(This is a series celebrating our favorite songs of 2008. No particular order. It is being cross-posted at rangeliferecords.com. If you’d like to contribute, email a song link and Bo Jackson highlight to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Song: “In the New Year” by the Walkmen
Song Link: Indie Muse
“In the New Year” is the soundtrack to turning 30. If you’re not yet 30, you can listen to this song and feel what it’s gonna feel like, for real: the strange limbo between wisdom and naivete, solace and action, your life getting seriously serious and your life barely beginning. The singer’s telling it like it is. He’s “still living at the old address”. He’s hopeful, he’s idealistic. He’s been through these seasons and cycles enough to know that his “heart’s in the strangest place”. Know the feeling? It’s Winter in this song, right around the Holidaze, just like it is now. Old friends are in town, collaging the present with memories of the past. The love of his life haunts him. He’s boozing hard, laughing, snarling, hands freezing, teeth numb. It’s New York. “It’s gonna be a good year,” he’s telling himself. You can believe me or not believe me but This. Is. Your. Life.
What’s with New York bands and towering bass lines? I’m thinking of Interpol’s “Come Around”, of the Stroke’s “Is This It?”. You maybe can’t hear it on your laptop speakers, but play “In the New Year” through a system and suddenly there’s skyscrapers all around you. You’re on the street, subway rumbling under your feet. Look up, the soundwave of the bass is rising and falling like the tops of buildings. Fuck Mac Dre – this is BASS!
I have a treatment in mind for the music video: singer Hamilton Leithauser is walking a side-street at night in New York, collar of his pea-coat up to his chin. He sings to the camera, a little loose, a little blustery. As the chorus kicks in – the bass, the barroom organ – he walks onto an Avenue, the bar and street lights flaring like flames in the lens. There’s crowds on the street, Christmas lights, pretty girls in hats and scarves smoking in front of crowded cafes. He sings out, the camera circling around him as he makes fists, fists punching the air. And then stumbling back onto a side-street, just him and the camera, alone but fighting loneliness, singing the words like they matter. It’s dark and cold and you can see his breath. And then back onto the Avenue, the swirl of lights and bodies, he falls to his knees, singing out hard while passerby’s barely notice. Someone helps him up and guides him into a bar where the band is onstage, playing the break. He gets onstage and grabs the mic for the ending, drunkenly losing his coat, balling it up, falling to his knees with it, belting out the words while the organ soars and the crash cymbal rattles. Fade to black(out).