This post is sponsored by Candlewick Press.
In a lot of ways, an anthology is a bit like a playlist. And when you’re editing an anthology with a dear friend, it’s like assembling one of those joint Spotify lists from far away. Together, you find yourselves talking about your favorites. Authors you adore something terrible, who you can quote seemingly out of nowhere. You discuss writers you wish more people knew about, whose books you cherish and insist everybody read whenever you’ve got a chance.
Each author, each track, is special to you. And putting an anthology together gives you the chance to explain to the world why they are so great.
Battle of the Bands is our first mixtape. We adore everyone in it and hope you will too.
We nudged our contributors for some of their favorite songs. Jeff Zentner picked “Tether” by Chvrches, saying, “It has this deeply melancholic, doomed romanticism, combined with grandiosity of feeling that all reads very young adult to me.”
Jenny Torres-Sanchez picked “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths and dug into the why when it came to her story:
“The vulnerability and angst of teenagedom is captured so perfectly in this song. For a character like Vincent, who feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, the idea of getting what he wants feels impossible. Happiness feels impossible. Yet he wishes, he hopes, he deeply wants something to please go his way. It’s a song I related to a lot as a teen and one I listened to as I wrote ‘A Small Light.’ It’s also the reason Vincent’s favorite band in the story is The Commoners — a small nod to The Smiths who have said they chose their name because Smith is such an ordinary name. That commonness, that nothing is special about me feeling, is also something Vincent feels profoundly. And I think what many of us feel in our teen years. Though in fact in that ordinariness of adolescence, we are extraordinary. We are music.”
Sarah Nicole Smetana shared her picks, “Freakish” by Saves the Day and “For Me This is Heaven” by Jimmy Eat World, and discusses why:
“These are both songs that I loved when I was Mina’s age, so they inherently carry a lot of emotion for me about heartbreak and growing up—but they also really speak to Mina’s experience in ‘Sidelines.’ To me, ‘Freakish’ embodies the precise moment when your whole world falls apart, and you feel like you’re disintegrating into nothing, and yet somehow through the center of that pain you find strength. You’re still alive, still valuable, and you deserve more than broken pieces. ‘For Me This Is Heaven’ speaks to the moment that comes directly after that epiphany: the spark of excitement as you grow into the person you’re meant to be, while simultaneously carrying the sadness of whatever had to end for you to get there.
Preeti Chhibber responded in all caps with, “’HURRICANE’ BY SOMETHING CORPORATE, OBVIOUSLY.”
And it’s that kind of energy we hope you get from reading the book. Both a blend of those deep, heavy feelings when it comes to the characters who are wrestling with family and breakups, but also the high-level, I-need-to-talk-in-all-caps JOY of throwing yourself into music, no matter what’s going on in the background. Of being asked your favorite song, and shouting it into the wind.
We have our favorites, too, of course. For Eric, it’s “Best of Me” by The Starting Line, “Here’s to the Night” by Eve 6, “Chase This Light” by Jimmy Eat World, “Stolen” by Dashboard Confessional, “The Conversation” by Motion City Soundtrack (the singer is one of our contributors!), and “Coming Home” by New Found Glory.
I dug up my old sax for this photo.
This book has been such a fun journey, with a bunch of my favorite authors. Particularly the shining star that is @laurengibaldi.
For the youth in bands and those bands of our youth…
— Eric Smith (@ericsmithrocks) September 7, 2021
And for Lauren, it’s “Giving Up On Love” by The Ataris and “A Praise Chorus” by Jimmy Eat World, because sometimes you have to jump on your feet and go — sometimes you have to feel like the world is yours.
Here are a few more picks from some of our contributors:
Ashley Woodfolk: “Shy” by Leon Bridges and “Sunset Lover” by Petit Biscuit.
Sarvenaz Taghavian: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift and “Gives You Hell” by The All-American Rejects (since her story is called “Battle of the Exes”).
Shaun David Hutchinson: “Everything I Want to Be” by Save Ferris, “Take Your Mama” by Scissor Sisters, “I Won’t Spend Another Night Alone” by the Ataris, and “All My Fault” by Fenix, TX (all about owning who you are).
Ashley Poston: “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkle (the mix with Shawn Mendes and The Vamps, called “Oh Cecilia [Breaking My Heart]”), “The Rock Show” by Blink-182, and “Streetlights” by Ludo.
Justin Courtney Pierre: “Sugar Kane” by Sonic Youth (from Dirty), “Herbie Goes Ballistic” by Venetian Snares (from The Chocolate Wheelchair Album), and “Children’s Story” by Tom Waits (from Orphans – Brawlers).
We hope you enjoy the listen, and we definitely hope you enjoy the read.
Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith
Editors of Battle of the Bands