I discovered Bright Eyes when I was pretty young (before high school) and totally loved them. I worshiped Dylan and saw Conor as a similar beast. I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, LIFTED, and Fevers and Mirrors (later) were some of my favorite albums. Conor’s lyrics were always so introspective and brutally honest, and his melodies were always folk-punk-indie-bluegrass-rock magic. And then I discovered Conor’s 2008 solo album as a Sophomore when I was going through a tough time. Some of the songs were so brutally heart-wrenching, and I loved it. It felt more sincere and real than most things I’d heard.
And then Conor released his new solo album Upside Down Mountain the summer after that sophomore year. I vividly remember me and my ex-boyfriend being so excited to hear his new music and us listening through the whole thing on the 1-California late at night coming home from a show. What immediately struck us when we heard the first song, “Time Forgot,” was “holy shit Conor isn’t sad anymore.” We were happy for him! Really happy. I felt like I’d been there with him during the depression of his self titled album, and it was wonderful to see him move on to happier times. I love Upside Down Mountain. I think before that album I felt like good lyrics had to be either sad or about romantic love. Conor’s lyrics in that album showed me what else could be good fodder for song. Below are some of my favorite verses from “Hundreds of Ways,” the third song on the album.
What a thing to be a witness to the sunshine
What a dream to just be walking on the ground
What a time to live among the ashen remnants of our love
It came before and I’m still looking for that now
It took centuries to build these twisted cities
It took seconds to reduce them down to dust
And all the tour guide could say was
“Take your pictures folks it’s late, try your best please to remember what was done.”
Don’t look so forlorn
Don’t you look so scared
Don’t get so upset
This world was never fair
But there are hundreds of ways
To get through the days
There are hundreds of ways
Now you just find one
I think part of my problem was I felt like happy lyrics were never legit. Conor’s lyrics in the album are honest about how fucking difficult it can be to be happy, but that it’s POSSIBLE and WORTH it (also, of course, we know from his past albums about his sadness).
Anyways. Conor Oberst is wonderful, and everyone should listen to him beyond just the Bright Eyes stuff.