Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
There's plenty of faith to be found on I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, a folk-oriented, acoustic-guitar-based album. Opening with a minute-long spoken-word intro (Oberst relates a story about a plane crash) that segues into "At The Bottom Of Everything," one of the record's main themes is put forth: the power of song in times of crisis. With backing vocals from My Morning Jacket's Jim James, it also introduces the second narrative thread, which is the importance of being Oberst and the existential angst of a famous 24-year-old: "I'm happy just because I've found out I am really no one." Musically, Wide Awake is full of inventive, successful ideas. Oberst's vocals are paired with those of Emmylou Harris on three songs, and it sounds like two ageless souls commiserating. On closing track "Road To Joy" (which nicks its melody from Beethoven's "Ode To Joy"), the ecstatic trumpet calls and crashing drums remind us that Oberst is more inspired by Jeff Mangum than Bob Dylan. By a country, city or suburban mile, Wide Awake is Bright Eyes' finest hour.
The bubbly synth pop of Digital Ash In A Digital Urn is a bratty, impetuous kid sister to Wide Awake. Nobody's denying Oberst's right to match his hangdog voice to retro-'80s toy keyboards and skittish, processed beats; everybody's doing it, after all. But there hasn't been this much lack of chemistry since the Middle Ages. Songs such as "Hit The Switch" portray a bored, overstimulated party life (Oberst has been living in New York City for the past year). Some playful alchemy occurs on "I Believe In Symmetry," which borrows a riff from "99 Red Balloons," but Digital Ash is ultimately as much fun as dry-heaving to OMD. As one astute character in Pecker puts it, "What they call art up in New York, young man, looks like just plain misery to me."
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3