• Matthew Loberg

Unusual Holiday Music Part 2: Dreaming on an Open Road


Dreaming on an Open Road

Sometimes ideas are insidious in their onset, like a cancer that slowly spreads but masks itself with vague, non-specific manifestations. They frustrate us with their lack of clarity. Other times we are fortunate enough to have ideas present acutely, without conscious contemplation or work.


It hit me the other night, about six weeks ago, what this playlist is all about. My sister Emily, a self proclaimed night owl, was giving me a ride at 3:30am to the Portland airport to fly back to Nashville. I had put the CD-RW that I burned her just days prior into the Prius’s CD port—I hope they never take these things out of cars, they’re part of my lifeblood at this point. As Static Orphans transitioned into Love Ain’t enough, we merged onto I-5 northbound, and I felt alive. Acutely alive.


As though I were Dreaming on an Open Road, both literally and metaphorically.


This is a playlist of mystique that’s meant to be listened to while driving at night. There is something awe-inspiring, even transcendent about driving at night and listening to music with the road empty. It’s cathartic in a way that feels infinite; it’s just you, the expansive world surrounded by darkness (I’ve always felt that listening to music in the dark heightens the experience), and music. I liken driving at night to mystical music akin to a euphoric dream state. Fittingly, my sister, Emily, is the most expansive dreamer I know.



This is the second post (and penultimate post for the 2018 holiday season, which I do realize is already over) detailing the holiday playlists that I made my mom and sisters. Within my family, I feel as though my musical tastes align most similar to Emily’s. Consequently, making a CD of songs that string together to have a greater meaning, as I attempted in unusual holiday music part 1, becomes much more difficult.

Still, while focusing mostly on cultivating a dream state and a smooth transition of sound between songs, I have attempted to pull out several lyrical themes that reflect on our divergent lives. Like any good sibling relationship, we have always been capable of infuriating each other, and that trend will likely continue indefinitely. Yet I am struck by the strength that my sister has continuously displayed. Being intermittently emotionally stoic, I’ve missed opportunities to express my appreciation for Emily—the importance of which has become increasingly apparent to me. Dreaming on an Open Road is my attempt to show my sister how impressed I am by her feats and let her know that I’ll always be here, on her side, regardless of what struggles come her way.

I’m particularly inspired by Emily’s ability to strive for a life that aligns with her passions and her beliefs in the face of a world that values an arbitrary definition of success (career, job, relationship, money, etc.) that does not necessarily reflect her happiness or values. While I have succumbed (in my own non-traditional way) to a traditional, well-regarded by society career path (which, for the record, I don’t think is a bad thing so long as it is born out of my own desire), my sister—well, both of them, really—has persisted in the face of extreme pressure to settle. Allow me to digress for a brief period and better explain what I mean. (Feel free to skip the next two sections and get directly into a more concrete explanation of the themes that I’m attempting to elicit in this CD.)


I’ve often felt as though our greater purpose in life is to find something that brings meaning to our existence when, at its core, our existence is inherently meaningless. This may seem to be a disheartening statement, but I think, when taken to its logical extreme, it is not difficult to extract values from such a statement that align with what many consider to be of worth.

I recently had a conversation with my mom about finding meaning in life. I asked, “did you ever feel the need to have some project that gave meaning to your daily existence?”


She responded, “you kids were my project. By raising you well, I felt as though I was contributing to the betterment of society.” (She also added that her quilting—one of her many talents—gives her purpose.)


My question was brought on by feelings of existential dread that often accompany the doldrums of daily existence. Recently, I’ve been overtaken by a deep-rooted cognitive dissonance that I’ve been utterly unable to explain. Without certainty, I hypothesize that this feeling has been born from the need to be ceaselessly striving.

Throughout our training to become physicians (or physician-scientists), we are always working toward what’s next. What happens when we no longer wish to strive? Or, even worse, when there is nothing left to strive for? Will we have tied our self worth so strongly to striving that we are incapable of coexisting peacefully in the world without striving for more?

