Every Day and Every Night


Band: Bright Eyes
Album: Every Day and Every Night
Best song: “A Perfect Sonnet.” No question.
Worst song: “Neely O’Hara” is probably a little long.

As with many bands popular at my college radio station when I was there, Bright Eyes is one I initially dismissed. He played in Columbia my freshmen year for our annual birthday party show series (and put on a decent show), but many reasons (he’s only a year older than I am, his fanbase was mostly the skinny jeans set, the premature comparisons to Dylan, etc.) kept me from embracing his music. Mostly, his vocal style really didn’t appeal to me.

So, all throughout college, I stayed away form Mr. Oberst and his cohorts. It took the LIFTED album for me to even embrace one song of his (“Waste of Paint”) and even then, I did so reluctantly.

Since graduation, though, I’ve come to enjoy some of his work. Oberst, as a singer and guitar player, isn’t wonderful. His warbling gets annoying and it mostly plays improperly on anything other than the sensitive-guy stuff he mostly plays. Example: His free “When the President Talks to God” single. That thing sucked.

Every Day and Every Night is Oberst’s third record. It’s an EP recorded and released when he was 19. It has all the hallmarks of Oberst recording, including his crescendoing warble-scream on “On My Way to Work,” Oberst’s everyday song. “A New Arrangement,” a wanton recitation of a relationship’s change/end, is soft and easy, without Oberst’s signature dynamics. “A Line Allows Progress, a Circle Does Not” speaks the pressures and sadness of addiction over a simple guitar line. “Neely O’Hara” is a long-winded, albeit pretty good, experiment that doesn’t utilize Oberst’s best gifts.

Songwriting, inherently, is a tough thing to do well and to make a cohesive, evocative song that doesn’t sound ridiculous. To write a song that can actually utilize interesting structures is amazing.

“A Perfect Sonnet” is this song.

Singing with an undying urgency and striking passion, Oberst writes in a vague sonnet form (not really) of lost love. Oberst’s strength is his fantastic vindictiveness that eventually comes to a head with acceptance and love for those he despises.

But, the key to the song is the parallel structure thing he does with the chorus lyrics, using similar lyrics as to each philosophical stage he encounters.

First:

But I believe that lovers should be tied together
And thrown into the ocean in the worst of weather
And left there to drown
Left there to drown in their innocence

Second:

I believe that lovers should be chained together
And thrown into a fire with their songs and letters
And left there to burn
Left there to burn in their arrogance

Final:

Now I believe that lovers should be draped in flowers
And laid entwined together on a bed of clover
And left there to sleep
Left there to dream of their happiness

By using such a structure — and a dynamic slowdown for the final one — Oberst is able to emphasize the song’s writing while backing up its meaning. His nod to love being something we envy in others is gorgeous and fits his adolescent voice.

Moreover, the song is based in a tidal wave of guitar and band, utilizing four chord to pound the chorus’ melody into a listener’s head (the chorus and verses have the same melody, basically). It’s a wonderful pop trick and catchy as all hell.

Music like this is tough to pull off, no doubt. It’s mature — the evolution is, certainly — and a very introspective look at relationships in a way most songwriters do not touch. As with LIFTED‘s “Waste of Paint” — his other opus — Oberst touches on humanity in a way that is seldom seen in music.

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