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
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
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
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.
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
(If Winter Ends).
Fevers And Mirrors (Saddle Creek, 2000) rimpiazza il suono "lo-fi"
del debutto con un suono piu' adulto (flauto, mellotron, dulcimer,
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
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.