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"Music is the shorthand of emotion." - Tolstoy



I had to include the playlist Viktor gives to Lane in Clean Break, because it's such an important part of their story. Let's go through it, song by song, and bask in the resulting feels. Playlist links: YouTube | Spotify

The playlist is meant to go on Shuffle, so these aren't in any particular order. Viktor's tastes ran mostly to electronica-infused sounds. (With some exceptions - I think his older sister influenced his musical taste somewhat.)


1. If I Ever Feel Better, by Phoenix


So upbeat and hopeful-sounding - and the lyrics don't rhyme. This was Viktor's anthem for me, because it references a life that's been put on hold temporarily while something important gets worked out.


It's like somebody took my place
I ain't even playing my own game
The rules have changed well I didn't know
There are things in my life I can't control
I feel the chaos around me
A thing I don't try to deny
I'd better learn to accept that
There's a part of my life that will go away

Dark is the night, cold is the ground
In the circular solitude of my heart
As one who strives a hill to climb
I am sure I'll come through I don't know how
They say an end can be a start
Feels like I've been buried yet I'm still alive


2. Someday, by The Strokes


Hopeful and upbeat, tinged with melancholy. Nostalgia is a two-sided coin - lovely to remember the old days, but watch out or you'll get mired in it.


Oh, Maya says I'm lacking in depth
I will do my best
You say you wanna stay by my side
Darlin', your head's not right
See, alone we stand, together we fall apart
Yeah, I think I'll be alright
I'm working so I won't have to try so hard
Tables, they turn sometimes

Oh, someday...

No, I ain't wastin' no more time


P.S. - The Strokes are an NYC band, made up of native New Yorkers who were raised there - like me!


3. Circuit Breaker, by Wildcat! Wildcat!


It feels so raw. Grasping. Kind of like Lane and Viktor and the connection they forge.


I can’t break you down. 
I can’t figure out.
This is never over.
This is just a dream.
Take your heart and run, 
Take your heart and run, 
(this is just a dream)
Take your heart and run, 
This is just a dream.


4. Lucky Man, by The Verve


I pictured Griff living in the English countryside, healing from all the trauma he'd been through. Playing with his dog in the type of Dorset field described in Far From the Madding Crowd, perhaps?

Whoops, wrong century. Also those are sheep. Well, you get the picture.


Something in my own place
I'm stood here naked
Smiling, I feel no disgrace
With who I am


5. Houdini, by Foster the People


Catchy! For both Viktor and Lane:


Got shackles on, my words are tied
Fear can make you compromise
Lights turned up, it's hard to hide
Sometimes I wanna disappear


6. Island in the Sun, by Weezer


Hopeful and melancholy. The book takes place during a very cold winter in New York City, when everyone wants to get away to a warmer and more welcoming place. Lane's memories of her family's time on Block Island also came to mind here. I suppose it's a fantasy that our problems can be escaped geographically, but it sure is a nice one, especially when you're sipping a Mai-Tai on the beach.


When you're on a golden sea
You don't need no memory
Just a place to call your own
As we drift into the zone

On an island in the sun
We'll be playing and having fun
And it makes me feel so fine
I can't control my brain

We'll run away together
We'll spend some time forever
We'll never feel bad anymore


7. Been There Before, by Ghost Beach


Gets at the heart of Lane and Viktor's connection. They've both been steamrolled by life, and somehow they understand each other.


All of the pieces came apart in your mind
Til you lay them all out. 
Keep conversations away from your mouth 
'Cause they're selling you out. 
You turn around and see your face in the sun,
You remember it now,
You'd give it up just to find a way out,
But you're changing.

I put my hand on your heartbeat, 
Like I've been there before.


8. Letting Go, by Saint Raymond


Letting go of grief, of bitterness, of things that aren't serving you anymore so that you can make room for the good stuff - it's important. Easier said than done sometimes. 


I walk in the shadows
Cause I'm scared of what the light shows
Is there power in these hands?

