The ongoing New York Times obsession with “hipsters” continued this week with yet another lifestyle article about Williamsburg, a place that the NYT apparently thinks is still home to the Brooklyn cool set. The piece served as more confirmation that the Times is officially the only publication that still thinks the word “hipster” actually means something and/or is a cultural phenomenon worth analyzing in 2013. At this point, the paper’s ongoing obsession with Williamsburg is the journalistic equivalent of the repressed bro at school who’s secretly fascinated by the weird kids and deals with this by ridiculing them at every possible opportunity. Anyway, The Awl did a pretty spectacular job of highlighting the ongoing absurdity of the whole thing with this roundup of every characteristic that the paper has ever ascribed to hipsters (spoiler: everything, ever) — but what about the music? To help the paper out, here are some songs to soundtrack their most, um, memorable trend pieces.
Alanis Morrisette — “Ironic”
Goes with: Christy Wampole, “How to Live Without Irony,” November 17, 2012
Wampole’s notorious end-of-irony crusade was a spectacular piece of trollgaze, catalyzing a shitload of comment-section rage, many follow-up thinkpieces, and a lot of general Internet hand-wringing. It goes hand-in-glove with the work of another terminally earnest Generation X-er who is similarly clueless about the actual meaning of the word “irony.”
The Strokes — “New York City Cops”
Goes with: Corey Kilgannon, “Revealed: The Officer Behind the Skinny Tie,” October 19, 2011
Kilgannon’s hard-hitting investigative piece about of the man behind the Occupy Wall Street-centric hipster cop meme revealed that he was one Detective Rick Lee, a man given to wearing skinny jeans off duty and possessed of “a shaggy hairstyle, cool-nerd eyeglasses and an ironic smile.” The whole thing was, as Julian Casablancas might say, “fucking strange.”
The Kinks — “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”
Goes with: “L Train Inspiration,” video, March 2013
OK, this one is almost too easy.
Tony Bennett — “Blue Velvet”
Goes with: Rob Walker, “The Marketing of No Marketing,” June 22, 2003
A detailed analysis of how PBR made an unlikely commercial comeback, along with a description of how it gets mentioned in seminal (and now, by the way, decade-old) Williamsburg manifesto The Hipster Handbook. All together now: “Heineken? Fuck that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs — “Subway”
Goes with: Michael M. Grynbaum, “The L-for-Love Train Goes to Williamsburg,” June 28, 2010
In which the NY Times‘ City Room section devotes a casual 400 words or so to getting the intern to read Craigslist a fascinating anthropological investigation into the subway stations most given to generating missed connection ads. The answer, it appears, is that most of them are on the L train, and of course everyone knows the L train means… hipsters! And pageview gold! Anyway, there’s a sort of inherent pathos about missed connections, one that’s echoed in this pensive ballad from the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs record.
Jeffrey Lewis — “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror”
Goes with: Eric Wilson, “Paul Bunyan, Modern-Day Sex Symbol,” March 23, 2006
“At hipster hangouts and within fashion circles, the bearded revolution that began with raffishly trimmed whiskers a year or more ago has evolved into full-fledged Benjamin Harrisons.” Why, that sounds just like… hey, is that actually Will Oldham?!
Radiohead — “Sail to the Moon”
Goes with: Tara Bahrampour, “Births of the Cool,” May 19, 2002
Hey everyone, you won’t believe this, but hipsters have babies too! It’s a remarkable concept to get your mind around — ”Our landlord said babies don’t belong in Williamsburg,” lamented one young mother interviewed by Bahrampour — but still, the NYT discovers that the immutable laws of nature even apply to people who wear skinny jeans. Anyway, what better to soundtrack this piece than a song from a man who was venturing into fatherhood at roughly the same time it was written: Thom Yorke, who wrote “Sail to the Moon” as a lullaby for his son Noah.
Arcade Fire — “The Suburbs”
Goes with: Alex Williams, “Creating Hipsturbia,” February 15, 2013
Still, if raising a kid in the happening parts of Brooklyn is all too hard, then you can always move to… THE SUBURBS! (Cue dramatic intro and HTML5-based interactive music video.)
Sufjan Stevens — “Impossible Soul”
Goes with: Denny Lee, “Has Billburg Lost its Cool?,” July 27, 2003
Back in 2003, the NYT devoted a frankly jaw-dropping 2,500 words to the apparently critical question of whether Williamsburg was as cool as the East Village or not — the answer being: maybe, maybe not, depending on who you talk to — and what it all meant for the people who’d upped and moved across the East River because they thought “Billburg” was the place to be. In this respect, it’s a perfect fit for a possibly overlong navel-gazing meditation on an existential crisis!
Portlandia, “Dream of the 1890s”
Goes with: Henry Alford, “How I Became a Hipster,” May 1, 2013
And finally, one for the NYT‘s latest earnest analysis of hipsterdom. “I’m going for a Mumford and Sons look,” quoth the Times‘ intrepid reporter to a presumably baffled shop assistant in H.W. Carter and Sons. “I want to look like I play the banjo.” He then went and got a haircut with a straight-razor , grew a mustache, and basically made an ass of himself. Thing is, though — he could have saved himself the trouble (and a lot of money) by just whacking this on the gramophone and drinking some artisinal bourbon. It’s hard work being a reporter.