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100 best NYC songs: Nos. 90–81

Watch music videos for iconic NYC songs by Death Cab for Cutie, Nancy Sinatra, Kid Creole and more.

90. Unsane, "D Train" (2005)

Other bands from the East Village noise-rock scene of the mid- to late-'90s (Helmet, Cop Shoot Cop) either outgrew that community or simply flamed out; but aside from a couple of years off, Unsane perseveres. Like all the band's best work, "D Train" comes off like the Jesus Lizard--gone--Taxi Driver: rusted post-hardcore riffage married to bilious urban dystopia. "Get on the fuckin' train!" shrieks frontman Chris Spencer, giving voice to any New Yorker who's ever conceived of a subway ride as a white-knuckle death trip.—Hank Shteamer

D Train - Blood Run

89. Genesis, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (1974)

Glimpsing our native city through the eyes of visitors is always enlightening—even when it's a handful of arty English boarding-school lads with a crazy concept album. Genesis's double-LP rock opera follows a Puerto Rican graffiti artist's nightmarish passage through sexual profligacy and unbridled consumerism. As endearing as it is garish and uneven, the album spawned a charming title single that snatches a riff from "On Broadway."—Steve Smith

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway - Platinum Collection

Play on "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" on Spotify

88. The Crystals, "Uptown" (1962)

An early hit from Phil Spector's Crystals, this shimmering track features Barbara Alston sensually cooing about a lover over an exotic melody punctuated by castanets and flamenco guitar. On top of her romantic allusions, she muses over New York City class issues, pointing out that only in her uptown ghetto does her man really earn the respect he deserves.—Marley Lynch

Uptown (Re-Recorded) - Golden Girls of the 60's - Girls Only (Re-Recorded Versions)

Play on "Uptown" on Spotify

87. Original Broadway Cast (Rent), "La Vie Boheme" (1994)

This blowout dedicated to the bohemianism of the East Village in the late '80s and early '90s celebrates everything about the life of the poor artists who populate Jonathan Larson's hit rock musical, Rent: finding cheap food and cheaper beer, living in squalor and not being able to afford it, admiring great artists and aspiring to make great art. Need we say more?—Marley Lynch

La Vie Boheme - Rent (1996 Original Broadway Cast) [Cast Recording]

Play on "La Vie Boheme" on Spotify

86. Fred Neil, "Bleecker & MacDougal" (1965)

A quintessential song-hawking pro, Fred Neil never achieved substantial success as a performer—though other stars handled his tunes with distinction (Harry Nilsson with "Everybody's Talkin'," Tim Buckley with "The Dolphins"). But with this song about lingering on an emblematic street corner pondering retreat to a more comfortable way of life, Neil helped to shape a burgeoning scene; that's a young John Sebastian blowing the harmonica.—Steve Smith

Bleecker & MacDougal - Bleecker and McDougal

Play on "Bleecker & MacDougal" on Spotify

Meet the new Rent cast

85. Al Kooper, "New York City (You're a Woman)" (1971)

"New York City, you're a woman," Al Kooper offers in a virile purr—and then the other shoe drops: "Cold-hearted bitch ought to be your name." Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, the itinerant bandleader and all-star session man waxed his LP New York City (You're a Woman) in Los Angeles and London, then moved to Atlanta soon after. Still, a grudging love remained: "Oh, you ain't never loved nobody/Yet I'm drawn to you like a moth to flame."—Steve Smith

New York City (You're a Woman) - Well Done

Play on "New York City (You're a Woman)" on Spotify

84. Grandmixer D.ST., "The Home of Hip-Hop" (1985)

Born Derek Showard, the DJ known as Grandmixer D.ST. (for Delancey Street) did more than any other hip-hop artist to popularize turntables as a performing implement; he brought them to the public eye with his work on Herbie Hancock's milestone single, "Rockit," and in subsequent TV appearances. Showard (currently known as DXT) was also a capable rapper; "Home of Hip-Hop," a Celluloid 12-inch, provides a succinct, forceful NYC b-boy history lesson.—Steve Smith

The Home Of Hip Hop - Home Of Hip Hop

Play on "The Home of Hip-Hop" on Spotify

83. Kid Creole and the Coconuts, "Dario (Can You Get Me Into Studio 54)" (1979)

Penned by August Darnell, this slight pop tune yielded a disco hit for two different acts: Dana & Gene, and Darnell himself with his over-the-top show band, Kid Creole and the Coconuts. The multiculti entourage was inspired by Cab Calloway's zoot-suit finery long before the Swing revival arrived. The Coconuts ruled the roost when it came to conceptual dance music—not that it helped them get into Steve Rubell's notorious celebrity nightclub.—Steve Smith

Dario - ZE Sound of N.Y.C.

Play on "Dario (Can You Get Me Into Studio 54)" on Spotify

82. Death Cab for Cutie, "Coney Island" (2001)

There's something immediately recognizable and familiar about the staccato drum beats in this Death Cab tune, interposed with frontman Ben Gibbard's sweet, repeated refrain that "Everything was closed at Coney Island/And I could not help from smiling." The song still sounds as good on a Brooklyn summer barbecue mix as it did back in the early aughts.—Sharon Steel

Coney Island - The Photo Album

Play on "Coney Island" on Spotify

81. Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, "Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman" (1968)

"I met him in a Greenwich Village coffee nook," Nancy Sinatra sings at the onset of this cut, a wily spoof of the folksy songhawkers who flooded Bleecker Street during the late '60s. Like the neophyte Bob Dylan, she pronounces it Green-which. "Green-which?" Hazlewood asks, incredulous. Trying her hardest to play it straight, Sinatra giggles, proving she's in on the gag. It's a groovy little tune from a groovy little time, with tongue tucked firmly in cheek.—Steve Smith

Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman - Nancy & Lee

Play on "Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman" on Spotify

Read an interview with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard
Listen to Kid Creole & the Coconuts coleader Coati Mundi's solo work
Lee Hazlewood, 1929--2007

100–91 | 90–81 | 80–71 | 70–61 | 60–51 | 50–41 | 40–31 | 30–21 | 20–11 | 10–1

See the full list of 100 best NYC songs

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