I feel like a wasted soul
A hologram of skin and bones

This is the time
You know that it's right
Cause I'm letting go
In love and in life
There's no turning back
Cause I'm letting go


9. Waves, by Blondfire


Waves as a metaphor for the ups and downs of life. I do love the idea of Viktor having some Blondfire tunes on his phone.


You hear them when you try to fall asleep
They crash to the shore, they come from the deep
As sure as the sun will rise, the sun will set
You taste the salt the closer you get

Picking you up
Pushing you down
They're always around


10. Always, by Panama


Viktor's feelings for Lane are complicated, because he loves her and he's lying to her constantly.


Always... I remember you
Slow down so I can follow you
And you, such a fearless soul
Disarmed me by truth, and broke my mold

Always... I remember you
Slow down and try to tell the truth

11. There She Goes, by The La's


Soft and squishy. Fluffy and happy and perfectly harmonious.


There she goes, there she goes again
She calls my name, pulls my train
No one else could heal my pain
But I just can't contain
This feelin' that remains


12. No Stranger, by Small Black


Viktor's perspective - which I wanted to include since the entire book is told from Lane's point of view.


Take me through your barricades
Push me through your city walls
Take me, I can be
Whoever you want
You're no stranger to me


Nothing here is set in stone
You don't even know
Where I come from
Could I be someone
That you can trust?

And just look at the album art. I mean really. It's perfect.


13. Dream the Dare, by Pure Bathing Culture


Dreamlike ... some songs are like a really good mood. Remember those moments when Lane felt like she could stop time forever and just stay with Viktor? He was feeling the same thing about her.


Oh love are you mine
Those feathered lashes you’re hiding behind
Does it catch in your chest?
Do you like what you find?
Don’t you know I think about it all of the time


14. Everyday is Like Sunday, by Morrissey


Retro alert! Griff's older sister was a child of the 80s who spent untold hours listening to mix-tapes of The Smiths and Morrissey (as did all good folk). Viktor might have had a lousy attitude during some moments of his lonely, tedious undercover mission.


Hide on the promenade
Etch a postcard,
"How I dearly wish I was not here."

In the seaside town
...that they forgot to bomb
Come! Come! Come—nuclear bomb!

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey


15. Midnight City, by M83


Noir...Viktor's undercover work, which is not really described in the book.


Waiting in a car
Waiting for a ride in the dark
Drinking in the lights
Following the neon signs

Waiting for a word
Looking at the milky skyline
The city is my church
It wraps me in its blinding twilight


16. If It Hurts, by Gallant




Not afraid to show myself the truth
To see what I’ve been missing
But then again, that midnight I was in
Was so much more appealing


17. West End Girls, by the Pet Shop Boys


Another retro favorite! Viktor couldn't resist the wordplay (Lane's apartment is on West End Avenue), plus both Viktor and Lane are survivors of trauma:


Sometimes you're better off dead
There's gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head
You think you're mad, too unstable
Kicking in chairs and knocking down tables
In a restaurant in a West End town
Call the police, there's a madman around
Running down underground to a dive bar
In a West End town


(Side note: I'm old enough to remember when this song first came out. The sound was unlike anything I'd ever heard before. The way they recited the lyrics as verse, in a British accent, parodied brilliantly here (NSFW) ... it was just so new. This was WAY before rap and hip-hop went mainstream. It blew my mind. I had to concede that maybe - just maybe - music hadn't peaked with Survivor's Vital Signs album after all. I'd worn out that cassette by playing it pretty much constantly. Sorry to everyone who had to live with me during the 80s and also every other decade.)


18. Satellite, by Guster


This is the song that was playing on the car stereo during the New Jersey trip scene - driving over the George Washington Bridge. Lane and Viktor were starting to feel comfortable together and that just made me so happy, writing it.


