After a long Easter weekend and overdosing on Cadbury Cream Eggs, let's get back to the Forbes magazine 20 most miserable cities in the US, and the music that these cities spawned.
Capitol of California. About 2 million people in the metro area. 5.9% home foreclosure rate. Crime rates worse than Los Angeles or San Francisco (but not Compton). Unemployment rate of 13.1% as of January, 2010. Sale tax of 9.25% (8.25% is California state tax). To add to the misery, the Sacramento Kings, the only major pro team in the city, are currently 24-53 and eliminated from the 2010 playoffs.
The band Cake hails from this central California city. They had some hits in the mid 90s, and they will tour Edmonton and Calgary at the end of the month.
Cake - Frank Sinatra.mp3
Buy: Fashion Nugget (1996)
The Big Apple. Hold on. New York rules! I love this city. Largest city in North America. But it costs $3000/month for a 300 square foot apartment. Income tax is 10.5% (highest in the country), plus 8.875% sales tax. The daily commute time is the longest in the country. Sounds likes a great place to visit, but not necessarily to live in. Although the violent crimes rates have dropped dramatically in the last 15 years making NYC one of the safest major cities in the US, there were still 523 murders in 2008 (compared to 70 murders in Toronto in 2008, although Toronto has 1/3 the population). Too many pro sports teams in NYC to go through them all, but look at the NBA Knicks. They have been awful for years. And the New Jersey Nets who play in East Rutherford, NJ, part of the NYC metro area, are the worst team in the NBA. Although the Yankees are a perennial powerhouse in baseball, their fans are so obnoxious that no one outside of New York can stand them. The team or the fans.
There are so many historic and influential bands from New York, its almost impossible to pick just one. I'm going with Sonic Youth, which to me personify New York rock music. Leading the way in punk/"noise" rock in the early 80s, and having a massive influence on alternative rock for the last three decades. Here they are covering another hugely influential musician. Although Bob Dylan is from Minnesota, Dylan became a famous folk singer in New York's Greenwich Village in the early 60's, and signed his first record contract with New York-based Columbia in 1962.
Sonic Youth - I'm Not There.mp3
Buy: I'm Not There soundtrack (2007)
Named after Toledo, Spain. Urban/Metro population of 503,008, although there has been a net migration out of the city for the last 20 years, losing roughly 6% of the population each decade. As of January 2010, an unemployment rate of 13.4%, well ahead of the national rate of 9.7%. The Toledo area has lost over 33,000 jobs since December 2007, largely due to the decline of the auto industry. Loss of population and jobs means vacant buildings which often leads to crime, although I can't find any recent crime statistics. Toledo hosts no major sports teams, but I would argue that their minor league teams have the best names in the country: Mudhens (baseball), Walleye (hockey), and Bullfrogs (arena football). Toledo is friggin cold in the winter, with wind kicking off of Lake Erie. I once drove through a tornado in Toledo while road tripping from Cincinnati to Detroit. I stopped at a liquor store to wait out the storm.
Funny cultural note from Wikipedia, which may or may not add to the misery: John Denver sang a disparaging song about visiting Toledo entitled "Saturday Night In Toledo, Ohio" which was composed by Randy Sparks. It was written in 1967 when Sparks and his group arrived in Toledo at 10pm on a Saturday night, and found everything closed. The song was written as they drove down to Kansas City and their next gig.
I have never heard this song. Help a sister out?
Gary Louis was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and eventually migrated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to form the seminal alt country band The Jayhawks. He put out his first solo album in 2008, and performs with a number of other musicians. Last year he released the album Ready For The Flood with his Jayhawks partner Mark Olson, which was one of my favorite albums of 2009. He also produces records for several artists, including my favorite Canadian band The Sadies.
Gary Louris - She Only Calls Me on Sundays.mp3
Buy: Vagabonds (2008)