June on the West Coast - Bright Eyes
If a song like this catches you at the right age, it can end up meaning far more than the sum of its parts, forever associated with things that maybe it has no right to be. For instance: being in your early 20s and having no idea what the hell to do with your life; living in your fourth apartment in four years and working at a video store; near crippling anxiety; trying to decide whether or not to propose to your girlfriend; going to see your therapist once a week and having it finally help for the first time; being both afraid of and longing for open roads at the same time.
I don’t expect you to bring those memories to this song, maybe you’ll bring your own, or maybe you’ve never even heard the damn thing. The point, though, is that I think you’ll find something to like here. Conor Oberst’s poetically rambling and vulnerable verses—cascading down one after another, a waterfall of words that culminate in the realization that perhaps true love is the only that can save him—well, they get to me. Even now, more than ten years on.
It’s also a song that has a surprising amount of wisdom and weariness in its verses, a young Oberst, only 18 at the time, doing his very best Bob Dylan (a comparison that would soon begin to haunt him), but doing it in a way Dylan - for all his prodigious talent and genius - never really dared (or cared?) to do: with genuine heart-on-his-sleeves, putting-it-all-out-there emotion. Even at his most vulnerable, Dylan was always, well, Dylan, and it’s often hard to truly see such an iconic and mythical figure as a weak or worried man. Oberst, though, came up through the ranks as a vulnerable little emo kid, and while his persona has certainly been through several changes since then, it wasn’t until just a few years ago (around Cassedega time) that he had any sense of real confidence about him (a song like this, then, probably wouldn’t be half as powerful from the Oberst of now - the carousing mystic, the endless traveler with a full head of bravado about him). Here, though, he puts it all out there in a simple way I’ve never had any trouble relating to throughout the years, old as I grow:
I thought I was on fire with the things I could have told you / I guess I just assumed you eventually would ask / and I wouldn’t have to bring up my so badly broken heart, and all those nights I just wanted to sleep/ And though Spring it did come slowly, well I guess it did its part / my heart has thawed and continues to beat.
It’s June, and this is a song for June. For hearts continuing to beat. Some days, that’s all you can ask for.