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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another side of Bright Eyes
Everyone knows that, when armed with an acoustic guitar and four chords, Conor Oberst can send a shiver down hipsters' spines, and this month's masterpiece I'm Wide Awake It's Morning will surely take this indie crooning into the mainstream. But wait! Lurking behind this incredible honing of his sound is something more adventurous, perhaps less crowd-pleasing. Digital Ash...
Published on 3 Feb. 2005 by Mike Mantin

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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Digital Ash in a Digital urn
If your new to brighteyes I would buy I'm awake it's morning. Although there are a couple of good songs most are not the best, bordering on cheesey. But Conor Oberst is a genus. Cheek out saddle-creek records website. you can download the best songs for free, which is well good.
Published on 27 July 2006 by Beavers


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another side of Bright Eyes, 3 Feb. 2005
By 
Everyone knows that, when armed with an acoustic guitar and four chords, Conor Oberst can send a shiver down hipsters' spines, and this month's masterpiece I'm Wide Awake It's Morning will surely take this indie crooning into the mainstream. But wait! Lurking behind this incredible honing of his sound is something more adventurous, perhaps less crowd-pleasing. Digital Ash In A Digital Urn swaps Emmylou Harris and Jim James for Dntel from electro-indie outfit The Postal Service, and replaces stripped-down acoustic guitars with squelchy electronics, tinny drum machines and distorted guitars from Nick Zinner, the skinny axe-wielder from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Can he recreate his trademark sensitivity with instruments devoid of soul?
The answer- at least in parts- is a resounding yes. The country warmth may be gone, but- like all Oberst's work under various guises- his sharp wordplay and cracked voice elevate this further from typical 'new Bob Dylan' fare. While the music may be experimental, this is no Kid A-style reinvention. For a start, it actually has tunes, and some of Digital Ash... resembles finely-crafted pop music, such as the indie-with-beats number Hit The Switch, or US Number 2 single Take It Easy. While we could have done without the weird baby noises on the lacklustre Ship In A Bottle, the experimentation provides an interesting new method of conveying Oberst's nightmares and teenage worries, in the same way that previous side-project Desaparecidos coated his political angst in punk guitars and screaming.
This flawed-but-brilliant album's finest moments put a new spin on a tried-and-tested formula, like a good remix album (if such a thing exists). It's actually a lot more human than its computerised nature appears. Some may still be turned off by this new digital approach, but there's an album more suited to purists and newcomers that comes out on the exact same day. This is its darker brother: not as accessible or instantly likeable, but when given time to unfurl, Digital Ash In A Digital Urn is more proof that Oberst can do more than strum a clapped-out acoustic guitar to get his message across.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ticking the boxes, 13 April 2005
"Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" is one of two albums recently released simultaneously by Bright Eyes, a vehicle for the low key musings of singer-songwriter, artiste generale Connor Oberst.
It is unnecessary to delve too deeply into the much discussed differences between this and its sister album, "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning," (henceforth IWAIM) which fitted more securely into the alt-folk acoustic model that has created a loyal fan base for Bright Eyes.
In many ways, their is a strong continuity with his former work; highly nuanced rhythm and melody within a simple structure, lyrics that are abstract in a sense that they reveal ideas and feelings rather than disguise meaning and vocals that have the ability to express deep emotion but are cranked up sparingly so maintaining their integrity. These hallmarks of Oberst's work make this an album that will still appeal to his loyal fan base, (although of course he was smart enough to sweeten the pill with "IWAIM").
However, the use of drum machines, unsyncopated beats, and highly processed and synthetic sound effects, that mark a break from his previous work, give this album a more refined almost futuristic style that will appeal to people who find pared down acoustic musings a little too raw to digest.
While being an intelligent commercial move this is also a social service; singer-songwriters almost always have the most thought provoking lyrics and it is commendable that Oberst is bringing his brand to a generation succoured on electronica.
This has become a bit of a eulogy so to balance the books slightly; this will annoy die-hards but Oberst's voice can grate after continued listens (although not many artists can claim to avoid this). Moreover, the album maintains a level of consistent quality rather than displaying real stunners such as First Day of My Life from "IWAIM". However, all in all gold star to yound Connor and the artworks pretty too.
Sorry, also, songs "I Believe in Symmetry" and "Easy/Lucky/Free" are surprisingly unmentioned in previous reviews. Not to carp or anything, but they're good
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ashes to urn, 31 Mar. 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
"Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" seems like an appropriate name for this album, one of two Bright Eyes has released in early 2005. It's about time and death, and it's swamped in digital music. Indie-rock's golden boy Conor Oberst lets out his inner Thom Yorke in this experimental album, which retains a dark, rough edge but doesn't quite measure up to Oberst's other work.

This time around, Oberst's mournful songs are dressed up in artful synth. Think of this as Bright Eyes' "Kid A" -- an experimental album that may herald a whole new direction for Bright Eyes, or may just be Oberst diddling around in the studio. "Digital Ash" takes some time to get moving, but is breathtaking when it finally does.

While "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" has a stripped-down, warmer sound, "Digital Ash" is darker and colder -- part gritty rock, part new wave. Its heart is "I Believe in Symmetry," a jagged rock song with a transcendent climax. It's accompanied by the symphonic prettiness of "Gold Mine Gutted," and the cacophonic pop of "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)."

Oberst often overdoes it with all the synth and swelling soundscapes, with some very choppy beats put in. Regular instruments like a snare drum, acoustic guitar and strings keep it grounded. But despite the acoustic instruments, the dense electronic blips take this far away from country and indie rock.

His songwriting gets lost in the mix in songs like the vaguely loungey "Devil in the Details." His vocals also get messed with in a few songs, which just gives the feeling that parts of "Digital Ash" is overproduced. Most of the time his slightly trembly vocals are left alone, rising triumphantly over the multilayered music.

Conor Oberst is often maligned as pretentious, for songs that would be considered genius in an older musician. But his latest two albums establish Oberst as two things -- a talented prodigy, and one willing to take musican risks. Bright Eyes' "Digital Ash in A Digital Urn" is not the strongest work he has done, but it is definitely the bravest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Bright Eyes album., 4 Feb. 2006
This isn't an album you get into straight away. The first few listens, make it seem like a mixture of mechanical, electrical sounds and on top of drum beats with the odd baby crying. Not particularly easy to the ear. I didn't think Conor et al had matched the brilliant 'wide awake its morning' which grabbed me on the first listen. However I rememeber walking to work in a factory at 5.30 in the morning , listening to it as dawn was breaking. This is when the lyrics got under my skin and started making perfect sense. Its the lyrics and the emotion in Conors voice that drive the music. Although instrumentally there are many really good moments as well. There are so many lines I love on this album, for example:
'you'll do the dance, that was choreographed at the very dawn of time',
'I do what, I do and at least I exist. What would mean more than this?'
'I never really dreamed of heaven much until we put him in the ground.
'Another century spent pointing guns at anything that moves'.
In the context of the songs the words have even more impact.
This album seems to have been ignored, I think because its predominantly about death and the lack of an afterlife, not really the uplifing subjects which will get airplay. There are references to death in the four word title and the final line of the album- 'there is nothing'. Although I think its still positive, at one point he sings 'I'm still in love with this life'. Conor points out how wonderfully strange the world is, ' how time can move both fast and slow amazes me'. Its refreshing to hear music that its doesn't gloss over the many negative things that are happening in the world. Conor Oberst has been improving on every album through his career, the last two are his best. I can't wait to hear the album he's currently recording.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 1 Feb. 2005
By 
Toby Staunton "dancing mole" (Derbyshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
WOW! I listened to this album and was lost for words. The melodies created by Conor Oberst in this album are original but created effortlessly. His lyrics add a human, real aspect to the album that isn't lost behind the electronic effects. Particualr highlights would be "Arc of Time", "Gold Mine Gutted" and "Down in a Rabbit Hole" with its slightly clostrophbic atmosphere.
Though these tracks stand out to me as being of particular note they still blend into the album as a whole and create a cohessive sound through which the album flows.
Overall it may be a less accessible album than I'm Wide Awake... but it is an album that i believe everyone can find something in, it has that many different aspects. You might just have to listen to it a few times.
But you wont know unless you BUY IT.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reborn on a circuit board..., 31 July 2006
By 
T. Blake - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
With the previous Bright Eyes Album (Lifted) Conor Oberst appeared to throw absolutely everything in his canon at the record. He hardly draws breath between lyrics from start to finish and the same can be said for the styles, melodies and instrumentation used. For these two new albums it seems he looked at the two singles from Lifted and made two albums in the vain of each of these songs. `Bowl of Oranges' the forbearer of `I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning' and `Lover I Don't Have to Love' inspiring this album; `Digital Ash In A Digital Urn'.

