If you follow the site, it will come as no surprise that we thought this show was sweet. Having been to 4 or 5 Bright Eyes shows and a number of other Conor Oberst related shows, I would put this up there near the top of the list (not as good as the Radio City show, but pretty close set list and perfromance wise), but it was also probably the most impersonal shows I have seen from him. This is mainly due to the venue, the Williamsburg Waterfront, which is easily one of the best and worst venues around.
Sitting right across the river from Manhattan the views are incredible and the Waterfront is a sweet place to watch a show. Really ridiculous. But the sound sucks. The sound there really sucks and unless you are dead center it just sounds dead and lifeless. The beer drinking area is off to the side too (if you want to drink you need wait in line to get a wrist band, then wait in line to buy drink tickets, then wait in line to use tickets to get drinks which you can then only drink in the designated drinking area), so if you want to drink beers you are stuck in a place where the sound is horrible. I knew this from past experiences (Faith No More, Primus, Belle & Sebastian), so we moved out of the beer area, pretty much front and center and it was a lot better. Then after a while it was just too crowded and hot with people knocking into you and it got to the point where we almost wanted to leave early....so when getting water I noticed it was wide open in the back, with a nice breeze and good sound. So we hung out there til the end.
Overall pretty awesome. He played songs from most all his albums, busting out some random rare tracks and some other standard awesome ones. It is a lot like a Ween show in that he plays to both the intense fans and the newcomers. At a phish show for example, if you arent huge into phish you risk (or almost have to expect) not knowing most of the songs. Here you get a good mix. The other cool thing is that his band is different every tour, so you get the songs played diffferently every time.
I feel like this is just a rehash of the Radio City show but with less enthusiasm. And there is good reason for that as this is pretty much exactly how I feel. This is the same tour, so the band is the same and thus the songs are played the same way as that show. Don't get me wrong, this band is the best band I have seen Bright Eyes play with and their renditions are tighter than ever. I don't usually think of Bright Eyes as being a real musical band, but this band is very strong and you can go for the musicianship as much as for Conor Obert's songwriting. So I will wrap this up with a few quick points as to why it was awesome but just not as awesome as Radio City. The main reason for the not as awesomeness is that with Bright Eyes I have always had a very different experience at each show, but this show had pretty much the same set list, which was an awesome set list but also shorter by 5 or 6 songs; the band really rocked, but being at a big outside venue a good deal of the energy was lost and I'd already heard these renditions; and, last time we were almost in the front row with seats that carved out a nice area for us as opposed to being further from the stage with tons of people bumping into you. Oh yeah....they played Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to Be Loved). Enough said. Unfuckingweak. (ok if you have made it this far I am going to link you up to our videos section where we have video of Tom Morello coming out with Bright Eyes in Ottawa a couple shows before this for Road to Joy and Arienette. Really cool. This is just in our videos section, so it's not all that secret, but it is still cool. Thanks to the guy who taped it as it is awesome quality. CLICK HERE TO VIEW.)
So there you have it. Bright Eyes at the Williamsburg Waterfront. Unweak. Here is the set list:
Bowl of Oranges
Land Locked Blues
Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
Lover I Don't Have To Love
Wrecking Ball (Gillian Welch cover)
The Calendar Hung Itself
Another Travelin' Song
I Believe In Symmetry
Arc of Time (Time Code)
Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to Be Loved)
Road to Joy One
For You, One For Me
So I came across this link/website the other day while looking around ye olde internet, and it is filled with free easy downloads of Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst related bands shows. Videos to be exact. I know there are plenty of torrent sites and tons of other spots where you can find live shows for download, but this is a nice easy link for those that don't think go to search this stuff out, those that don't have torrent stuff downloaded or know how it works.
Alright, before giving the link to said site, here is a brief rundown of what you will find: Bright Eyes from 2000, a couple 2002 shows, a 2004 show with Jim James and M Ward, a couple 2005 shows (one being a Digital Ash show), and a 2007 show; Desaparecidos from 2002 (2 shows); Mystic Valley Band shows from 2008 (2 shows) and 2009 (2 shows), and a Monsters of Folk show from 2010.