You're my satellite
You're riding with me tonight
Passenger side, lighting the sky
Always the first star that I find
You're my satellite


19. Wake Up the Ghosts, by Leisure Cruise


UGH, THIS SONG. THIS ENTIRE ALBUM. SO GOOD! Lane's suicide attempt, and her continuing struggles with depression and suicidal ideation, are described so beautifully here.


Wake up the ghosts

That hang in your head, it's the time

When you feel like a leaf

In the restless wind


And the wall gets you up on your back

And your feet, tangled up and then

Down you fall

But get up again


Last chance to go back

Before my dreams fade to black

The album art... it's perfect.


20. Scar Tissue, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers


No one does emo like the Peppers. No one. Both Lane and Viktor carry physical scars on their bodies from the trauma they've endured and I just really like this song a lot.


Scar tissue that I wish you saw
Sarcastic mister know it all
Close your eyes and I'll kiss you 'cause
With the birds I'll share
With the birds I'll share
This lonely view


21. Running Back to You, by For the Foxes


Makes me think about what drew Viktor to Lane at the beginning. He knew it was foolish and ill-advised in almost every regard, but he continued to exchange texts with her and return to her apartment because - why? Loneliness, maybe, at first. Lane's apartment was his clean, well-lighted place (well, it was clean, anyway) where he felt like he could strip away some of the artifice and be more himself for a few hours. And that opened him up to developing deeper feelings. I especially love the line "In another life we will meet again." Obviously.


Hey, old lover, it’'s a lonely day
There’'s a record on and the song remains
If we dance real slow until the music fades
Will we do the same?

Held your heart 'til the bitter end
You held my hand like I was your best friend
In another life we will meet again

To keep the light on, honey, is the least that I can do
If I keep running back to you 
Your heart is a slow train coming, I'’m afraid to make my move
If I keep running back to you


22. Earthquake, by Leisure Cruise


One Leisure Cruise song wasn't enough. (One Leisure Cruise song is never enough.) According to my headcanon, this is the song that was playing in Lane's apartment the night that she and Viktor first... consummated their relationship. Ahem.


I can't find the lyrics to this one but whatever. They both felt the earth shake.


23. Something I Can't Have, by the Jesus and Mary Chain


Retro angst is rattling around inside Viktor's headspace! Pack your bags, we're going on a guilt trip. 


You're in my house, you're in my face
You made me hate the human race
I got it good, I got it strong
I got it down where it belongs

Aw, it's sick and, oh, it's sad
I think you're something I can't have


(This particular song is not on Spotify, so I substituted Half Way to Crazy. Get it together, Spotify.)


24. Strange Feeling, by Panama


Even though Viktor picked these songs, I think this one applies equally to Lane. Falling in love does feel strange.


Come down
I couldn't find the answer
It's the strangest feeling when I noticed
You were right
It's something that I didn't know
Come down
I think I'm over my head


25. This is The One, by the Stone Roses


OMG this song. This entire album. I just need to go off on a personal tangent here and discuss my freshman year at college, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where my roommate had a 5-CD changer, and this CD (The Stone Roses' eponymous debut album) NEVER LEFT THE CAROUSEL BECAUSE THAT IS HOW AMAZING IT WAS AND STILL IS.


Fast-forward twenty years to Lane and Viktor. Incredible song is still incredible. The end.


A girl consumed by fire
We all know her desire
From the plans that she has made
I had her on a promise
Immerse me in your splendour
All the plans that I have made
This is the one
This is the one
This is the one
This is the one
This is the one
She's waited for


26. Here Comes the Sun, by The Beatles


Hope is a recurring theme in Clean Break. Aren't hope and love basically the meaning of life? I think so. Plus George has always been (and will always be) my favorite Beatle.


Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right


27. Hey Jude, by The Beatles


Isn't it ironic that the only antidote to being burned by love is opening yourself up to more of the same?


Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better


Hey Jude, don't be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better


And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don't carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder


I think Homer (Simpson) said it best: "Love is the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."


(Wait, never mind, he was talking about alcohol.)

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