I suppose given my current stateside nature, I should probably do a bit of a nod to that in this month’s Set The Record Straight. As I pointed out in the last post about the contents of my bag, I am quite a large fan of a lot of the music that has come out of New York. So for this month, I am going to give a monster edition of a carefully sculpted playlist that spans the genres and gives an introduction to the New York music I love. Also, beware I will start to bang on about the whole “ooh look at me, I’m travelling around the USA” thing quite a bit, but at least I’m not banging on about Spike Jonze anymore…
!!! – Dancing is the Best Revenge
It’s no secret that I love a bit of disco, and when it comes to being a lot of fun and making disco music !!! (pronounced Chk-chk-chk) are about as good as it gets. In terms of song choice, I could have gone for something New York-specific (such as Me and Giuliani Down By the School Yard) to prove that they are a New York band despite being from Sacramento, but what you need to know is that most New York acts aren’t actually from there.
LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean
James Murphy is someone I am completely enamoured with. The man has created so many songs that have just stuck with me, and Dance Yrself Clean is one of them. It is also a song that offers that perfect LCD Soundsystem balance of heavy electronic and slight rock vibes.
Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
This song is probably the only song I ever bothered to learn on bass guitar. That opening bass riff is just iconic and really is synonymous (for me at least) with a certain era of New York rock. This song is everything that is right about music, and the David Byrne solo acoustic version is something else also. And of course, I just discovered Selena Gomez sampled this song so it is now a certified classic.
The Velvet Underground – I’m Waiting for the Man
New York rock would not be New York rock without The Velvet Underground. The pounding piano instantly throws you into this song, and the intensity never drops. Despite being about going uptown to buy heroin, the song manages to motivate me to get up and do something with myself because of just how great it is instrumentally, and in terms of Lou Reed’s storytelling ability.
The Strokes – Is This It?
The Strokes are a band that were pivotal in reviving New York rock music. Without the style and perfection that this brand brought with them, New York rock wouldn’t have witnessed the great revival it did in the 2000s, and this track that kicks off their opening album really throws you into what their style was and remains to be.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
I’d never really given Yeah Yeah Yeahs much of a chance until fairly recently, and it was this song that was the turning point for me. Lyrically, the song is beautiful, and that is matched by the composition around it. The song has peaks and troughs and plays with you emotionally and otherwise.
Jay-Z – Public Service Announcement
Mid-point reload! This interlude track acts as a perfect bridge between two of the key parts of New York music for me – Rock and Hip-Hop. Although this track is in no way rock, as an interlude track it’s a perfect segue between the two segments, and is equally a banger in its own right.
Wu-Tang Clan – Da Mystery of Chessboxin’
This song is one that myself and my best friend would recite the lyrics to one another taking it verse by verse. What we used to fight about, however, was whose turn it was to take what we saw as the iconic, shouty U-God opening verse. The only consolation for the other person was being able to take the 4th Verse which was ODB’s.
Beastie Boys – Sounds of Science
Beastie Boys have released so many songs that I love. It’s weird to see them described as a “rap-rock” group as this is a term I often associate with drivel like Korn or Limp Bizkit, but I suppose that is probably the reason I fell in love with them. As a kid who would never have described themselves as liking rap, I’d be lying if I denied having always loved these guys.
Gang Starr – Hip Hop
I’d be lying if I said my love for this song had something to do with anything other than the EA Skate games. However, despite such an incredibly simple introduction the song has managed to remain with me and will often come out when I’m in a hip-hop mood.
De La Soul – The Magic Number
What this song gives, along with some great rapping, is a lesson in how to sample well. The song borrows from almost every song ever made about the number 3 and manages to piece them all together to create an absolute masterpiece.
A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It?
What better way to close off that with the act that really got me into hip-hop in the first place. For about a year I wouldn’t listen to anything but Tribe’s back catalogue, and this song exemplifies why. Where I was put off by gangster rap, the laid-back rhythmic nature of the rapping here as well as the beautiful, sample-heavy production made me fall in love with a genre of music I’d often disregarded. Not to mention, it ties together the rock/hip-hop elements by using Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.