Every so often I’ll feel pangs of regret for having waited so long to start writing about music. It usually happens when I hear a song or album that reminds me of a specific time in my life, either because of its release date or because I went through a period of concentrated listening.
I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning came out in January of 2005, when I was just a few months away from graduating college. That May, I moved in with my friend Ryan — he’d graduated in 2004 — and we listened to Wide Awake quite a bit in the two years we lived together. I can remember distinctly trying and failing to memorize the entire spoken word introduction to opening track “At The Bottom Of Everything.” I had the rest of the song down, but something about the meandering way Conor Oberst delivers the dream-like prologue made it impossible to sing (speak?) along with. That said, one line we never failed to get right was the frantic/rhythmic “We love you very, very, very, very, very, very, very much” that Oberst wavers through just before breaking into the actual song. It’s hard to say why, but we always found a strange humor value in singing along there, despite the fact that the characters are in the midst of a plane crash. For whatever reason, it was (and is) really funny to us.
This bit came up in conversation while he and I were hanging out yesterday. We cracked each other up trying to recite more lines from the song’s minute-and-a-half-long intro and did our best to imitate the mix of disaffection and intensity with which Oberst narrates. It was one of those tiny time machine moments, when you briefly occupy both the present and a warmly remembered past, and afterwards we went on to sing the praises of album closer “Road To Joy,” the Wide Awake track that I’d guess racked up the highest play count in that time we were roommates.
Despite the fact that we listened to the album a ton, I never really gave much thought to how well “At The Bottom Of Everything” and “Road To Joy” bookend the songs in between. There’s certainly an in-with-a-whimper (Oberst taking a sip of something and casually starting the prologue with “So…”) out-with-a-bang (“Let’s fuck it up boys, make some noise!”) thing going on there, which is neat on its own. But on a more personal note, there’s something wonderfully circular about these two favorites being the first and last tracks. The marriage of instant gratification and the promise of a great ending makes the songs in between even sweeter, I think.
There’s a chance I’m seeing circles because they’re the official shape of nostalgia, but I’d like to believe that I would have posted about this bookend idea had I been writing You Hear That at the time. This blog has been a blessing in many ways, but one of the biggest is that it makes me listen so much more closely. Talk about things being made sweeter — being this connected to music makes my life so much more rewarding, and I’m thankful to the friends (IRL and otherwise) who have engaged with this thing that has helped me become more engaged with the world around me. To paraphrase Mr. Oberst, “I love you very, very, very, very, very, very, very much.”