On first listen, this album is certainly the more opaque of the two, the confusing arrangements, the syncopated rhythms and part crystal-clear, part mystifying, lyrics are difficult to digest immediately. However with repeated listens the picture, the message and the themes come slowly into focus and what's revealed is a beautiful picture of that grotesque beast - death, in its various forms.

The songs themselves are relatively upbeat despite the nature of the subject matter, time, death, a lack of afterlife, loss of innocence, drug overdoses, the impossibility of perfection in this strange world. The lyrics on display here are fantastic and there's much more to feast on in terms of imagery and intellect than the IWAIM album. His delivery is perfect, part venomous, part loving, but always sincere.

The most instantly accessible songs are Take it Easy, Ship in a Bottle and Easy/Lucky/Free, but eventually you'll find yourself involved with them all Arc of Time and Hit the Switch being my favourites. The weakest song for me personally is `Theme from Pinata' but I think that's just a matter of taste.

This album also has a common sound, something its detractors will use against it, but if, like me, you're a fan of The Cure's Disintegration, (or Bloodflowers) you'll know this can serve to be a huge plus.

There is also longevity in this album because of the complexity of the arrangements and the different interpretations of the lyrics (as well as the over-all strength of the song-writing) that means you'll still be listening for years to come. In fact, I have to admit, this album has been in my car's multi changer since it was released over 18 months ago along with Bonnie `Prince' Billy's `Summer in the Southeast' and I've listened to both pretty much every day since!

If you're a fan of Bright Eyes earlier albums and are willing to go on a different musical journey with the poet, reminiscent of the songs `Lover I Don't Have to Love', `Bad Blood', `I Will be Grateful for this Day' and `Blue Angels Air Show' then buy this fantastic album.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A testament to the art of songwriting, 3 Sept. 2006
It is always difficult for an artist with such a committed fanbase to attempt an album clearly isolated in style from his back catalogue. With the obvious positives of having such enthusiastic support comes the inevitable negative of upsetting them with anything breaking from the tried and tested. Digital Ash... is a fantastic album and many Bright Eyes 'fanatics' have commented that if the album was not produced by Conor, would it really have grabbed attention? Again the reverse is true that purely because the album is different in style, instrumentation etc (whilst not that dissimilar in tone) it has been scapegoated as Experimental, Self Indulgent and even Vain. The songs are intricately constructed harmonically with bold yet careful use of electronica. The lyrics shine above this background with some of Conor's most considered writing juxtaposed against some of his most eerily naive.

Forgot that this is a Bright Eyes release and fall in love with a flagship example that emotive and graceful songwriting shouldn't be confined to weepy troubadours slaving over their 6-strings
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another side of Bright Eyes, 6 Feb. 2005
By 
Everyone knows that, when armed with an acoustic guitar and four chords, Conor Oberst can send a shiver down hipsters' spines, and this month's masterpiece I'm Wide Awake It's Morning will surely take this indie crooning into the mainstream. But wait! Lurking behind this incredible honing of his sound is something more adventurous, perhaps less crowd-pleasing. Digital Ash In A Digital Urn swaps Emmylou Harris and Jim James for Dntel from electro-indie outfit The Postal Service, and replaces stripped-down acoustic guitars with squelchy electronics, tinny drum machines and distorted guitars from Nick Zinner, the skinny axe-wielder from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Can he recreate his trademark sensitivity with instruments devoid of soul?
The answer- at least in parts- is a resounding yes. The country warmth may be gone, but- like all Oberst's work under various guises- his sharp wordplay and cracked voice elevate this further from typical 'new Bob Dylan' fare. While the music may be experimental, this is no Kid A-style reinvention. For a start, it actually has tunes, and some of Digital Ash... resembles finely-crafted pop music, such as the indie-with-beats number Hit The Switch, or US Number 2 single Take It Easy. While we could have done without the weird baby noises on the lacklustre Ship In A Bottle, the experimentation provides an interesting new method of conveying Oberst's nightmares and teenage worries, in the same way that previous side-project Desaparecidos coated his political angst in punk guitars and screaming.
This flawed-but-brilliant album's finest moments put a new spin on a tried-and-tested formula, like a good remix album (if such a thing exists). It's actually a lot more human than its computerised nature appears. Some may still be turned off by this new digital approach, but there's an album more suited to purists and newcomers that comes out on the exact same day. This is its darker brother: not as accessible or instantly likeable, but when given time to unfurl, Digital Ash In A Digital Urn is more proof that Oberst can do more than strum a clapped-out acoustic guitar to get his message across.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly enjoyable, 1 Feb. 2005
This is a very enjoyable and listenable album. The tender vocals of Conor Oberst seem to contrast the often brutal (and very Postal Service-esque) drumbeats nicely, and though the music may not be for those pseudo-intellectual Kid-A fanatics, it is intelligent and nice to listen to.
The overall feel of this album is 'nice'. Such songs as Lover I Don't Have To Love or A Perfect Sonnet won't be found on here, and the album will leave you smiling (as long as you don't listen too hard to the emotional lyrics).
The lyrics themselves are not simple emo wailing - they take a satirical view on the world around and give lessons in life such as "Don't be a criminal in this police state, You better shop and eat and procreate, You got vacation days then you might escape, To a condo on the coast"
I know there have been mixed reviews to this album, but I personally enjoyed it more than similar albums (Postal Service, Kid A, Amnesiac, FSOL, some Cure albums).
Give it a go.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Conor plugs in, 12 Sept. 2006
By 
C. E. Baylis (no where special) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Bright Eyes fourth and fifth albums were released in tandem, on the 24th of January 2005, they both showcased two different directions and parting points, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, as the title suggests was more electronic while its counterpart I'm Wide Awake It's Morning draws from a country influence. Two obvious footnotes for the alternate albums were two singles off Bright Eyes last album Lifted, Lover I Don't have to Love has a keyboard hook, a string section and an expansive sound paving the way for Digital Ash. Whilst Bowl of Oranges featured a soul acoustic guitar and upfront vocals, leading the way to I'm Wide Awake It's Morning.

The album opens with a Kid A-ish, styled track Time Code which automatically disconcerts the listener and forces their ear to either pay attention or switch it off, something Oberst has done on every Bright Eyes album most notably, The Big Picture on Lifted and Spindle A Darkness A Fever And A Necklace on Fevers and Mirrors.

Another less obvious distinction of the sister albums, is while I'm Wide Awake's lyrics and vocal delivery are harrowingly honest and personal. The no1 US single Lua and first day of my life are good examples, Digital Ash benefits greatly from all encompassing lyrics and word play, as if Oberst is grappling with something bigger. He tackles fate on the outstanding I Believe in Symmetry and death on the equally brilliant Easy/Lucky/Free.

Take it easy (love nothing) is one of my favourite ever Bright Eyes tracks and was just piped to US no. 1 by I'm Wide Awake's Lua. Take it Easy is a tale of a one night stand with a good friend set too an electronic beat and a shimmering keyboards, which spiral down beautifully at the close. This is where Digital Ash really kicks off, track six, Hit the Switch has Conor vowing to quit drinking, feeling alienated from his friends but then getting over it and embracing what little good there is in life. All over a sumptuous back drop courtesy of Nick Zimmer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

I Believe in Symmetry is a paean to accepting all that life throws and getting on with it and for the first time Conor sounds like something he's never sounded before, he actually sounds happy, he's glad to be alive. No longer threatening to drive himself of a cliff or chocking himself on a bathroom floor (see Letting off the Happiness). The results are glorious with strings rising and falling at the tracks climax, a definite highlight of Digital Ash.

Track ten Light Pollution is a fantastic tribute to a seemingly old man who encouraged Conor early on before he `lost control' listening to the radio. Its pounding drums and unrelenting guitars merge in a spellbinding electronic wave.

The final track Easy/Lucky/Free is a song about the acceptance of death with lines about war, a friend's burial and heaven. Easy/Lucky/Free has the albums best lines for example "once the satellites deceased it blows like garbage through the streets of the night sky to infinity". As an album closer it's superb and up there with Take it Easy as the albums best track. It shows Conor looking forward, moving on and again perhaps even content.

Unlike its sister Digital Ash is an album of peaks and troughs, the highlights are some of Bright Eyes greatest songs and will leave you dizzy but they can't disguise the albums flaws, there are a few weaker tracks on here but strangely the album doesn't feel any worse for having them just more complete. It is my favourite album of the two but not the one I'd recommend to the new listener. What Digital Ash In a Digital Urn is, is a fantastic attempt to push the boundaries, the forward looking song structures and wide ranging lyrics paint a, ahem, bright future for Conor's band. Digital Ash In A Digital Urn is an album of continuity that will get better with time.
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