Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


Lifted or The Story is in the Soil....

Author: Krista Kenner
08/13/2002 | Preamp | | Album Review
A cold day. A car starts and directions are given, but soon the driver learns it's just a guessing game to the destination. This is how Conor Oberst begins his new album, Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. The guitars start in the background and soon the listener is drawn into his lyrical world of uncertainty and confusion. The layers of voices and driving sounds in the first track, "The Big Picture," are an extension of his puzzled, angst-filled lyrics, and just like the girl who sporadically sings along with the song, one immediately empathizes with Oberst's circular quest for the truth.

The first track, reminiscent of Bright Eyes' earlier release, Letting off the Happiness, flirts between Bright Eyes' old and new sound, but make no mistake - Lifted is an entirely different piece of art. Conor Oberst has matured, sometimes delving into a new realm of music, and overall, a more hopeful set of lyrics. With the smart addition of other musicians such as Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor (Azure Ray) and Todd Baechle (The Faint), Bright Eyes broadens their sound. No longer does the listener feel like they're secretly imposing on a 17-year old boy's troubled journal entries. Those (like myself) who do like the intimacy of Oberst's affecting poetry still absorb the same emotional intensity from Lifted, so no one is left disappointed.

Besides lyrical maturation, other developments found in Lifted are the sweeping style range - from Belle & Sebastian jangled "poppy-ness" to Bob Dylan's honest twang, Bright Eyes' latest release keeps things interesting. Track X, "Waste of Paint" is by far the most diversified track. While completely escaping the traditional realm of Bright Eyes (except for the distinctive bells sounds of "The Movement of a Hand," from Fevers and Mirrors), one hears influences of the Cure and even Saddle Creek's own, Cursive. A switch occurs in track VI, and the melodic, layered voices of Elliott Smith seeps through. Track VII: switch again - the opening music suggests to the listener that they're watching a National Geographic expose of another culture - but the conclusive evidence is that we'll never understand the answers. Thus, the search for resolution continues.

Some might take points off for skipping around so much on a single album, but Lifted is held together by a common theme - it's a story about personal development on many levels. From the first page to the last, the reader embarks on his quest for truth and spiritual answers, and is quickly enveloped in Oberst's accounts of life, love and lessons learned.


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