Reviews

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Andy Scheffler
02/07/2005 | Cordmag.com | www.cordmag.com | Album Review
Welcome to Bright Eyes, I want to curl up in a ball and die. I don't know what to make of this opening to this acoustic album, part of a pair of releases that are meant to be treated separately, even though it's difficult not to draw some parallels... Conor Oberst opens with a monologue about a tragedy, and in the face of the tragedy, a brave soul makes a reassurance, and that launches into an incredibly happy-sounding song... it's a 'real' song, kind of silver-lining-ish even though it's really pretty upsetting in its subject matter. The tragedy continues. Folk, country-infused, sing-along songs. They're always so honest. Oberst knows how to tug on your emotions. It's slow dance music, until you listen really close to the words. Then it's drink-yourself-to-a-stupor music. How can everything be so honest and SO HOPELESS??! Soft female vocals sink in and all his Omaha and Saddle Creek friends contribute as usual. There's neat drums on "Old Soul Song" in the middle. And sometimes I get so lonesome I cant speak.

I remember "Lua" from the last show in Vancouver by this band. Great lyrics in that song, so true ...agh. Yeah, it's country music. My dog ran away etc... "First Day Of My Life" is so cute, about rebirth, so happy and sweet. It's all this swaying acoustic guitar picking, storylike lyrics and flow, humming, incredibly bare. How strange in the middle of all this dejection and sadness. The music is getting more and more indepth and involved and well-put-together with each album... some of his early stuff was much more choppy and clumsy. He's coming to his own... the golden age of Oberst. Rather be working for a paycheque than waiting to win the lottery / Besides maybe this time it's different / I mean I think you really like me. "Another Travelin' Song" takes a page from the book of 16 Horsepower. Oompa bass, like we're in the alps and/or the old west.

Emmylou Harris pops up all over this album, and does a full-on duet on "Land Locked Blues"... it's gorgeous. These are two well-matched voices. Her scratchy country drawl, and his warbly delicate sound.... it's a blend of two low sad souls. Made love on the living room floor / with the noise in the background from a televised war / and in that deafening pleasure I thought I heard someone say / if we walk away they'll walk away... it's also kind of a schizophrenic-topic of a song, from personal beautiful moments, to politics and back again. But it's beautiful. "Poison Oak" is such a lullabye. Desolate, lonely lap steel picking up suddenly... gorgeous, accomplished. Oh this album is beautiful. Great ending too... let's fuck it up boys make some noise! It's like a harsh Christmas carol and it's also where the album title is culled from. I don't think I will ever tire of what Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst brings to the table. He's a never-ending pit of despair, but even from those depths, you can see the sun peeking in through the top, and it makes you appreciate all the little glints and glimmers off the muddy, rocky sides. He's teaching us somehow, about what really matters, and wraps it up in an amazing package that makes us eager to learn.

There's always so much going on wordwise that it's hard to keep track of it all, but that's always sort of been Oberst's lure. It may be pretentious to the untrained or unfamiliar ear, and I suppose at times it is. But he's so vulnerable and so delicate, fragile, that you'd think such an implication would scar him. Maybe it has. Maybe it's hardened him. Maybe that's why he can seem pretentious. Only Oberst himself can dispel the mystery, but I have a feeling he won't be eager to outright tell us. No, he may veil it behind metaphors and write a song about it, and maybe we'll notice. Oberst in his growth over the years has become less preposterous and dramatic in his writing, and in exchange, more experienced and confident. The themes are the same - love and politics - but he approaches them in a new light now. We see Bright Eyes from a new angle once again.

Song of choice : I can't get away from "Land Locked Blues." Absolutely touching, tear-jerking, perfect, and in its early stages, the twinkly minimalist notes remind me of a music box.



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