During the second year of the pandemic, my wife, a New York City native who always wanted to replant her feet there, had an idea: Let’s rent a small apartment there in addition to our home in Pittsburgh. Since both of us had professional and personal reasons to be in New York, it seemed like an excellent idea.
She secured us a tiny pied-à-terre in SoHo, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Manhattan. How was this accomplished? Because, it turned out, the third-floor apartment overlooks the final block of the city before the mouth of the Holland Tunnel — one of New York City’s busiest and most raucous exits, with New Jersey sitting on the other end.
After a few nights of truculent honking and all manner of music blasting from cars until 3 a.m., I began to realize why the term “bridge and tunnel” was not always a compliment in New York.
What to do? At the beginning of Summer 2022, inspiration struck as a very loud version of Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” reverberated through our front-window air conditioner shortly before dawn.
I realized it was time to look for help from the two S’s — Shazam and Spotify. It was time to broaden my musical horizons in a way that could circumvent the social-media algorithms that keep trying to tell me what I’ll like by gauging my playing history and my friends’ tastes.
So for the past three months, every time I leave my apartment and encounter a wall of gridlock, I’ve pulled out my phone and Shazam-ed the music that is blasting out at me.
Sometimes I caught a song in passing. Sometimes I sat on the stoop and waited for opportunities. Sometimes I pressed the phone up against our bedroom window to grab a few notes from a car inching by below. A couple times, thanks to the gridlock, I even wandered amongst the cars trying to capture music like some modern-day folklorist scouring back roads for golden nuggets.
The first song I captured was Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” The rest of the songs I captured as the summer dawned, peaked and ebbed were nothing like Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
But it’s exactly the kind of anthropological cross-section that fascinates me. An unwitting and unremitting queue of impatient people with their windows down have guided me to many songs I didn’t know, many songs I didn’t know I would absolutely love — and, of course, some songs I didn’t know I would absolutely hate.
So as summer draws to an end, here, without further ado, are the songs of my Holland Tunnel Approach Summer 2022 playlist — in the order they were captured in the wild. Enjoy. Or don’t. But remember: You have a choice about whether to listen to them. Most of the time, in our tiny apartment on Watts Street, we did not.
Ted Anthony, a journalist based in Pittsburgh and New York, has reported from more than 25 countries. He is the author of Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song. He tweets here, Instagrams here and collects his writing here.