Today’s Song: Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s “New York” Explores Love’s Highs and Lows

Benjamin Francis Leftwich © Harvey Pearson
Benjamin Francis Leftwich © Harvey Pearson
On a stunning acoustic track, UK-based singer/songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich attempts to move on from the past while wandering the streets of “New York.”
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Stream: “New York” – Benjamin Francis Leftwich

When I first visited New York City, I looked up at the massive skyscrapers, then lowered my head to watch the hundreds of pedestrians walking past me, and I couldn’t get over how small the city made me feel. It wouldn’t be a good place to run away to after a heart wrenching breakup.

But that’s the exact situation singer/songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich finds himself in on “New York,” one of the standout singles from his new album Some Things Break (February 9, 2024 via Dirty Hit). The song tells the story of someone wandering through the city while reflecting on a past relationship they still haven’t gotten over. It’s a hauntingly beautiful track that puts Leftwich’s talents on full display.

Some Things Break - Benjamin Francis Leftwich
Some Things Break – Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Benjamin Francis Leftwich is a UK-born musician with five albums of original music to his name. At an early age, he was inspired to pick up a guitar after listening to The Beatles with his father. In addition to the Beatles, he has mentioned Smashing Pumpkins, Damien Rice, and Bruce Springsteen as influences. In a 2012 interview, he described his admiration for Springsteen, saying that “even though he crosses lots of genres with different records, the songs are always king for him.”

You can hear this dedication to the craft of songwriting in Leftwich’s music. It’s impossible to listen to one of his songs without noticing his talent for crafting unforgettable melodies and lyrics, and “New York” is a perfect example of this gift. The song opens with a striking image depicting the roller coaster ride a passionate yet rocky relationship can take you on:

No one here in New York
Can do me like you do
Can fill my bed with roses
While smashing up the room
Benjamin Francis Leftwich © Harvey Pearson
Benjamin Francis Leftwich © Harvey Pearson

The simplicity of the song’s arrangement — Leftwich’s emotive vocals are accompanied only by a finger-picked acoustic guitar—leaves the singer nowhere to hide. It’s easy to picture the artist sitting on his bed in a claustrophobic New York hotel room writing this song, or singing the lines to himself in a whisper as he walks through the city lit by streetlights.

The lyrics soon reveal that this is a story not about a current relationship but about someone reliving the past and grasping for a way forward.

When the lights go down on Broadway
And the music starts to fade
I’m crying on the Brooklyn Bridge
While strangers look away

This song went on an interesting journey before appearing on Leftwich’s new record. Benjamin is friends with Matty Healy of The 1975, and he shared the song with Matty after writing it. Healy then played the song at an acoustic performance opening for Phoebe Bridgers in 2021 and added his own bridge to Leftwich’s arrangement. That bridge later took on a life of its own and evolved into the 1975’s 2022 single “Part of the Band.” It’s a fascinating look into the creative process and the way songs can evolve and inspire other songwriters before making it onto an album.

“New York” closes in resignation and loneliness. Leftwich sings of reaching out to his past love even though he knows this former flame isn’t thinking of him. The immensity of New York City feels overwhelming in the midst of the loss.

I knew that you’d moved on by now
I shouldn’t have called, I know
But no one here in New York seems to care
That I’m alone
Benjamin Francis Leftwich © Harvey Pearson
Benjamin Francis Leftwich © Harvey Pearson

Yet there’s an odd comfort that can come from listening to such a wistful song. It’s the realization that in those moments of loss and loneliness, you aren’t totally alone because you aren’t the only one experiencing those emotions. “New York” is a song about isolation, but the way that it describes that isolation is relatable in ways that can leave the listener feeling paradoxically less alone. It takes you through the highs and lows of the relationship, shows you the despair that greets you in the quiet moments after it’s over, and assures you that all of this is part of a difficult but quintessentially human experience.

That’s the power of a voice, a guitar, and a great song.

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:: stream/purchase Some Things Break here ::
:: connect with Benjamin Francis Leftwich here ::
Stream: “New York” – Benjamin Francis Leftwich

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Some Things Break - Benjamin Francis Leftwich

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? © Harvey Pearson

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