Tag Archives: Daniel Johnston

Song-A-Day: January 22

Happy Birthday today to Daniel Johnston! I’m a pretty big fan of the man but I understand that a lot of the material, especially early on, can be difficult or just plain poor. The man finds gems sometimes though, and his abilities as a songwriter have grown so much throughout his career as he gives his audience the viewpoint from a schizophrenic and manic depressive. Our Song-A-Day is going to take on a lighter tone than that though, as we’re going to go with one off of Respect entitled “Good Morning You”.

Good Morning You
You’ve got the world, what’s in your way
Good Morning You

Had to stop to think of something to say

You sat in the chair and your were there
You looked at the wall and started to stare

Good Morning You
What do you plan to do?

Good Morning You
Though you can hardly move

You sat in a chair and you were scared
There’s so much you could do if you dared

Good Morning You
You’ve got the world, what’s in your way?

50 States, 50 Artists, 50 Songs

Alabama

Alabama Shakes- “Hold On”

Alaska

Volcano Choir- “Alaskans”

Arizona

The Beatles- “Get Back”

Arkansas

Of Montreal- “Little Rock

California

Foxygen- “San Francisco”

Colorado

Bob Dylan- “Man of Constant Sorrow”

Connecticut

Superchunk- “Connecticut

Delaware

Continue reading 50 States, 50 Artists, 50 Songs

Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 20-11

Here are numbers 20-11 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.

20. Daniel Johnston- True Love Will Find You in the End

But how can it recognize you unless you step out into the light, the light?

Daniel Johnston is a difficult musician to familiarize yourself with because, in honesty, there is a lot of bad music in his discography. The reason why he’s important is that Johnston, the manic depressive and schizophrenic, has moments in his music which reach absolute beauty. “True Love Will Find You in the End” is a song which begs it’s listener to not give up the belief that you will find the one…eventually. It’s a song to represent the hope that if you stay open and yourself for long enough, one day luck will turn your way and you’ll find the perfect person for you; and that’s the point of everything. You can build up barriers and try to send off a false message, but if you continue to be yourself and look for love then it will find you in the end. “True love is searching too, but how can it recognize you unless you step out into the light”? It’s a discouraging quest (“Don’t be sad, I know you will”), but he believes in the promise of the reward.

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19. Bright Eyes- A Song to Pass the Time

“Now I have locked my actions in the grooves of routine/ So I may never be free of this apathy/ But I wait for a letter that is coming to me/ She sends me pictures of the ocean in an envelope

It’s not a part of “A Song to Pass the Time”, but the interview that precedes this song at the end of “An Attempt to Tip The Scales” is a very good introduction to this track. “A Song to Pass The Time” is told in a manner similar to what Dylan would do, in that they wrote down their observations and described real human interactions rather then trying to conjure a story with a point in mind. The difference between Dylan and Oberst is that while Dylan would say what was there due to his confidence and experience, the younger and depressed Oberst seems to focus on what he thinks is missing. Why does he love the mexican children kicking rocks in the street? Why are all the businessmen and suburban mothers so emotionless and repetitive? Why isn’t my desperation to stay close to the people who I’ve formed a close relationship with shared? I love the verse above because it shows Oberst’s hope that at some point love will just save him from all of this, and she’ll be able to help him understand everything that tortured him before.

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18. The Postal Service- We Will Become Silhouettes

“We become silhouettes when our bodies finally go.”

I love tragic songs that sound happy, and “We Will Become Silhouettes” is the poster boy for that category. Death is still a certainty, in fact it seems to tell the story of an explosion which will is going to kill us all, but it’s become a celebration because that’s when our bodies will finally become silhouettes! We shall become immortalized once “our shells simply cannot hold all our insides in and [then] explode”. Tamborello’s music is cheerful and stuffed with simple, melodic rhythms to represent the joy of the song in it’s own beautiful way, only one example of how well these two worked together on the album.

Continue reading Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 20-11

Essential Albums: Daniel Johnston- 1990

Quick Artist Bio: Daniel Johnston is one of the premier singer-songwriters you can listen to, but this comes at the expense of being one of the most unstable artists to have ever released music. Johnston’s music isn’t particularly complex, it’s usually either unaccompanied or with an acoustic guitar he can’t play very well, but he creates a lo-fi folk sound that’s helped define the indie folk genre. This sound can be heard especially in his homemade cassette releases that he used to begin his career in the Austin music scene. A defining aspect of Johnston’s life has been his struggle with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia which have lead him into mental institutions and arrests multiple times while he avoided medication for live shows or song writing.

The recording sessions for 1990 actually took place in 1988 and were never able to be completed fully because of Johnston’s mental problems and instability in New York City. The album had to be pieced together by adding in home and live recordings to create a finished product capable of being released while friends tried to force Johnston to return home for his own sake. Once this did happen, Johnston immediately broke into the house of an elderly woman who jumped out of a second story window to escape and broke both of her ankles upon hitting the ground. Johnston would later claim that he was possessed by demons during the incident, and two years later his mental instability would show itself again when he removed the key from a two-person plane his father was piloting mid flight and threw it out the window. This time Johnston believed that he was Casper the friendly ghost, a thought that occurred for him often during his manic episodes, and a thought that nearly killed them. Fortunately Johnston’s father was trained for emergency scenarios like this and was able to successfully crash the plane in a field of trees immediately below them in a way that neither was injured badly, but Johnston was readmitted to a mental hospital because of it. Johnston is a cursed man who’s struggles are sad and worrisome, but the songs that he creates are remarkably relatable for what he’s been through, and 1990 is a collection of some of his finest work from an impressive musical career.
Continue reading Essential Albums: Daniel Johnston- 1990