Conor Oberst – A Little Uncanny

My mind is absolutely blown by the understated genius of this guy. It’s like Al Stewart, Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan had a lyrical lovechild. I think I had only ever heard one other song by him, but since hearing this yesterday, I have tapped his YouTube playlist like a Vermont Maple tree, sucking the marrow out of these songs. They’re simple and complex at the same time–not an easy thing to pull off. And listening to this song, you can tell he’s a reader, not only because of the literary references in the song, but because you get that sense from great writers too. The ones who write like a still topped lake with a fast rushing stream feeding into it somewhere off screen. This is how his writing feels. There’s a pulse in the veins with this one and it gets the atrioventricular valves pumping fresh, intelligent blood to the brain.

This song just came out on the adult alternative channel on Music Choice and I think it’s a good one to start with if you’re not familiar with him. It has a rockabilly vibe with that pronounced Dylan-ish harmonica kickstarting the methodical forward motion of the drum and beat-centric soul of the song. The lyrics are great. He’s talking about how things that aren’t considered great in their own time necessarily, still took a great deal of effort to achieve. It’s a way to tell you to keep chugging away at the old dream.

But don’t stop at this song. Keep listening. You just can’t imagine that they can get better, but they do. This is indicative of a true artist with a very deep well to pull from.

(I also dig that there is this backdrop of 90s video footage of Conor growing up. You get a chance to see the genius in the making.)

This is a great song to listen to while you’re trying to put together the pieces of your life in an artistic way.

Lyrics:

We started drinking the Kool-Aid
We were taking the bait
We were talking the big talk
Never playing it safe
Looking good as Jane Fonda
On a Vietnam tank
Can’t get something for nothing
Have to energize your base

But she was young enough
She was blonde enough
She was ’bout a perfect ten
Had millions of admirers but not a single friend
And it’s a, it’s a little uncanny what she managed to do
Become a symbol for a pain she never knew

You know old Ronnie Reagan
He was a shoe salesman’s son
He got himself in the movies
He impressed everyone
He thought trial by fire
Was America’s fate
He made a joke of the poor people
And that made him a saint

But he was tan enough, he was rich enough
He was handsome like John Wayne
And there was no one at the country club
Who didn’t feel the same

But it’s a, it’s a little uncanny
What he managed to do
Got me to read those Russian authors through and through

I miss Christopher Hitchens
I miss Oliver Sacks
I miss poor Robin Williams
I miss Sylvia Plath
Every morning’s a desert
Every night is a flood
They say a party can kill you
Well sometimes I wish it would

But I’ll get strong enough, I’ll be man enough
To keep myself in check
‘Cause all my friends that flew to town
Said that’s what they expect

But it’s a, it’s a little uncanny
What they managed to do
Made me admit to things I knew were never true

Lyrics by Conor Oberst

Video directed by Josh Rawson
Director of Photography-Frankie Turiano
Produced by Alex Knapp and Katrina Bayoneto

Album: Salutations

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Aldous Harding – Imagining My Man

This is a true original. She makes me imagine what a magic moment it must have been to have discovered Kate Bush back in the day. Or Nico. (Tell me this woman doesn’t sound like Nico and I will eat my shoe.) This pop of realness, of fresh air invades your mind and you discover what your lungs have been missing. Aldous’ lyrics are strong and visual like the features on her face. There is a refreshing dramatic air to both.

Great music from this New Zealander. She is a relative newcomer, debuting with Stop Your Tears in 2015, but has garnered a huge fan base and critical acclaim from all corners of the music industry. She has been on a whirlwind tour of music festivals lately and the bloggers and music fanatics are blazing up the webs, singing her praises. Even Lorde is a huge fan as evidenced by her Twitter shout out yesterday.

This is a great song to listen to when you’ve run out of answers. It makes you feel like you’re not so alone in that.

Lyrics:

(Lyrics are new and not necessarily right on this site. I will update when Google gets theirs up.)

[Verse 1]

I’m going to answer, protecting
It can be so hard to forgive
It’s not what I thought and it’s not what I pictured
When I was imagining my man
You are so nervous all of the time giving the classics
I know that imagining my man
Imagining, imagining my man

[Chorus]
All my life (hey!) I’ve had to fight to stay
You were right, love takes time, hey, hey

[Verse 2]
You have this dream, apparently I’m not done
I leave and it’s dreadful
If you get there
Be honest, respectful

[Chorus]
All my life (hey!) I never tried to stay
You were right, love takes time, hey, hey

[Bridge]
I hope one dream will get that where
Lucky to be given the chance
I do not have the answer
But I don’t have the wish to go back

[Chorus]
All my life (hey!) I’ve had to fight to stay
You were right (yes!), love takes time, hey, hey
All my life (hey!) I’ve had to fight to stay
You were right, love takes time, hey, hey

Written by: Aldous Harding, 2017

Procol Harum – Whiter Shade of Pale

I don’t follow conventions. You’ll get to know that about me. Who came up with Throwback Thursday anyway. Such a convention now. Boo.

