In the run-up to the release of J.S. Carol’s new novel, Kiss Me, Kill Me, I spoke to James about his writing soundtrack and what he listened to when writing this book!
When I’m writing I need to have something playing on the stereo. Silence drives me insane. It’s too distracting; there’s too much space to lose yourself in. A large part of Kiss Me, Kill Me was written during 2017.
Here are some of the things I was listening to back then…
- Melodrama (Lorde) – David Bowie proclaimed Lorde to be the future of music – on that basis alone that made her worth checking out. Boy, I’m glad I did. Melodrama is her second album and it’s a killer. Razor-sharp lyrics combine with hook-laden melodies to create something truly spectacular. Liability is the standout track here. The descending piano line and the brutally honest lyric might be straight out of the John Lennon songbook, but in Lorde’s hands, this is the story of a very modern doomed love affair. The way she paints pictures with words is sublime. “He made the big mistake of dancing in my storm” is a fantastic line. The whole song is there in ten words. Hands down, Melodrama was my favourite album of 2017.
- Drones (Muse) – Lorde might be the future of music, but for me, these guys have already landed in the future. They’re so far out there, I doubt they’ll ever come back. Not that I want them to. Muse have basically picked up where Queen left off. They’re bonkers and completely over the top, but all that craziness is tempered by their musical ability. Matt Bellamy’s voice is a thing of beauty and wonder; his guitar playing is incendiary. The rhythm section could give the four horsemen of the Apocalypse a run for their money. It’s hard to believe that all that sound is made by a three-piece band. Drones is a concept album about a drone pilot. It shouldn’t work but that’s Muse for you. They know how to make the impossible possible. With music getting increasingly generic, we need bands like Muse more than ever.
- Black Star (David Bowie) – Genius is one of those labels that gets overused these days, but if anyone can lay claim to that title it’s David Bowie. Black Star was released just two days before he died, and the thing that’s most incredible about it is the way he was still pushing that envelope right to the very end. Backed by a band of top jazz musicians, the album contains some of his most out-there songs. From the angular jagged melodies of Tis A Pity She Was A Whore, to the Clockwork Orange-inspired lyric of Girl Loves Me (I mean, who else but Bowie would think to write a lyric in Nadsat?) Lazarus is the standout track. “Look up here I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen”. Yes, he knew he was dying but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to create great art.
Bowie was a man who stage-managed his life. With Black Star, he stage-managed his death. At times this isn’t an easy listen, however, it is without a doubt a truly remarkable piece of work. Each song is a gem, a final gift from one of the last true geniuses.
- 1989 (Taylor Swift) – Okay, I’ll put my hands up and admit it. I like Taylor Swift. The whole image/media manipulation thing I don’t have much time for, however, when it comes to writing and crafting a song she’s in a league of her own. 1989, sees her stepping away from her country roots and fully embracing her pop sensibilities. This album is jam-packed with tunes that get stuck in your head and just won’t let go. That said, her biggest strength is her lyrics. Each song tells a story and Taylor is an expert at turning a phrase in such a way that you are dragged right into the middle of the drama. My favourite line comes in Blank Space: “Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”. That one makes me smile each and every time.
- Tug Of War (Paul McCartney) – There’s this theory that McCartney hasn’t done anything worthwhile since The Beatles. I can see how it came about. I mean how do you follow The Beatles? Anyway, I decided to test this theory by revisiting his solo albums. Guess what? It’s bullshit. He’s done plenty. Tug Of War is probably my favourite of his post-Beatles offerings. This album saw him reunited with George Martin, a producer who always knew how to get the best out of him. The album was released after Lennon was murdered and Here Today, his tribute to his old friend, is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and affecting things he has ever written. This song could easily stand up there next to the best of his Beatles tracks. The thing is, Here Today isn’t a one-off. McCartney is one of the best songwriters ever, and there’s plenty in his post-Beatles work to back that up. If you don’t believe me, go take a listen for yourself.
Kiss Me, Kill Me is out now on ebook, available to buy from Amazon and paperback release is 31st May via Amazon and Book Depository!
When the love has gone who can you trust?
When Zoe meets Dan, he’s everything she is looking for in a man – intelligent, charming, supportive. It’s only after they’re married that she realises that he’s controlling, aggressive, paranoid. And there’s no way out.
Or is there?
Zoe knows she has to escape, but Dan’s found her once before, and she knows he can find her again. But Dan has plans of his own. Plans that don’t necessarily include Zoe.
Be careful who you trust . . .