I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
One of two Bright Eyes albums to hit stores Jan. 25, "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" is the more gripping of the two (the other being "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn"). The set finds singer/songwriter Conor Oberst on a captivating search for identity in modern America, where comfort is found in a neon sign and children playing guns with tree branches is cause for anxiety. Whereas 2001's "Lifted . . ." was a fully orchestrated affair, "I'm Wide Awake" finds Oberst turning to more graceful and accessible folk arrangements. The piano is playing a hymn, and Oberst is searching for redemption in a plane crash. This is an album overflowing with passion and tension, and it is felt every time his voice is on the verge of cracking. At times, he sounds incapable of controlling it, and it's this sense of helplessness that ultimately gives this 10-song set its power. "No one ever plans to sleep out in the gutter," Oberst sings in the album closer. "Sometimes that's just the most comfortable place."