Gracie McKenzie is the audience engagement editor for CityLab. She previously worked in public radio, as the digital producer for NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show and Here & Now, and ran social media for Narratively.
We found the best songs about neighborhoods and how they change.
After the success of last month’s playlist of public transportation tunes, we’re back with a new edition. This time, we’re grooving to songs about neighborhoods—and how they’ve changed.
This is a great topic for a playlist, because nothing cements or destroys inter-neighbor relations like loud music. (Hello, the tap dancer I lived underneath in college, and that mysterious bagpiper in South Eugene, Oregon.) Thanks to CityLab’s staff and our readers on Twitter, I have a playlist about neighborhoods that I can blast to either annoy mine, or engender a spirit of community, depending on how you look at it.
Our last playlist was fairly straightforward, but it took me a little while to explain what I was looking this time for to my colleagues: songs about local places, how we are involved in changing them, and how they’re never quite the same as we remember them. As before, though, once we started thinking of examples, we couldn’t stop. Here are a few of our favorites—scroll down for the full Spotify version.
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At this point I’ve made most of my friends (and neighbors, probably) listen to this one, by Lake Street Dive, but if you haven’t heard “Neighbor Song” before, and you read CityLab, you’ll probably like it. I prefer the live version, for optimal gawking at how flawlessly the band plays.
I grew up head-bobbing in the backseat of a minivan to Jonathan Richman, with and without the Modern Lovers, including this great song—suggested (independently) by my colleagues Laura Bliss and Tanvi Misra.
While we’ve chronicled musicians’ big-city inspiration here in the past, in the form of a map of NYC’s musical references and a tool for city-inspired playlists, I was struck by how many hometown odes were out there—like this one, suggested by CityLab’s director of marketing Zev Kanter. It’s from the indie-punk quintet Titus Andronicus and their 2010 concept album The Monitor, a crazily ambitious effort that blends New Jersey suburban angst with Civil War references.
Other, mellower exercises in hometown nostalgia come from Bruce Springsteen (“My Hometown”), the Pretenders (“My City Was Gone”), and Iris Dement (“Our Town”). But further down the playlist you’ll find quite a bit of (justified) anger about neighborhoods that are changing. My colleague Kriston Capps wrote about gentrification as a locus of punk-rock rage a couple of years ago. “Punk’s not dead,” he wrote. “It’s just gone local.”
Here’s our full playlist: