Winter is right around the corner and like many of you, I’ve been frolicking in crunchy leaves, wearing all of my stylish coats and sweaters, and will become absolutely inconsolable within the next few weeks.
I often look to soothe myself with the music of vulnerable songwriters who articulate my harrowing levels of existential dread that is often amplified by the seasonal transition. It’s nice to have something to relate to while desperately clinging to the edge of reality during a cold and unforgiving autumnal descent into madness.
Bright Eyes is typically a good starting point, but even the melancholy nature of Conor Oberst’s lyricism has started to lose its edge. Here are twenty of their songs that don’t even scratch the surface of my unbridled seasonal anguish. (Listen to the playlist while you read along)
“The Awful Sweetness of Escaping Sweat”
This summer may have been the hottest recorded season in human history, and while I am excited to no longer be the sweatiest person during brunch – it’s a glandular problem – I am unlikely to find anything ‘sweet’ about the debilitating insomnia that plagues me during the colder months. While Conor describes hopping into ice baths to cure his alcohol poisoning, I have been taking cold plunges just to feel again as well as cure alcohol poisoning.
“If Winter Ends”
A fever is wished for in this classic to hopefully warm the subject’s bones during an unforgiving winter. Sadly, I’ve somehow gotten COVID three times since the temperatures dropped and I think this song neglects to mention the associated chills with said fever.
Long distance relationships can be hard. It seems the affair described in this song was cut short after a multiseparation. My ex cut things off after moving a mere forty minutes away, citing an ‘insurmountable distance’ between the two of us. Pretty sure I win this round.
“One And Done”
While I do say ‘Oh, My God’ quite often at the abject horrors of everyday life, I simply cannot relate to the concept of ‘one and done.’ Maybe if the song were called ‘one followed by an endless myriad of disappointments’ it would resonate more with me.
“Saturday As Usual”
This track definitely stinks of dread with its lines of crying in a bathroom and its suggestion that the world is becoming meaner, but the verses actually depict a pretty active social life for the narrator. My typical Saturday involves speaking to no one and sleeping for hours on end. If I died, it would take weeks for anyone to realize I’ve been gone. Maybe Netflix should have a feature that calls 911 if you haven’t dismissed the ‘Are You There?’ screen for more than a
couple of days.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been sleeping close to 14 hours a day. I haven’t seen a sunrise since we set the clocks back and it’s doubtful I’ll be seeing a sunset anytime soon. If I could sleep through the entire winter like some human/bear hybrid it wouldn’t make a difference to me or any of my loved ones.
“Nothing Gets Crossed Out”
Laundry, dishes, cleaning, you name it. Like Sysiphus and his rock, I am doomed to repeat the same menial tasks while AI is being employed to do useless things like write and act. While this song depicts a never-ending to-do list, I don’t know what Conor is bitching about in this one. Most of the lyrics are about doing a ton of drugs and getting drunk with Tim Kasher. If I had any friends I doubt any of them would be as cool as the guy from Cursive.
Oh Jesus, don’t even get me started on the Holidays. My step-brother makes ten figures a year and my Dad loves him more than his own children. I’m gonna have to make small talk with that asshole at my Mom’s Christmas Eve party. Does the horror ever end? While charming, this cover of the Elvis Presley classic doesn’t even scratch the surface of my Holiday woes.
“Hit the Switch”
Oh boo-hoo, Conor. You’re a functioning alcoholic who hates his friends. Join the fucking club. I would absolutely love it if my reality was feeling ‘completely alone at a table of friends.’ Instead I make prolonged eye contact with my cat for hours at a time in my studio apartment and wonder how long it will take her to eat my face if I perish.
“The Movement of a Hand”
The lyrics to this one illustrate the lonely feeling of coming home to no one after a long day. It describes in detail the route its protagonist takes to get to their apartment and the minute depressing things they do once they are able to shed the facade of happiness. It’s much more relatable when you actually leave your house, which is something I have not done in nearly thirty days.
“Going For the Gold”
On this cut, Conor suggests that if he could ‘talk to himself like he was someone else’ he might not be such an ‘asshole all the time.’ I hate to break it to old Obes, but I talk to myself all day every day seeing as no one else will listen. If anything, I’ve become more of an asshole.
“On My Way To Work”
I work remotely, which is great because I never have to put on pants, but also a bummer because I don’t get to participate in a fun commute like the one featured in these lyrics. Sure, driving past a graveyard while contemplating your own mortality might not seem like anyone’s idea of ‘fun,’ but when you rarely go outside, even a dump filled with ghosts and dead people starts to sound like Disneyland.
“Drunk Kid Catholic”
I don’t mean to sound like a prude, but I’m pretty sure this song is offensive to both Catholics and Drunk Kids alike with its themes of inebriation and promiscuity. While Conor bitches about being drunk all the time and sleeping with multiple women to alleviate the pain of a breakup, I have to cut my Black Labels down with water to save money while getting ghosted by all my matches on Tinder.
“If The Brakeman Turns My Way”
Panic does indeed ‘grip my body,’ turning my heart into a ‘hummingbird.’ Unlike Mr. Oberst, though, I will never be able to afford a transformative trip to Cassadaga, NY to ‘level out.’ Maybe if I could motivate myself to get a better job it would be attainable, but as it stands I barely have the gumption to complete my responsibilities at my current and depressingly shitty one.
Conor claims that no one knows where the ladder goes. If we’re talking about the creepy ladder in my coat closet that I climbed out of drunken boredom the other night, I beg to differ. Turns out it leads to an attic crawl space but more specifically, a terrifyingly large raccoon nest. By the end of my discovery I needed fourteen stitches and several rabies shots. My old roommate would have stopped me. I miss my friends.
“Hot Car in the Sun”
The heat recently went out in my car. My mechanic says it’s a thirty-dollar part and he’ll cut me a deal on labor if I bring it in. But what’s the point? I don’t really have anywhere to go anyway.
“Waste of Paint”
I read online that painting your living space in a light shade of blue can help boost serotonin when sunlight is not readily available. What I did not read is that you should not try to paint your entire living room with zero ventilation and no mask. When I came to, I had been passed out for days and had zero missed calls. Also I must have tripped when I conked out because the entire bucket I bought had spilled onto my carpet. I’m not sure what this song is about, but it can’t be as depressing as that.
This track is about a codependent relationship that has run its course. It is often cited as one of the saddest songs ever written, but all I can think about when I hear it is that the narrator at least has someone. It’s been six years since my last relationship, and that one only lasted three weeks before she had to leave for Space Camp. God I’m so lonely.
Listen to the playlist: