finished her routine concentrating on balance, holding a strong tree pose while she gazed at the far horizon.
She was ready. Now, she needed to go do what needed to be done.
Every so often one finds a song that they really like the first time they hear it, and they still like it dozens if not hundreds of times later. I’ve got a few of those, and La Roux’s “Bulletproof” is one. Why? It’s always hard to say. I’m a “words” person when it comes to music, and the lyrics to this one are just so clever. You’ve met this guy. You know this lady. You’ve seen the dynamics. But the infectious beat and sing along melody is part of what make it all work for me. This particular video from a live performance at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 2010 captures every bit of that. I can hardly keep from waving my arms along with the crowd while I watch. No, I can’t explain why, but I hope you enjoy it too.
You can also listen to or buy La Roux’s “Bulletproof” at Amazon.
9. (From Chapter 28) Ariel thought that the beautiful small Icelandic town of Seyðisfjörður would now always be one of her favorite places on Earth. As Toby’s rented speedboat made its way to the barren, snow covered docks in the deepening afternoon twilight, the many wooden buildings stood out in the remaining light, beaconing with the offer of comfort.
It had been difficult to hear each other as Toby used the expertise he had gained from years at sea to speed them safely back to Iceland, so talk on the trip back to shore had been minimal. Rather, Mikkel had gently placed earbuds in her cold ears, and then put his own dry, warm hat over her head while he played a song for her. It was Florence and the Machine singing their anthem of happiness “Dog Days are Over.” The message that her ordeal had finally ended sunk in as she enjoyed the music. Fatigue and emotion took over, and she let herself cry in relief.
Rooms were available at the small hotel in town. Better yet, there was a liquor store, and—bless these fine people—it was open too. The thoroughly chilled, damp foursome received food and care, and warm, dry clothes all around. Thankfully, they were asked remarkably few questions about why they had needed to rent a boat this time of year in the first place, or why two people had left the harbor in the morning and four people had returned before nightfall.
“Dog Days are Over” makes my personal list of top ten favorite songs ever, and I smiled the entire time I wrote the scene of Ariel’s rescue and the comfort provided to her by this music.
This professional video of a performance of the song was taken at the 2009 British musical event called “T4 on the Beach” and it does a wonderful job of showcasing lead singer Florence Welch. It also does a nice job of capturing the crowd and even the beach itself outside of Somerset, England. My favorite element is getting to see the almost clumsy energy of Florence as she puts her heart and soul into one of her signature songs, in spite of wearing shoes that were never meant for her to perform in.
You can also listen to or buy Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” at Amazon.