The highlights would have to be the pre-Monsters of Folk Monsters of Folk show from 2004. We have posted video from this before and I will put up a clip of that video below with Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, Jim James and M Ward doing Girl From the North Country. The early 2000 show is also very cool, as well as....well...I haven't downloaded and viewed all of them, but from what I have seen they are all pretty sweet. Check them out for yourself, you really just have to click and download. Pretty easy. Without further ado, here is the link:
And here is the video of Girl From the North Country:
So I missed this the first time around and was kind of annoyed at myself, but I just got word that NPR is streaming the interview. Anyway, Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott went on NPR at the World Cafe in Philadelphia, which is an awesome music venue/radio station if you have not been, to discuss the new album, The People's Key, and play a couple tunes. The played Triple Spiral, Firewall, Beginner's Mind and Lua in a cool stripped down fashion. The interview itself isn't bad either. It's roughly 25 mins long with 4 songs thrown in there, so there isn't a whole lot of talking going on.....or I guess it's more that they just don't say all that much. Nevertheless, it is very much worth listening to for the music. In case you didn't pick up on the fact that the green underlined text in the first sentence is a link to the streaming interview, you can click HERE to get there too.
I also found this video of Bright Eyes playing Beginner's Mind on Leno:
This show was the ill. Probably the best Bright Eyes show I've ever seen. Here's why: they played songs from every album including a few of my favorite rarities (Trees All Get Wheeled Away, Attempt to Tip the Scale), the band was real tight and able to play good sounding versions of Digital Ash songs that were true to the originals, the "Conor I love you" shout outs were replaced by those for Mike Mogis and we were 5 rows back, front an center and Conor Oberst jumped into the crowd right in front of us to sing the end of Road to Joy (see video below). It was awesome.
I am biased, I know that, but Conor Oberst is a good performer and has really kind of come out of his shell recently. He is almost a completely different performer. Singing sans instrument he was all over the stage and his lead singer moves very much resemble that of Axl Rose. There is a picture below with his arm out looking a lot like an Axl Rose stance. I swear he did the Axl snake dance on a few occasions too. Whether or not you prefer the shy Oberst who stares at his feet , I think it is tough to deny the production quality of this show. This also attests to his popularity as well as he can now afford to throw up elaborate stage set ups at Radio City after selling one show out in minutes an having to announce a second show.
This show was not all about Oberst though. He may be the songwriter and a very good one at that, but Mike Mogis is really the one that brings it all together. Both on record and on the stage. He also has a really sweet Fano Mustang-esque guitar that I was really jealous of. If you don't know Fano guitars look them up. Very cool. One of the great things about a Bright Eyes show is that he brings out a new band for every tour. Much like a NIN show where songs change a lot based on who Trent has with him onstage - the same is true here. Padraic My Prince is the best example as this version was very cool with a huge drum beat. In fact, the two drummers really made this show as well. The bass drum was mic'ed so it was huge - larger than life. Really cool. And this band may be the first one of his bands to nail songs of of Digital Ash in a form true to the record. Back when they toured the album, with The Faint as the backing band, I heard it was kind of a disaster. Oberst used to be in The Faint before they were The Faint, but they are their own band, doing their own thing, so I am guessing they just didn't have the time to get it together. This new album has some resemblance to Digital Ash, so I think this band was prepared for the style and able to bang it out. Pretty fantastic.
Lastly....or maybe lastly, who knows, this could be the last Bright Eyes tour (in 2009 Oberst said it was about time to put the Bright Eyes name to rest and he would do one last album, which would mean The People's Key) and it seemed like it from the selection of songs. He often breaks out rarities though, so you never really know, but he played songs from every album, or at least all the main albums. It was pretty fantastic. If this show is coming to your town, you need to check it out if you like Bright Eyes. Even if you don't you should as I brought my friend who likes them but wasn't a huge fan, and he was blown away. I saw him at Radio City back in 2007 and this was way more upbeat with a lot more energy. A very different show and a very good one at that.
Bright Eyes played Radio City for the second time last night and brought down the house. With a 7-piece band and sick stage setup, this show was amazing. Original video and the setlist are below. Full review coming soon...
