Author: Jeffrey Parker
You'll have to wait for spring 2007 for the next chapter from Mr. Conor Oberst, but the singer-songwriter-signifier has delivered a collection that should sate his public, the genuflectors and the jeerers alike. A collection of b-sides and rarities, "Noise Floor" isn't anything spectacular - it seems to be a product of the Ryan Adams "throw-everything-on-tape-and-see-what-sticks-but-then-release-everything-even-if-it-doesn't-anyway" school of art - but its sincerity bleeds through, and it does have a few transcendent moments. That said, even the misfires are compelling. Spanning from 1998 to 2005, the record follows Oberst from the age of 18 to 25, and what's striking is that while his songwriting gets better as time goes by, his command is always there. Even when he's not saying much of anything, like on opening track "Mirrors and Fevers," one is forced to pay attention anyway. There's a quiet intensity here, that becomes positively disarming on songs like "Trees Get Wheeled Away," which blooms from soil scarred with psychopharmacology and sin, like a broken flower with honey sweet.