There is No Beginning to the Story
"From a Balance Beam" introduces the latest Bright Eyes tale, retracing the jangly chords and tremolo sounds of the stellar Fevers & Mirrors, narrated with plaintive lyrics of self-loathing and self-transformation and the standard visual fare of baths, compasses, et cetera. "Messenger Bird's Song" is a bit on the predictable side; minimal, sparse and emotive, not nearly as fetching as Bright Eyes more orchestrated, fleshed out moments. If Bright Eyes' detractors were looking for more ammunition, "Messenger Bird's Song" provides the biggest stones to throw on this particular release.
Perhaps the brightest moment of this short collection comes in "We Are Free Men" when Oberst drops his trademark stridence for a lower, steadier timbre that brings undeniable results. By relinquishing his voice to the lyrics rather than bending the words around his vibrato whine, Oberst opens up gateways of new opportunity.
Considering this release is merely a stop-gap and primer, I can only hope that "Loose Leaves" is indicative of the material on the upcoming Bright Eyes full-length, because it's remarkable. Electrified, nimble, infectious and upbeat, "Loose Leaves" is a rare glimpse into the world of Oberst the euphoric sprite, as opposed to the downcast and fatalist gnome we've come to expect. While I don't necessarily consider all of Oberst's work under the Bright Eyes name to be depressing or overly brooding, "Loose Leaves" does make you wonder what untapped potential bubbles under the crust of suicidal thoughts and imagery that is the usual Bright Eyes fare.
The CD version of this EP has the four songs and a tacked-on electronic interlude, and the much more desirable vinyl includes two additional tracks, another haunting number complete with eeriness entitled "Amy in the White Coat" and a great cover of Neil Young's "Out on the Weekend."
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3