Albums Guaranteed to Stomp Writer’s Block

It’s been a while since I wrote a music based post. It’s mainly because I am pretty sure that, like my wife, most people that come to this blog get tired of hearing me talk about music.

However, in planning for my NaNoWriMo project (which I don’t have time for), I was listening to a certain album while outlining and the overall tone to one of the songs set a mood that resulted in my revising the last half of the outline. And I think it’s going to be a much better book (if, indeed, I write it) in the end because of it.

So here are albums that I believe can help break through any case of writer’s block…if not for the mood they set, then for the lyrics and stories within. Feel free to share your own in the comments.

Murder Ballads – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Despite the fact that none of his fiction has really impressed me all that much, Nick Cave is easily one of the best story-tellers via lyric form in the history of ever (Leonard Cohen is right there with him, though). Murder Ballads is a grim, dark, messed up dive into violence, darkness and everything rotten you can think of….even in the slow pretty songs. There’s not a single track on this album that I’d consider weak. This, in my opinion, may be Cave’s masterpiece, as the tone and the lyrics of each song work so well together.  Songs to check out: “The Kindness of Strangers” and “The Curse of Millhaven.”

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

I’m admittedly not the biggest Springsteen fan. But this album was before he featured his denim-clad rear end on an album cover. It’s an album that is bleak, beautiful and entirely stripped down. The whole album has a Gothic feel to it. Some of the stories told within are brilliant and sort of whimsical. A single verse can take you from melancholy to entirely depressed and weary in just a few words. A great album crafted by a version of Springsteen that put story first.  Songs to check out: “Highway Patrolman” and “My Father’s House.”

Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Sunset Mission

I can only listen to this group when I am writing. It’s not the kind of music I could just chill out to. It’s very intense and mood setting. It sort of feels like an episode of Twin Peaks while you’re sick in bed with a high fever. It has a noir vibe to it but has a dark core that will strangle you if you get too involved in it.  Songs to check out: “On Demon Wings” and “Nightwolf.”

Brian Eno – The Shutov Assembly

Not one of his more popular works by any stretch of the imagination, it’s the only one I’ve heard that I can listen to all the way through. There is a tone and mood to this album that is very calm and somehow catastrophic at the same time. I’ve relied on this album for mood setting more times than I can count.

The Butchers and the Builders – Salvation is a Deep Dark Well

I just recently discovered these guys and am continually surprised that I really like them, as this style of music is not usually my cup of tea. There’s not a weak album in their discography, but this one sticks with me every time. The lyrics are like something out of a novel and the music has a certain grit to it that is hard to explain. Dark folk, rock, Gothic country…I’m not sure what you’d label their music as, either.  Songs to check out: “Golden and Green” and “Vampire Lake” (see below).

Fever Ray – self titled

This is one of those albums that gets better with each listen. Lyrically (and a maybe vocally, as well) it almost borrows from Bjork. But the music, tone, and creepy atmosphere is like something out of a Lynchian sort of fever dream. If you try to make sense of the lyrics, you may just come up with a story of pure lunacy…or genius.  Songs to check out: “If I Had a Heart,” “When I Grow Up,” and “Keep the Streets Empty for Me.”

Deftones – White Pony

This is the Deftones’ best album.  And that’s because it is their most artistic album. And as a result, this album is great for damn near everything. Driving, working, writing, the bedroom (wink wink), screaming at people, crying, anything. Seriously. The story-telling element isn’t as obvious as a Nick Cave album, but the subtlety to the songs on White Pony is what makes them so powerful. There’s even a bathtub electrocution on this album. It has everything. Even if you’re not a fan of louder tunes, there are a few softer gems on here.  Songs to check out: “Digital Bath,” “RX Queen,” and “Knife Prty.”

In closing, as promised above, here are The Builders and the Butchers with a stripped down version of “Vampire Lake.”

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