• Lauren Shippen

THE UNUSUALS - Character Playlist

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As with "Damien @ 18", this playlist is a lot about aesthetic. Pretty much all of these songs are from 2006/2007 and fit into the genre of "would be played in bars The Unusuals frequent". There's some songs that work for the whole group (minus Indah, who has her own playlist) and others that feel very connected to a specific character to me. But this is definitely one of my playlists that not only feels like the characters to me, but feels like music they would listen to.


1. "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" - Arctic Monkeys

  • This song feels like walking into a hazy, dark bar, seeing Marley and Neon brooding in their leather jackets in the corner and instantly wanting to get to know them.

2. "Pieces of the Sun" - Test Your Reflex

  • I don't wanna be the one who tells you/that I don't know what I've become, or what I want to be

3. "Pushing the Shine" - Lovedrug

  • I am the sun/Now tell me: it burns! it burns!/Now I am pushing the shine on everyone/'cause it's my turn - this is very much an Alex/Blaze song to me and, I think, especially his relationship with Robert.

4. "Control" - Metro Station

  • Let your hair down/Take the low road/No one will know/Whoa, I feel just like we're taking control/of the night

5. "Angeles" - Elliott Smith

  • Typically with playlists, I like to create an arc - a steady rise, a gentle fall, a build up and then gradual release. Rarely will I build hard turns into a mix. But I wanted the first few tracks on this playlist to feel like a night out with The Unusuals - it's exciting and a little sharp-edged, a little grungy, but overall a good time. Then, with "Control" everything lets loose until it collapses. This is the next morning - bleary-eyed and a little hungover, looking out over a smoggy and grey Los Angeles, a city that often looks far less glamorous during daylight.

  • This song, and artist, is really near and dear to my heart. This was the first Elliott Smith song I ever heard, sitting in the backseat of my sister's freezing car one February morning when I was 14 as she collected her friend that we were driving to school. As I sat there, fingers frozen and dreading the day of high school ahead, this song came on and reached deep inside of me where it and Smith have lived for 15 years. It was the first song I played in my apartment after moving to Los Angeles.

  • I can make you satisfied in/everything you do/All your secret wishes could right/now be coming true/And be forever with my poison arms

6. "Spiders" - Lovedrug

  • I'm breaking all my own rules here - I also try not to repeat artists, especially not this close together. But this is another song that really feels like 2006, like finding your identity, like being embarrassed to shop at Hot Topic but doing it anyway.

  • you're not that bright now, but you will be someday soon, and you will fall in love with the moonlight - that is a Neon looking at Indah lyric if I've ever met one. Neon, bright and getting brighter every day, Indah the soft moonlight she could spend the rest of her life gazing into.

7. "A Strange Education" - The Cinematics

  • I've walked this long road/trying to get home/to someone familiar/like this voice on the phone - a Marley song, through and through. He spent so many years after his ability first appeared searching for home and finally found it with Neon, Blaze, and Indah.

8. "Scratch Your Name" - Noisettes

  • Scratch your name/into the fabric of this world/before you go/The skin will tear/under the pressure/make it deep/so it always shows - Neon, Neon, Neon. She's going to make herself known to the world, to the people she meets, and she's not going to apologize for leaving her mark. It doesn't come from a place of disrespect, or some anarchical need for destruction, but instead from her growing understanding that she matters. That she's allowed to take up space, that she doesn't have to feel bad or guilty or wrong for who she is. Gosh, I just love this woman a lot.

9. "Run For Life" - Jack Penate

  • With a Penate song on Indah's playlist, I wanted to reflect that here with this song that reflects a lot of the same things as "Scratch Your Name". Existing in the world is hard and takes mettle and might, something that the Unusuals know all too well.

10. "Chelsea Dagger" - The Fratellis

  • This tune as well as "Recovery" fit in with the Arctic Monkeys genre of mid-2000s Brit-rock that has always felt like hanging out with the cool kids to me. Maybe that's because I was not a cool kid in 2006, but there's something fun and carefree but still angsty and harsh to this music that I just adore.

11. "D is for Dangerous" - Arctic Monkeys

  • favorite worst nightmare really feels like a good way to describe both Robert and the way the Unusuals feel about Robert.

12. "Recovery" - Frank Turner

  • Without saying too much about the ending of A Neon Darkness, this definitely feels like a group song as they rebuild their lives after meeting Robert. It has also always made me think of Neon and Marley meeting and becoming friends for the first time and ultimately helping each other heal from the struggles they've been through and from people making snap judgments based on their appearances. They actually give each other a chance and it works out. There's also a lot to be said for how these lyrics reflect Alex's journey of trying desperately to run away from his problems, but he's not quite at the recovery stage yet at this point.

  • ...'cause broken people/can get better if they really want to/Or at least that's all I have to tell myself/if I am hoping to survive - that's what it comes down to in this book. "Broken" people (a colloquialism I don't necessarily endorse but that does work in these lyrics) can get better if they try. (light spoilers ahead) Neon might consider herself "broken" because of what happened, but she wants to work to rebuild herself from it. And she has support of people who love her. Can the same be said for Robert? Does he want to get better?

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©2019 by Lauren Shippen.