Reviews

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Christopher Parron
01/29/2005 | Decoymusic.com | www.decoymusic.com | Album Review
As one of two albums to be released under the Bright Eyes moniker on the same day (January 25), I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is a country tinged, acoustic affair which is far more akin to the standard Bright Eyes sound yet ends up being just a smidge less impressive than the excellent Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Opening with a spoken passage about a woman flying to meet her fiancee yet the plane crashes and you'd think this album would be quite the somber affair. Fortunately the song kicks in with quite the upbeat sounding guitar of Conor performing solo and all I can picture in my head is a group of people at some rundown bar in the middle of nowhere dancing in circles around a table drinking pitcher after pitcher. However lame this may sound, I think I'd gladly be dancing around said table were I in the same situation. However, maybe dancing isn't the best idea when your plane is crashing but when someone can make beauty out of a less than desirable situation you have to at least crack a smile.

The album has a decidedly folk/country feel to it all throughout and three songs ("We Are Nowhere and It's Now", "Another Travelin' Song", and "Landlocked Blues") feature the excellent Emmylou Harris on backup vocals to spice things up a bit and it works quite nicely. Her wavering vocals compliment Conor's nervous, on the verge of cracking croons better than I could have imagined when I first heard she'd be guesting on the disc. She never takes over the song from Conor because let's face it - this is his project and he's always going to be the main attraction.

"Old Soul Song" is by far one of my favorite cuts off the album. With a beautiful back section of strings, an almost screamed lyrical delivery, and a quite abrubt ending; you almost get the impression the man started crying in the vocal booth before the song was really finished. Yet, in this fashion is where the beauty of Mr. Oberst sets in. He effortlessly conveys emotion like a fountain flows water but sometimes you get the feeling he can't even begin to lighten up a little. Yet it's never bothersome as once a song begins to grate in even the least, it ends.

Like most folk type albums each song tells a story (usually about someone who has lost something) but maybe I'm a little slow or Conor is too cryptic because most of the time I have no idea behind the plots of these numbers. Usually with a Bright Eyes release I can easily focus on the lyrics but this particular album, with it's banjos, steel guitars and simplistic rhythms keeps me entirely focused on the music. Now with that said you can imagine my surprise when on the album closer "Road to Joy" (with it's ode to joy motif running throughout) the song completely does a 180 into crashing cymbals, horns squelching, and guitar strumming straight out of a flamenco dance before coming to a close. This is the only time the album strays from its simple roots after Conor screaming "I'm wide awake, it's morning!" and I personally think there could be no more fitting ending for this fine album.

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is sure to please followers of Bright Eyes and with a slightly more accesible sound (and the radio hit "Lua") will easily win some new fans. Do yourself a favor and just get this album.