Reviews

Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

Author: Gary Graff
01/14/2005 | Daily Oakland Press | Album Review
Bright Eyes' already glowing future could well be twice as bright in 2005.
On Jan. 25, the Nebraska collective, the domain of singer-songwriter Conor Oberst and a cadre of musical friends, is releasing a pair of concurrent albums to build on the buzz from 2002's lauded "Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground" and the troupe's appearance on last year's Vote For Change tour package with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band and R.E.M.
"Wake Up, It's Morning" is what Oberst and chief collaborator Mike Mogis call Bright Eyes' "folk" album, a more straightforward, acoustic-oriented, song-based album that features Emmylou Harris on three tracks. Its companion, "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn," comes out on the same day and forges new territory, taking Bright Eyes into the realm of electronics and sampling, with many songs written in the studio to beats generated by Oberst, Mogis and Postal Service's Jimmy Tamborello.
It's an audacious move, but one that Mogis says felt natural for him and Oberst.
"When we started doing 'Lifted,' we had the idea back then to make two totally different albums; we just didn't have enough songs," explains Mogis, 30, a multi-instrumentalist who engineers and co-producers Bright Eyes' recordings and also tours with the group.
"So after ('Lifted') got a moderate amount of attention, we kind of thought now would be the time to do something like that. We needed to do something kind of notable to follow that record."
Oberst, Mogis and the Bright Eyes team will be busy promoting the two new albums throughout the year. After headlining early on for "Wake Up ...," Bright Eyes will opening for the Faint in the spring and summer - and play only songs from "Digital Ash ..." Anxious to see how the albums are received, Mogis says he and Oberst are braced for a backlash, though they don't regret taking this creative route.
"We're proud of both of them," he says. "I don't feel like they were intended to be compared to one another, though inevitably that will happen. But to us, it seemed like a normal thing to do. We get kind of bored with doing our songs the same way every time. It's nice to test ourselves and our abilities to make ourselves happy in new ways."


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