The Quiet Sleep Playlist
[The Quiet Sleep Playlist](/blog/city/playlist)
While working on The Quiet Sleep (Steam link), I put together a playlist to help me get in the right frame of mind to write for the game. It ended up being used more for Songcraft than the other two stories. It only really took shape after I had already finished writing out The Quiet Sleep and I didn’t actually spend that much time on Evocations. Nevertheless, it was foundational for much of what The Quiet Sleep ended up becoming.
Songs For Women
“Songs For Women” is a great song, but I don’t think it’s one of my favorite Frank Ocean tracks. The man has an honestly unfair amount of talent. The story felt like a great core to a Quiet Sleep story though. His story of falling into the girl and then falling apart seemed like it would work well. His avant-garde R&B also felt like a strong fit. The song cares about the story enough to run that outro, but is also happy to spend time vocalizing to set the mood and is good enough for either axis to carry the song alone.
There are lots of things that I lifted directly from this song. I took the idea of listening to music together from here. I’m really happy with that piece because of how it linked The Music with The Lover. It gave you something to do together and a shared interest. It kept the music from being completely orthogonal to The Lover. The self-esteem cycle did some of that too, but that gets undercut by The Muse and is much more indirect. The degradation of the self-esteem cycle is also a thing that I pulled from the song. I wanted to put in the feeling of losing the ability to rely on The Lover.
Also, my favorite part of the song is “Don’t even listen to the songs I record / But she be banging that Drake in my car” and that’s the source for the insults that The Lover throws at you. I just love the density of that line.
No Below / Chinatown
These two songs made the core of the feeling that I tried to evoke. It took hearing them when thinking about The Quiet Sleep to realize that the game functioned best as lo-fi indie rock. The everyday nature of the songs are a lot of what I wanted to mine. They are intensely personal, but leave lots of space for the listener to fill themselves in. They are stripped down, but that’s a statement of focus, not paucity.
If you were to take your average indie band and through some strange alchemy distill them down to a better, more concentrated version of who they try to be you would get Speedy Ortiz. Sadie Dupuis is whip-smart and ruthlessly poetic. “No Below” is somewhat atypical for them in its delicacy and simplicity. They normally put a lot more acid in their work. This is the tone that I wanted though. The loneliness of the song always resonates with me and using that to talk about being together fit Songcraft really well.
“Chinatown” is a much quieter, much more lo-fi piece. It has much more of an everyday life feel. It keeps a couple of razors in the cotton wool though and they lacerate the better for the fluff around them. The flip it puts on taking things the wrong way is intensely clever. The cocoon is quite charged too though. The song keeps you feeling adrift and The Quiet Sleep pulls a lot of that in.
A Small Literary Aside
From here, I thought to read the fantastic Asterios Polyp again. It’s use of the comic book format to represent personality conflicts in a relationship is excellent. What I had forgotten about it though is that it is also very much a magical realist story.
My personal taste is not perfectly aligned with much of magical realism. I find Salman Rushdie far too florid and I can take Gabriel Garcia Marquez or leave him. I love Kazuo Ishiguro though. I was ecstatic when he got his Nobel Prize for Literature because of how well-deserved I believe it to be.
I chose The Remains Of The Day and my favorite book of his, An Artist of the Floating World to reread. I also love Never Let Me Go, but that’s something of a curse book for me and I didn’t want to mine those memories for this game. I came to these too late to really pull in the softness that they do so well. I didn’t quite manage the unreliable narrator of Artist as well as I would have liked either. All told, these books didn’t make for any changes as direct as “Songs For Women”, but they did shift the tone to something a little gentler and a little less direct.
This song is in here to put a little sex into the game. It was good to see Donald Glover finally experiment a little more with soul, and while I like a lot of his rap, “Redbone” is undeniably the best thing he’s ever done. That funk line goes into your bones and into your blood. Looking at it again, I feel like I could have done more here. This song asks me to make the game much more explicit than it was. I left a lot of the relationships as blank enough for the player to self-insert, but this song isn’t anything like as coy. The relationships themselves would have been better for a little more emphasis. I should have stirred a little more boldness in.
Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be
This song from Against Me! though is the rage at an unaccepting world that runs through the game. This is something that the game certainly goes deep into. Laura Jane Grace’s dysphoria is obviously very different from anything in my life and anything in the game, but the song speaks to an anger that I wanted to put in the game. The Quiet Sleep is a story about feeling alienated and this song helped me focus on the fury that comes with that.
Wait For It
I still stand by Hamilton, much maligned though it has become. This song was a necessary part of communicating trying to do something great. The patience that the early part of a career needs and the yearning associated with that are crucial to The Quiet Sleep. I could have done a little more with the jealousy that also comes with the territory though. I got the belief in yourself that it has though, that idea of Manifest Destiny as an individual. It’s a mean, little idea and yet it can be consuming and that complexity is something that I wanted in the game. This song focuses that emotion perfectly.
XO TOUR Llif3
I listened to this song far too much for it not to make this playlist. The entire week after I first heard it was just playing this one song on repeat. I would play it over and over again for hours. This is the second greatest song that I have ever heard (after Coltrane’s My Favorite Things). It is an achievement for rap, for music and for art. I’m still obsessed with it.
It is luckily quite relevant too. That genius chorus of “All my friends are dead/Push me to the edge” is all of the stories in The Quiet Sleep in a nutshell and the turns that the song takes put so much emotion into it. The trap beat is similarly undeniable. The song is both earnest and toxic in a way that I needed. None of these stories are as raw as “XO TOUR Llif3”, but that eagerness runs through all of them. The game is a little more old and bitter than the song though. It doesn’t pretend to need a reason not to care if you cry.