This is the easiest one done yet, today is the birthday of Conor Oberst, a musician beloved by many in our radio station. Oberst has remained active post-Bright Eyes and recently released a new single titled “Hundreds of Ways” with a surprisingly upbeat message and backup vocals being provided by First Aid Kit. To celebrate Oberst’s day of birth, we choose the song that he wrote to himself placed on Noise Floor, “Happy Birthday To Me (Feb. 15)”.
All eyes on the calendar
Another year I claim of total indifference
To here, the days pile up
With decisions to be made
I’m sure all of them were wrong
Into this song I send myself
And with these drinks I plan to collapse
And forget this wasted year, these wasted years
Devoted friends, they disappear
And I’m sorry about the phone call and needing you
Some decisions you don’t make
I guess it’s just like breathing and not wanting to
Yeah, there are some things you can’t fake
Well, I guess that it’s typical
To cling to memories you’ll never get back again
And to sort through old photographs
Of a summer long ago
Or a friend that you used to know
And there below his frozen face
You wrote the name and that ancient date
And you can’t believe that he’s really gone
When all that’s left is a f***ing song
And I’m sorry about the phone call and waking you
I know that it is late
But thank you for talking, because I needed to
Some things just can’t wait…
Today marks the anniversary of the simultaneous double release of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn by Bright Eyes back in 2005. I’m Wide Awake is often credited as bring the best Bright Eyes album and deservedly so as it features some absolutely fantastic songs and track to track transitions, but the electronic experimentation of Digital Ash seems to get overshadowed by it’s twin, hindering it from receiving the attention that it deserves. Because of this, our Song-A-Day is going to go to a track off of this lesser known but stellar album, with the song being “Light Pollution”.
John A. Hobson was a good man
He used to loan me books and mic stands
He even got me a subscription
To the Socialist Review
Listening to records in his basement
Old folk songs about the government
It’s love of money not the market
He said, “These f***ers push on you”
And freedom yells, it don’t cry
Whatever sells will decide
But there’s no hell when you die
So don’t look so worried
He got a nightlife, lost his day job
Pushing papers, swinging pendulums
Anything to serve a function
Or to occupy some time
You’ve got to earn this living somehow
You’re good as dead without a bank account
But it’s funny how alive he felt
Down in that unemployment line
With all that trash at his feet
The pools of piss in the street
All of that filthy empathy
For the way we’re feeling
The billboard’s shade
The flags, they wave
The anthem was playing loud
The baseball game was letting out
And all at once he saw the dust
And heard every tiny sound
Got in his truck and turned around
Drove out through the crowd
And the cops
Drove out past that center mall
Drove out past that sickening sprawl
Out past that fenced in gold
And maybe he lost control
Fucking with the radio
But I bet the stars
Seemed so close
At the end
At the end
At the end
At the end
At the end
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.
“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.
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.
Here are numbers 40-31 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.
40. The National- All the Wine
“I’m in a state/ I’m in a state/ Nothing can touch us my love.”
There’s an nice double reality going on in this song. In the present, this man is a danger to everybody around him as he drunkenly stumbles his way through the city, but that’s not what’s going through his mind at all. For him this is the point where he’s finally become what he’s always wanted to be, he’s reached a state where he can view himself as the protector for his family, but he doesn’t realize that he’s currently one of the psychos he swears to protect them from. He’s in a state, but his interpretation of that is that “nothing can touch us my love”.
“Someone might get hurt, but it won’t be me/ She’ll probably feel cheap, but I just feel free, and a little bit empty.”
There’s more meaningful Bright Eyes songs out there, but not many more which you could relate to as easily as “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)”. It goes into the first time that you have a sexual encounter with someone and find out that they didn’t want it to mean anything, and the changes that come from that. You end up doing the same thing to other people because you desensitize yourself to the act when it seems that the only real solution to avoid getting hurt is to love nothing. It ends up just being a phase, but it’s a tough one and I like hearing it be described so well in this track.
