This is Bright Eyes' less-produced album...it has a very raw quality, as most of the songs were recorded on a 4- or 8-track in Conor Oberst's basement. In my opinion, I like it better that way...it adds something that Lifted and Fevers&Mirrors was lacking...I'm not even sure how to explain it, but...
I'm sure some people are sick of all the Bob Dylan comparisons, but here I go. Remember early Dylan (like Highway 61 Revisited- Era and Another Side of Bob Dylan- Era) when it was mostly just him and an acoustic guitar, sometimes an organ and some drums? It didn't take away from the effect of his unique voice and his poetry like some of the later, more rock-oriented, electric efforts. I think the same thing about Bright Eyes..."Letting off the Happiness" is my favorite album by this band because there weren't all these other unnecessary instruments distracting the listeners from Conor's voice and his lyrics. His emotion is pure and there is a great balance of vocals and instruments on this album. Now I'm just going to say a little bit about what I appreciated about each song:
1) if winter ends
"I dreampt of a fever, one that could cure me of this cold, winter-set heart..." great lyrics, good tempo...
2) padraic my prince
this was the first bright eyes song i ever heard (before i ever bought any of their albums). i think i was in awe by it, and i just had it saved on real player on my computer or something, and i kept uploading it over and over to listen to it.
3) contrast and compare
i love the female vocal accompaniment! wonderful! it really compliments conor's deep voice and adds a lot to the song.
4) the city has sex
this song reminds me of late-70's punk rock!
5) the difference in the shades
i really like the finger-plucking on the acoustic guitar and the pedal steel.
ooh, touch! what a perfect song...i like the "broken-keyboard-effect" and the fact that it is a more upbeat song without becoming pop. when conor starts to yell, the voices in the background add a lot of depth to the song.
7)june on the west coast
this is a less frantic bright eyes song...it's all acoustic, just conor and his guitar. it is probably the folk-iest song on this album, and one of my favorites.
8) pull my hair
great to sing along to--i like the pedal steel, which gives it a country vibe. during the chorus, i like the vocal accompaniment by andy lemaster.
9) a poetic retelling of an unfortunate seduction
excellent, dark, and haunting lyrics...it even has an accordian in the 2nd verse!
10) tereza and tomas
what a beautiful song, and it ends the album on a great note. excellent use of keyboard and guitar.
In my opinion, pick up this album or "Fevers&Mirrors" before you purchase "Lifted..." because as great of an album as "Lifted..." is, it has a lot of extra weight that I feel somewhat takes away from the beauty and poetry of bright eyes. it's great that conor is experimental and can take his music to all sorts of new heights, but i do hope for another album that is not a far cry from "letting off the happiness" in the future!