1. Firewall Play Video 2. Jejune Stars Play Video 3. Take It Easy (Love Nothing) Play Video 4. Hot Knives Play Video 5. An Attempt to Tip the Scales Play Video 6. Padraic My Prince Play Video 7. We Are Nowhere and It's Now Play Video 8. Shell Games Play Video 9. Approximate Sunlight Play Video # Arc of Time Play Video 10. Triple Spiral Play Video 11. Cleanse Song Play Video 12. Trees Get Wheeled Away Play Video 13. No One Would Riot For Less Play Video 14. Beginner's Mind Play Video 15. Bowl of Oranges Play Video 16. Old Soul Song Play Video 17. Poison Oak Play Video 18. The Calendar Hung Itself Play Video 19. Ladder Song Play Video Encore: 1. Lover I Don't Have to Love Play Video 2. Road To Joy Play Video 3. One for You, One for Me Play Video.
Alright, I am having a real tough time with this record and may review it again later but I have been listening to it for almost a month and just want to get something up. This album is different from all the other albums and therefore may appeal to those who don't like Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst. The two main differences are the lyrics and the production.
Oberst has grown over the years and his voice has improved, so his singing gets better, or at least stronger, with each album. This album has the most singing out of any Bright Eyes album. His talk singing is gone, and therefore the lyrics just don't grab you like they do on past albums. His voice does sound pretty good though, and he has lost that depressing sound in his voice. I haven't gotten into this enough to know the lyrics. I often don't pay attention to lyrics and that is the thing that got me into Bright Eyes in the first place. Maybe it's his singing voice, or maybe it's the subject matter which is way more out there and less personal than before. In fact, I am not even sure what he is talking about in most of the songs. This may change with time as I get into it more, but.....it comes across way more like a normal album, than a Bright Eyes album which to me means a lyrically dominate album. I mean, the only lyric that stands out to me is, "it's like a snuff film on a jumbotron for all the world to see", and I don't know if that is a good thing. I am trying to think back to Cassadaga and other albums and what I thought at first and I think maybe I just need it to grow on me.
The other difference here is the production. It is clean. Gone is the immediacy over perfection. Most likely they have just perfected there act over time and therefore it sounds better, but everything flows well, very cohesive, no real noticeable flaws, etc.....Again, not a bad thing, but the spontaneity is something I liked and it added to the feeling of the album. Check out the video below and how great that song sounds live (this was from Letterman last night). The energy is way better than on record. I know, no shit, but.....with Bright Eyes that usually isn't the case. Or not as drastically.
So, draw your own conclusions. Jury is still out with me. At first I was very excited that the instrumentation was changed up and it mixed in Digital Ash with his more stereotypical sound. I still like this. He has also gotten a lot better with hooks, something I am neither here nor there about as I didn't mind being absent in the past. I still need to see what happens lyrically, but I think this may be a big turn. I say this a lot, but if you don't like Bright Eyes due to his trying too hard witty lyrics....you may like this. I like it and listen to it a lot, I just dont know where it falls just yet in terms of his other albums. Oh yeah, I got the deluxe edition and that 7 inch is Singularity which has 2 extra songs on it. There were other things like a shirt, and some posters but....I just put the good things in the pictures.
I think this album is the turning point for Conor Oberst, where the strength of his songwriting is really evident. Many people may argue that the next album, Lifted, is really where Conor Oberst came into his own and started to show his skills…but I think this album is where a lot of his potential is shown and most of it is achieved. Sure the next album is tighter and maybe slightly better, but Conor Oberst’s whole career has been built on growth and development on each album. This album is the one where his style, or almost lack thereof, is really formed. It is pretty fantastic too.
First off just a side comment that sort of starts with this album and continues on each album after….For some reason I feel like the first two songs on a Bright Eyes album (usually tracks 2 and 3 as each album starts off with a track with some noise/monologue/some other bullshit for the first few minutes causing you to skip the song entirely) are often the strongest. It is weird and tough to describe the connection as the songs don’t sound the same, but I just feel they are often similar songs. They are all pretty big full-band upbeat/tempo songs. This could just be that I started listening to each newly purchased Bright Eyes album from the beginning, so the first few songs are the first ones I get into and get to know....who knows, could be all in my mind.
