28. Song No. 213: “All the Pretty Girls Go to the City,” Spoon
Kill the Moonlight, 2002
There are a lot of bands I love and there are a lot of bands I loved in high school, but there is not a tremendous amount of overlap there.
Don’t get me wrong: There are bands I’ll love the idea of and for their place of incredible importance at one point in time forever. There are bands I’ll love for one song that sticks with me. But a band I have loved consistently for two decades? (I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify that of course classic rock is exempt from this conversation.)
Spoon is in a rare class of contemporary musical outfits I have loved with my whole heart since I was in high school. Their sound has evolved into a distinct departure from their early sound so that love wasn’t a given, which makes listening holes into every album they’ve put out since then a special kind of musical home.
While Girls Can Tell is pure high school and almost weekly after-school trips to just roam South Street together, Kill the Moonlight is college. And “All the Pretty Girls Go to the City” is my senior-year spring-semester internship in New York City.
College Me was convinced I was destined for the city. When the college paper sent four members of the editorial staff to a day of workshops at The New York Times, I knew it was a sign and already relished how I’d pepper my future job interview with charming anecdotes about feeling immediately at home where all the news that’s fit to print is made even before I graduated.
By the time I started a magazine internship that January, New York felt inevitable and buoyed my spirits as the internship itself quickly lost its appeal. I told myself that the twice-weekly commute to the city where my heart lived was a practice run until subways became my normal.
Because I would not take the subways. I rarely took a cab. I walked from Penn Station to some converted loft in Hell’s Kitchen and back again in heels and loved every second of it. I wanted to watch winter melt into spring. I wanted to learn every path between two points that I could. I wanted to breathe in the absolutely but authentically fetid air of New York and carry it with me until I returned. I wanted to be a part of the living city’s heartbeat.
My brand-new iPod was my companion as I let New York take me in. And because I was writing my love letter to the city like my own personal movie, it needed a soundtrack.
So I aimlessly wound my way between the train station and W. 55th and 8th with all the New-York-themed and city-centric songs I had drowning out the life around me as I fell harder and harder for a city that I was going to make love me back just as much by learning it nook by nook and one surprise micropark at a time.
“All the Pretty Girls Go to the City” and its moody coolness was absolutely one of those steady companion songs. But what it most strongly invokes is the memory of its lyrics being my go-to appropriately themed away message of choice for my mid-aughts internship days, and the weirdly accomplished feeling of being idle for 14 hours.
Life, of course, went in a whole different direction and so did the reality of where my jobs have taken me as I reluctantly accepted that maybe I need more green and sky than the city could offer a voluntarily impoverished journalist. But the songs that were there and helped me at least believe if not pretend that I was meant to be a city girl are imbued with a special kind of magic that I still feel every time I return to my favorite city in the world, our vast incompatibilities be damned.
(This piece also ran as my debut submission for Stereo Stories.)