Letting off the Happiness
Author: david daley
11/02/1998 | Magnet Magazine | Album Review
Fifteen years ago, a Nebraska teenager named Matthew Sweet turned his correspondence with Athens, GA., heroes like Michael Stipe into a musical career, ultimately moving to Georgia after high school to play in Oh-OK with Stipe's younger sister, Linda, and Linda Hopper (Magnapop). Now, there's another teenage songwriter working the Nebraska/Athens axis, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, whose second CD features contributions from members of Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and midwesterners Lullaby for the Working Class. Oberst's lo-fi bedroom confessionals restore the magic to a genre that long ago lost its luster to every self-indulgent loner with a four-track. Oberst's honest, sensitive lyrics are never less than affecting and experienced beyond his years, and Athenians Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal) and Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel) add their wonderfully skewed melodic sense and innovative instrumentation (accordian, pedal steel, weird keyboards) that puts this well above the usual bedroom noodling. Trouble is, the recording (done in sessions in both Athens and Nebraska) doesn't capture the full dynamism of the songs. There's a lot going on here that's almost impossible to hear, lost in a mix that's often cluttered or scratchy. Perhaps in the future, studios like John Keane's or David Barbe's can really capture their visionary imaginations.