At some level, our striving acts as a bandaid that hides away the inherent futility of our existence. It is, I believe, with reflection that we can rip the bandaid off and begin to extract meaning, create purpose in our lives. The life of a physician has the potential to be extremely meaningful and empowering, but if we focus on where we’re going, always working for more, rather than where we are, we will be burned out by our failure to find purpose in our daily lives.



My sister has ripped the bandaid off and faced her meaningless existence head on. And her reward has been adventure—Soon around The Big Island as a tour leader and previously across America (twice) and through Canada with her tent, Harley, and the touring bike that she built—and an endless commitment to her values. To suggest that I, as an MSTP student training toward a societally respectable career has more worth, value, or potential than Emily would be absurd. There are many ways to find purpose, and when it comes to potential, I know of not one person with more potential than Emily.

Emily's touring bike and her touring companion, Harley, at Niagara Falls

Emily enjoying a break from mountain passes with some flat riding through either North Dakota or Montana

But the willingness to metacognitively recognize one’s disposition does not come without its dark side. Depression seems to be a trait that chronically runs within our family. The latter portion of Dreaming on an Open Road explores the dangers of being lost in a downward spiral of overly analytical thought. But this section is also laced with optimism. It’s me saying that it’s okay to get lost in your mind, okay to not know the way forward, have no time to crank the sun, but please, stay wild and stay true to yourself, for it will be worth the wait. If it feels as though nobody believes in you, know that I do, more than you could ever imagine. And know that, throughout everything, you’ll always have my love.


Retrospectively, The National’s Secret Meeting fits idealistically into this section of Dreaming on an Open Road.

Didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you

Didn’t anybody ever tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room?

And so and now I’m sorry I missed you

I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain

Alas, Secret Meeting appeared on a CD that I made Emily in celebration of our time at Sasquatch music festival in May 2018.

Practicing my selfie taking skills after the blissful experience of seeing The National at Sasquatch with Emily


So, to summarize my potentially unintelligible, incandescent ramblings, there are four themes in this CD. The first, based on sound alone, stands by itself as songs that I think have a magical quality about them that bestows enhanced appreciation when listened to at night on the open road. The other themes, which are more lyrical in nature, are wrapped up within an intermingling trifecta of dreaming, mental health, and finding meaning in our existence. Though I’ll comment on specific aspects of some of the songs, I’ll largely allow the reader to decide which songs fit with where thematically.

The song explanations are below, but if you just can’t wait to hear them, you can listen to the whole playlist here.


1. Static Orphans—The Barr Brothers

Explanation:

Static orphans is the opening song on the Barr Brothers’ album Sleeping Operator. It’s a two minute instrumental intro that serves as a prelude to Love Ain’t Enough. While not phenomenal as a stand alone, the transition into Love Ain’t Enough is seamless, and Static Orphans marks the beginning of our journey into the night.


No Words—instruments aplenty


2. Love Ain’t Enough—The Barr Brothers

Explanation:

The Barr Brothers generally (and Love Ain’t Enough in particular) have a celestial quality to their music. The New LoFi calls Love Ain’t Enough a “beautiful ethereal melody,” but I find words to be insufficient descriptors. So go, turn off the lights, and put on Love Ain’t Enough—but start with Static Orphans first, please.


Disclaimer: there seems to be dispute over the lyrics. I make no claim that these are correct.


