Reviews

Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

Author: Martin Edlund
01/18/2005 | New York Sun | Album Review
In his 10-year career recording as Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst's sound has traveled roughly a straight line: from the ragged and enraged acoustic songs of the 13-year-old boy genius, to the almost baroque rock of his 2002 album "Lifted." Now 24,his music has splintered, producing two distinctly different albums.

"I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" is a lovely, contemplative, country-tinged affair, featuring three duets with Emmylou Harris (a collaboration that calls to mind Jack White recent work with Loretta Lynn).The songs are a leap in sophistication, with surprising touch points between the personal and the political. "Old Soul Song (For A New World Order)" ponders the beauty and muddled meaning of a political rally. "Land Locked Blues" evolves from a love letter to a struggle with fame to a "Bowling for Columbine" like commentary on violence that connects the neighborhood boy pointing his stick like a gun in the street to the violence of a televised war half a world away.

The second album, "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn," couldn't be more different. The idiom here is electronica, no doubt inspired in part by the indie-tronic success of Postal Service. Oberst's voice and garrulousness don't lend themselves as readily as Ben Gibbard's to the clicking, plinking, swooning, bleating bed of sound. But for those willing to dig around a little, there are lots of postmodern lyrical gems: "but once the satellite's deceased/it blows like garbage through the streets/of the night sky, to infinity."


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