Monday, January 28, 2019

Better Oblivion

I'm on my trillionth listen through the Better Oblivion Community Center album. It's Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers's collab, and it's amazing—but I can't honestly tell you how much of the magic is the music itself and how much is nostalgic residue from the Bright Eyes days. I can't tell you; I don't know.

Oberst is one of those artists whose voice, all by itself, makes a song good for me. It's jagged and quavery and though he doesn't do anything fancy—what do you want from him? He's not Adele—it matches the lyrical content of his songs perfectly. But also, those songs, that voice, make up a large percentage of the soundtrack for my life circa 2005-2007.

Isn't it weird how you don't know what songs, friends, smells, whatever, are going to become capital "I" Important to you later on until it's later on? The summer I lived in Saskatoon, I borrowed so many CDs from the public library—stacks at a time, as many as I could fit into my backpack. And it wasn't like I didn't listen to all of them; I did. Sitting cross-legged on my air mattress in the closet-sized bedroom I shared with a girl named Patricia. Following along in the liner notes like it was one of those read-along children's book-and-tape situations. Taking it seriously, like I was studying for a test.

And now, though I listened to probably hundreds of albums, it's like I only listened to three: Modest Mouse's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, Brand New's Deja Entendu, and Bright Eyes's LIFTED or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground.

(I wonder if I would've named a few more albums if I'd written this blog post even five years ago? Is my memory narrowing this list down without my knowledge?)

Okay, so now I'm thinking about how you don't get to choose which memories you keep.

I'm thinking about a memory from a few days ago: I was sitting in the living room reading a book and Sully ran in and gave me a hug and I gave it back and, a little surprised, asked, "What's this for?" and he replied, "It's just because I love you and I want you to know."

Melting, for a mom, right?

But here's another memory: This morning at Shoppers Drug Mart, I was squatting in front of a row of face lotions and Sully was standing on one side of me and Scarlett on the other. An older woman with a black nose stud the size of a marble and these huge, black, plastic glasses—eccentric vibes, definitely—looooooomed over the three of us and said hello, repeatedly, to both kids but not to me. She looked angry. I don't think she was, but she looked it, is what I'm saying. Sully and Scarlett stared at her, awestruck or maybe fearful, and didn't reply, despite her earnest attempts and my also earnest but much more quiet prompting. Finally she gave up and huffed, to me, "Not in a good mood today, I GUESS," and stalked away.

Which memory will I keep? Both? Neither? Just the weird one with the eccentric lady I'll probably never see again? Who knows! Either way I don't get to pick, and that's really too bad. It makes me feel desperate and cranky, like someone is routinely stealing my phone and deleting whatever photos and emails and text messages they feel like.

It's not fair.

But the point is, listen to the Better Oblivion Community Center Album, because it's really good, probably even better if you were already a Bright Eyes fan, and write down every single memory you want to keep because if they disappear before you do, you won't even know they're gone.