Band of the Week: Bright Eyes
Arite, so how bout this ilan? I will write the band of the week mathinger about the challenge in order to promote your next show…but first you need to announce a show…In the meantime, the band of the week is not a band but an artist who’s literate lyrics and heartfelt melodies draw listeners in gradually. The band (er, artist) of the week is:
Really just Conor Oberst and friends, this musical vehicle has consistently released albums of experimental alt-country genius over the last decade or so. One could describe Lifted or the Story… and Fevers and Mirror as emotionally compelling albums full of truth, sadness and beauty- others might describe them as overly pretensious and boring. The two albums he released simultaneously in 2005 (I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn) certified him as an indie rock star. Recently artists ranging from Lou Reed to MCRs Gerard Way have professed admiration for him.
When I first heard him, I thought he was a whiny give-me-pussy-pleeeeassee acoustic type (cough, James Blunt) but somehow his song “First Day of My Life” ended up on my computer and I just kept coming back to it. There was something about it that I couldn’t shake. An honesty and adherence to detail that reminded me of Dylan in his prime. He expressed something that was both contemporary and fundamentally human with an ease that distinguishes poets from the rest of the herd. I ended up checking out the entire I’m Wide Awake… album.
I’m Wide Awake… lacks the adrenaline pumping experimentalism that characterised some of his other works and is nowhere near as complex lyrically and musically as other discography entries. It’s simplicity however, made it possibly his best and most affecting album. Like the music of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, it is a brilliant simplicity, which sticks with the listener.
Once sucked in by I’m Wide Awake I checked out his other albums. They’re all fantastic but certain songs on them are just mindblowing. Fevers and Mirrors’ “The Calendar Hung Itself”, with it’s latin rythms and insectoid electronics propel a song of obssesive jealousy filled with brilliantly bleek images. Lyrics like “And I kissed a girl with a broken jaw that her father gave to her./ She had eyes bright enough to burn me. They reminded me of yours.” and ” Does he lay awake listening to your breath?/ Worried you smoke too many cigarettes.” just reach out and smack you like only the best lyricists can do.
Lifted or the Story… has “False Advertising”: probably the greatest indie-rock waltz song ever. It’s sweeping strings are just glorious. It’s marching band drums pound as though signalling the apocalypse. A beautiful song by any definition.
The new album Cassadaga is no dissapointment. It’s string arrangements and female vocals no doubt reflect Oberst’s admiration for his contemporary indie rockers such as The Arcade Fire. He sounds more mature, his vocals are less quavery and the arrangements are larger than ever.
Rolling Stone recently called him one of the greatest songwriters of our time. I agree completely. Along with Jeff Tweedy, Conor Oberst’s literate writing is based around classic folk and country sensibilities and delivered in a way that’s modern and progressive. He’s been remarkably consistent and shows no signs of slowing down. Like Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes is an artist impossible to ignore whether you love or despise him.
Such is why he is this week’s band of the week.