Once you strip the paint you find it everywhere ya go

You and I should know

Everything that we esteem forever or a day

Don’t drive my love away

No

Love is enough, love is enough, love is enough

Love is enough at the end of the tracks when the car wrecks

Heart attacks

Love is enough when you don’t look back


From the Barr Brothers:

“‘Love Ain’t Enough’ is the song that happens when you give up on giving up on love. Either one has some kind of epiphany, or it becomes too exhausting to fight it anymore.” —Via genius

"It was kind of a misnomer because [the song’s called] ‘Love Ain’t Enough’ and the chorus says ‘love is enough.’ It’s the idea of, ‘Forget that I ever said that love ain’t enough, because I changed my mind.’” —via ontheaside

3. N o t c h e s—Deadwood Floats

Explanation:


Some nights as darkness covers me

It leans in close and whispers strange things

Like, ‘don’t close your eyes kid there’s no need for sleep,’

And ‘we’re no better than the grievances we keep’

When morning came I wrestled with the light

My arms were weak and blood was in my eye

I slipped into sleep and I dreamed about night

Of the cycles and motions that make up a life

How every mistake leaves a notch in your spine

And you’ll see that I’m doin’ just fine


Some nights as darkness covers me

It leans in close and whispers strange things


4. Through a Glass—Henry Jamison

Explanation:  

The inclusion of this song is ironic in that my sister (if you know her) would be the last person that you’d expect to be interested in a 6’5” ex-marine. The song has a whimsical sound to it, and the reference to Bar Harbor reminds me of when my sister biked from Oregon to Bar Harbor. We had a magical week hiking Acadia National Park and drinking Maine Brews at my favorite small town joint—The Side Street Cafe (see picture below).


Emily enjoying a cider at the Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor, ME after a long trek across the US

She was my dearest friend

And she will go to heaven

Oh, my car will barely start

I gotta get it to Vermont

She spent her summers in Bar Harbor on her own

Working in a restaurant

She was talking to a 6’5” ex-marine

He was living out his truck

She said he was very fragile

I said I don’t give a fuck


5. Signals—Junius Meyvant

Explanation:


Sending out signals from me

Sending out signals

Sending out signals to you

Sending out signals


My interpretation requires no explanation, but for Junius Meyvant’s explanation, click here.


6. You Would Have to Lose Your Mind—The Barr Brothers

Explanation: 

Another celestial track from the Barr Brothers. You Would Have to Lose Your Mind was chosen as the song of the day by KEXP on November 6, 2017. “Of course, the sound of a harp tends to evoke images of heavenly realms whether or not that’s the intention.” —KEXP


The speed of love returning, to my depraved heart

Like a song, it carries the memory still

That dream you dream of falling, out of the blue child

Like a stone, think I’ve been dreaming with you

We were never forced to love

You would have to lose your mind


7. Stay Wild—Shook Twins

Explanation: 

"This song is for anyone who is stuck living a life they don't necessarily want to be living. So much so that this current 'life' is taking them away from another life they once had or they dream of having. This song is meant to inspire people to find their inner wild in order to find a way to be more free and more themselves.” A quote regarding this song from the Shook Twins themselves, courtesy of baeblemusic.

I'm so impressed with my sister’s ability to follow her own path. I hope that she always stays wild…


Disclaimer: I couldn’t find these lyrics online—I had to transcribe them. I can’t guarantee their accuracy, but since (to my knowledge) there is no other record, I’ve transcribed them in full.

Waking up is voluntary

Remember when the day belonged to you

The nights were long and windy

And you could just blow around


You wanna stay wild

You wanna stay wild

You try to

You wanna stay wild

You wanna stay wild

You try

Yes you do

Yes you do


Everything is muted

The palette’s gone pastel

Cry not darlin’


Go, go, go kiss and tell


You wanna stay wild

You wanna stay wild

You try to

You wanna stay wild

You wanna stay wild

You try

Yes you do

Yes you do


Stay Wild

You Stay Wild

Stay Wild

You stay wild

Yes you do

Oh, you do, you do, you do, you do


Yes you do

Oh yeah

Stay wild

Yes you do


Stay wild

Stay wild

Stay wild


8. Alaska—Maggie Rogers

Explanation:  

I first introduced Maggie Rogers in Bethany’s CD blog post. Since then, Maggie has released a new, upbeat album, Heard It In A Past Life. I will admit that Heard It In A Past life borders closer to pop—some might say it is pop, but Maggie’s vast influences (which originate from unadulterated banjo picking folk music) and intricate producing style makes it seem overly reductionist to call it “pop” with no further label attached—than my usual music taste, but I still think it’s phenomenal.