I was listening to this song tonight. Looking at the bad video/audio sync like so many other song video recordings I’ve been listening to this week. They just didn’t have their shit together. I mean, I remember when we were all wowed by Michael Jackson because he had dancers who actually moved in sync with one another. But again, I digress.

This song reminds me of my eldest sister’s wedding. It was a rainy day. She married an Armenian-American guy from Providence, RI. It was a tight-knit group from a proud community. I was in college in Tallahassee at the time. I flew there and suddenly felt like, with the first communal dinner party, that I was in a different country. Grape wrapped rice things. Dolmades. The women in the house talked in a language I had never heard before and the men called sandwiches, sangwidges.

Everything was foreign. I was displaced. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but who exactly was this newfound family of my sister? How was I going to fit in now.

The wedding day came and I started taking pictures. My sister’s posse had gotten a few rooms in a posh hotel in the downtown district. The women were in a frenzy getting everyone’s hair and nails done when I noticed it started to rain outside.

My sister, the bride, in her hair curlers, took a moment to go down the hall. The view was beautiful and she opened the window the small crack that it would allow. She pulled a cigarette out of her pocket and exhaled her breath into the foggy Providence air. And I took a picture. I was standing down the hall from her and thought, “What a profound moment this is.” Needless to say, she found out and promptly scolded me, admonishing me that her new mother-in-law would now know that she smoked sometimes. And, even though I never got that picture developed, it’s still with me.

But, to the song. It was a great wedding. Arguments and rain and French relatives and all. It was a huge wedding. Catholic. Big. 500+. People flown from Lyon and stuff. Did I say big? I felt like my sister was no longer mine that day. She was lost in the swirl of guests and relatives. That’s how big it was.

But, at the reception, we got to dance. And I really like to dance. I don’t do it well at all, but I kind of like that about it, too. And all the Armenians did their thing. Dancing around in a big circle and shooting alternate feet out like something I saw once in a Russian movie.

So, we watched them. My brothers and sisters and me. My older brother and I were a mainstay at the open bar, doing shots. And we finally got tired of their whole show.

And we got up there and danced some really bad American style stuff by ourselves. It was embarrassing to say the least. It was. It was bad, drunken, non-cohesive dancing and calling people’s names from the dance floor, imploring them to join in. I mean, we don’t really have a culture. But we do know how to get drunk and sentimental. And my brother wanted to hear Procol Harum. Yes, here’s where the longest story in the world wraps around.

Procol Harum was our song. My brother and my sisters and me. It was a song that got us through the hard times when my mother died. And I think we just wanted one last dance together. But the DJ wouldn’t play it. He said it was too depressing to play at a wedding. And he said the song doesn’t even make sense. But it doesn’t always have to make sense. It doesn’t always have to wrap around to a feel-good pop vibe. I guess that’s my point. And I would’ve loved to have had that dance with them. Just the four of us, together one last time.

But, somewhere amidst the haze of alcohol, I do remember my brother and myself dancing to You Look Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton. And singing it loudly and probably oh so badly. We’ll always have that. So, there’s something.

For my brothers and sisters.

Lyrics:

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale
She said, ‘There is no reason
And the truth is plain to see.’
But I wandered through my playing cards
And would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast
And although my eyes were open
They might have just as well’ve been closed
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale
And so it was that later
Songwriters: Gary Brooker / Keith Reid / Matthew Fisher
A Whiter Shade of Pale lyrics © T.R.O. Inc.

Bridget Kearney – Wash Up

This song has been spinning around on Music Choice (cable TV’s only redeeming factor anymore) for a couple weeks now and every time I hear it, my ears perk up. It stands out. The vocals are soft and steady and have a strumming quality to them, which contrasts the heavier lyrics, really. And although it sounds like a kind of upbeat song, her vocals have a sorrow to them. It’s about her not being able to save her lover or the relationship and in the video, we see her just running over the course of a whole day. She’s trying to get it out of her system that this guy ruined her self esteem on some level and she’s just trying to wash him out of her mind and “what you left inside of me.” She starts in the city and by nightfall, ends up at the ocean and we see what a journey the relationship has been for her. We all have to learn what it is that we are supposed to learn about ourselves through others. Maybe that’s the only way we can unlock parts of ourselves, through that key that only a stranger holds. That’s why it’s always worth it. No matter what.

