Music often inspires emotion but, on some occasions, it can also create narrative. Over a century of film and television has taught us the musical cues that underscore dramatic events – they’re a language unto themselves. It is the tense violin strings that tell us the monster is about to appear or the saccharine saxophone that announces the impending sex scene. In fact, movies with sparse or nonexistent soundtracks often feel wrung of emotion.
I particularly enjoy songs that can be described in a movie shorthand:
“This is such an ending credits song.”
“This is the part when the hero stands in the rain.”
“This is the scene when they walk through the club.”
It becomes a game, akin to Mad Libs – string enough of those songs together and you have an entire movie of your own, ready for its own Spotify playlist. That’s the basic idea behind our new series of mixtapes, Soundtracks to Imaginary Movies. I had the pleasure of putting together the first, “Whiskey & Bullets,” and thought I would flesh out the story here.
This, of course, is the narrative I hear. You should listen to the mixtape before you read on and see how your own story matches up.
Laughing Sal from The Musée Mécanique / “Goodnight,” by Pleasure Forever
The opening credits, during which our hero walks through night streets.
“Isle of Dogs,” by Firewater
Our hero arrives at a bar and takes stock.
“God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” by Johnny Cash
A violent altercation.
“Burning Hell,” by Tom Jones
Time to settle the score.
“Song for Wolfie,” by Clutchy Hopkins
Our hero enters a den of thieves and meets a beautiful woman.
“Bad Luck,” by Tom Rothrock
And ends up in a seedy motel.
“Flash Pan Hunter Intro/Murder in the Red Barn,” by Tom Waits
It becomes apparent that our hero should probably leave town.
“The Wrong Kind of Love/Borrowed Wings,” by Jim White
Instead, he opts for some dark doings.
“Empty Box,” by Morphine
Hell hath no fury like a femme fatale scorned.
“Fuego!” by Murder by Death
Maybe “scorned” is the wrong word.
“Eros,” by Ludovico Einaudi (mixed with Charles Bukowski reading “The Genius of the Crowd”)
In which most of the supporting characters wind up murdered.
“Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Barry Adamson
Our hero races to the bottom of a bottle.
“Grounds for Divorce,” by Elbow
With a hangover comes renewed purpose. Also, guns.
“Just My Luck,” by The Heavy
A risky gambit.
“Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, Go!!!” by Trentemøller
Everyone gets shot.
“Every Shitty Thing,” by Murder City Devils
Our hero finds a new bar and takes stock.
“I had a Wonderful Night (It Just wasn’t This One),” by Whitey
Ironic end credits.
The Burnt Offering is a semi-regular column detailing Stu Horvath’s strange notions. They make sense to him, anyway. He is drinking whiskey on Twitter right now @StuHorvath.