Every song that mentions a city is good. The Magnetic Fields’ “100,000 Fireflies” is about calling out to someone who’s far away, and it’s perfect: Why do we still live here/ In this repulsive town/ All our friends are in New York. It came out in the early ’90s and it made us miss the place we already lived in. New York was home, but it felt like it was becoming new; empty places became full, unfamiliar bands would play late into the night, and running through Grand Central to catch the train home felt fast.
A young person’s life can be complicated wherever it is, and New York City felt just like any. Of course we weren’t the first, but we, like everyone else, believed we could be the most important. Weeks were spent searching for something good to look at, chasing something that sounded amazing, digging through websites, and getting it all in. Somewhere on 2nd Avenue was a good enough start, then a hop over to a show or some loud music sounded great; we’d either argue about pictures, make plans to start magazines and bands or talk about what the next 10 years would be like. (Great, busy, hilarious, etc.) We’d end nights on Ludlow and 15th, someone’s roof with cans of beer, or our own kitchens listening to songs through headphones. It was impossible to not get sentimental watching the sun come up.
We couldn’t wait for the next thing. The Strokes had done it, The Rapture played that song, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were onto other things, and Animal Collective weren’t from this planet. We needed another hometown band, and LCD's sweaty shows and dance floors piqued our interest; our friends would rave about the beats, catchy hooks, and smart words. The record with the mirrorball had people in a frenzy, but it felt far away. Maybe they didn’t make us miss the place we lived in, or maybe the self-awareness and connoisseurship made them different. Educational bands and DJs can feel exciting and savvy, but they can also be hard to get lost in. In 2007, they released Sound of Silver with a song on it called, “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” We’d gotten older.
Now we talk about other places. Some of us have left, others can’t wait to go, and the ones who’ve stayed feel a little left behind. I heard that LCD Soundsystem ended their final show in 2011 with “New York I Love You…” In the song, James Murphy asks the city not to change into a safe, boring place, probably in the same way the generation before him felt. People call this song a “love letter” to New York, but it’s more of a dig, and it was hard to support that bitterness through the filter of a band we couldn’t relate to in the first place. Kids younger than us chanted along about how things weren’t what they used to be. They shouted that the fun was over, even though we were still having a blast. We got it, but there was no upside to going through with it. There’s a ton of the twist/ But we’re fresh out of shout/ Like a death in the hall/ That you hear through the wall. It’s deflating to think that a place can leave you behind, but it’s hard to prove that it ever really does; your surroundings don’t have the sympathy you have for yourself. There’s no question James Murphy loves this city, but it can’t bring us down unless we thought it was ours to begin with. New York, like every other place, is complicated for a young person.