Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

Author: Kyle Undem
02/04/2005 | | | Album Review
Judging by the album title alone, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn does not sound like it would be your classic Bright Eyes release. "Ash" and "urn" ůsure those words would seemingly fit into the back catalogue, somewhere. But "digital?" Not so much. What is going on here, Sir Conor? Oh, right, you have to keep outdoing yourself with each release and if you wrote two typical Bright Eyes albums and released them on the same day, the point might have quickly turned moot and your career could have been on the out and out. Well, it's time to start judging albums by their album titles, folks because this is anything but characteristic for Bright Eyes.

Digital Ash is a percussion-soaked, electro-pop/indie-electronic collection that owes many of its sounds to the likes of Her Space Holiday, the Postal Service and maybe even Four Tet. Fuzz, bleeps, bloops, blips, blops, clips, clacks, choops, doots, dips, and doots fill out the background as Oberst spews out his characteristic vocal melodies and concerned lyrics. The formula is rather formulaic throughout the album causing it to be stagnant at times and rewarding at others - roughly a 50/50 mix of the two making it inoffensive enough to enjoy on some level or another.

The stagnancy on tracks such as "Down in a Rabbit Hole" and "Devil in the Details" comes from their respective downtrodden, fruitless effects - nothing really stands out, and even Oberst seems cashed on the idea of this electro-pop attempt. Then he does a 180 and spits out tracks like "Take it Easy (Love Nothing)," which Jimmy Tamborello programmed, and "Light Pollution," a track that will have you hoping Oberst can master the electro-pop thing and never pick up an acoustic again. And it's not to say that all the browbeaten tracks on the album are throwaways. The closer, "Easy Lucky Free," is easily a standout with its end-of-an-emotional-don't-leave-me-I-love-you-so-much-my-life-is-shit-without-you movie appeal.

It really is tough to say if Oberst will attempt another album of this magnitude before his seemingly endless music career fades. It's as if he almost has it, but it's not all quite there. The ideas are solid and the melodies are golden for the most part. In the end, however, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn comes off as a bit awkward and possibly even a bit forced. Nevertheless, a burly - perhaps even risky - attempt for Bright Eyes.


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