“Vermont Is so Great and Cities and Towns Places!” is definitely an album about Vermont cities and towns
The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns delivers another set of songs about cities and towns
Matt Farley claims to be “the best and most prolific songwriter of all time.” According to his website, he’s written over 22,000 songs across 80 different pseudonyms. I’m not sure who would even come close to competing with him—Bob Dylan is estimated to have written a little over 500 songs thus far, Bruce Springsteen clocks in at under 400, and Jonathan Mann, the Guinness World Record holder for “Most consecutive days writing a song,” has only written about 4,800 songs as part of his project.
As The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns, Farley has released 43 collections of songs about cities and towns, most of them focused on American states. Pretty soon, he’ll have beaten Sufjan Stevens to the punch and will have to move on to international locales (though he did release English England, British Britain, Uk, Great Song! in 2012 and These Australia Places Deserve These Nice Songs in 2014.) Almost every album cover is just a picture of Farley somewhere around his house; you can watch him age backward just by scrolling down his albums.
I became acquainted with this particular side-project of Farley’s when my friend Patrick sent me Vermont Is so Great and Cities and Towns Places!, his 50-song, 89-minute collection of songs about cities and towns in my home state of Vermont. The songs are absurd; they’re all short, roughly two minutes each, and primarily feature Farley singing random facts about towns (ripped straight from the pages of Wikipedia) over simple melodies. These facts are surrounded by Farley’s insistence that each town is a fine, all-American community, where the people are nice and there are restaurants, places to hang out, and rivers to watch flow.
Listening to the songs, I recognized Farley’s peculiar style—he was featured on a 2014 episode of TLDR, a podcast about the internet hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, who went to create Reply All at Gimlet, another podcast where Farley was featured three separate times. The TLDR story dug into Farley’s business model. While most artists only make money from streaming if they have a massive hit (or a catalog of hits), Farley is kind of like the Spotify version of an SEO blogger—he writes songs based on what he thinks people will search for, like food, poop, prom proposals, and cities and towns, and generates an income based on the pure scale of content. In 2018, he was making about $4000 per month, a paycheck that took a decade of methodically writing songs to earn.
In an interview with NJ.com about his 2012 collection New Jersey Has Townships and Boroughs Too, Nj, Farley says the songs aren’t meant to be good. “I know they’re bad. That’s the joke. Do you want a really good, well-crafted composition about how good your town is? No. You want it to be wacky and weird.”
His track for my hometown of Castleton definitely fits the bill. “Castleton Town Song” is a jaunty piano tune, an upbeat ode to a wonderful town “about 7 miles east of the New York/Vermont state border.” Farley accurately portrays the town as “home to Castleton University,” the alma mater of several of my friends, and “historic things.” The best part of the song, however, has to be about 30 seconds in, when Farley laughs to himself before shout-singing Castleton’s ZIP code. It is, without a doubt, the best song about Castleton I’ve ever heard. (Ignore the fact that it might be the only song about Castleton that I’ve ever heard.)
But it’s not my favorite track on that album. That honor goes to “Rutland Is a Fine Vermont Town.” If you were quickly scanning the tracklist, you might notice that it’s the second song about Rutland. But as Farley sings:
Rutland completely surrounds the city of Rutland
which is incorporated separately from the town of Rutland
Oh yeah, I’m not singing about the city, I’m singing about the town
With lyrics like these, it's impossible not to fall in love with Vermont Is so Great and Cities and Towns Places!, a wacky and weird collection of songs about my home state by the best and most prolific songwriter of all time. Take a stroll through his releases and let me know in the comments if The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns has written a song about your city or town, and whether or not it’s the best dang song about your city or town out there.
Pro tip: after you listen to The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns' ballad for your hometown, you need to check out his album I've Never Left My Hometown, a collection of songs told from the point of view of a guy who has never left his hometown (perhaps somewhat based on Farley's real life—while he has lived elsewhere, Farley was born and currently resides in Danvers, Massachusetts). The album features hits like "The Comforts of Home," "She Called Me Pathetic," and "The Killer Clown Came to Our Town."
Matt wrote a song about the town I was born in, High Wycombe. He pronounces High Wycombe in an endearingly funny but unfortunately incorrect way, like "HAII WHY-COMB" and as per the lyrics I can confirm, "It's got a lot of good stuff".
Sufjan needs to take notes. He still has time!