A Playlist for When We Vanished

Music is a central component of my debut novel, When We Vanished. Much to my regret, I’ve never been able to play any instruments myself. But I’ve been an avid music listener ever since those pivotal teenage years, when I spent countless hours listening to the local alternative radio station, perusing the indie section at Tower Records, and decorating my bedroom with band posters. Back then, music was my obsession. It was a perfect outlet for my adolescent angst, and offered a window into the mysteries of the adult world.

Now that I’m firmly entrenched in adulthood, I don’t have the same relationship to music that I once did. I used to be hungry for details about the lives of my favorite musicians, and kept a close eye on Spin magazine and MTV News. Now, I can barely even keep up with new releases from my fave artists. Still, I almost always have something playing while I cook or do chores around the house.

I even like to listen to background music as I write (though I usually gravitate towards mellow instrumental selections, in contrast to the higher-energy stuff I prefer for house work).

My Writing Jams

I usually start my writing sessions with the same song: Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank.” It perfectly captures a wistful, enigmatic mood; though much is left unsaid, it still packs an emotional wallop. Turning it on as I open up my manuscript primes me to step through the doorway into that other world. 

But that’s not the only song that has been integral to the writing of WWV! Some are even mentioned in the text. There was a nod to Radiohead’s The Bends (the unofficial theme album of this book) as well as Thao’s “The Feeling Kind” in Chapter Three. Other songs have informed me about specific characters or evoked a mood I was trying to capture.

So while preparing When We Vanished for publication, I decided to compile the songs that had influenced the book and create a playlist.

When We Vanished Playlist. Blood Bank by Bon Iver. The Feeling Kind by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Another Radio Song by Okkervil River. My Favourite Chords by The Weakerthans. Come Undone by Duran Duran. Khuneye Ma by Marjan Farsad. Bedhead by Jay Som. Shab Bood by Hani Niroo. Just by Radiohead. Midway by Elephant Gym. The Oil Slick by Frightened Rabbit. Swell Window by Zee Avi. Street Spirit (Fade Out) by Radiohead.

The playlist includes several songs in both Persian and Mandarin, the two non-English languages highlighted in this novel. The Marjan Farsad and Hani Niroo songs feature beautiful, contemplative melodies, contrasted with the rocking tunes in Mandarin from the Taiwanese band Elephant Gym. Go give the playlist a listen on Spotify or YouTube to get a feel for these beautiful languages!

Your Thoughts

Are you music obsessed too? Any other songs that you want to nominate for the When We Vanished playlist? What are some of your favorite song / book pairings? Let me know in the comments!