Alaska, while a part of Heard It In A Past Life, is not a new song. Still, it’s fitting that the song that brought Maggie fame stars on her first full length album. Fortunately, Maggie has talked through the underlying meaning of the song; it’s about Maggie’s contemplative thought process and growth while hiking in Alaska and trying to figure out what to do with her life (under the premise that music was not the way forward—something we now know to be false).

I think we’re all trying to figure out what we’re doing with the life that has been thrust upon us. When I was young, I looked up to people under the guise that they know all. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that, at some level, we’re all imposters pretending that we know the way forward. Emily is more willing to acknowledge her feeling of being an imposter, but also more willing to seek the entities that give her purpose. These lyrics are almost perfect for Emily. If only Maggie sang, “biked off an old me…”

I was walking through icy streams

That took my breath away

Moving slowly through westward water

Over glacial plains


And I walked off you

And I walked off an old me

Oh me oh my I thought it was a dream

So it seemed


9. Nica Libres At Dusk—Ben Howard

Explanation:

“It was partially written in the south of France and partially written in a couple of places. But it is sort of an invitation to Dream. It is sort of a guitar ballad and a few floating ideas with no answer to them and not to write with a finality to anything. It is quite an open ended song.” -Ben Howard speaking on BBCR1 about Nica Libres At Dusk (per genius).

Somewhere she dreams

Somewhere she’s dreaming

The Caribbean

Nica Libres at dusk

While the faithful dispose of a generation

And all of the mountains rumble knowingly

I order a Colada

And sit, count my dollars

And watch eagles soar in circles

Perpetually

Forever, forever such a beautiful thing


Now I’m older

I don’t look over my shoulder

I know what is there in front of me

Ten Marlboro cigarettes

The rolled butts into the bottle tops

Today I will stare at the sea


Till my eye have had enough

Is that enough?


10. I’m On Fire—The Staves (Bruce Springsteen cover)

Explanation:

I don’t particularly like Springsteen’s lyrics when considering the song as a whole, nor do I like the connotation of “little girl.” However, I think it’s possible to cut out aspects of the song to focus on lyrics that construct a different story, a story that I share with my sister. For this alternate story, The Staves provide an emotional intimacy in their voices that Springsteen, while an iconic musician, frankly lacks.


Hey little girl is your daddy home?

Did he go away and leave you all alone?

Tell me now baby is he good to you?

Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby

Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley

Through the middle of my skull


11. Another Friday Night—Ben Howard

Explanation:

One of the saddest songs that Ben has ever written.


They found him in the gutter at the business end of another Friday night

Someone who’d clearly been there before

I don’t feel I had to ask him why

I never understood why we need to know

The reasons for everyone else’s strifes

Sometimes you don’t need sympathy

To get the words right


Caught in anguish

He was

Sometimes that’s enough

And he was singing


Oh, looks like the end again

Her body bleachin’ out into the waves

It’s still the loudest thing

Oh, I wish I had all my friends

Somewhere drinking

The sunny afternoon

Into oblivion

But that’s not your fault

How could that be my fault?


12. Saturday Sun—Vance Joy

Explanation:

The realization that this is a CD meant to be listened to while driving at night occurred postoperatively. Unfortunately, this is the first song that I just don’t think fits within the Dreaming on an Open Road framework—Saturday Sun? Are you kidding me? Still, it’s a song that, musically, I think my sister can jive to—maybe it still fits the framework musically. It also reflects my desire to be there on the West Coast, not for a lover (as the song would suggest), but for my family.

