Every Day and Every Night
11/01/1999 | Mystery Kitchen | Album Review
It's nice getting stuff from a band you know nothing about. Every now and again, you receive something to get excited about. I got a little frightened when I looked at the CD Kazoo handed me, featuring skeletons circling a tree on the very brown cover. Bad metal meets folk rock, perhaps? Cannibal Corpse in Birkenstocks? The folk is definitely there, but fortunately Bright Eyes have not a drop of metal in their musical mug. It's nice to see a band use juxtaposition of imagery and style only in their artwork and not in their music (rap-metal bands, get a pad and pencil). The first song, "a line allows progress, a circle does not," is reminiscent of Elliott Smith's more recent material. If you discount the organs, the beginning sounds a lot like "Tomorrow Tomorrow," from XO. A waltz tempo then kicks in, and the vocals go from low-key breathy to frantically worried. When the singer (not sure if its main vocalist Conor Oberst or another sings this particular part) bellows, "you're always looking for something to sniff, smoke or swallow," there's something attractive about it- you have no idea what he's all wound up about, but you too get concerned. It's a powerful quality. "a perfect sonnet" shows a strong resemblance to Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train." The vocalist sounds a lot like Dave Pirner, and the song follows the pattern of the aforementioned rather closely, save the sing-along chorus of that Soul Asylum's tune. The slide guitars of "on my way to work" give the song a heartland rock feel. Picture Jonathan Richman as a country musician. "a new arrangement" is a full-sounding, melancholy track. The vocals are the best imitation of a sad, scared boy waiting in the rain for a homeward bound bus that I've ever heard. He sounds to be on the verge of tears as he croons. Ignoring the vocals give the track a folk meets Disintegration-era Cure quality. The added percussion (tympanis, I believe) and strings make this song more somber that any other on the EP. "neely o'hara" closes the EP. Bright Eyes utilize that "play the record backwards" sound here, giving the song an eerie electronica feel, almost like Portishead but not quite. However, just when you think depression is going to loom throughout the entire track, organs walk into the song, smile and say hello. "neely o'hara" is also the only time in the album where shouts are heard. They're sporadic, yet frequent enough to add an element of creepiness to the song before it eventually unravels into a mess of samples, sinister laughter, and accordions at the end. It's weird how things work sometimes. A folk-heavy album full of somber songs makes me crack a smile here, albeit a nervous smile I feel bad about having.