Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Kyle Undem
02/04/2005 | | | Album Review
It's morning and Conor Oberst is wide awake. No, it's not because he got a healthy eight hours of sleep. Rather, he never made it to bed. And he has never sounded more proud of this fact or more conscious of his surroundings - musically and thematically - than on I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, part of Bright Eyes' determined, release-two-discs-on-the-same-day marketing plan. Really, it's the only way the kid could follow up his already overly ambitious 2002 release, Lifted. The only way. Needless to say, it's doubtful you were surprised this happened.

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning showcases everything Oberst has been notorious for throughout his career. There are hardly any surprises, save maybe a couple cameos by Emmylou Harris or an overall less-orchestrated sound - compared to Lifted, at least. You know Oberst, though, eh - there really isn't any need to elaborate on his quaky voice, or his penchant to trap you inside his melodies after even a distant listen. Or how he can transform a room into his own temple no matter if he's playing a simple guitar line or unabashedly tweaking with a seven-piece ensemble, where the goal is to just "fuck it up boys" and "make some noise."

However, what does need elaboration is just how sinuous his music continues to come off. It's nearly effortless, really… like he sat down and this is what poured out of him. Yet, the ten tracks that make up the disc are all so accurately aligned and precisely constructed that it makes for quite the variance in this regard. But, to hell with it, over analyzing these things tends to just take away from the whole and that's really not the best way to enjoy the shit out of I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.

The morning, though, we must focus on the morning, as it is such an underlying theme on this album. It really is quite particular how Oberst worked this out. From the morning being at his window sending him to bed again in the twanged-out "Another Travelin' Song," to the time his lover drove all night just to meet him in the morning in "First Day of My Life," (which is easily one of the top five love songs of all-time - no joke) to the grey light leaking through the window in "Old Soul Song," the referencing of the morning does not stop. And it really shouldn't because the morning is a time we don't take advantage of nearly enough… something about the morning, you know… and Oberst nails it throughout.

Production-wise, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, is top-tier material. Warm, roomy and ultimately subtle, Mike Mogis and his Presto! studios naturally organized yet another gem for the production realm. Not all too shocking, really, but good to know that these cats keep getting better and better in this aspect. The production of the vocals is the most noteworthy aspect, though. The back-ups - for the most part - are there without even being there, playing a part so subtle yet so critical, filling out the superbly concave sound.

The only thing that holds this album back is its length - song-wise at least. Fair enough, it is ten tracks, ten very excellent tracks; however it always seems to be over just as it's starting to peak into a trio of tracks that would solidify it as Oberst's finest material to date. It's nothing really to get your pants in a complete bunch about, but something to think about when "Road to Joy" ends and you want a couple more. Oh, right, there's 12 more tracks to deal with courtesy of Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Goddamn selfish pricks.