Love Songs: “Up in Hudson”


On Music

Hudson, New York. Wikimedia Commons, Licensed under CCO 3.0.

There was a month in spring several years ago when I rode Amtrak ten times in two weeks, taking the 7:05 A.M. out of Boston Back Bay and returning from Penn Station on the latest train possible. I had to be in New York for various reasons and obligations, but the person I loved was in Boston and my logic was simple: I did not want to spend a night apart from him.

I spent many hours with my forehead pressed against the cool glass of the train window, taking in flashes of the Connecticut coastline, mouthing the words to the Dirty Projectors’ “Up in Hudson,” a song David Longstreth wrote as part of his 2017 breakup album, which chronicles his split with Amber Coffman, former bandmate and partner.

Why was I so obsessed with a breakup song while experiencing a love that made me feel like I’d been hit in the solar plexus with a bag of cement? It’s the chorus that was stuck in my head, for reasons I wasn’t totally aware of. “Love will burn out, and love will just fade away,” Longstreth sings over and over, bitterly interrupting his own melody, cutting through parts of the song that describe falling in love (“In a minivan in New England, our eyes met / We said yes and we said yes”; “First time I ever kissed your mouth, we both felt time stop”). 

What I couldn’t see then—or didn’t know I saw—was that the end with this person I loved was drawing near. It’s in the very structure of the song, how it alternates between their love story and that distressing chorus (“love’s gonna rot, and love will just dissipate”). Though when I hear those lines now, I can’t help but think of the verse that follows: “Now we’re going our separate ways / But we’re still connected.” Maybe that’s just Longstreth trying to console himself with a generic, post-breakup line. But now, I still find myself asking what the nature of that connection is—if absence really can still hold two people together years later, and what claims that makes on the heart.

“I’m just up in Hudson, bored and destructive,” Longstreth sings in the last verse, “knowing that nothing lasts.” On one particularly long Amtrak ride, I spent the hours compulsively scrolling through my camera roll, zooming in on photos of us, smiling faces frozen in time. I see now that I was already, even then, trying to reassure myself as to what I had—and as such, admitting its loss.


Camille Jacobson is The Paris Review‘s engagement editor.