Vinyl Box Set
Author: Chad Radford
With Bright Eyes' most recent release, Lifted, pushing the group to new heights of popularity and achievement, the release of a mammoth, seven-album retrospective, Vinyl Box Set (Saddle Creek), documents what a long strange trip it's been. Bright Eyes' songsmith Conor Oberst began writing his wistful, folk-inspired songs at the tender age of 13. As would be expected, much of his work stems from a heightened sense of teen angst and insecurity. While critics have occasionally blasted this dramatic approach, it's this same earnest, juvenile quality that has made Bright Eyes an underground sensation. Oberst's songs are best experienced in the context of an entire album, i.e. no hit singles, but a stream of pieces that range from obnoxiously sensitive to silly non sequiturs.
Beginning with A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997, the production has been touched up a bit on icy numbers like "Patient Hope In New Snow," though not enough to alter the basic presentation. Juxtaposing those first recordings with later tunes such as "Something Vague" and "A Song to Pass the Time" (from a slightly expanded and remastered Fevers and Mirrors), one can see how far Oberst's songwriting has evolved.
The set can often feel like too much information. But even Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen got off to uneven starts. Whether Oberst is paramount to these figures remains to be seen, but certainly his future is looking bright.