Reviews

Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

Author: Cole Dowden
02/10/2005 | Shorthorn | Album Review
It is refreshing to hear something new and genuine after being bombarded with all the same old pop music and tepid rock on the radio today. Conor Oberst, lead singer for Bright Eyes, doesn't disappoint, delivering a collection of stunning musical pieces on his latest release, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.

Almost every song on this album is memorable, each with its own "classic quiet moment in a coming of age film." Now, it won't break on to heavy rotation on "M" networks, but it should break into the shuffle setting on your iPod.

The single, "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," is reminiscent of the music featured in the 2003 film, 28 Days Later. It has a techno pop tone, but is still strong enough that it doesn't lose its real-music, organic feel.

Besides Oberst, Bright Eyes evolves with a continual rotation from a grab bag of musicians, which only adds to the intricate and varying compositions. At times the album feels like somebody took Robert Smith (The Cure), threw in some left-brained Trent Reznor, and finished it off with a touch of Tom Waits' subtle lyrics.

While many will draw strong parallels between Oberst and Smith, if you listen closely you might also hear a little Simon and Garfunkel.

"Hit the Switch," touches a tender nerve, reading like a journal entry torn from Hemingway's life. Quickly changing its pace, Digital Ash flashes a techno pop side, but then listeners are returned to a folk feel with I'm Wide Awake, the other album released by the group that same day.

At 24, Oberst's life has been interesting, and it shows in the maturity of his music. Having already founded two record labels while releasing 10 albums of his own, he is gaining a reputation as a musical craftsman.

Oberst gives artistic slackers a complex because they will never be able to measure up. But, his music is something they feel they can strive for.

And that's the beauty of it. It can make anyone feel like a genius, it is that potent and that good.

If the fates allow, pick up both of the new Bright Eyes' albums.

It's nice to hear good music again.