Oh, Saturday Sun

I met someone

Out on the West Coast

I gotta get back, I can’t let go

Oh, Saturday Sun

I met someone

Don’t care what it costs

No ray of sunlight’s ever lost

13. No Time to Crank the Sun—El Vy

Explanation:

From the genius that is Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National:


No time

To crank the sun

I was driving

Taking chances

Walking way too far out on

Some broken branches

Sometimes where you’re going

Is hard to see

No time

To plant our feet

These things they always

Come from nowhere


14. Byegone—Volcano Choir

Explanation:

This has to be one of the ultimate nighttime driving songs. That said, to me, everything that Justin Vernon (the lead singer of Volcano Choir and the man behind Bon Iver) touches is unequivocally a nighttime driving song. The only reason Bon Iver does not appear here is because we saw Bon Iver at Sasquatch, and like The National’s Secret Meeting, Blood Bank appears on my Sasquatch playlist.

Day dead byegone

Laying near the lights

Of the knights of the northern lodges

Somewhere I heard you scream

For others’ hearts

Set sail!

Oh, you plenty competent

So why aren’t you confident


15. Lost in My Mind—The Head and the Heart

Explanation:

I recently told a good friend that they had aspects about them that were very “Lobergian.” It’s a term I’ve never used before, but if getting lost in your mind isn’t a chronic Lobergian trait—or, more specifically an Emily trait—I don’t know what is.

Put your dreams away for now

I won’t see you for some time

I am lost in my mind

Momma once told me

‘You’re already home when you feel loved,’

I am lost in my mind

I get lost in my mind


Oh my brother

Your wisdom is older than me

Lost in my mind

Lost in my mind

Oh I get lost in my mind

Lost, I get lost, I get lost in my mind

Lost in my mind

Yes I get lost in my mind

Lost, I get lost, I get lost

Oh I get lost

Oh I get


I also wanted to include The Head and the Heart’s song, “Library Magic.” Unfortunately, I’m still restricted by the physical limitations of the CD-RW, and with only 80 minutes, many songs get cut. If time machines existed, Library Magic would be in and Saturday Sun would be out.

16. Call If You Need Me—Vance Joy

Explanation:

I’ve included Call If You need Me at this junction, in the midst of a series of less than optimistic songs, as a reminder of the essential importance of family. We don’t keep in touch as well as we ought to, but I hope that my sister knows that I am always here if she needs me; she can call if she needs me.

Loved you in the darkness and I loved you in fluorescent light

Your mother always told us we should go out to dance

You can’t get struck by lighting if you’re not standing in the rain

Take it as the truth or you can take it with a grain of salt

If it don’t work out

I’m thinking ‘bout coming home, babe


17. Graveclothes—Birdtalker

Explanation:

Birdtalker reminds me of an animated, spunkier version of The Head and the Heart. Enjoy, and while you’re at it, shake your graveclothes off.

She’s been thinkin’ life ain’t givin’ her what she

Needs

What can make her happy is always out of her

Reach

Somebody gotta help me

But she could not see that everything she wanted

Was inside of her heart

We don’t need no mournful sound

Shake your graveclothes to the ground

Thoughts you’re thinkin’ make you feel like you’re

Dead

But you can grow a garden out the top of your

Head

Shake your graveclothes off, shake your

Graveclothes

Don’t get lost inside your head


18. Awake—Freedom Fry

Explanation:

“What do you name your half French, half American indie-pop band? Freedom Fry, of course.” - Freedom Fry via spotify


Awake is the second song that probably has no business being on a night driving album—with the sole exception of preventing exhaustion induced sleeping episodes 18 songs into a nighttime road trip.

We all started out now, didn’t know where to go

We’ll never know, we’ll never know

We’re gonna go forever, we’re awake

Here we go

Awake


19. Worth the Wait—Milo Greene

Explanation:

My sister and I saw Milo Greene together in August 2015 at Music Fest Northwest; Milo Greene will always be a band that I feel like we discovered together.

I could be on my way

If I could only get out of my way

No one said it’d be easy

Oh all they ever tell you is it’s gonna be hard

Oh, oh

It’s worth it, worth the wait

With love,

Matthew

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