Alright, so what is different about this album, what makes it so good? Just as Letting Off the Happiness is Oberst’s first stab at a comprehensive album, this album shows his opinion that each song need not have the same instrumentation, production, style etc in order to create a comprehensive album. Basically whatever Conor Oberst plays, it sounds like Conor Oberst. Some intangible quality links the songs, so he can really be all over the place and still have a cohesive album. You have tracks based on guitar, others based on piano. You have tracks with a full band, while others have just Oberst and a guitar/piano. You have others with layered production, e.g. doubled up vocals, and then some that sound like a single track with a single mic set up at the other end of the room while Oberst sings and plays at the same time. With all these differences, they all still fit together creating an album. The intangible quality that binds the tracks together is probably not all that intangible afterall – after thinking about it, I think it is his voice and lyrics. Oberst’s voice, with its affected (some may say whiny) sound and sometimes monotone talking quality, is very distinctive and his lyrics are often similar in their themes – self-examining (loathing) and relationship based.
Though I don’t share this belief, I can see how people could say this is their favorite Bright Eyes album. It is raw and takes risks. It has that spontaneous quality and tries to accomplish something that is beyond the writer’s capabilities. This is not a bad thing either….it makes it interesting. The hooks that were lacking from the first album are much more prevalent here. Hooks on a Bright Eyes album are not normal hooks either. Oberst doesn’t really believe in choruses as he rarely, if at all, has a repeating set of lyrics during the chorus. I read that he feels a song is never truly complete and doesn’t include repeating lyrics because it makes it seem like song could always be added onto and the story lengthened. Something like that. Therefore, the hooks in a Bright Eyes song come from the melody, phrasing of the lyrics, and the structure of the music. The prime example of the success of this method, is the fact that most listeners don’t even realize that lyrics aren’t repeated and the songs don’t have stereotypical choruses. When I first read that, I didn't, and I actually went through songs in my head thinking about whether or not they had choruses and was very surprised that most all did not repeat. In fact, I had/have trouble finding a song that has a repeating chorus.
Alright….this, like most everything I write, went on too long. I am trying to keep these pretty short as it is a lot of Bright Eyes back to back, but what can you do. I don’t know if I would start with this album, but it isn’t a bad second album to buy. The one thing that annoys me about this album, and it is a small petty thing, but one of the best songs on the album, An Attempt to Tip the Scales, is cut way too short and, not only is it cut short, it is cuts off short to go into a really long fake interview where one of Oberst’s friends (I think a guy from the Faint but not positive) pretends to be Oberst doing a radio interview…..it is actually kind of funny at times, though I often skip it. For some reason it seems like the letdown of the song being cut short wouldn’t be as bad if the next song just started right up.
Fuck. Way too long. Here, check out An Attempt to Tip the Scales and A Scale, a Mirror, and these Indifferent Clocks.
I consider this to be the first Bright Eyes album really. There is A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997, but that is really what the title says, a collection of songs written over the span of a few years and thrown together to make an album….therefore they aren’t really a collection of songs that were meant to go together. They may not even had the intention of releasing the songs while recording. Anyway, with that said, this seems to be the first real Bright Eyes album….and it very much sounds like an 18 year old put an album out himself. I like the album a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it is pretty rough, not great sound quality, etc. This is Bright Eyes though, preferring immediacy to perfection, feeling over technical accuracy. Therefore this album is a perfect first album in their timeline. The cool thing is seeing the music progress and change from album to album, and this is a great beginning to that story….just don’t expect perfection.
As said, these songs are rough. They are somewhat sloppy, basic production, and not great sound quality. It is an 18 year old releasing an album with his friends though, all very amateur, and what is wrong with that? All things considered it is a pretty great release. The songs may be more basic than what was to be released a few years later, but the songwriting is established here. The fundamental sound of the band is here. The hooks aren’t as much though. Nor is the emotion in the music. Instead Conor Oberst relies more on his scream/whisper and turning up/down the volume to change emotion. The lyrics, though characteristically personal and introspective, are also not as strong. They are still pretty great, don’t get me wrong, but they are not as clever and don’t have much wordplay going on. I know some people who feel he is trying to hard with his later lyrics, so maybe they will like this better.
