“These myths are sacred and profane!”
So says the inside cover of Bright Eyes’ Cassadega, a message visible only through the included “Spectral Decoder,” allowing the holder the ability of viewing the hidden images and text on an otherwise barren album case. Without this useful piece of plastic, the above image would resemble little more than blurred lines of static. With it, we get depictions of life and death… pyramids, comets and stars.
“Swollen saints bathing in a backwards river under a sliver of the moon…”
I remember first listening to the album while waiting for a bus in Hawaii. The heat from the sun was unbearable, made worse by ample concrete and lack of shade. But something about the music eased the annoyance of waiting for public transportation. It’s an explosion of harmony in your ears… swirls of Americana with alt-rock sensibilities… Conor Oberst’s angst-ridden vocals layered upon textured timbre.
That the album’s sometimes nihilistic message comes out so hopeful and jubilant is an irony of songwriting. The melodies are perfectly suitable for dancing along with when you’re alone in your apartment (not that I would know), though the lyrics are often somber and sad.
Unlike Robert Johnson at his metaphoric Crossroads, the decision to move on your own proves more meaningful than waiting for direction. “God helps those who help themselves.” (And never let the Devil tune your guitar.) On Cassadega, Oberst examines what it means to move, choosing many paths but always arriving at the same destination: life sometimes sucks but that’s okay.
“Dog-faced apologists pleasing themselves on the burning sand…”
I like to think everything happens for a reason, though I often wonder if I apply reason to everything in an effort to make moments seem more meaningful. If you don’t go overboard and your days are more enjoyable, what’s the crime, really? It beats cocaine.
(From his 2005 album, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, included because it’s so damn endearing…)
There’s a celebration at the root of it all – the sound of hope and new beginnings – that a little pain only made the good times sweeter. In this expression we get the blindness of heat dissolved in the vibrancy of light… and we learn to enjoy the sun like an evergreen growing in a concrete jungle…