Conor Oberst, the singer/songwriter and guitarist of the group, adds a folk, bluegrass sound to the band's indie repertoire. In their latest venture the band accentuates different instruments such as the violin, harmonica and trumpet. All of these instruments add to the band's folk style.
The first track, "Four Winds," begins with a violin-centered piece, played by Anton Patzner, evoking a sound reminiscent of the old American roots style. This is very fitting for Oberst's seeming purpose for this EP: to bring to light the issues he has with American society.
He surprises the listener and jumps from folk to indie to punk rock on the next track, "Reinvent the Wheel." He faithfully returns to his folk rock sound in the third track, "Smoke Without Fire," bringing in a style that reminded me a lot of Johnny Cash. A very slow guitar melody accompanied easy going, pronounced and somewhat depressing lyrics.
Bright Eyes' fifth track, "Cartoon Blues," keeps with the overriding folk feel. It incorporates an electronic percussive beat midway through the song that keeps the momentum going until the end of the album.
The closing track is very fitting for this EP. It's a musically uncomplicated song with a simple, slow beat in the background. Still focusing on this American roots style, the song allows the listener to feel like he is in one of the old Western movies, trotting alongside John Wayne on a horse, on the way out of town, down a deserted, dirt road.
Bright Eyes' American roots style emphasizes the band's strong lyrics. Rather than the typical personal narratives, love tales, fables of drug battles or other personally focused accounts, Oberst belts out his view and critical assessment of society, politics, the end of the world and spirituality.
Reminiscent of protest songs, Oberst doesn't try to sugar coat the reality of our situation: a post-modern, consumer-obsessed and technologically advanced society. Oberst has no fear of offending anyone and makes stark statements like in his first track where he says, "The Bible's blind, the Torah's deaf, the Qu'ran's mute / If you burn them all together you get close to the truth still."
He is very focused on highlighting the problems of our era; however, in his last track, Oberst brings to light the fact that he too is technically a part of this society. He doesn't feel like he is, though, and finds himself struggling to get away from the problems he describes, as he states, "And the road finally gave me back / But I don't think I'll unpack / Because I'm not sure if I live here any more."
Four Winds is a moving epic about American society, describing everyday life. Although he might describe events in an abstract way, if given time to understand, the EP is a relatable, thought provoking listening experience.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3