Overall I would say this album is more for fans rather than the casual listener. I would not recommend someone start with album and would actually recommend picking up most all other albums prior to grabbing this one. In combination with everything mentioned above, I feel like this album is slower and has a lot less energy than later albums as well. The progression of Bright Eyes albums, and almost career, is a lot like Ween. Very much DIY, learning as they go, and each album everything gets tighter and more sophisticated both in songwriting, performance and recording/sound quality. Therefore, just as many people love The Pod, Ween’s second album, I could actually see a lot of people saying this is their favorite Bright Eyes album….though this one is actually more like God Ween Satan. The thing is, the people who love The Pod are often the diehard fans.
My favorite songs on this album are…..Pull My Hair and The City Has Sex. Check them out below…they give a good indication of what the album is like.
This is kind of an odd choice for the next Bright Eyes album review because it is a split EP with half of the songs belonging to Son, Ambulance.....so when trying to review as many Bright Eyes albums as possible before the release of the new album, you would think that starting with all full album releases would be the most logical. Oh well, logic is out the door because this is one of my favorite releases in the Bright Eyes catalogue. If it weren't just 4 songs, I would probably put this up there as his best release.
One quick side note - Son, Ambulance kind of sucks. I have tried to like them since I like this album so much, but I could just never get into it. Thankfully my ipod breaks the two apart and the 4 Bright Eyes tracks stand alone with no interruption from Son, Ambulance. If you only have the CD though, you will have Son, Ambulance chiming in after each song. I don't know if this is weird to say since I don't like the Son, Ambulance tunes, but the album does flow pretty well with each band trading off songs. If you can find a copy of the vinyl, which has been out of print for a while, you get Bright Eyes on one side and Son, Ambulance on the other. So that helps as well, but you may end up with a record where the grooves are worn on one side and untouched on the other. If that is not enough about the physical products, there is one more release of this album and it was included in the Bright Eyes vinyl box set, which was released back in 2003, and contains most all of the Bright Eyes releases up to that date. In the box set though the album is called Don't Be Frightened of Turning the Page and it contains 2 extra tracks: I Won't Ever Be Happy Again and Mirrors and Fevers.
To start off with the extra songs for those of you who may know the album but not these tracks - Mirrors and Fevers is a throw away acapella track which was later released on the Noise Floor rarities collection and I Won't Ever Be Happy Again is a decent song but not really as stellar as the rest of the release. So, the other 4 tracks......they are all very similar in sound and probably the most cohesive release in the Bright Eyes catalogue, which is neither a good nor bad thing. I like how Bright Eyes albums differ in instrumentation from track to track, but it makes this album different and kind of a cool collection of songs. Kind of like Nine Inch Nails' Broken, which is a short collection of tracks that are all similar in the energy and sound....though this album has no resemblance to Broken in terms of sound, in case you thought it may. In fact, it's quite the opposite. These tracks are all acoustic guitar based, kind of slow and melancholy. They are great though. This album is less raw than previous releases, has tighter production, and shows a maturing Conor Oberst. Really kind of cool when you look at what came before (Fevers and Mirrors) and what was to come (Lifted).
Overall, this may not be the place to begin if don't know Bright Eyes, only becauseof the length, but if you are a fan, there is a good chance you may not own this album.....and if that is the case go out and buy the album immediately. It is really fantastic. The songs don't have a lot of crazy things going on in terms of structure and instrumentation and therefore it really just puts Conor Oberst's songwriting on display....and it delivers. god, that sounded like a cheesey cliche album review closing line.
Listen to some songs to get what I mean:
So the new album is coming out in 2 weeks exactly (Feb 15th) and I have decided to try and go through and review all the Bright Eyes albums in the days leading up to its release. We shall see if that actually happens, but if nothing else, we will at least have this review of Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (released in 2005 at the same time as I'm Wide Awake It's Morning). This is my favorite Bright Eyes album, the first Bright Eyes album I purchased in fact, and it stops the weakness. It is an incredible album.
