Reviews

Lifted or The Story is in the Soil....

Author: Shon McLean
09/30/2002 | Actionman Magazine | www.actionmanmagazine.com | Album Review
Bright Eyes is a pseudonym for Conor Oberst, with his musician friends in the Saddle Creek family painting the background. Conor writes lyrics like a folk singer should, but surpassing that, well enough to be poet laureate. The words to his songs are reminiscent to an age before records, when a musician with a guitar on his or her back traveled to a town, entertained whomever would listen, passed the hat, and went to the next town. However, he uses orchestration that leads us away from the simple definition of "folk singer". The arrangements by Conor, Mike Mogis, and other players on the album are lush, par for Saddle Creek's course.

The way that Conor sings the lyrics is similar to Will Oldham's Palace projects: shaky and emotional. But there's more -- it's as if what he's singing about just happened to him. This singing style has been his trademark throughout his career. Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes oeuvre has now spanned four full-length albums and three EPs. Conor's vocals have served him well over these albums, his variations and timbre make for a voice that keeps the listener always wanting more.

After Fevers and Mirrors, the only thing I was left wanting was for the production to be more raw, less Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. I got what I wanted with Lifted. Some of the choruses sound downright sloppy, refreshing in the era of triple-tracking. The snippets of tape recording from Conor's life: getting in a car with someone else, receiving directions, and seemingly random statements and noise at the beginning and end of "The Big Picture" are used well. The trap is avoided -- the album does not become noise -- and the fragments add to the aggregate motif.

The record is a lot to swallow at first listen, with thirteen songs in 72 minutes. The word count for one verse is equal to the whole of an average pop song. In "Don't Know When But a Day is Gonna Come" Conor questions his existence with the metaphor of the universe's existence. A lovely girl he knew, getting a good talking to, the friends he loves, if he has a soul, are all elements of a life he doesn't completely understand. In "Laura Laurent" he sings: "But you should never be embarrassed by your trouble with living," a consolation to himself and other "people who suffer." The song "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved)" gets the award for best song title this year.

Overall, I got everything I wanted from an album and more with what Bright Eyes offers on Lifted. As for the next record, Bright Eyes and company owes me nothing and has provided plenty already, anything more is just padding the ballot box.