Wednesday Weeper of the Week: “Lua” by Bright EyesPosted: October 12, 2016
I got a kick out of hearing that Conor Oberst’s new solo album, which is quite excellent by the way, was called Ruminations. Couldn’t every one of his albums, every one of his songs for that matter, be titled the same? Picking at the minutiae of life for morsels of truth and digging deep into loves he’s lost and mistakes he’s made for some sort of lesson that he eventually ignores, lest there be no more grist for his songwriting mill, Oberst is one of music’s great ruminators.
He also has the knack for putting you right in the middle of a situation, even if it’s somewhere you’d never be in your actual life. I’ve never used recreational drugs in my life and have only visited the tourist attractions in New York City. And yet, on “Lua,” released on 2005’s I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Oberst’s recording alter ego Bright Eyes, his details and observations bring the city’s young and affluent drug scene to such harrowingly vivid life that the song seems like a memory that I’d blocked out. The loneliness, the weariness, the whole dispiriting, devastating cycle of that lifestyle can be gleaned from his well-chosen words.
It can also be understood from his hushed vocal, at times so quiet and defeated that it seems as though he’s singing a lullaby to a dream that long since died. When his voice does turn up, it quivers in that inimitable way that Oberst has, and the damage done to his narrator is clear. What’s so heartbreaking about the song is that this guy can insightfully describe the pitfalls of this life and yet is helpless to leave it behind.
If “Lua” is one of your favorite Oberst songs, as it is mine, you really should check out Ruminations, which also features the artist in his most stripped-down guise, nothing getting in the way of his delicate melodies and wounded words. Then you can ruminate on your own time about how, a dozen years on from “Lua,” he’s still at the top of his game in bringing listeners to the bottom.
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