Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews



Author: David Moore
10/25/2004 | Pitchfork Media | | Album Review
Let it not be said that Conor Oberst isn't ambitious. The venerable emo luminary has responded to his recent spike in popularity following the reception of 2002's Lifted with an admirably generous follow-up project-- two disparate releases, each with an advance single released simultaneously. Though early descriptions of the album's "urban/rural" dichotomy scheme will undoubtedly lead to a share of preemptive groans, these songs don't suggest the kind of thematic disaster that might result from such a consciously gimmicky image split.

On "Lua", Oberst takes a seat next to Beck on a rickety old porch in some countryside-themed Hollywood studio back lot, despondently strumming a middle-class approximation of the blues. Oberst laments a relationship that flourishes at night but sours each dawn, leaving him lonely enough to strike up conversation with birds. The stripped-down acoustic approach accentuates Oberst's lyrical awkwardness: Lines like, "Lookin' skinny like a model with your eyes all painted black," seem stilted and simplistic, particularly given the lyrical range that such an open musical format allows.

Comparatively, "Take It Easy" is a head-turner-- the song falls somewhere between Cars-style synth-pop and The Postal Service. The single's ambiguous optimism is charming, even if it does feel a bit like a calculated attempt at further mainstream acceptance. But despite the song's layered sugary synthlines and bouncing rhythm section, Oberst hasn't sacrificed his tortured intonation, which is strikingly incongruous with the track's ebullient pop backdrop. Individually, each of these concepts shows potential, but combined listening makes for a decidedly manic-depressive affair, even for Bright Eyes.


CD / MP3