I recently made the decision that I wanted to leave New York in order to put myself into a situation where I can actually live, but this song was placed on this list before I’d even flirted with that notion. I like the mindset of wishing you still had youth on your side to afford making a drastic change, and in reality I’m fortunate that I can still claim mine. The whole song is very pretty and paced, and I love the continuous re-introduction of the horns that Beirut does to continuously re-build the energy of the song.
Here are numbers 60-51 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.
60. Death Cab For Cutie- Steadier Footing
“This is the chance I never got/ To make a move, but we just talk about/ The people we’ve met in the last five years/ And will we remember them in ten more.”
A really short and pretty song by Death Cab from earlier in their career, “Steadier Footing” captures Gibbard people watching from his porch late night after a party. He was looking for some isolation, but he found himself in a conversation which was incredibly genuine and capped off the night well for him. I always loved the talking point about if the people who you’re currently friends with will still be friends of yours in ten years because it’s a very real fear for myself, in an ever-changing world you have to wonder if the good things will stay constant.
“You see, we’re all trying to endure/ You could easily go and make your own life somewhere/ Couldn’t you?”
I dug into Noise Floor after hearing the more popular Bright Eyes albums and loving them, and I remember that on the first listen I enjoyed it, but the only songs that really jumped out at me were the Daniel Johnston cover of “Devil Town”, the piano-lead “Drunk Kid Catholic”, and “Amy in the White Coat”(in hindsight, “Blue Angels Air Show” should have been in this grouping). At the point though I hadn’t followed the storyline to “Amy in the White Coat”, I just remembered it as a good song that I wanted to re-visit, and on that second listen I was stunned and saddened. The entire track is about a girl, Amy, who is in an incredibly bad living situation with her father (I don’t feel fully comfortable typing out how so). The horrible part is that Amy’s just found a way to deal with it because she needs to be there to survive, so she doesn’t really see an alternative. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.
“Everyone/ Everyone is so near/ Everyone has got the fear/ It’s holding on.”
I respect Radiohead a lot but I don’t obsess over them, in fact the only real Radiohead song that I feel a strong connection to is “The National Anthem”. I like how this song attacks you as new instruments get introduced to the chaos in response to Thom Yorke’s messages to the masses. Everything seems like it really belongs in the track, as Radiohead creates a national anthem where the nation doesn’t get rid of the ugly, where it isn’t meant to be sung by kids in school, and where there are just long segments of chaotic noise occurring.
Continuing from where we left off last week, here are numbers 90-81 on my list of favorite songs
90. MGMT- Time to Pretend
“I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.”
I like the idea of a band growing up into stardom and not getting a say in it. It’s hard to complain because of how fortunate you are just to continue to be relevant for the time being, but the lifestyle robs you of some of the best parts of being alive. “Time to Pretend” dives into this mindset really well and covers a lot of the awful parts of the lifestyle, along with the necessity to pretend that things are never going wrong to maintain the image. In reality, MGMT never wanted to be the pop superstars, and that envious.
High energy, quick punching song to capture the awesomeness of Guided By Voices. It’s amazing to think about how talented Pollard is at working his way to choruses, and it’s how they always fill forty minute rock albums with twenty-two tracks. This one was one of the first GBV songs I loved when I re-dove into their discography, and it stays on the list because of the rock mentality message. The closer you are to a person/situation, the quicker it will hit you.
“If she happens to suggest/ A love based on trust and respect/ Tell her I’ve been wasted since last week.”
It’s crazy to me how this is just the beginning to a bonus track on Stay Positive. It’s the ultimate dodger anthem; the guy who’s not really doing anything with his life right now, but wants to keep that a secret so people don’t have to worry about him. Lie about what we already did, come up with an excuse for why I never answer the phone, and try to get them to send more stuff. Continue reading Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 90-81→
A lot of WCDB DJs, myself included, drool over the work of Bright Eyes and frontman Conor Oberst. He’s likely the premier singer in the indie folk genre for the past generation, and has released a few albums and songs in his career which could easily be referred to as classics. Letting Off the Happiness came early in the career, following only A Collection of Songs, and it captured Oberst immediately before he started making the epic albums that would grow to define his career. One of the nice parts about Letting Off the Happiness is that Bright Eyes was still developing at that time, and you’re able to hear the birthing of some of the imperfections that became defining qualities within his career.