on 11 May 2003
This was the first Bright Eyes record I heard and I was simply blown away. For years I was ploughing my way through hours and hours of music, never realising that this was the album I was looking for. The lyrics are breathtaking and the music, though understated, is nothing short of epic (and not in a prog rock way!!!). A word of warning however. This album is not for easy listening and those music listeners who prefer not to think too much about their music should look away now, it takes a good few listens to really begin to appreciate Conor Oberst's lyrics. But when you do begin to recognise and understand the messages coming from these songs you'll understand why many people (myself included) believe this man to be the best song writer in the world today, perhaps the best ever. There can be no stand-out songs from an album where your favourite is usually the last one you heard, but if you want to try before you buy, then listen to "Lover I Don't Have to Love", "Lets Not S**t Ourselves" and "Bowl of Oranges" to get the full picture. Buy this album. You haven't lived until you've heard it.
on 12 September 2003
On first listen, do not be put off by the quirky intro, the unpolished recording and the echoed-voice that sounds more like a cassette than a cd. It appears that Conor Oberst uses this to add sincerity to an already convincing album, at the risk of immediately losing any form of mainstream audience. Unlike the moody, reclusive album 'Fevers and Mirrors', 'Lifted...' at times finds Conor and his collection of musicians in a slightly more upbeat state of mind (to write 'happy' would be too exagerated and too offensive a word). British fans might like to know that song 'Bowl of Oranges' is said to be a favourite of artist Ed Harcourt, and this track would certainly come under the list of songs instantly accessible along with 'You will. you' and 'Waste of paint'. However it is songs such as 'Lover i dont have to love'(displaying a dark repressed atmosphere similar to 'sunrise, sunset' from the 'Fevers and mirrors' album) where Oberst truly demonstrates his versatile emotions ranging from ambivolence, to depression to anger. Fans of Bright Eyes will know this already, and agree that for it to be categorized in the genre 'alt country' would be too dismissive of the Dylan-esque songs produced. Having done so myself, i would advise newcomers to listen to this album first as it is (though only slightly) more accessible than his previous albums that prefered to settle on one state of mind. At times it can be a challenge to listen to, which arguably isnt a bad thing in an era of insincere solo artists sticking to a similar formula.
on 7 December 2002
Wilfully lo-fi in places (strange choice for the opener I thought) - gloriously lush in others - full of wonderful melodies and a real sense of joy in the playing from the ensemble.
Bewildering on first listen but I promise you just gets better and better with every play.
As for Mr Oberst - he can now hold a tune - bit more discipline where vocal rawness (and wilful screaming) took the edge off some of the promising stuff on earlier albums - though Fevers and Mirrors is also well worth exploring.
Prone to uncontrollable attacks of spleen on previous albums he's got it right here - a little overlong and wordy at times ( but hey check out first Springtseen album and early Dylan) and without doubt a gift for lyric and melody - halfway way down the line to genius.
Frequently inspiring - a must for serious music fans into any of indie/classic rock/pop/folk/and alt country.
on 25 August 2002
I was surprised by how good this album actually is. It's about ten times better than Fevers and Mirrors. I found the overly tremulous voice too hard to take on that one, despite the quality of the songs. Here his voice sounds smoother most of the time, and with the odd exception, less feverish and ranty. The lo-fi production which varies in texture from track to track, is really excellent. With alot of albums, you feel you're just sitting in the studio for the whole of the duration, but here, you feel like you're being taken to lots of different places, with lots of different atmospheres. Conor Oberst is still quite highly wrought in his delivery, but it's significantly more controlled than before. It's probably best not to pick out individual tracks, as the thing works best as a whole. And after listening to it once, I thought it was a minor masterpiece. One that alot of effort had been put into, to get it right. It's not an album I'd want to listen to over and over again, but one I'd listen to when I was in the right mood. It feels like a film, an intimate portrait of smalltown life, occasionally upset by the bigger picture (to use the title of the first song). A couple of tracks attempt to pull the work out of solemnity, but thankfully, they are fighting a lost cause, and the down mood pervades like a really rainy day. One that makes a person feel deeper than they thought they were. There is pain here, of course, alot of it. But it feels like it's at one remove for the listener. Like the sharp edges have been smoothened. And this is a positive step for Conor Oberst as an artist. He is no longer allowing his pain to eclipse his art. The two are blended here without too much conflict, which makes this album a genuinely artistic achievement.
on 16 November 2002
Sweeping melodies combined with a ragged togetherness, raw and unpolished production, and an overdose of clever and often touching lyrics.... on first listen its almost too much to take in but given time this album comes into its own and in years to come will be surely regarded by many people as a truly classic album.
Personal album highlights are 'False Advertising', 'Bowl of Oranges' and the most beautiful of all, 'Nothing Gets Crossed Out'. Bright Eyes AKA Conor Oberst's voice could hardly be described as strong yet its fragile nature conveys the sheer emotion of the songs. A talented and diverse backing band add to
the brilliance of these songs which just get better and better with every play.
A rollercoaster ride of an album that should be cherished by those who recognise 22 year old Conor Oberst's envious songwriting talents.
on 7 November 2002
Being a newcomer to Coner(I'm not even sure this is his name?) i can honestly say that this album matches up to almost anything that defines the word 'music'. The album kinda remninds me of 'Blonde On Blonde' by Bob Dylan GET IT! Where all the songs are equally as great and the whole album just flow so flawlessly. I am a big lyric fan when it comes to music and can honestly say that these are among the best i've heard, the songs sound refreshing and Coners? imagery is just tremendous. I'm definetely going to get the back catalogue but for now this is in my CD player on repeat(sounds cliched but when your three songs from the end of the album panic sets in). A mini-masterpiece. V. Good.
on 21 April 2008
An amazing talent is hidden away in the relatively unknown band Bright Eyes. Especially when you consider the talented singers age! - currently a young 28!
it does take a while for the songs to sink in - they are not accessible in the commercial way - it is best enjoyed when you have sometime to concentrate and listen carefully - the lyrics and tunes will pull you in like a magnetic force - you feel compelled to listen to his every word, whether it be softly spoken like a lullaby, sung joyously like choral anthem or spat with spite and anger - you then become entrapped and woven in the mesh - listening over and over again - pulling the CD bookelet out to read along with the lyrics.
In a more factual way - the album and style of music is quite playful and melodic - but not in a catchy 'pop-hook'- more akin to Arcade fire style of melody - (i see one reviewer has compared the bands before and in my eyes Bright Eyes are far superior with a greater reach of melody and lyrical depth.)
It really does remind me in it approach to songwriting and overall production of Neutral Milk Hotel - it has a collection of varied instruments building a series of creshendo's and melodies. It is 'leftfield' indie music - but is certainly worth keeping with if you reckon you have an ear for good music.
Lyrically it is a treat - I can see why he has been hailed as the new Bob Dylan - it is personal with out being cryptic or metaphorical - he comments on the world around him without being too cynical or depressing.
Once you have had a few listens, it really does demand your attention, - i think it was my 3rd listen when it really sunk its teeth into me - now i cant get enough.
If you listen to this casually it will fly past you without you even noticing it and would be described as 'wishy washy' - but it is best enjoyed on your with some headphones on when you can give it some time and thought.
Some songs are upbeat - others more sombre and there is a lovely addition on one song from a softly spoken female singer too - it makes a worthwhile addition to his already good music and voice.
This is my first experience of bright eyes apart from the four winds single which i also like, and I cant wait to hear more.
For those of you who like comparisons - try putting the lyrics of Bob Dylan, the arrangements of Neutral milk Hotel, the whimsical melodies of Belle and Sebastian, the compositions of Arcade Fire and the wit and playfulness of Ben Folds in a mixer add with a touch of childhood genius like Ben Kweller and there you have it.
'Lifted (Or The Story Is)' is quite simply one of the most baffling albums i have ever heard? To say that it is unusual is an understatement and to these ears most of the tracks on it are more like verbal tirades put to music than actually songs. Melody is in short supply most of the way through and when it is in evidence you get the feeling its more by luck than judgement!
This said, there is something strangely alluring about sticking with this album. While many of the lyrics here are hard to truly understand you cannot fail to pick up on the passion with which the lead vocalist delivers them. This leads me to suspect that i am 'missing out on something' actually very profound and that bugs me...
Musically, the nearest I can get to describing what I feel is going on here would be indie country rock. With plenty of fuzz, crackles, tunes sung solo with an acoustic guitar (seemingly from inside a cave!) and an almost obsessive desire NOT to play something melodic, 'Lifted' is definitely one for those that love the unique, the stubbornly different and the bizarre.
Genius or total tosh dressed up as music? I honestly can't tell but there within I strongly suspect lies the appeal...
Well, here's a rum one. Lifted is a defiantly uncommercial album, almost wilfully so, and yet it's awash with great melodies and quality music. Not that you'd know it from the harsh, unfocussed blues of the opening track, The Big Picture, that almost sounds like it's still a demo - only almost though. Like a lot of the album, Oberst appears to have a purpose in recording the way he does, an understanding of the way his songs sound best, and his mature, expressive vocals and his intricate, intelligent and often confessional lyrics are best supported by the space this approach affords them.
Actually, it's where the sounds is more layered, such as the rockier Method Acting and the string backed False Advertising, that the album falters slightly, drained of it's power by returning it toward the mainstream.
Musically, Lifted reminds me of a number of acts. Springsteen's Nebraska and Ghost of Tom Joad can be heard in the quieter moments, Bob Dylan in the bluesy rambles. The poppier moments are reminiscent of World Party and earlier Waterboys tracks, and many of the tracks carry the tortured, doomed air of Nick Cave's ballads. Throughout, Oberst has the same purposeful contempt for popular convention that Blur showed on 13 and the Blur album. In many ways, the deeply personal lyrics share the same sort of world-weariness Springsteen has when he isn't singing about cars and girls, mixed with the confused confessional air of Cave.
The finest moments? They come in the middle, with the the powerful Don't Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come, and Nothing Gets Crossed Out, which sounds like Low would if they turned their amps up. I can't see this appealing to everyone, but if you like the acts mentioned above, or lo-fi Indie stuff, or fancy finding out what Spiritualised would sound like if they pared their sound right down, there are many many worse choices out there.
on 17 August 2002
Those unfamiliar with the frontman Conor Oberst may have last heard him providing the screeching on the excellent 'Read Music Speak Spanish' album by Desaparecidos. His alter ego project Bright Eyes is an altogether different creature, far more of an acoustic work, with a variety of stoner friends shambling on to twang or thump some instrument or other. But the overall effect is strangely pleasing to the ear. There are more lyrics to these 13 songs that even the most diehard fan could ever hope to memorise (over 70 minutes worth of music where Oberst scarcely pauses for breath!) and highlights him as one of the most insightful wordsmiths since Morrissey, but there are occassions when you wish he would just...shut...up...and let the music do the talking. Having said that you can only imagine the talents of Oberst and Co improving with each release and you can ultimately forgive these minor gripes. When a band has an ear for a hook as good as this it would be churlish not to love em...