Elsewhere | The Only Lesson of the Conor Oberst Scandal


I spent about a day trying to figure out how I feel and what was fair and what was correct before I finally settled on it not mattering. Not the incident or the reaction, just how I personally come down on this does not matter. The only ideal I could see is that we learn how to avoid automatic write-offs and snarky skepticism in reports of sexual assault. I think seeing that was the worst part of this news cycle.

Also knowing that any lesson will be washed away by Coachella lineup news.

Songs About Elliott Smith

It's Elliott Smith season; the time between his birthday (August 6th) and the date of his passing (October 21.) There's a certain segment of fans that treat these 3 months as a time to reflect on his work. Retrospective think pieces will be written and XO vinyls will be dusted off, but you can see this most at the Figure 8 mural in Los Angeles. It's around these dates that there's an uptick of messages scrawled along its black, white and red lines. As if it were a holiday, some fans leave flowers or candles.

In the nearly 10 years since his passing, there's no doubting that he's remembered as an avatar of suffering through art. He's become indie's Kurt Cobain. Depending on your temperament, this is either the canonizing of a saint or the reduction of a rich and unknowable life.

I understand the ways it is problematic. Even in life, Smith seemed to resist the idea of being the sad, confessional artist that many of us channeled from his work. It didn't matter. As fans, we used the idea as a totem to explore our own troubles. Falling in love with the tragic story required assumptions on our part that were easy to make. It's even easier to characterize him these days. In death, there's no one to stop us from forming whatever romantic image we want.

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Review | You're Not Alone In Trying To Be

Conor Oberst has been a huge musical presence in my life for the last 7 years now. Whether it was with his main outfit Bright Eyes, or his solo project with the Mystic Valley Band or his supergroup Monsters of Folk, I have always had his emotive, jangly voice lingering in my mind. Seven years doesn't sound like a big deal until I consider that nothing else-- No book or film or show -- has stayed so consistently part of my tastes. It's strange, and a little scary, to think that one prolific artist has become such an impression in my mind.

The People's Key is, possibly, the last Bright Eyes album. If it is, it's an end of an era, although I'm sure that Oberst will still be churning out songs in one band or another. It may not have the same aesthetic or goal, but it will come from a similar place. I looked forward to this album with the high hopes that it would be a culmination of everything Bright Eyes that swept old and new fans along for the ride.

I don't know if it does that, or even if it should. What's sure is that there isn't really an air of finality to this album, unless you put it there yourself. I like it and will listen to it until smoke comes out of my iPod, but that's already a given. Mostly, it's noted for moving away from the folksy/country/americana roots style that they had been playing up (to tremendous success) since I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. You'll find much less honky tonk organs and slide guitar crooning in the background. Instead, we're given a sound that's a little more new age yet also a little bit thrashing. Hard guitar and attempts at synth characterize the album's standouts.

If Cassadaga was the natural evolution of I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, then The People's Key comes from an alternate universe where Digital Ash in a Digital Urn was the hit album of the duo that got everyone's attention. It evolves the basic electronic sounds of Digital Ash, mixes it in with a lot of rock and roll, and wraps them around the Bright Eyes base of maximalist confessions.

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Decade in Decibels

Here we are! Look upon this new decade! The Tens are upon us, and all else is old! With that, here are the 10 albums from 2000 to 2009 that rocked my rocker, which in truth isn't all that notable, since I only started seriously listening to music in 2000 anyway. I mean, I was 12 years old. It's hard to develop any specific affinity for types of music before then.

Included is a handy, inaccurate metaphor that I haphazardly wrote up without a second thought. So if you're looking for an experience to correlate with listening to this hour of emotionally engaging music, maybe this add to your experience! Or maybe it will make no sense, and you will be weirded out, but then you look it up anyway because you have to know, that's just the type of person you are, always seeking, always curious.

I count a decade as '00 to '09, and save '10 through '19 for the next decade. I know years didn't start with zero, thus the first decade was 1 through 10. But 1970 was part of the 70's, not the 60's.

Whatever. List:

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Review | Scales Always Find a Way to Level Out

Bright Eyes is, sometimes, my favorite band. It depends on when I'm asked and who asks me. Either way, they're up there and untouchable in my mind. I first heard of them from a friend I talked with through the internet. I finally heard them when browsing through my sister's plethora of MP3s on the family computer. They were the gateway band that led me to the wide, wide, world of independent music, a huge source of enjoyment in my everyday life. Just the amount of money this band has led me to spend on the genre -- damn. It was definitely life changing in many ways, and it feels great to claim that.

Back then, I had never heard arrangements so interesting & layered, or lyrics so moving & well-crafted. Every night, I laid down with my CD player under my pillow listening to these tracks. I was in awe of how well someone could say exactly what they wanted to in a song, yet still have it rhyme & fit the structure of the song. It was supernatural. It was someone speaking the language of songwriting so fluently that it was stunning.

Their latest full studio effort, Cassadaga (cah-suh-day-guh) , is just about to be released. Advanced copies & pre-orders have already reached the hands of their many fans, and reactions are leaning to one side: the bad side. The band has taken a turn for a more traditional country western/folk/americana sound. Gone are the introspective, moving, and maybe even whiny songs meant purely to express something for the sake of staying sane. In their place are extroverted, political, protest songs constructed for inspiring action, not navel-gazing.

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