Lyrics:

Honey, you look so washed-up
Still with those wandering hands
You must be hitting hard stuff
And you got me wondering why
I ever thought we would be happy
Oh my god, I loved you madly
The reflection reflects badly
Upon me
What I should have seen

Honey, you look so disheveled
You really let yourself go
You used to seem like a rebel
And now it’s more like joke
And you might think you make me happy
After things ended so badly
But I just can’t believe you had me
To the bone
When I should have known

So wash up
And wash over me
And wash out
What you made me be
Wash up
Wash out to sea
Wash up
What you left inside of me

Honey, you look so washed up
It’s really breaking my heart
Thought I could pull you together
But you pulled me apart
I thought I could pull you together
But you pulled me apart

So wash up
And wash over me
And wash up
What you made me be
Wash up
Wash out to sea
Wash up
What you left inside of me

Wash out to sea
Wash out to sea
Wash out to sea
Wash out to sea

Hurray For The Riff Raff – Hungry Ghost

This song is great. Heard it last week. Great bass line. For some reason, it reminds me of a Garbage song the way it’s arranged. Not sure why Wikipedia is calling this band Americana, folk-blues. It doesn’t play that way to me. I listened to several songs this morning. Definitely adult-alt or alternative.

The song is about the narrator ready to move on. She recognizes that she’s been down or depressed for a while, but is ‘ready for the world.’ And she’s obviously been overlooked by her current lover because he can’t even pick her out of a crowd, hence the title Hungry Ghost. Pretty straightforward lyrics sung by Segarra’s (lead) deep alto voice and a nice driving bass/drum beat.

This song is great to listen to while putting on your make up, getting ready to go out and get noticed. 

I been a lonely girl
I been a lonely girl
But I’m ready for the world
Oh, I’m ready for the world
I been a heart for hire
I been a heart for hire
And my love’s on the funeral pyre
Mmm, my love’s on the funeral pyre

When will you —
When will you help me out?
Oh, you can’t even pick me out of the crowd
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

I been nobody’s child
I been nobody’s child
So my blood’s starting running wild
Oh, my blood’s starting running wild
I been a hungry ghost
I been a hungry ghost
And I travelled from coast-to-coast
Oh, I travelled from coast-to-coast

When will you —
When will you help me out?
You can’t even pick me out of the crowd

Oh, and, I, I don’t need you anymore
So then, why, am I standing at your door?
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh

I been a lonely girl
I been a lonely girl
But I’m ready for the world
Oh, I’m ready for the world
Well, I’m ready for world
Oh, I’m ready for the world
Oh, I’m ready for the world
Oh, I’m ready for the world
Well, I’m ready for the world

Lyrics: Segarra, Alynda. Courtesy ATO Records.

First Aid Kit’s Silver Lining

I know this was published in 2014, but this is the first I’m hearing it. These girls from Stockholm have a magical kismet together and I first fell in love with them hearing their song Emmylou. I mean, what kind of self-respecting music lover wouldn’t love a song entitled Emmylou with mentions of Johnny Cash, June Carter and Gram Parsons?

This song has no cryptic language, the lyrics are straightforward and, dare I say, inpiring(?). It’s all about determination in life and they capture this well with this tune with the repeated mantra throughout, “I try to keep on keeping on.” The alto and soprano mix of the girls’ voices keeps great pace with the driving music beneath it, giving us a sense of movement. And forward movement is what the song is all about.

This song is great to listen to while driving to work. Especially to a job you hate.

Lyrics:

I don’t want to wait anymore I’m tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter
I don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on
And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am
Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

I won’t take the easy road
The easy road, the easy road

I won’t take the easy road
The easy road, the easy road

Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on

Written by Johanna Kajsa Soederberg, Klara Maria Soederberg • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Kings of Leon – The Final Chapter, Reverend

Okay, I’ve been totally addicted to this song for a week now. I heard it probably a month ago and it has really grown on me. Caleb and the boys bring themselves back to a more melodic tune with a serious bass drive that underscores the sobering video images, which, might I just add, thank God somebody’s doing good videos again. If you listen to the lyrics without the video, though, they’re just as strong visually, so you get a good sense of what they’re trying to say here: That the relationship is at an impasse.

This song is great to listen to while walking your dog. 

Lyrics

On the limb cut down in the middle of the night caught in a trap
Cursed by the crown of the wandering man who was never coming back
Stuck on the line spinning all of his time with his back to the throne
With the flash of the round everybody in town said leave me alone

Just like a reverend, like a reverend on the radio
Your heart will never say so
Your heart will never let you go
Just like a reverend, like a reverend on the radio
My heart will never say so
My heart will never let you go

I got caught in the middle of a hurricane fight facing the ground
Beast to the wild with the porcelain smile as it passes around
The truth in the skies from the billowing eyes isn’t working on me
Don’t you think you gotta give me
Give me something I want
Give me something I need

Just like a reverend, like a reverend on the radio
Your heart will never say so
Your heart will never let you go
Just like a reverend, like a reverend on the radio
My heart will never say so
My heart will never let you go

Just like a reverend, like a reverend on the radio
Your heart will never say so
Your heart will never let you go
Just like a reverend, like a reverend on the radio
My heart will never say so
My heart will never let you go

Just like a reverend, like a reverend on the radio
My heart will never say so
My heart will never let you go

Written by Matthew Followill, Ivan Nathan Followill, Caleb Followill, Jared Followill • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC