Bright Eyes

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Letting Off The Happiness , 6.5/10
Fevers And Mirrors (2000) , 7/10
Lifted Or The Story is in the Soil (2002) , 6.5/10
Desaparecidos: Real Music Speak Spanish (2002), 6.5/10
Digital Ash In A Digital Urn (2005), 5/10
I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005), 6/10
Cassadaga (2007), 5.5/10
Conor Oberst: Conor Oberst (2008) , 5.5/10
Monsters Of Folk: Monsters Of Folk (2009), 6/10
The People's Key (2011), 5/10
Desaparecidos: Payola (2015), 5/10
Conor Oberst: Upside Down Mountain (2014), 5/10
Conor Oberst: Ruminations (2016) , 6/10
Conor Oberst: Salutations (2017), 4/10
Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (2019), 5/10
Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was (2020), 6/10

Nebraska singer songwriter Conor Oberst is Bright Eyes. Letting Off The Happiness (Saddle Creek, 1998), recorded when he was still a teenager, is humble and subdued, but employs instruments such as accordion and keyboards in a creative manner that defies definition. The teen angst screamed in If Winter Ends is a distant relative of Syd Barrett's neurosis minus the drugs, whereas the one that surfaces from Touch is full of positive energy. The galloping The City Has Sex has more in common with hardcore than with emocore. The kid's despair erupts in the wall of noise of Pull My Hair, worthy of Nine Inch Nails. All is negated, however, by the simple rigmarole for voice and guitar of June on the West Coast, and by the quiet lullaby that closes the album, Tereza and Tomas, the melodic peak of the album.

Fevers And Mirrors (Saddle Creek, 2000) replaces the "lo-fi" sound of the debut with a more adult sound (flute, mellotron, dulcimer, glockenspiel), which is musically more successful, at least in its broad eclectic range of melodies, moods and sounds. Oberst pens both the infinite melancholy and nostalgy of A Spindle A Darkness A Fever And A Necklace and the majesty and grace of A Scale A Mirror And Those Indifferent Clocks and the furious flamenco-tinged rock'n'roll of The Calendar Hung Itself and the martial and operatic Arienette. The soulful and passionate Something Vague, the piano-based singalong When The Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under Glass, the hard-rocking The Center Of The World, the waltzing Sunrise Sunset, A Song To Pass The Time are a bit less convincing because their structure is so unstable, as if the artist was shaken by uncontrollable fits as he sings his melodies and his lyrics. The eight-minute An Attempt To Tip The Scales is revealing: the song contains its own critical analysis (six minutes of spoken word in the form of a self-interview).

The EP Every Day And Every Night (Saddle Creek, 2000), on the other hand, may have found the perfect balance of words and sounds.

But then Bright Eyes' singer Conor Oberst started a new band, Desaparecidos, that debuted with the single The Happiest Place on Earth (Saddle Creek, 2001). Their first album, Real Music Speak Spanish (Saddle Creek, 2002), was an incendiary fusion of garage-rock and emo-core with strong sociopolitical overtones ($$$$, Mall Of America), and perhaps his most cohesive and aggressive work.

As he returned to his main project Bright Eyes with the EP There Is No Beginning to the Story (Saddle Creek, 2002) and the full-length Lifted Or The Story is in the Soil (Saddle Creek, 2002), Conor Oberst adopted sumptuous arrangements (horns and strings) and aimed for the grand pop melody. The pace is majestic, as in the old-fashioned country ballads, but the soundscape is a waterfall of timbres. Oberst gets the most out of it in a few tenderly emotional chestnuts: Lover I Don't Have to Love, From A Balance Beam, and especially Nothing Gets Crossed Out (what Simon & Garfunkel would sound in the age of emocore). The slow-motion waltz of False Advertising and especially the piano and strings sonata of Bowl of Oranges (at the pace of country music) as well as the grand closer, the funereal hoe-down of Let's Not Shit Ourselves, project an adult outlook, but the galloping Method Acting and the guitar-only rant of Waste of Paint link back to the first album's teen angst. The storyteller, though, is better represented by the stripped-down dirges Don't Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come and You Will You, that both slowly build up to an intense climax.

Vinyl Box Set (Saddle Creek, 2004) is a 7-lp set that collects Letting Off The Happiness, Fevers And Mirrors, EPs and rarities.

Oh Holy Fools is a split album with Son Ambulance, and One Jug Of Wine (2004) is a collaboration with Neva Dinova.

THe four-song EP Home: Volume IV (Post-Parlo, 2002) is a collaboration with Spoon's Britt Daniel. The six-song EP One Jug Of Wine Two Vessels (Crank, 2004) is a collaboration with Neva Dinova.

Two EPs, Lua (Saddle Creek, 2004) and Take It Easy (Saddle Creek, 2004), were the preludes to the twin albums of 2004.

Conor Oberst solved his identity crisis by releasing not one but albums, corresponding to two versions of himself, or, better, each to half of himself. The digital folk music of Digital Ash In A Digital Urn (Saddle Creek, 2005), that includes I Believe In Symmetry (reminiscent of Nena) and Hit The Switch, marks not so much a technological breakthrough as a new phase in the process of estrangement from his past. The spare acoustic I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (Saddle Creek, 2005), instead, "is" his past, a cathartic process of self-glorification that starts with the rousing At The Bottom Of Everything and ends quoting Beethoven's ninth symphony. It is not the arrangement that makes the difference. In fact, the acoustic album is more experimental than the electronic album. The difference is in the posture. Emmylou Harris Both albums are self-referential, but one is so in order to get rid of the self-referentiality while the other one aims at increasing it. The latter (the acoustic Oberst) wins. The former (the digital Oberst) comes through as a bunch of leftovers from a Books or Boards Of Canada album.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Jacopo Fiorentino)

I bright Eyes sono Conor Oberst, cantante e autore del Nebraska. Letting Off The Happiness (Saddle Creek, 1998), registrato quando ancora era un teenager, e' umile e sussurato, ma utilizza strumenti come l'accordion e la tastiera in una maniera creativa che sfida le facili definizioni (If Winter Ends).

Fevers And Mirrors (Saddle Creek, 2000) rimpiazza il suono "lo-fi" del debutto con un suono piu' adulto (flauto, mellotron, dulcimer, glockenspiel), che solo parzialmente riscuote maggiore successo.

Nell'EP Every Day And Every Night (Saddle Creek, 2000), d'altra parte, Oberst sembra trovare il perfetto equilibrio tra parole e suoni.

Subito dopo, tuttavia, Conor Oberst forma una nuova band, i Desaparecidos, che debuttano con il singolo The Happiest Place on Earth (Saddle Creek, 2001).

Una volta ritornato al suo progetto principale, i Bright Eyes, con l'EP There Is No Beginning to the Story (Saddle Creek, 2002) e l'album Lifted Or The Story is in the Soil (Saddle Creek, 2002), Conor Oberst adotta arrangiamenti sontuosi, (corni e archi) e punta alla grande melodia pop. L'andamento e' maestoso nelle ballate country vcchio stile, ma il paesaggio sonoro e' una cascata di timbri. Oberst ottiene il massimo in canzoni tenere ed emozionanti come Lover I Don't Have to Love, Nothing Gets Crossed Out e From A Balance Beam. Il valzer rallentato False Advertising e la sonata per piano e archi di Bowl of Oranges aprono nuovi orizzonti. Il cantautore, comunque, e' rappresentato meglio nella disadorna elegia Don't Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come.

Cassadaga (Saddle Creek, 2007) tried to capitalize on all the experiments of the previous albums. Ironically, this meta-experiment succeeds mainly in two directions, that are also the most traditional: the orchestral ballad, best represented by Clairaudients and especially Make a Plan to Love Me, and Bob Dylan-tinged roots-rock, notably Soul Singer in a Session Band and especially Four Winds.

Noise Floor (Saddle Creek, 2006) collects rarities.

Georgia's Now It's Overhead, fronted by Bright Eyes' Andy LeMaster, released Now It's Overhead (Saddle Creek) and Fall Back Open (Saddle Creek, 2004).

Oberst, who had already self-released a few cassettes in the 1990s, debuted solo with the radio-friendly blue-collar rock of Conor Oberst (Merge, 2008). His second solo album Outer South (Merge, 2009) was credited to Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band, which was, after all, just a rock and roll band with the only ambition to play some old-fashioned rock songs.

Meanwhile, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, and M Ward formed the Monsters Of Folk in the vein of Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and released the ambitious Monsters Of Folk (2009), containing Dear God and Slow Down Jo.

Bright Eyes morphed into a mellower and shinier creature on The People's Key (2011), a collection of songs that sound slick by Oberst's standards, and that include catchy singalongs like Jejune Stars and One For You One For Me. A bit of transgression transpires from the soaring Shell Games and the psychedelic Haile Selassie , and especially from the angrier Triple Spiral, but mostly this is a calm and mature journey, devoid of traumas. The old (young) Oberst still flagellates himself only in the spare Ladder Song. A notable contribution comes from keyboardist Nate Walcott, who adds sophisticated touches reminiscent of the new wave of the 1970s.

Conor Oberst's Upside Down Mountain (Nonesuch, 2014) sounds like the Los Angeles school of singer-songwriters of the 1970s, but the lush arrangements mostly hijack the songs.

Following the Desaparecidos' blistering punk-folk album Payola (2015), Conor Oberst released the solo album Ruminations (2016), a collection of gloomy fragile naked songs, perhaps his best solo album or at least his most personal one, and a version of it with professional arrangements, Salutations (2017).

Oberst also formed Better Oblivion Community Center with Phoebe Bridgers. Their album Better Oblivion Community Center (2019) contains Didn't Know What I Was In For and Dylan Thomas, but also a lot of filler.

Bright Eyes returned after nine years with Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was (2020), their best album in a decade, that contains the previous singles Persona Non Grata, Forced Convalescence, One and Done and Mariana Trench, besides new gems like Calais to Dover and Dance and Sing.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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