Today we pay tribute to an indie rock giant, Conor Oberst. During the latter part of the ‘90s, Oberst brought back folk music to indie prominence, starting with his highly successful band Bright Eyes. Over the years, Oberst expanded his palette to include everything from electronic music to country, winning a loyal group of fans, many who cling to every word in his lyrics. He also moved on to other projects, including a solo career, the rocking Desaparecidos and the Monsters Of Folk. Let’s pay tribute to Mr. Oberst by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Michael Carpenter & Kings Rd. – Home Again (Kingsrdworks): Prior to this album, Carpenter had played all the instruments on his albums. Having a band probably didn’t make a gigantic difference, but I’m sure there are subtle differences. Moreover, this is really well played stuff. This is a wonderful mid-tempo song, showing how Carpenter has the melodic chops to satisfy power pop fans, with a rootsy touch that evidences his love for Petty, Springsteen and Earle.
Max Romeo – War In A Babylon (Arkology): This is one of the more straightforward songs pulled from the 3 CD box set of Lee Scratch Perry productions. Wonderful harmony backing vocals, and Romeo is a soulful singer.
Buffalo Tom – Fortune Teller (Birdbrain): I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard anything off of this college radio staple. This song actually sounds like American Music Club, due in part to an Mark Eitzel-ish vocal. But AMC wouldn’t explode in a guitar frenzy like Buffalo Tom does here.
Sparks – Falling In Love With Myself Again (Kimono My House): Narcissism is a big theme in Sparks songs, and this relatively simple song is a fun take on the subject. A lesser cut on a classic album, with a nice guitar/bass duel instrumental break.
The Craig – I Must Be Mad (Nuggets II): British freakbeat band featuring Carl Palmer on drums. This is a pretty explosive song with some strong lead guitar work. And Palmer was already in touch with his inner Keith Moon. Or maybe his outer Keith Moon.
Bettye Lavette – Jealousy (The Scene Of The Crime): One of the reasons that this ranks as the best album from this great soul singer is that producer Patterson Hood (of the Drive By Truckers) not only got the right instrumental sound, with just enough swing, but he did an excellent job picking material. This number was originally done by Frankie Miller, a semi-successful British blues-folk singer-songwriter. Hood gives this a Mussel Shoals vibe and Lavette avoids the oversinging that sometimes drags her work down.
Tom Waits – Innocent When You Dream (Barroom) (Frank’s Wild Years): One of Waits’ classic tracks, with one of those choruses that sounds like it was around forever and he just picked it out of the ether. One of Waits’ secrets is that he is an awesome crafter of traditional American songs, but finds ways to perform them that don’t always make that obvious.
The Clean – Two Fat Sisters (Anthology): A live track from the awesome two CD compilation of their work. This is definitely in their droning Velvet Underground inspired mode, with a heavier guitar presence then on some of their tracks.
Cockeyed Ghost – December (Ludlow 6:18): The final Cockeyed Ghost album previewed where leader Adam Marsland would go as a solo artist, as he showed that he could compose some material reminiscent of Elton John collaborating with Dennis Wilson. He starts off with his fine falsetto before hitting his normal range. Smart lyrics and a real memorable line that goes with the main hook (“10 shopping days ‘til Christmas.”).
Queen – Sweet Lady (A Night At The Opera): A deep track from the album that propelled Queen into superstardom. This is a Brian May riff fest with an odd time signature that had to be a challenge for drummer Roger Taylor. This is probably as much in common with Rush as any Queen tune, but it still has pop aspects that keep it from ever being an actual prog tune.