Track of the Day: 'Twin Falls' by Built to Spill

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A long-time reader, Adam Feiges, floats an idea:

I have a suggestion for a new theme for Track of the Day: songs that celebrate a specific place. (This theme would also dovetail with the America by Air series.) Two suggestions to kick things off: “I Love L.A.” by Randy Newman and “City of Immigrants” by Steve Earle.

Both songs are unabashed, upbeat, and unironic love songs to these iconic American cities. In a time when we are constantly bombarded by messaging that signals that somehow this country is something less than it once was, it is nice to be reminded that we are, in fact, the sum of all of our parts—and that the parts are actually (as Fallows points out) pretty great.

P.S. I only recently noticed the timing of the daily song release ;)

Great picks, though “I Love L.A.” was already featured in TotD (in our series of songs about complicated patriotism) and “City of Immigrants” doesn’t seem to be about a particular city. So I asked the discussion group of Atlantic readers known as TAD for further picks. But first, one of them begs to differ with Adam:

As a proud Angelino, Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” is a sort of theme song and also the soundtrack of all of our many sporting achievements, but I’d hardly call it an “unabashed, upbeat, and unironic love song.” It’s very much a satirical take on the city. It includes lines like, “Look at that bum over there, man, he’s down on his knees.” Newman has said in interviews that he does in fact love L.A., but that song has deeper layers than it what it first appears to be.

Let’s go with “Twin Falls” for the first song in the new series, recommended by a reader in TAD:

I didn’t grow up in Twin Falls, Idaho, but I know it, and I grew up in a town just like it. Built To Spill’s nostalgic song about nostalgia gets it good.  

Listen and reminisce for yourself:

If you have a favorite song about a specific place, please send it along with a short description of why you love it so much—and perhaps the place as well: Update from Adam:

I re-listened to “City of Immigrants” and it is true that Steve Earle never actually mentions a specific place, but it is about NYC; it was on Earle’s album Washington Square Serenade, which is (mostly) an extended love letter to the Big Apple.

Regarding “I Love L.A.,” I always took the line about the bum to be a warts-and-all kind of reference.  As a teenager stuck in the heartland, that song represented the Los Angeles that I knew from the movies and pop culture.  Maybe to the locals it was a theme song, but for this Iowa boy, it was aspirational.

(Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)