Among the tracks on “
” the LP released last October by Katie Lau of the Brooklyn based dreampunx unit
, there is an infectious tune entitled “
“. Yes, the song was written about the Myrtle Ave-Broadway subway stop on the J, M and Z trains that so many locals love, hate and love-hate.
Having come to Bushwick Daily’s attention amid widely lamented news of the L train’s impending and extensive hiatus, “JMZ” is worth a listen for a myriad of reasons. This song doesn’t hate on the MTA, nor is it a mini symphony like Sufjan Stevens’ “BQE:” It’s a raw and relatable account of one Bushwick resident’s early days in the neighborhood.
Explore the lyrics. The line “cars are honking at me ‘cause I ran in the street” definitely evokes the congested intersection under the train station (crossing Myrtle at Wyckoff can be similarly stressful—sometimes one needs to just not give a damn and be a bullheaded pedestrian).
The cadence of the drums with Lau’s battlecry, “Walking to the train with a mouthful of blood” engenders a solidarity with the listener, but it’s the juxtaposition of high energy lyrics like this and more passive, low-key phrasing which gives the track weight. This song powerfully evokes the stress and the loneliness that are so often part of the experience of being a daily straphanger: There are things in life, dear readers, that a fresh squeezed juice from Mr. Kiwi’s can’t remedy.
Lau’s elaboration on the sentiment of her lyrics makes the song even more powerful. ““I moved to Brooklyn some months after graduating from college, and around 6 months into living here I started having severe panic attacks,” she tells Bushwick Daily. Those panic attacks are referenced in her line “head of regrets about the things I’ve said and the life I chose and the things I’ve done.” She explains that the attacks often struck on the train: “They were particularly bad during my commute to and from Manhattan, which is like the 7th circle of hell. During one particularly bad attack on the M train going underground to Essex Street, I blacked out and couldn’t stand upright, and nobody on the train even reacted.”
One powerful line goes “I’m sick of this city and I’ve had enough of your class drag blues and regrettable tattoos.” “[the song] deals with gentrification, privilege, my inevitable individual role as a gentrifier, self-awareness, and anger at clueless peers who call themselves ‘poor’ as a class-drag badge when in reality, they have no personal debt and no idea what poverty is. You’re not poor because you can only afford to drink Coors instead of craft beer,” she explains.
“JMZ” is a ballad that will resonate with Bushwick newcomers, but also with anyone else who has felt overwhelmed by the pace and the pressure of life in New York City. Give it a listen—and keep on keeping on, Bushwick.
Painted Zeros leaves next week to tour down to South by Southwest, so they don’t play NYC again for a while, but follow them on Facebook to keep up to date with them, and catch them next time they play a local show.