In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking songs about living in the city.
Though I grew up in the Cleveland suburbs, I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life living in the city. I live in Chicago now, obviously, but I spent a couple of years right after college living in New York, where, although used to living in tight, shitty spaces on garbage food, I just couldn’t really figure out how to live on $21,000 a year—minus taxes. Years later, people ask me, “Oh, gosh, what were your favorite restaurants in New York?” or, “Did you go to this club or that club?” I can pretty much only say that I really liked this pizza place by my apartment that put sesame seeds on the crust and charged under $2 for a slice, and that sometimes, as a treat, I’d hit up Chinatown for some really cheap sesame pancakes.
I think that struggle to survive in the big city—something that I still deal with now to some extent, lest you think The A.V. Club is making us all multi-millionaires—is one of the things that drew me to LCD Soundsystem’s “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Though it’s really a song about how the city’s cleaned up nature is becoming irksome to James Murphy (a subject, again, I can certainly understand in Chicago, especially in my neighborhood, where dive bars are rapidly becoming craft cocktail emporiums stocked with velvet couches), I’ve always assigned more of a sentimental spin to the track, remembering all the times I really struggled to find happiness in New York, either because of money or because of the lackluster relationship I was in at the time. And so while I love New York—seriously, its selection of Uniqlos, Momofuku outlets, and bagel shops really cannot be beat—there is something about the city that always makes me a little melancholy after a few days there. Maybe it’s because I never really made the city my own, even after I was there for a while. Or maybe, like Murphy, I’m more attracted to the concept of “old” New York than I am the current slick and crowded metropolis. Either way, “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” has always struck a chord somewhere deep inside my musical heart, reminding me of not only the sad, lonely, and broke years I spent living in the big city, but also (hopefully) serving to make me just a little bit more optimistic about my life elsewhere, now and in the future.