Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
Well, it worked for Tom Waits in 2002 when he simultaneously released Alice and Blood Money. Both were critical favorites, but then again, so was Tom Waits. Of course, after the attention Bright Eyes got with their last release Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, Saddle Creek was probably eager to hear what he could pull of next. When he told them, "Two albums at the same time!" they probably jumped on the opportunity.
And why wouldn't they? Once you get over the fact that he's young and relatively inexperienced, Conor Oberst is a talented singer-songwriter. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning was the album that won me over, but I was unsure about Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. They are very different albums. While Wide Awake relies on steel guitars, Emmylou Harris, and country couplets, Digital Ash is more electronic, relying on distorted guitars, drum machines, and other gadgets. This is the album that reminds us that Oberst grew up in the 80s.
Digital Ash in a Digital Urn isn't as good an album as Wide Awake, but it certainly has its moments, despite starting out almost as pretentiously with "Time Code," an experiment in sound gone awry. "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" is the immediate highlight, starting out with distorted electric guitar, before being joined by what sounds like an old video game system (Game Boy, perhaps?). The lyrics seem to be about getting it on with an old friend who "stood there so brave, used to be shy." "I Believe in Symmetry" is the other truly great song on the album, sounding like a mantra that everything will work out evenly in the end.
If you're going to invest in one of the new Bright Eyes albums, I'd personally choose I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. If you're countryphobic, you may prefer Digital Ash in a Digital Urn with its modernist vibe. Either way, it's worth it for the few highlights.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3