"Cassadaga" is likely to be an opinion-dividing album. There are those fans that will appreciate how Bright Eyes has matured and the overall stability of the album, as a lot of earlier Bright Eyes albums contain songs that are very hit or miss.
Then there are the fans that will scream "sell-out" and claim that one of the original names in indie rock has gone mainstream.
The album itself is a blank-looking, grayish box with a "spectral decoder" hidden on the inside cover. Slide the decoder along any of the cover's surfaces and it reveals a serious of cryptic pictures and messages. One of the phrases revealed on the cover says, "Rocks beneath the water, mighty Saturn enters your eighth house."
The only text legible without the decoder are the words, "For Sabrina," with a hidden phrase beneath it that reads "we love you Breezy, and we miss you!"
The theme or overall message of the album remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. One Web site claims the album is named after a town in Florida and the first track on the album hints at something about spiritual centers of energy, but the largest recurring theme seems to be that of travel.
"Cassadaga" is more orchestrated than earlier Bright Eyes and there is also a definite country n' western/rock-a-billy twang to the album.
The first single released that was released from the album is a Nashville toe-tappin', country fiddle driven song called "Four Winds." Though the track may originally throw the listener with its country feel, its heartbreakingly bittersweet quality is sure to win many converts.
Heartbreakingly bittersweet is a good way to describe to majority of "Cassadaga," and though Oberst is not singing in a scream of agony as he has done on prior albums, the music still contains many of the same themes and the same hurt that characterized Bright Eyes' earlier albums.
"Middleman" is one of these and is a gorgeous track that gives off the sort of imagery like driving cross-country in the mist or staring out the car window in a state of sad contemplation.
Again, "Cassadaga" is perhaps the first Bright Eyes album that is solid from the beginning to end and does not contain tracks that listeners will skip past after hearing the first five seconds.
However, there are a few songs such as "Coat Check Song" that feature an odd sort of Indian-singing breakdown, that are not quite up to par with the rest of the album.
However, "Cassadaga" shows Oberst and Bright Eyes exploring new territory with their songwriting, instrumentation and ability level. Though "Cassadaga" may irk a few fans, this is an album that will stand out as a turning point in the band's career.
For Oberest, a musician that started his recording career around the age of 13, change is a good thing.
Hopefully Bright Eyes will be an act that continues to grow and change in a positive way and Oberst, the still young ringleader, will continue to expand and develop his range of musicality and songwriting.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3