Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Zigzagging Toward The Light” by Conor Oberst from the 2014 album Upside Down Mountain on Nonesuch Records.
On his latest solo album, 34-year-old Conor Oberst, the former Bright Eyes frontman, conjures up the weighty metaphors and heartfelt insights that his uniquely wavering, perpetually raw voice was made for. But it’s not only Oberst’s light, uneven voice that has made him a distinct personality in folk-rock; it’s his extensive discography as a member of multiple bands, co-founding of Saddle Creek and Team Love records, and twenty plus years of work in music that distinguish him.
Today’s featured song, Oberst’s second track from Upside Down Mountain, the upbeat and airy “Zigzagging Toward The Light,” is full of his particularly elaborate imagery. Give the song a superficial listen and you’ll be adding it to your uplifting indie rock playlist, jamming to it in your car with the windows down and loving life this summer. But if you have the heart to wade into Oberst’s artful turns of phrase, you’ll find it to be more about one’s trajectory towards death than about relishing life. Oberst’s lyrics, “I’m in a queue that stretches out/ Far as the eye can see/ It forms a figure eight and goes on for eternity,” imply a tedious and seemingly infinite journey toward the “light.” Oberst packs some intensity into the last 20 seconds of the track with a brief but powerful guitar solo, closing the song with more crude emotion than in its first 3 minutes. The contrast of this final moment balances the emotion of the carefree melody and cheerful “ohs” that feels counterintuitive in conjunction with his lyrics. Whether you’re looking to get into the nitty gritty of Oberst’s psyche or just want to hear an impressive vocalist at work, go ahead and add “Zigzagging Toward The Light” to your summer playlist.
Oberst is currently on tour promoting the new album, and you can catch him in Seattle at Showbox at the Market on September 30th. In the meantime, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or visit his website for updates. For now, check out the video for “Zigzagging Toward The Light” below: