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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 9 October 2005
This is an extraordinary album, and one that shows the astounding musical progression that Oberst has made since the last Bright Eyes LP, Lifted. Like Lifted, or for that matter the first two Bright Eyes albums, Letting Off the Happiness and Fevers and Mirrors, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning features a collection of gorgeous, introverted confessionals that range in style from the subdued folk of a song like Lua, to the alt-country influence of Land Locked Blues, right the way through the closing bile of the Beethoven meets Astral Weeks indie-rock of Road to Joy. The lyrics are as strong and astounding as those found on the albums that came before, however, the musical arrangements and overall production of the album is here more polished - or, for the lack of a better word, professional - with none of the intentionally lo-fi excursions found on some of my favourite Bright Eyes songs, like When the Curious Girl Realises She is Under Glass, or A Song to Pass the Time.
The album, like Fevers and Mirrors, begins with a short monologue, this time about a woman on a plane travelling to meet her fiancé when the engines give out. Oberst's frantic delivery and the sentiment behind the scenario are quite heartbreaking - whilst the subconscious allusions to those that would have been stranded on the doomed September 11th flights and the final thoughts that must have been running through their minds ("we love you very, very, very, very, very, very much") can't help but send a shiver down your spine - before Oberst finally breaks into song and the album takes off. From this point on, there really isn't a weak moment, as Oberst and his band (here comprising of Jesse Harris on guitar, Jason Boesel on drums, Tim Luntzel on bass and Nick White on piano and organ) put gorgeous arrangements to some of the most touching and/or heartbreaking of lyrics, to create ten songs that can be appreciated separately, or listened to as one cohesive whole.
Some have said that this is a concept album, but I wouldn't know much about that myself - though certainly there is a lot of repeated imagery and symbolism in the lyrics - so to me, it's just an album to enjoy, with each separate song offering up a little narrative filled with hope and despair. It is impossible for me to pick favourites here, because to me, the whole album is perfect, though I will say that the inclusion of Emmylou Harris as backing vocalist on three of the songs here (We Are Nowhere and it's Now, Another Travelin' Song and Land Locked Blues) really works well, and gives the record (and those songs in particular) an added depth and emotional resonance. The First Day of My Life is a beautiful and uplifting little song that shows the three main components of the band (Harris, Luntzel and Oberst) working at their absolute best, with great dual guitar playing, rhythm section and vocals all complementing the lovely lyrics and elegant melody. Lua, on the other hand, contrasts with the rest of the album nicely, standing as a solo acoustic number in which Oberst takes six simple chords and crafts a sprawling tale of two doomed lovers, in a way that brings to mind the evocative poetry and storytelling prowess of early Dylan.
I'm really tempted to include a few choice quotes to give an example of just how great the lyrics here are, but I would no doubt get carried away and end up copying every lyric from the album, with Oberst easily standing alongside some of my all time favourite melancholy or reflective lyricists, like Morrissey, Ray Davies, Neil Hannon, Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake. There are the usual examples of shop-bought philosophy rubbing shoulders with overblown angst in a song like At The Bottom Of Everything ("we must blend into the choir sing as static with the whole... we must memorise nine numbers and deny we have a soul"), and then the more political pontificating continued on from Lifted's epic denouement, Lets Not Sh*t Ourselves with the closing track here, Road To Joy, which takes lyrics like "so when you're asked to fight a war that's over nothing... it's best to join the side that's gonn'a win... and no one's sure how all of this got started... but we're gonn'a make them goddamn certain, how it's gonn'a end" and spews them over Beethoven's distinctive melody.
The more reflective moments work best for me, with Poison Oak seemingly telling the tale of a drug-using transvestite's trip to Mexico, whilst also continuing the themes and ideas first established earlier on We Are Nowhere And It's Now (Oberst croon in a wavering voice, "I never thought this life was possible... you're the yellow bird that I've been waiting for", which alludes back to the line about "did you forget your yellow bird?"). Landlocked Blues is the album's epic break-up song... built around three or four chords and dashed off with a minimal approach to production. Oberst's vocals sound even more powerful when stripped of all the immature screaming, whilst the inclusion of Emmylou Harris takes an already beautiful song to the next emotional level. The references in the song to a character called Laura seem to point back to Laura Laurent from Lifted, whilst the verse "I keep drinking the ink from my pen, and I'm balancing history books up on my head... but it all boils down to one quotable phrase, if you love something give it away" is beautiful, and insightful in it's naive simplicity.
The songs hang together perfectly and establish a wavering mood of reflection, contempt and heartache that is beautifully sustained throughout. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is the album that Oberst and his cohorts have been moving towards since Fevers and Mirrors, creating a record that still has the angst and catharsis, but combines it to a more understated approach to instrumentation and a more mature sound.
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on 14 March 2005
Its hard to imagine that a person who is only 24 can have so emotion. Conor writes the most beautiful, wonderful, intelligent songs I have possibly ever heard.
All of the songs are filled with so much feeling-on 'First Day of my Life', his voice breaks so much in places it sounds as if he is about to start crying, and you can't help but join him.
I feel that I can relate to almost every song on here, and have been listening to it on repeat since I bought it.
On the first listen you realise how speacial is it, then become hooked from there on in.
The only song I'm not that keen on is the last one, 'Road to Joy,' as it's too disjointed. The rest of the album is so perfect in every way-the harmonies, beautiful guitar playing, Conor's voice-that this can be forgiven.
If you don't have this album, buy it now, and tell everyone you know (and everyone you don't) about this beautiful, tortured soul.
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on 4 March 2007
Bright Eyes or, correctly, Conor Oberst has been compared to Bob Dylan by many, and the reasons why are not that hard to deduce. The lyrics of songs such as 'Lua' and 'First Day Of My Life' have such a profound effect and display clearly the agony that the protagonist is struggling to deal with. The harch voice of Oberst is central to the album, and this voice is recognised in 'Road To Joy' as necessary to convey his feelings: "Well I could have been a famous singer, If I had someone else's voice". Dylan used to wait until he had a cold in order to find just the right roughness to his voice. Oberst is blessed with the same roughness but without the ill feelings existing also.

'At the Bottom Of Everything' is the opening song on the album and seeks to initiate a change in the monotony of life and to encourage the listener to make a difference. The standout song on this album is 'Lua', which to this day after 149 plays on my iPod still invokes a wave of calm upon me. All thoughts leave, and I am left in awe of such a bare and stark display of love, though the object of this love may be different to the one Oberst originally fell for. To compliment this song is the equally light 'First Day Of My Life'. Differing to 'Lua' in that the love does not fall apart, it details quite what love can make you do, from driving through the night to meet someone to following someone anywhere they wanted just so that they can be happy, even if you are not.

The change from song to song, and the balancing of light songs with heavier ones is an extra aspect where this album succeeds, with just the right tone found.

Overall, in my opinion this is one of the best albums since 2000. With its 10 songs having a combined playing of over 1100 plays on my iPod, I find it hard to comprehend how Darren Overs Pearson of the BBC can find that this album 'sounds like Beck at his worst'. Q magazine gave it 5 stars. I'd give it 6 if i could. The whole album has a poignancy that can be related to in everyday life. You'll love this album if you get it.
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on 7 September 2006
Every now and then, an album comes along which renews one's faith in the current music scene. A few years ago, "O" was released by Damien Rice. It grew by word of mouth until it had sold millions. In 2005, Conor Oberst released "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" which at the time of writing this review, looks set to achieve similar heights.

The album provides the perfect marriage between soulful acoustics, beautiful melodies, subtle arrangements (check out the brass section on Landlocked Blues) and lyrics which will make you sit up and listen. Indeed, it is the lyrics which will perhaps leave a lasting impression, but i'll let you decide for yourself.

With Emmylou Harris lending vocal support on a number of tracks, the album achieves a wonderful depth of feeling, sincerity and melancholy. If Bob Dylan had made this album, it would be considered to be amongst his best. You can't give an album higher praise than that.

Buy this album and play it often. There is something new each time you listen. Music made like this is about as good as it gets and the album warrants every one of its five stars.
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on 26 March 2005
I bought this album on the the strength of "First Day of my life" which I heard on the radio a few weeks ago.Having never heard of Bright Eyes before I didn't really know what to expect with this album but I'm glad I bought it.
The album starts with a story about a woman travelling on a plane which suddenly loses an engine and is going to crash the song then erupts into a bouncing mandolin rift.The other songs are mainly slow with dark soulful heartwrenching lyrics all backed with acoustic guitar It reminds me in a way of Damien Rices work which is not a bad thing.If you like acoustic albums with lyrics you can relate to , then buy this album. I promise you won't be dissappointed.
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Most bands take years to polish up their mediocre albums. But indie-country-rock wunderkind Conor Oberst has released TWO albums at the same time, "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" and "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn." Startlingly, neither one suffers. "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" is perhaps the more powerful of the two, although it stays rooted in safer territory.

Oberst keeps his eye on sadness and disenchantment, with his life and the city around him. All that emotion gives the twenty-four-year-old's songs a raw feeling, especially the first single "Lua." It's a fragile, wounded ballad where Oberst sounds a little hungover and a lot depressed. ""We might die from medication/but we sure killed all the pain/what was normal in the evening/by the morning seems insane," he sings, in a voice that sounds like it's about to break into sobs. Poor guy.

That dramatic tremble keeps going in the slower, simpler songs. But Oberst indulges in more bluesy-rockiness in songs like the pensive "We Are Nowhere And It's Now," or the angsty yet bouncy "Another Travellin' Song," which has train whistles in the background. But surprisingly, Oberst never SOUNDS indulgent.

While its sister album experiments in the tradition of Radiohead -- synth wobbles and all -- "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" sits firmly on an alt-country foundation. Reportedly it's all about Oberst moving to New York, and all the nerves, loneliness and bewilderment of his move.

Many of the songs are mostly Oberst and a guitar, both quietly trembling through his sad songs; a few of them have more instrumental backup, especially the catchier tunes. The stripped-down sound suits Oberst, since it lets his songwriting skills shine through, be it an anti-war rant or a drug-hazed night out with a date.

The album ends on an upbeat note with "Road to Joy," where Oberst sings " The sun came up with no conclusions/Flowers sleepin' in their beds/The city cemetary's hummin'/I'm wide awake, its mornin'." It's the logical finale to a melancholy, pensive album -- one that may well be a classic, twenty years down the line.
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on 4 March 2005
Compared to other Bright Eyes albums, this one is probably the most conventional out of them all!With less speaking and more just pure music (bar the traditional interesting start!..which works very well!!)
This album is stunning the first time you hear it, then just gets better and better the more you listen to it.From full blown country tracks, to sweet acoustic tracks, the album is packed full of strong tunes, with no fillers no be seen! The lyrics as always are dynamic, powerful and at times dramatic and sad: one of the most heart tugging songs being Lua, where Conor tackles depression and eating disorders, in a way i find is very true to life and easy to relate to...
Overall, this album is immense from start to finish, with no weak links. If you already know and love bright eyes, you will love this album, if you have never heard any bright eyes previous albums, this is a really good one to be introduced with, definatly the most accesible album, and maybe one of the best he's done!
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on 17 February 2005
I am among the many people who read, specially preceding this album's release, much about Oberst's talent, before listening to what he has to offer here.
In general, passionate praise for a new musician -particularly when compared to legends like Dylan- has a negative effect on me. I'm more likely to grow skeptical and doubt their value than embracing them, blinded by positive reviews.
"I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" is an absolute exception to my usual incredulity. I must say I was deeply gratified to see that it lived up to the hype.
I would still not compare him to Dylan -to me, one of the greatest American songwriters who ever lived- yet there are other talented people who do come to mind, with whom reasonable comparisons can be made.
Most recently, in terms of remarkable new voices, Ryan Adams comes to mind. Like Adams, Oberst already shows a depth of feeling beyond his years, and a breadth of musical interests that are beyond average. It does not hurt either, although it would not establish a parallel, that Emmylou Harris offered his voice to both artists' recordings, I think too highly of Ms. Harris to assume that she'd agree to sing here for any other reason than admiration for this young man's songs.
This album is incredibly mature, both musically and lyrically. It is clearly the work of someone who feels deeply the high and low moments of being alive -then again, most people do- what I'm impressed about is that it does not deteriorate into an emotional private diary, which although meaningful to the person writing it, usually holds very little value to the rest of us.
Songs like "We Are Nowhere And It's Now" and "Old Soul Song (For The New World Order" -both with Emmylou Harris in vocals- are stunning examples of this guy's talent. Moving, emotionally daring, and wise enough to mean something personal to the listener.
"Train Under Water," "Landlocked Blues" and "Road To Joy" are also great tunes, showing that this guy has assimilated his influences fully, and already sound like himself, rather than offering merely reminders of other, more established people. In this sense, in my opinion, he may be ahead of Ryan Adams, at the same point in his career.
And then there is "Lua" ... what an extraordinary song! This is one of the most vulnerable, yet wise songs about a break up that I heard in a long time. Oberst manages to show the pain, risk remaining innocent, and yet craft a piece that should mean something to everyone who's ever been in love. This song alone, and I know it may sound rather an abused line, it's enough to justify getting this album.
I had already liked earlier albums by Bright Eyes and sensed that there was a talented musician behind it, yet this CD has more than confirmed it.
It is exquisite and imperfect, the way life is. And if you are courageous and talented enough to talk about it, it is nothing else than a gift.
"Wide Awake, It's Morning" is one of those gifts.
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on 12 September 2006
Released as a twin of Digital Ash In a Digital Urn, I'm Wide Awake Its Morning features country darling Emmy-Lou Harris on backing vocals and draws heavily on Americana roots, presumably the staple of Oberst's native Nebraska. This album is the more commercial sister and is certainly the more accessible. It also contains a US no. 1 single in the fantastic Lua,

I'm Wide Awake Its Morning is also the more obvious follow up to the country tinged Lifted. An obvious footnote being Lifted's single Bowl of Oranges, which is interestingly Ed Harcourt's favourite Bright Eyes song. The opening track At The Bottom of Everything takes a while to get going, as with most Bright Eyes openers but when it does the melody certainly is a pretty one, We Are Nowhere and its Now is the first track to feature Emmy-Lou and could have been lifted from an early Leonard Cohen album. The third track is good if not outstanding but once again belies the albums main flaw in that a lot of it, whilst very good, is derivative. Almost as if Conor has studied county music too well so when he replicates it he sounds slightly as if he's copying it rather than telling it his own way.

Conor really brings the cold in on Lua a fragile and harrowing tale of a night spent with a girl, presumably Lua, doing drugs and feeling empty in the morning. The vocal delivery is spine tingling, with Conor's honest voice occasionally fracturing and cracking as he reveals all of their `trips to the bathroom' and his trip to the hospital with the unconscious girl the next morning. Lua is certainly a stand out track on I'm Wide Awake Its Morning and perhaps the best.

The best songs on the album, excluding Lua, are on the second half. First day of my life is a lovely song, which shares parallels with Bowl of Oranges in waking up to find everything new and Conor for once sounding content, like on Digital Ash's I believe in symmetry. The eighth, Land Locked Blues has Emmy-Lou Harris featuring most prominently, it sounds more like a duet and whilst being an important song does slightly outstay it's welcome.

The penultimate track Poison Oak also features Emmy-Lou on backing vocals and continues the repeated imagery of a yellow bird, it's a tale of boyhood and of his brother running away but in doing so lighting the way for Conor, it's a very moving song. Its also here that you can understand that I'm Wide Awake It's Morning was recorded before Digital Ash In a Digital Urn, as it shows Conor more forlorn and lonely but with a positive outlook to the future that would lead to Digital Ash.

The finale Road to Joy is in many ways the track that represents the album best and it also contains the line where the album receives its title. Road to Joy is another song of waking up feeling alone but with a new purpose. In many ways it's like a little sister to Easy/Lucky/Free but much more personal and has a theme of re-birth rather than death.

I'm Wide Awake its morning is the album I'd recommend to a new Bright Eyes listener and is a very consistent and highly successful take on the country genre. Whilst it can't quite reach the dizzying peaks of its sister it never hits the troughs either. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning is an essential album from an essential artist. Buy it and hear for yourself.
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on 7 April 2005
In order to appreciate this album you need to listen to it a few times through. All of a sudden all the songs will begin to sound good and then beautiful. The campfire sing-along like tune 'At The Bottom of Everything' is a good start but the albums best tracks are 2-9. Each and every one of them is amazing. 'Old Soul Song' is a personal favourite along with 'We Are Nowhere, and Its Now' in which Emmylou Harris is atmospherically beautiful. If you're wondering which of the two new Bright Eyes albums to buy - get this one. I think Conor Oberst is more at home with this album than 'Digital Ash...' and this is reflected in the ambience and brilliance of the album.
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