Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday (Not So) Random Ten

This is a special edition of Friday Random Ten, inspired by a (short) conversation I had with a friend regarding Conor Oberst and how he is depressing. I, in fact, love Conor Oberst. So, here are my ten favorite Conor Oberst songs:

10) "I Don't Want To Die (In A Hospital)" - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Conor Oberst

Rowdy and slightly raucous, I can bounce around to this one like no one's business. Ironically, this one isn't my favorite based on any sort of lyrics that made my spine tingle. This one is all about the fun. Which is strange, since it is, after all, a song about death and dying. Just to get us started, though, I laugh at these lines every time:
Can you make a sound to distract the nurse
Before I take a ride in that long black hearse
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside
9) "Devil Town" - Bright Eyes, Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005)

This isn't actually a Bright Eyes penned song, but it's an awesome cover (you can listen to a snippet of the original here).

8) "Another Travelin' Song" - Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

There are two subjects above all others where I enjoy Conor Oberst's musings, and those are religion and spirituality, and the very state of writing itself. This one is all about the latter:
Now I'm hunched over a typewriter
I guess you call that paintin' in a cave
And there's a word I can't remember
and a feeling I cannot escape
And now my ashtray's overflowing
I'm still staring at a clean white page
Oh and morning's at my window
she is sending me to bed again
7) "I Must Belong Somewhere" - Bright Eyes, Cassadaga

And, lyrics:
In truth, the forest hears each sound
Each blade of grass as it lies down
The world requires no audience
no witnesses, no witnesses
6) "Waste of Paint" - Bright Eyes, Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

So now I park my car down by the cathedral,
where the floodlights point up at the steeples.
Choir practice was filling up with people.
I hear the sound escaping as an echo.
Sloping off the ceiling at an angle.
When the voices blend they sound like angels.
5) "From A Balance Beam": - Bright Eyes, Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

This one's a little more depressing:
It was in a foreign hotel's bathtub
I baptized myself in change
And one by one I drowned all of the people I had been
I emerged to find the parallels were fewer
I was cleansed
I looked in the mirror
And someone new was there
But, I was as helpless as a chess piece
when I was lifted up by someone's hand
And delivered from the corner
my enemies had got me in
But in all of my salvation
I still felt imprisoned inside that holding cell
that is myself
4) "Moab" - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Conor Oberst

I don't like comparisons between musical artists. I hate it when bands are described as "Bigger than the Beatles" (because, clearly, if we're still comparing them to the Beatles, they weren't/aren't); and I hate it when music critics call Conor Oberst the next Dylan. Because (a) Dylan isn't done being Dylan yet, and (b) there is only one Dylan. And then there are songs like this one that make me think, "Yeah, that's pretty Dylanesque". It's pretty much all in the vocal delivery. Anyway:
You can't break out of a circle
That you never knew you were in
And there's nothing that the road cannot heal
Nothing that the road cannot heal
Washed under the blacktop
Gone beneath my wheels
There's nothing that the road cannot heal
3) "First Day Of My Life" - Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Songs like this are what make me astounded when people talk about Bright Eyes being incredibly depressing. Because when I hear this song, I hear something full of love, and hope, and optimism. Nothing demonstrates that better than the second verse:
Yours is the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you
Now I don’t know where I am
I don’t know where I’ve been
But I know where I want to go
2) "Four Winds" - Bright Eyes, Cassadaga

Cassadaga is my absolute favorite Bright Eyes album, and I've been knocked out by this song since I first heard it. Some of the lyrics that did it for me:
Well I went back by rented Cadillac and company jet
Like a newly orphaned refugee retracing my steps
All the way to Cassadaga to commune with the dead
They said, "You'd better look alive"
1) "Bowl of Oranges" - Bright Eyes, Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

This is my favorite Bright Eyes song; it has been since the first time I heard it, and that's because I loved all of the lyrics. But if I had to pick my favorite of the song, it would be:
But if the world could remain within a frame like a painting on a wall.
Then I think we would see the beauty.
Then we would stand staring in awe at our still lives posed like a bowl of oranges,
like a story told by the fault lines and the soil

Honorable Mention:
"Classic Cars" - Bright Eyes, Cassadaga

This song has some of my absolute favorite lyrics ever:
And I keep looking for that blindfold faith
Lighting candles to a cynical saint
Who wants the last laugh at the fly trapped in the windowsill tape
You can go right out of your mind trying to escape
From the panicked paradox of day to day
If you can’t understand something then it’s best to be afraid

As an apatheistic atheist, I don't have these sorts of pained moments of religious soul-searching. But I love the way religion moves people; I love the art and books and buildings that come out of it.

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