Conor Oberst’s Perfectly Imperfect Playlist

Conor Oberst takes us through a party, from dancing with crab rolls and admiring national treasures, to what he thinks might clear the room (though we beg to differ).

Butch Hogan/Courtesy of Press Here

Singer-songwriter Conor Oberst formed the band Bright Eyes 20 years ago. Since then, his sharp lyrics, quavering voice, and blend of indie, folk and punk have amassed him a devoted following. Conor has also released several solo albums, and his latest is called “Upside Down Mountain.” Here he is to spin some of his favorite tunes.


I’m Conor Oberst and I’m very excited about my dinner party tonight, and I’m starving. Without further ado, here is my calorie-laden dinner party soundtrack.

The So So Glos – “Island Ridin'”

The first track, as the guests are arriving, is by a band called The So So Glos with “Island Ridin.” I want to get the guests pumped up at this party, so we’re going to start on an upbeat note while all the finger foods are getting passed around. Maybe some people will even dance, you know, with those crab rolls in their hands.

I mean, I think of it as some kind of combo of The Clash and The Strokes. They’ve got something to say, you know? They’re not afraid to convey ideas. I’ve noticed with some current New York music, it has more to do with how much reverb you can put on your voice so no one will hear what you’re saying and possibly be able to critique it — but this is good old fashioned punk rock.

Nina Simone – “Mr. Bojangles”

As all the guests are getting comfortable and relaxing, I think I will play one of my favorite Nina Simone songs. She didn’t write it — it was written by Jerry Jeff Walker — but we’re going to hear her beautiful, timeless version of “Mr. Bojangles.” It’s a beautiful song although, the story itself, there might be a bit of melancholy.

I think that since the first time I heard this song, I’ve never been able to shake the power of it. She has the kind of voice that only comes along every few hundred years. Sometimes she doesn’t sing perfectly in pitch but it’s an imperfection which is better than any perfection could be, you know? I don’t think I have that going on with my voice, but mine is also not perfect, so I guess we share that.

John Prine – “Long Monday”

At this point in the dinner, people are starting to get full, but it’s so delicious, they want to eat on, and I decided to put on John Prine. This is a song called “Long Monday.”

John Prine is a folk singer, I suppose, for lack of a better word. A poet, a songwriter, and another national treasure. “Long Monday” comes off an album called “Fair & Square,” which was a little later in his career. I think it was the early 2000s, after he had just beat back throat cancer, and so his voice is a little lower and a little gravelier, but it works so well in this song. This is Mindy Smith’s incredible harmony on this chorus.

This song is a quiet, easily digestible song, which will go down like a smooth shot of Fernet.

Conor Oberst – “Hundreds of Ways”

I don’t often play my own music at my own dinner parties, but I know it’s a surefire way to clear a room and to get the guests on their way, so I decided to play my song, “Hundreds of Ways.”

“Hundreds of Ways” is about all the possible paths we can walk down each day. We just have to decide on one. So, as the guests leave, they have to choose their own path. Will they go home? Will they find an after-party? Will they just drive until they run out of gasoline? It’s up to them.