Reviews

Every Day and Every Night

Author: Bridget Burns
06/01/2000 | Puncture Magazine | Album Review
HOPELESS ROMANCE

Impossible to overlook: like a damaged Edith Piaf or a bleating goat, his rapid vibrato persists. Conor Oberst has the kind of voice that conveys vulnerability so immediately that you don't get around to wondering whether it's something he can control, a device. Though his delivery is distracting at first, soon it is difficult to keep from becoming spellbound by these Nebrakans' frayed majesty within the short span of five very differant songs.

Track one could be theater. On a lonely acoustic guitar line that builds in steps with vocals isolated like those at the start of a musical, an organ's funeral vibrato leads Oberst's oral stage-setting. After a vaudeville-calamality interlude, we expect a gradual build to introduce something too big to handle, its meaning lost in a whirl of smoke and mirrors. But vocals are traded, perspectives swapped, and we go down a different path. Oberst's wobble gets more emphathetic in a swell of piano and guitar, then breaks into a strummy plateau when Joseph Knapp's mild, mopey voice finishes his lines, resolving the tension set up as the story unwinds. It's a common tale of self-destruction, told with a refreshing fullness of imagery and critical commiseration.

“A Perfect Sonnet" sounds like tragedy, its momentum carrying it away from accessibility, full of builds adn busy triumph, with hyper-earnet lyrics that match the tempo's ferver. Electronic bleeps punctuate climactic heights, which seem oddly placed in the mostly unadulterated mixture. An emotive yelp from Oberst excuses this song from romantic obsurdity, so that we can't stay embarrased for his lyrics dreamed up in a spell of hopeless romance. One suspects Conor Oberst could sing just about any line of make it believable.

Bright Eyes resist an apparant attraction to the eerie, but it is this supernatural quality, pitted against rock intuition, that prompts magical moments. “On My Way to Work" and “A New Arrangement" evoke a haunted autumnal mood rarely sought or achieved in the usual genres. “Way to Work" begins with a whisper and its echo in front of acostic-guitar picking and the ringing of a vibraphone, but the drawl of a slide guitar sprouts from the vibes' substance in a most natural metamorphosis of sound. Bright Eyes seem to delight in unconvenional yet seamless transitions, and the work song breaks into a full-fledged rock song, complete with piss-and-vinegar vocals. “A New Arrangement" maintains an atmosphere of rustic gloom. An imperfect and intricate Spanish-flavored guitar line froms a racing undercurrent to Oberst's unstable echo-chambered voice, while subtle string accessories fade in and out, building a spacious, loosely consturcted noise. Texture is created by incorporating tape-looped static preceding distant drumming, the hint of a brewing electrical storm. The song's apex is nearly in line with its start, and resolves itself in heartbreaking harmony rather than a clashing climax.

When Bright Eyes drift closer to unadulterated spookiness, as in “Neely O'Hara," they aren't charming as when they resist the force of darkness, but they play with samples in interesting ways. This last track is of the His Name is Alve school of ghostliness, with weary-soul vocal effects and throbbing reverse reverb. An ongoing vocal track behind the mix interrupts the watery gloom with defiant yells that coalesce into a digital pool of sound bites. The yelling is uncomfortably spontaneous, as though captured against someone's will. Sampled sound makes its way into Every Day and Every Night on a few occasions, used not for kitsch effect but to display a sense of hidden affection that surfaces regulary in this record - Bridget Burns


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