Weekly Listens: Holden Caulfield Angst

I’m eight chapters deep into teaching The Catcher in the Rye to high school juniors this week and this has spilled over into the songs I’ve been listening to and thus I made a playlist heavily influenced by New York City (and Hamilton). I think it’s also heavily influenced by my need for spring to come. I’m normally pretty ok with winter, having lived in Michigan my whole life I have to be. And there are plenty of magical things to love about winter. But lately I’ve been longing for warmth. The feeling of the end of winter and the beginning of spring is here. I can sense it. Every season has a feeling and now that February is breezing by, spring will come soon. This time of year also seems to be when I listen to a lot of Vampire Weekend and Beach Boys, particularly the Pet Sounds album.

  1. Empire State of Mind, by JAY Z and Alicia Keys.

No NYC themed playlist would be complete without this song. I feel like Holden would enjoy this song. I tried to sing this to my students before we started chapter 8 since that’s when Holden decided to go into the city. Their reaction was Callaghan, why. This song just makes me feel awesome and I wold like to play when I finally get to go to NYC. It’s probably most well known for the misheard lyrics. Liz Lemon’s version is my personal favorite. Also the Adventure Time bacon pancakes mashup version is pretty choice. orig-21701769

Here’s my favorite real lyric.

I’m the new Sinatra, and, since I made it here
I can make it anywhere, yea, they love me everywhere

2. Theme from New York, New York, by Frank Sinatra

Another quintessential NYC song, this one makes you feel like you can accomplish anything. Sinatra was the Jay Z of his day basically. They both swank out a song that is a great ode to the city. One of my most permanent memories of this song is from the end of the Vampire Weekend concert I went to with my cousin. At the end of the show as people were clearing out, this song came on, most likely as a tribute to the band’s New York roots. I mean the album they were touring for was Modern Vampires of the City, so it was fitting. But it just gave me this really happy but sad feeling, because the show was over and it was amazing and I knew I wouldn’t have that feeling of seeing that same show ever again. I get that feeling a lot after shows I really like and enjoy.


If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York

3. Summer in the City, by Regina Spektor

“Summer in the city, means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage.” Regina isn’t wrong. This melancholy song is definitely part of my hope for spring coming soon. Regina Spektor is great, I just love her anti-folk vibe and unique voice.


4. Always Something There to Remind Me, by Naked Eyes

What does this song have thematically to do with anything? Not much. I guess, unless you compare it to Holden pining for Jane. I just listened to it again for the first time in a long time because it came up on my Pandora and I just remembered how much I love a good 80s synth beat. It brings me back to the summers of 07 and 08 when I worked in a Deli inside a Fruit and Meat market and the radio was always playing a mixture of 80s music and Nickelback.

5. Alexander Hamilton, Original Broadway Cast Recording

I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS ABOUT THIS MUSICAL’S EXISTENCE. For starters, I am dying to go see it.Lin-Manuel Miranda is very talented and a skilled lyricist. I love the many shout outs and references throughout this soundtrack. This musical is totally my milieu, I love Alexander Hamilton. He was my historical crush. (I was a weird pre-teen/teen). I love giant biographies, just downloaded the Hamilton one by Ron Chernow on audible this musical was based on. 1776 is also my favorite musical and there’s a shoutout/reference to it in this musical and I LOVE IT. JOHN ADAMS IS MY OTHER FAVORITE FOUNDING FATHER.

Hamilton: the musical for nerds, fans of 1776, and fans of Jay Z.


Eyebrows on fleek

In New York you can
Be a new man—
In New York you can
Be a new man—

6. That’s Not Me, by The Beach Boys

“I once had a dream so I packed up and split for the city, I soon found out that my lonely life wasn’t so pretty.” This song follows the theme of going off to the city and trying to make your way. I always am reminded of my trip to Florida last spring and driving to Sanibel Island when I listen to this song.

7. Finger Back, by Vampire Weekend

The beat of this song and the fast paced lyrics are my favorite things. The Romeo-Juliet story of this song is actually based on a true story of an Orthodox girl falling in love with a falafel shop employee. It’s just so real and so America and New York and I love the way Ezra speaks the lyrics in that part of the song. Side note: I love falafel, it’s probably my favorite thing besides avocados.

Sing next year in Jerusalem
You know, the one at W. 103rd and B’way?
Cause this Orthodox girl fell in love with the guy at the falafel shop
And why not?
Should she have averted her eyes and just stared at the laminated poster of the Dome of the Rock?

8. America, by Simon and Garfunkel

No playlist about America and seeking one’s fortune would be complete without this classic. I think of this as the quintessential road trip song. I’ve purposely listened to it on trips even if I’m taking a plane or a train and not a car. I also associate it with road trips as a child and falling asleep in the back seat.

“Kathy”, I said, As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
Michigan seems like a dream to me now.
It took me four days
To hitch-hike from Saginaw.
“I’ve come to look for America.”

9. Obvious Bicycle, by Vampire Weekend

The opener of the Modern Vampires of the City album, there’s always been something beautiful, haunting and sad about this song for me. It has a weird nostalgic feeling to it, even from the first time you hear it. I love the chorus of “Listen, oh,” it’s as if they are invoking the muse and inviting listeners to hear the rest of the album. Ezra has said the narrator of this song is like an old wizened version of the narrators from songs off the other albums. I love that Vampire Weekend albums serve as a sort of Bildungsroman of sorts, or like the progression of Brideshead Revisted. 

So while the sun’s coming out
Cover ground, cover ground
And if you find some love for these clowns
Turn around, turn around
I’ll be half asleep on the floor of a high school gym
Thinking of you and wondering if anyone else could begin

10. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, by the Beach Boys

No truer words were spoken or sung. I think everyone feels like this at some point. Sometimes despite all the cool and great things going on and how maybe this seems like the best possible time to be alive, there are things about any day and age that make you long for simpler times.

I think what I admire most about the Pet Sounds album is all the pathos in music that seemingly sounds so happy. Which connects them to Vampire Weekend in a way because VW does very similar things with their music. So does Passion Pit come to think of it.

Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)

11. Heroes, by David Bowie

“We can be heroes, just for one day.” But really we can be heroes any day and every day Bowie. He will be King and you, you will be queen. He just wishes you could swim like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim. This song really does make you feel like you can do anything and go anywhere and be anything. The power is yours. Long live Bowie.



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