Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews



Author: Richard Cromelin
04/09/2007 | Star Tribune | | Album Review
Bright Eyes' eighth album is named for a Florida town that attracts psychics the way Cancun draws college kids, and the first voice on the record is that of a clairvoyant speaking amid a swirl of orchestral fragments about "getting rid of the old feelings, of the old ways of thinking." Her words set in motion a journey of purification that anchors this ambitious album, sending singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, his two bandmates and guests, including M. Ward and Gillian Welch, on an American sojourn, in the shadow of holy war and under the scowl of a poisoned sky.

In "Four Winds," the Omaha collective sweeps like a spirit above the continent, trying to make peace with a legacy of genocide and injustice. That song's fiddle-led surge evokes another great musical expression of a sundered America, the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and much of "Cassadaga's" music has the loose-limbed, communal spirit of Dylan and the Band's "Basement Tapes." That roots sound frequently interacts with baroque pop orchestrations by Bright Eyes trumpeter-pianist Nate Walcott. After the arty folk of "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" and the electronic pop of "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn," its twin albums from 2005, this mix of rollicking soulfulness and textured experimentation is a natural and notable advance for Bright Eyes and adds a welcome urgency to the 27-year-old Oberst's vision. The music doesn't always live up to the demands of the journey, but Oberst's trembling, vulnerable voice carries through to a rewarding conclusion. Bright Eyes performs April 25 at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.


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