I couldn’t sleep a few days ago. I was lying on my bed, sifting through my personal thoughts, and I fell into a rabbit hole of music that inspired me to move to New York City.
I remember, back before I graduated and was living in Urbana-Champaign, of the new music I’d listened to. I remember going into Postal Service, a record shop on Green Street, and buying particular CDs of indie artists I’d discover on MTV2. I remember, after graduating and returning home, of all the bands I’d blog about on my old (and fairly popular) music blog. I remember going to Chicago to see all the bands that were finally getting the spotlight they deserve. Most of all, I remember how all this music made me dream to move to New York.
I wanted to live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (I did). I wanted to experience the hip and cool culture of artists and musicians (I did — before that lifestyle got phased out/priced out by everyone else wanting the same thing). I wanted to meet some of these bands and buy them a beer (I did, for some). Many years later, I now reflect that I achieved that foolish, Bohemian dream of being cool and artistic and binging on Parliament cigarettes and cheap-ass beer.
Here are some of the native New York bands that, in my youth as an undergrad and a recent grad in Illinois, would want me to make a life-altering decision to move to one of the greatest cities in the world, to shape my future as a creative and moderately successful adult:
I recall watching this video when it premiered on MTV2. They were careless, carefree, and cool — like a bunch of drunks. They epitomized the NYC indie scene and were constant fodder for my music blog that made fun of hipsters. I loved (and still love) them.
Another essential NYC indie band. I’ve seen them at several festivals in Chicago, and their first album (an encapsulation of New York) was always played when my old friend Jeff (who I created a comic character and subsequent blog about) and me would hang out in Urbana-Champaign.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
I saw this “Buzzworthy” video late one night in undergrad. I loved the song, and I love the video — so much so, that I made a still of Karen O crying as my computer background. Everything about “Maps” was so raw and beautiful, and I became a fan of theirs for years to come. I even remember buying Fever to Tell at Postal Service and when I moved back home, going to several of their shows at Chicago’s Metro and Vic Theater. When I eventually moved to NYC, I’d still catch some of their shows — of course, they got even bigger, and I had to pay a little bit more to see them.
TV on the Radio
TVOTR have always been so cool and had a sound I never heard before. They were definitely Williamsburg mainstays, and I recall meeting lead singer Tunde Adebimpe at a bar when I first moved to New York.
When I heard their song “We’ve Been Had” in a car commercial, I had to find out who these guys were. Plus, their refined sense of collared shirts and sweaters inspired my own style back in the day: a preppy hipster who enjoys a glass of whiskey (and I admit, I still am).
The French Kicks
In a similar vein to The Walkmen. I remember seeing this video late one night in undergrad, when I should have been writing an English paper. After graduation, I saw them perform at Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago.
They introduced me to the shoegaze sound. The video for “Thursday” inspired some stop-motion work from me, and each time I hear this song, I get nostalgic — as if running through the city. I saw them live at the Highland in Urbana-Champaign with The Appleseed Cast, and after their set I gave lead singer Yuki Chikudate a cigarette.
When they debuted this video, I went to Postal Service to pick up their album. Their New Wave-y sound introduced me to actual New Wave. As far as I can tell they never amounted to much after their first album, but “My Coco” and “Jenny” were on repeat while walking on campus.
Another garage rock band from NYC. It was such an underrated album in comparison to The Strokes or The Bravery. Even today, when I hear “Misfit” or “Now That I Miss Her,” I’m reminded of those dumb aspirations to become a famous artist/designer in NYC.
The Secret Machines
Their music always pumped me up before going out in Urbana-Champaign or Chicago. “First Wave Intact” had an energy, the kind that prepared me for something — something ambitious.
School of Seven Bells
Another project by the late Benjamin Curtis of Secret Machine fame, their dreamy music always made me feel good. After watching this video as a kid in Chicago, there was this magical yearning of riding in a cab throughout New York City. And now I’ve ridden in a cab throughout NYC; it’s not as magical anymore.
I remember seeing this video on MTV2 and absolutely loving it. The post-punk visuals and catchy sounds were what made me think what it’s like to live in Brooklyn. And it’s true, circa 2009.
Like The Strokes, Interpol, TVOTR, and the YYYs, LCD Soundsystem is the definition of the New York music scene in the mid to late 2000’s. His song, “All My Friends,” was my anthem as a young adult, and the music video for “Someone Great” is what I envisioned living in Brooklyn was like: bodegas, comfortable squalor, and rooftop parties (and yeah, I threw my share of rooftop parties when I first moved to New York). His album, Sound of Silver, is everything I had hoped for and had lived through when I came to NYC. If anything, listening to James Murphy definitely prepared me to live in this city and molded my love of electronic and electroclash music.