Connor/Imaginary Successful Me: Remember that song we made when we were drunk and then that girl came over? And that one where I was learning how to make drum sounds on my iMac but we got drunk and that other girl came over? Dude, throw 'em together. We'll decorate it like the cover of a fourteen-year-old's diary and move 50,000 copies.
Of course the rest of us (the ones who don't fantasize about Oberst in our knitwear) are going to need some convincing before we buy his "rarities." It's not like his albums are solid gold. They're spotty, self-indulgent, occasionally painful and beautiful but always full of skippable tracks. So, then, why should people who just like good music buy the stuff that didn't make it?
Because Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005) works as a whole. Every song has at least one good idea, and a few are genuinely beautiful. They vary stylistically, for Oberst anyway, but all express some facet of his trademark optimism/pessimism/drunkenness. As a result, the ideas come out unified, but his monotonous tendencies (I am sad because you are mean [Dmajor Amajor]…why are you mean? [Dmajor Gmajor]…life sucks/is amazing [Dmajor]) are counterbalanced by some diversity. Here, mixing it up shows off that voice's cracked capabilities. The chant from "Drunk Kid Catholic," the whole oh-crap-this-is-pretty "Weather Reports," the self-assured and Britt "Spoon" Daniels-written "Spent on Rainy Days"…I'm sold. Only a few are great, but they're all solid, they differ from one another enough to maintain interest, and they're even occasionally brave - maybe too brave for the albums. For the record, though, nothing I just said applies to the first song. Bright Eyes a cappella? Are you fucking serious? I can't think of a good musician less suited for experimentation than Oberst, and this song shows me how right I am. Stick to verse, chorus, verse, dude. Dylan did it, and you're no Dylan.
But back to Noise Floor. Despite the usual thin metaphors (bro, I don't care how much sense it makes; she is NOT like a basketball) and a few overoptimistic distractions (the a capella thing is a joke, right?) this collection's unity-in-variety ensures its surprising worth.
6.7 / 10
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3