Living in New York City can be as emotionally energizing as it can be destabilizing – oftentimes within the same hour. And it’s that frantic dichotomy that Maine-born, NYC-based singer-songwriter Luke Rathborne beautifully captures in “Ordinary Woes,” a one-take rocker that deftly teeters between exhilaration and exhaustion over a rush of careening guitar riffage.
The video for “Ordinary Woes,” premiering below, is similarly animated – literally. In addition to directing the clip, Rathborne spent 30 hours animating it frame-by-frame, adding in effects like comix-style vibrating lines as well as spirals and scratches over his eyes as he wanders through Times Square, subway tunnels and other late-night NYC haunts.
“I’ve spent almost the same amount of time here as I lived in Maine, [and] it still never feels like I belong in New York,” Rathborne says of relocating from the rural to the excessively metropolitan. “I remember the first years I moved to New York I had so much body disorientation even for years. Just adjusting to the physical spaces around me took so long because I was so used to seeing the forest on the peripheral even in my hometown in Maine.”
Regardless, he notes the beauty of the city’s historical continuity provides some solace. “It always struck me how you can spend a day wandering through Washington Square Park and the West Village and how so many things feel the same as much as you’ve seen them change. It can’t be so much different from Washington Square Park in the ’60s, and there’s something kind of nice about that,” he points out. “Everybody has had that moment on a bus or subway where our level of boredom turns into a kind of transcendence.”
Much like the song, which conveys a simmering anxiety yet still packs enough of a punch that it could soundtrack a pump-up playlist, Rathborne isn’t shy about owning up to his apprehensions. “I would say my anxiety has grown worse in New York,” Rathborne notes. “But my tolerance has grown higher, too, if that makes any sense. It’s harder to knock me down. My spirit has grown stronger and more fragile. I don’t think I’ve ever lost my vulnerability, and that can make you a target, but can also lead to deep reward. Living in New York is a contradictory thing, because remaining vulnerable is something very brave. It doesn’t really make sense. You’re on a ride. Even a subway ticket is a bit like Space Mountain.”
Take a trip through Rathborne’s frenetic vision of New York’s roller coaster ride of anxieties and possibilities in the video above. Rathborne’s upcoming album, tentatively titled Ordinary Woes, comes out on June via his True Believer label. Ted Young and Rathborne co-produced the album at Outer Space Studios in Brooklyn; it features Darren Will on bass, Jamie Alegre on drums and Rathborne on synths, guitars, keyboards and vocals.