In honor of this Iron and Wine dude with a beard that clearly belonged in the Best Beards category and his new album that just came out, I decided to create a category that he could win. Music is filled with sensitive souls who get highly upset if they brush their teeth too hard and their gums bleed. The singer in Joy Division killed himself because his LP copy of Iggy Pop's Metallic K.O. skipped and Nick Drake thought he didn't get the Volkswagen endorsement, so he took too much of his anti-depressant medication. (Did I mention I'm really into revisionist history? Not to mention outright fabrication!)
Anyhow, I decided to focus on people still with us. Guys who write songs written deliberately to make you cry. You have to be careful with this stuff, guys. With the right woman, you can make yourself look real sensitive. But if you're dating a woman who likes rollerhockey or NASCAR, don't under any circumstances break out music by any of these dudes. Your body will be found in a dumpster.
Now for music's five most sensitive guys:
Sam Beam (Iron and Wine): Hey, look at that. How'd he get here? His new album The Shepherd's Dog is a bit more lively than his last album, the excellent Our Endless Numbered Days where he sang tunes about couples imagining their significant other dead and wondering how to live on. He plays a heckuva nice acoustic guitar and sings in a quiet unthreatening voice that is known to attract little furry animals to sit and cuddle by the fire. He also looks like that Jesus dude.
Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes): Conor started releasing albums when he was something like five years old and he's been able to milk the youth angle for years. Or rather, imagination-lacking writers have used the "youth angle" for years in absence of anything else to say. In either case, Conor has a voice that tends to get a little whiny when it gets upset. Otherwise he sounds like a kid who just got his lunch money stolen from him by the big upperclassman meanie. It kinda sounds like he deserves it, but Winona Ryder seemed to dig it.
Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie): Another "emo" kid, identified by his glasses, which I suppose means he reads a lot. Gibbard specializes in understanding. He never sounds upset. He never sounds suicidal. For an "emo" kid, he's surprisingly balanced and level-headed. He sounds concerned, though, as if he might actually be paying attention when other people speak. Not a common trait of most lead singers. Did the bass player just say something? I didn't think so.
Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon): He's covered John Denver, AC/DC and Modest Mouse and written over two hundred songs about his cats--all sung as gentle ballads perfect for a little wine on the beach. When he finally decides to brag about his wild antics, it's about riding a rollercoaster that he later admits is the one that "only sissies ride." Ah, jeez. Finally, for balance, he sings about boxers--as in Sonny Liston, not underwear. Women love him and mob him after shows with pictures of their pets. Guys mob him after shows and want to know more about limited edition pressings of his records and bring pictures of their pets. Gene Simmons says he's got 4,600 Polaroids of the women he's known. By this logic, Kozelek's got to have 5,000 snapshots of other people's kitty-cats.
Mark Eitzel (American Music Club): Here we go. The guy who turned losing into an art form. His song publishing company is I Failed in Life Music and he's done just about all he can do to keep this badge of honor. His songs have been known to drive audience members to tears. He can do it all with a quiet, warm whisper or a herniated strain that sounds like he's passing a kidney stone. He's also the master of the rhetorical question: Why Won't You Stay? What chance do I have? What could bring me down? Will you keep me around? What the hell, dude?