These aren’t “the best”, just ones I like. And I’m pretty-much ignoring hip-hop/soul here, because that is a real void in my musical knowledge. The impetus was listening to the first one, and thinking about other tracks I keep coming back to.
1. Gil Scott-Heron “New York City”
This album was my intro to Gil Scott-Heron. I’m pretty sure I found it amongst my uncle’s album collection as a kid while visiting. It was on a mix-tape I made from his collection, and I played that cassette until a dying Walkman destroyed nearly a decade later.
2. Cub “New York City”
Vancouver’s own Cub. You may know this song from They Might Be Giants’ cover, but this is the original. It is perfect pop-punk.
3. LCD Soundsystem “New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down”
(NB: pretty sure that’s not an official video, but how could you not love it?) This song is also peak LCD Soundsystem.
4. Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side”
Could any list about NYC music not contain a Lou Reed song? I probably could have chosen any number by him. But this, while an obvious choice, is the soundtrack of when I think about the New York that was.
5. Leonard Cohen “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”
Like Lou Reed’s track, this is a hymn to what was, only from the singer’s viewpoint, a leisurely look back to days long gone.
Honourable Mention – Ryan Adams “New York, New York”
This song, with the lyric “hell I still love you New York” was ubiquitous in the wake the of September 11th, 2001 (the video was shot apparently just days before). I had to put it down for a while because of that, but I’ve recently been rediscovering Ryan Adams, and this song along with it.