So, 15 years ago, today, I moved to New York City. Lots of things have changed since then. Lots of things haven't. I suppose I could write a long philosophical exegesis of my time here and what it has meant, but that would be boring. But I can add a bit of context: for some bizarre reason, I used to write a journal in 2001, and here is what I wrote tonight, 15 years ago:
As I drove [my car] on the NJ Turnpike, my emotions ran the gamut of sheer euphoria and excitement, to sadness and despondence. From hope for a new life to wishing my car would just veer off the freeway [into] some conflagration. Each feeling lasted seconds. Nothing too serious. But dusk on the NJ Turnpike (generally an extremely ugly stretch of America) was awesome. I arrived in this city alone. And that will prove to be the best part of all of this. I did it all by myself!
Anyway, I was trying to think back to what music I was probably listening to those days, and I can't really remember the fall of 2001 in terms of music (although I did see shows by Orbital, Tool, and Spiritualized). One song that I was listening to a lot in 2002, in the year after my arrival, was "NYC" by Interpol from their debut album Turn On The Bright Lights, one of those inexplicable albums that are brilliant despite being completely derivative (and it's worth noting that the band never came anywhere close to the halcyon heights of that album in anything they ever released subsequently). The Village Voice had a pretty good summation of the song:
So in commemoration of those 15 years -- and to all the people I knew in those early years, you know who you are -- here is "NYC" by Interpol:
Even a decade after its release, you'd still be hard-pressed to find anyone who really knows what "Subway, she is a porno" means, but there is a kind of hazy plod to Interpol's "NYC" that does perfectly exemplify the everyday life of many a working New Yorker: those bits of your commute where you keep your head down, downshift into autopilot, and strap on your mental and emotional armor for the battle you find daily in the rat-race capital.
"Subway is a porno," indeed.
Deerhunter, who were playing Webster Hall near Union Square. The show was outstanding, just fantastic. I've seen Deerhunter before, but this time, the band was just totally on, without any kind of fucking around, from start to end, on point, demonstrating once again why Deerhunter remains probably the best and most versatile guitar rock band in America today. Guitar rock is hardly very trendy these days but Bradford Cox and his crew reveal a deep commitment to the possibilities of that instrument, straddling carefully the line between utter abandon, whitenoise, frenzy, and distorted bliss (think Sonic Youth and MBV) on the one hand, and the sheer confectionary joy of the three-minute pop song (think Motown + Big Star) with lilting verses and hookladen choruses. Although their album Microcastle (2008) remains my favorite of theirs, ALL of their albums are worth getting, each containing at least half a dozen killer pop tracks that other bands spend entire careers working towards.
What made last night's show amazing was the band's ability to surprise. They've now added a live keyboard/saxophone player (Javier Morales) who adds a lot of funk to what was ostensibly four-on-the-floor rock krautrock attack. We got some really jamin' funky workouts in the show, hinting at perhaps the future trajectory of the band. An album of Stevie Wonder covers?
Anyway, in honor of the Deerhunter show but also the beginning of my 16th year here in New York City, I present two songs by Deerhunter. The first, the opening track on their last album Fading Frontier (2015), "All the Same" is a lilting indie rockish meditation on letting yourself go, and not getting too attached to anything (including a place):
My home, anywhereThe second, which I've posted,probably a few times over the years on this blog, is a live version of "Nothing Ever Happened," the epic lengthy track from Microcastle which has been a sort of concert closer for the band for many years. Here they are, playing the song in a 12-minute version at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago in 2012. Behold:
Expect no comfort, save for air
Take it anyway
I could leave or I could stay
Wouldn't matter much to me
Much to me
Here's looking forward to the next 15.....