John’s Finite Soundtrack to Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

As mentioned previously, this my the full and annotated soundtrack to Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (the book, not necessarily the movie) designed to be listened to while reading.

WARNING: Like most of the music I listen to, this soundtrack is comprised almost entirely of songs (and genres) that have ceased to be popular by 2008. These genres include ska (of various varieties), punk rock, pop-punk, and a few soul- or blues-infused subgenres that are so small they’re not worth mentioning. If you’re looking for the latest and greatest in largely acoustic indie music, go buy the real Nick & Norah soundtrack. Frankly, I found it to be entirely too slow and boring, and I don’t think the characters would ever have listened to it (if they were real people.) Most of all, I encourage you to make your own soundtrack and share it with others after reading the book.

Note: The links below are set up so that the band’s name will take you to their site, while the song title will take you to the lyrics.

1. Teenage Bottlerocket – “So Cool

There’s something about Teenage Bottlerocket songs that always makes me think they’d make great opening credits music. Perhaps it’s because I witnessed the rise and fall of pop-punk, and refuse to acknowledge its complete irrelevance in the new millennium. “So Cool” is a simple song about a guy who thinks a girl is amazing, and wants to at least hang out with her.

2. Mad Caddies – “Game Show

For those of us who might be occasionally timid or shy, the Mad Caddies offer a few words to live by. “Game Show” is advice from the singer to the listener about taking chances in life and love, because “you’re never gonna win unless you play.” On the story’s timeline I would place this right before Nick asks Norah (or, in the movie, Norah asks Nick) to be in a five-minute relationship.

3. The Smiths (or Reel Big Fish f. Rachel Minton) – “Ask

Occupying the exact same spot in the timeline from the opposite character’s perspective, “Ask” and “Game Show” both encourage the listener to be bold and make that all-important first move. After all, “if it’s not love, then it’s the bomb that will bring us together.” I personally prefer the RBF cover (featuring Rachel from Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, who will show up later on this soundtrack) to the Smiths original.

4. The Epoxies – “It’s You

The thing that I really don’t get about the songs on the official soundtrack are that they’re not fun or energetic, which are feelings that falling in love usually inspires! “It’s You” is about unexpectedly developing feelings for someone, which is exactly what happens after that first kiss. As Roxy Epoxy puts it, “One Kiss and it’s over, but not the way you think … It’s you I’m waiting for, it’s you I never bargained for.”

5. Green Day – “Extraordinary Girl

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer since A) Norah is supposed to be quite an extraordinary girl, and B) The band in the book covers a Green Day song shortly after that first, awkward kiss, which helps to break the awkwardness with awesomeness.

6. Common Rider – “Carry On

I’m particularly proud of how well this song fits with the feel of the story. If you substitute “Nova” for “Yugo” in your mind as you listen, it works even better. Timeline-wise, I would place this exactly after Nick finally gets Jessie the Yugo running and they escape the club, leaving Tal and Tris behind.

7. Edna’s Goldfish – “1,800 Miles to Nowhere

Good luck finding this track on your own! My love for obscure long-defunct Long Island ska-rock bands probably doesn’t win me any scene points, but people who listened to Edna’s Goldfish understand. This is a great driving song, especially when you’ve got the burning desire to get out and nowhere in particular to go (which is what happens after they leave the club.)

8. Deal’s Gone Bad – “Movin’ On”

Did you ever listen to a song for the first time at exactly the right point in your life, where you could swear the band wrote it about what you’re feeling at that moment? “Movin’ On” was that song for me, and I think it would be for Nick as well. It’s all about realizing that the one you’re no longer with isn’t coming back, and that you’ve got a tough (but ultimately rewarding) road to recovery ahead of you. Nick needed to hear that when he was having his little crisis in the Burlesque club, while Norah was in the bathroom finding out about the Where’s Fluffy? show.

9. No Doubt – “Underneath It All

Meanwhile, in the bathroom… Norah is realizing that Nick, in addition to being kind of a chump, is more than just the no’mo bass player in a queercore band. She knows all about his deeply sensitive and romantic side from when he was dating Tris, but she can’t reveal that. Not yet, anyway. This song highlights the fact that both of them are far more than what their carefully-crafted (to not look like they’re carefully crafted) appearances show. The book itself is finally showing its true colors as well, proving that it’s more than just a bunch of hipster clichés and name-checks “underneath it all.”

10. Mustard Plug – “Something New

So where does the train of thought started by “Movin’ On” lead? It leads Nick to the conclusion that Norah really is a godsend for him, that she’s special in all the ways Tris wasn’t. Even if they just become really great friends, she could be the friend he really needs right now. For Norah, Nick is the type of guy she’s always wanted to date but never had the courage or opportunity to. She knows that he deserved better than Tris, and she’s of a mind to give him what he deserves. In short, they gives each other hope for something new. It helps that the song is fast-paced has enough manic energy to signal the start of Where’s Fluffy?’s set and its ensuing mosh pit.

11. The World/Inferno Friendship Society – “Only Anarchists Are Pretty

Everybody who reads the book will probably have their own unique take on what Where’s Fluffy? sounds and acts like. In my head, they’re a slightly younger and punkier version of the World/Inferno Friendship Society, a band who has largely given up its pursuit of fame and fortune in order to stay true to itself and its fans. “Only Anarchists Are Pretty” is a cabaret punk rock love song, one that holds a very special place in my heart (like I said, my story isn’t so different from theirs.)

