I distinctly remember the first time I heard the opening minute of this album, wherein Conor Oberst tells a tale of a girl on a plane that begins crashing into the sea and is told that she is going to her own birthday party, and that everyone loved her very, very, very, very much.
My friend Lindsaykay and I were driving to see mewithoutYou (my favorite band ever, but you’ll hear about that later), and she put this album’s opening track, At The Bottom of Everything, on, and just made me wait through the prologue with a knowing grin on her face. Even more distinctly, I remember the three minutes after the introduction, where I, mostly a fan of emo, screamo, and anything with a -core suffix, sat dumbfounded as I was taken under the spell of folk music. Over the next several days, I downloaded each individual track from the album on Limewire until I finally caved and bought the CD (and its Lua EP companion), and continued to listen to it on repeat.
It started a sort of storm in me. I bought a harmonica and started singing about trains and highways and saying words like ‘ain’t’ in my songwriting. I tossed aside my picks and started plucking with my fingers. I started listening to Bob Dylan, and James Taylor, and Johnny Cash. For three years, I wrote (and at times listened to) almost nothing but folk music. And this album, which fully embraced the folk influence always at work in Bright Eyes’ work, was the rolling rock that started the landslide. And even now, having desperately tried for the last two and a half years to distance myself from the folk-singer persona I dove full into, am eternally grateful for this record, and what it became for me–a gateway into my first explorations of genres not owing to punk as their predecessors, and a message that it’s okay to get a little bit country sometimes.