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Synesthesia is a cognitive condition where one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (totally lifted that straight from Wikipedia), like sounds and colors. This is our column where we make playlists for comic books.
First off, I'd like to give a shout out to another contributor on this blog, Dave Pemberton, for giving me the push I needed to finally check out Island (and the idea to make a playlist for it). Image's new comics magazine, lovingly curated by creators Brandon Graham and Emma Rios, is a bastion of creativity. Each issue is $8, which might seem steep for a monthly publication, but it's well worth it for the 100+ pages bursting with new ideas and adventurous story.
Now, I'll be totally honest here, I've sat on this playlist for awhile because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Each story is rather different in tone, and I've included a diverse group of music that I feel pairs well with the stories and art in the first two issues of Island. I was also surprised to hear, to my ears, how well it held up to normal listening. So, while I intended this to be somewhat of a guided listening tour while re-reading Island #1 & #2, I hope you enjoy it however you please.
ID (Part 1) - Emma Rios:
"Your Body Feels" - Four Tet: ID is a story about questioning one's identity, and the connection between our bodies, the brains that control them, and the feelings that transcend the physical. This song feels uncomfortable in its own skin, and feels like it's exploring the space around the skittering frame Four Tet lays at the beginning of the track. Also, most of the chapter takes place in a coffee shop in the future, and I like to imagine that future baristas would play Four Tet all the time.
"MEN TODAY" - HEALTH: If Spotify let me make this thing like a mixtape for real, and I could control your exact reading speed (motion comic style), I would make this song crash in right when the shit hits the fan. DEATH MAGIC sounds like the future, but it's components are assembled from fractured relics of the present. The world that Emma Rios portrays in ID is certainly the future, but it's problems are scarily similar to our own, today.
Railbirds - Kelly Sue DeConnick:
Remember Me as a Time of Day - Explosions in the Sky: I didn't expect to find an essay when I read Island #1 for the first time, but I'm glad I did because "Railbirds" is as moving a personal essay as they come. It finds writer Kelly Sue DeConnick reflect on times spent with an old friend, and how those times shaped the life she lived around them. I thought this would be a nice quiet song to read along to, and feel free to press repeat if you don't finish before you are done. Take your time.
Ghost Town- Brandon Graham
Whale - Alex G: This song sounds like something that would play in the kind of dream where you don't know if it's a nightmare or not. The kind where you right before you wake up, you find out. Also, it foreshadows the meal that the non-dream-world characters eat later in the story.
A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger - of Montreal: I had this song as my alarm for a short period of time, and it was awesome to wake up to whenever I didn't want to hit the snooze button. Otherwise the bright, soulful, and saccharine orgasm of instrumentals that opens this track can be a little too hot to handle on a groggy morning. The technicolor anxiety running throughout mirrors the whimsically grotesque visuals of Brandon Graham, and his protagonists' struggles with everyday problems despite the wild world he lives in.
Dagger Proof Mummy (Parts 1&2):
Kick, Push - Lupe Fiasco: Dagger Proof Mummy is partially about finding something you love, and trying to find someone who loves it as much as you do to share it with. It's also about skateboarding, dagger wielding cat thugs and an immortal mummy. It's pretty awesome. This song is a cool story about everything except the cat thugs and immortal mummies. It's still pretty awesome.
Stop, People, The Diff'rence - J Dilla: The Lupe song should end before you're done with the first part of DPM, so let Dilla take you through the end and the beginning of the second part (be sure to take time to drool over Will Kirkby's gorgeous intro to Island #2). Three songs off Donuts should be enough to get you to the...
House of Flying Daggers - Raekwon: ...DAGGER FIGHT!!!!!!! There's really no other way that could have ended, could there? But in all seriousness, it's all pulled off with some serious heart. "So, um... Do you want to skate?" "Hell yes." Kick, push, coast indeed (I know that's the other song, but I liked this order better :p).
Habitat - Simon Roy
Halo Theme - Martin O'Donell & The Bungie Orchestra: I... I couldn't resist. Once the full space splash page of habitat was shown, I couldn't get the rolling drums, soaring string section, and iconic choir melody out of my head. In all seriousness, the world of Habitat feels just as fully formed and daringly different as the world of Halo did when it first released. Skip the atmospheric silence at then e
Teahouse - Juno Reactor: Some driving chase music to accompany Hank's white knuckle flight at the end of this segment. This is from the Matrix Reloaded Soundtrack, and yes, I have no shame about that. Thank you for asking.
ID Part 2 - Emma Rios
Don't Wanna Be Your Girl - Wet: I love Wet. I love their music so damn much. This song is about the moment when questioning in a relationship turns to rejection of it. But it makes me think of how Noa may have gone through the same process in questioning and subsequently rejecting her gender. The somber, sensual tone also fits the tone
LIFE - HEALTH: "I don't know what I want." It's so simple, but it's amazing how many people ignore this possibility altogether while chasing something, whether it be a new, or maintained image, materials, status, love, or in some ways, death. "Life is strange. We die and we don't know why." That's why it's important to question everything, to make sure we find some sort of happiness before we eventually die. I hope Noa is happy, but who knows.
Stitching an (ID) Together: Miguel A. Woodward, MD
My Body is a Cage - Arcade Fire: This was a layup from the good doctor who wrote this extremely interesting article, since he quoted it in giant font in the middle of the page. This might also be my favorite Arcade Fire song, so it was impossible to pick something different and instrumental that may be easier to read along with. ID was really cool all on its own, but I loved it even more upon reading about the kind of advice that Emma got from a real neuroscience when she was plotting this awesome and thoughtful little story.
Pick up an issue of Island when you see it, for sure, or do yourself a favor and start from the beginning (digital and eBay are your friends here) to make sure you don't miss a panel of the weird wonders (barely) contained within Island magazine.