"You Turn The Screws" – Cake
caravaggio sent me a mix CD that included this song while I was still working at JPL. It quickly became one of my favorites, because of deliberate rhythm, the swingin' horn section in the middle and the bleak lyrics delivered in an upbeat tone. I used to put it on repeat whenever I had to realign the diode laser. For some reason I found it particularly suited to hours of making microscopic adjustments to mirrors and irises while peering at a tiny dot on a reflective card.
"You Are Never Ready" – Golden Palominos
This is from the Dead Inside album, featuring Nicole Blackman's eerie spoken-word performances. A boyfriend introduced me to this while I was at university. I was hooked by the combination of her carefully paced, resonant voice with Bill Laswell's atmospheric music. Her prose shoots straight into me in a way I find difficult to express and reluctant to share because it's so intimate. It's a map of my internal topography. I use this song to shake myself up when I stagnate.
"You're Stronger Than Me" – Patsy Cline
victorine and I listened to her 12 Greatest Hits when she and w0rl0ck made their final drive from San Diego to NOLA to live. I remember looking out the window of her car as Texas rolled endlessly, hugely, emptily past and holding back tears while she sang all those tragic songs. The sweetness of her voice throws the poignancy of her words into painful relief.
"Yage" – The Future Sound of London
This is another one from my university days. The rich, complex layers of electronic sounds and the deep dub rhythms helped keep me calm. I've always loved chilled-out ambient music because I'm typically such an energetic person. It has the same effect on me as smoking weed without the unpleasant side effect of losing the will to do anything other than smoke weed. When I hear this song, I can clearly see myself sitting on my bed with my stereo on low, scanning my class notes and scribbling in the margins while the occasional shouts of "You BITCH!" came through the door as my flatmates took turns clobbering one another on the Playstation. I have trouble wrapping my mind around the thought that that was nearly eleven years ago.
"Yesterday Is Here" – Tom Waits
For some reason I couldn't stand very much music while I was writing my dissertation. I had three states of work: Front 242, Ozomatli and Tom Waits. The Tom Waits phase inevitably occurred after midnight when all I wanted was to be slouched over a glass of hard liquor in a bar, and instead I was sitting in front of my monitor trying to beat a stubborn phrase into submission, or come up with a synonym for "determined," "permitted" or "consistent" that I hadn't already used seventeen million times. Mr. Waits was the only person who could raspily, humorously guide me through those moments.