12. NOFX – “USA-Holes” (or any snotty political-punk song of your choosing)

Again, Where’s Fluffy? can sound like anything you imagine them to, though I feel that the intention is some kind of amalgamation of Anti-Flag, Bad Religion, NOFX, World/Inferno, and tons of other snarky political-punk bands out there.

13. The Pipettes – “Because It’s not Love (but It’s Still a Feeling)

Make-out scene! This one is for the very confused, extremely sexually charged make-out session that ensues when Norah drags Nick to the back of the club so that he won’t see Tris arrive. What they’re feeling isn’t love yet, but it’s got those hormones in overdrive. Too bad this is the start of all the drama between our two protagonists.

14. The Reunion Show – “Too Much

Hey, remember when I said I love long-defunct Long-Island bands? If that background singer sounds familiar, it’s because he was the lead singer of Edna’s Goldfish. As for the song’s significance, this one would come up right after the awkward make-out scene: “Maybe I should have more patience, a paradox posing as a problem, awash in a sea of nonsense… I want too much.”

15. 311 – “All Mixed Up

I’m really dating myself with this one, but I just love the sound of it. It’s great movie background music, and the fact that both Nick and Norah are “all mixed up” after their awkward make-out session certainly helps its relevance.

16. The Architects – “Help”

There are a few places where this song could be appropriate, both for Nick and for Norah. Each one gets help from unlikely sources, be it Norah’s cab driver or Tony/i/e the bouncer at the Burlesque club. Three cheers for the supporting cast!

17. The Toasters – “Underground Train” (listed elsewhere as Underground Town)

Well, what else are you going to play when Nick and Norah find themselves on an underground train in New York City?

18. Stephanie White and the NJ Philth Harmonic – “Teardrops”

Norah spends a good portion of the middle act crying her eyes out. Poor girl, she’s had very little luck when it comes to love. This song is about more than the first night of a relationship, but the fact that the rain plays such an important part in Nick and Norah’s romance made it feel so appropriate. Obviously, this is for the section where the couple are wandering the rainy, deserted 3 A.M. streets of Park Avenue in Midtown.

19. The Slackers – “Stars

I defy you to listen to this song while Nick is talking about being unable to see the stars (and doing his best to imagine them) and not get goosebumps. A beautiful song, “Stars” has the perfect feeling for this moment in the story.

20. Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer – “This Briskness (Java)

Aww, they’re so cute! As Nick and Norah get to know the real people behind the facades, their feelings move from crush to full-blown adorable young love. This whole song is chock full of lyrics that are appropriate throughout Nick and Norah’s night together, but it felt the most right to me after Norah finishes talking to her dad on the phone.

21. The Cure (or Goldfinger, or Codename:Rocky) – “Just Like Heaven

Super hot and heavy Make-out scene! This is probably the passage that parents will object to, even though what they actually get to do is pretty tame by TV standards. Anybody who reads Gossip Girl will laugh at the notion that this is controversial. More importantly, the emotion is really real this time, and these two kids can’t get enough of each other. Whether you pick the original or a faster cover, the feeling is always the same: “You, soft and only. You, lost and lonely. You, just like heaven.”

22. Tim Armstrong – “Hold On

So the super hot and heavy make-out scene doesn’t end the way Nick and Norah would’ve liked, but maybe that’s for the best. Who wants their first time to be in the ice room of a hotel, anyway? Norah and I agree that the Beatles are overrated, so I’m putting “Hold On” by Tim Armstrong (lead singer of Rancid) on as the sappy but not-sappy love song instead of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Plus, Vic Ruggiero from The Slackers (who sang and played on “Stars” above) plays the keys/synth/organ/whatever on this track.

23. Beastie Boys – “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn

Okay, so they’re not going to Brooklyn. There’s no Beastie Boys song called “No Sleep ’till Hoboken,” ok? Still, the scene where Nick and Norah are rocking out to the Beastie Boys (an altogether different song) is awesome and adorable. I felt this fit better, since the entire book takes place over the course of one very long night.

24. The Gadjits – “This Could Be Permanent

Yup, that one very long night could be the start of a permanent relationship between our two protagonists, so here’s to them. Hit “next” when this song ends, because it’s got a secret track after several minutes of silence and I don’t know how to edit it out.  Oh, and if this band sounds a bit like The Architects, it’s because the lineup is almost exactly the same.

25. Cruiserweight – “There You Are”

Uplifting pop-punk with heart, sung by a female vocalist? Sign me up! This feels like a great finale song, full of hope for their new relationship and affirming that life isn’t as bad as they both once thought.

26. The Clash – “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)

I’ll admit that I stole this one from Norah’s planned mix. I had originally planned to use “Lost in the Supermarket” for the scene where Norah and Tris are having a heart-to-heart in the grocery store after the awkward make-out, but there’s something about having closing credits over the Clash that appealed to me. Maybe it’s the alliteration.

Honorable mentions include “New” by No Doubt, which perfectly captures the thrill of a new relationship, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles, for obvious reasons, “Maitland Street” by The Living End (which would have made it on if I could bloody find it!), “I Will Survive” (the Cake cover) for Norah standing up to Tal, “Brand New Song” by Reel Big Fish as a gigantic F.U. to Tris, and at least one song by Skanatra for our Hoboken hero, Nick.  Now let’s hear yours!

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