This is my favorite Bright Eyes album (though others are right up there) but it is not like any other Bright Eyes album musically and doesn't get that much praise from fans I don't believe...for that very reason. Bright Eyes is basically Conor Oberst and the only members that have been around consistently for any amount of time are Mike Mogis (producer of most things Saddle Creek and member of Monsters of Folk) and Nate Walcott. This gives him the freedom to switch things up and not necessarily write with a band in mind. This means taking a left hand turn to a fully electronic album would not leave any band members empty handed...and that's what Oberst did. As the liner notes for Noise Floor, a rarities album released in 2006, state:
"This song was recorded for the Sub Pop Singles Series. It is Mike's first real attempt at programming and the first song of ours that was started on a computer. We always talked about making more songs this way but it was nearly five years till we would get around to trying it again".
He was talking about a song called I Will Be Grateful For This Day, which was released in 2001, but the 5 years later is in reference to the recording of Digital Ash. This album is all computer based....or at least I think it is all computer based. This makes it more accessible in my mind because most haters blindly dislike Conor Oberst for thinking he is emo.....and at first listen, his other albums can seem to have some emo tendencies. The electronic nature of this album can kind of help to dispel those feelings. Don't get me wrong, lyrically this album is right on track with the rest of the Bright Eyes discography, but the music is completely different. It is almost like Ween doing their country album - stopped off in country land for an album having not been there before, and not to return after really.
People hate on Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst a lot for being emo-y, or for trying to hard to be clever with his lyrics, or for writing depressing music, or for, well, just being lame. I disagree and like his lyrics. I don't find it depressing, and I find his lyrics to be pretty clever, but not trying to hard. In fact, I like how he uses straight forward images to create a feeling as opposed to being overly abstract and heady. Also, his music just clicked. I had just broken up with a girlfriend, so, as lame as it sounds, maybe that had something to do with it as his lyrics are....self involved. That has a negative connotation, but I don't mean it in a bad way. I never really listened to lyrics in music until I got into Bright Eyes, and Bright Eyes were actually responsible for me getting into more lyric based music. This album is my favorite and it is really just an all around stellar album - musicwise, productionwise, lyricwise. All around. If you have hesitations about Bright Eyes, this could be a great place to start. It worked for me.
As for the Take It Easy EP - the title track is great, one of the best off of Digital Ash, and the other non-instrumental track, which is actually a cover of a Simon Joyner track, is great too....but that's it minus an instrumental track which is just kind of boring. I am not sure I have ever listened to it all the way through. And that is the full EP. If this were a single, it would be great, but relative to the other Bright Eyes EPs, this one is weak. Taking a step back....so Bright Eyes have always released an EP (or extended single is more appropriate) to go along with whatever album they are releasing. These EPs contain one track/single from the upcoming album and then 4 or 5 other tracks that didn't make the cut. These tracks aren't throwaways either, but often just as good, and sometime even better, than the albums that made the album. Sadly, the EP for my favorite album turns out to be the worst one. The tracks are sweet, but it is basically just one non-album track on there. Oh well. Maybe grab Burn Rubber (the Simon Joyner track) off iTunes and call it a day.
Back to Digital Ash - I can't pick a favorite track as it is really an album you put on track.....well 2 in this case because track one is just a long drawn out instrumental intro nothing track (a lot like the instrumental track on the EP discussed above which is just a long drawn out outro) and I always skip it.....so, yeah, start on track 2 and let it play. Each track is as good as the one before.
Alright, this tour was supposedly not that great as the Digital Ash songs were hard to play live (he got The Faint to be his backing band) but I like putting live clips up, so here you go. Make sure to check out the non live ones too:
Alright, so the new Bright Eyes album comes out in 2 weeks, exactly two weeks in fact, but you can listen to it now. NPR has all the tracks from the album up and you can check them out here. You can download the track 'Haile Selassie' here. Check them out. This album is going to be good. I can pinpoint it after one listen and that is a good thing. After going for a more alt country sound on Cassadaga, which was good in my book don't get me wrong, then more folk and straight forward rock with the Mystic Valley Band, he seems to have changed direction to a more experimental sound. The best way I can describe it is Digital Ash non-digital style. Live instrumentation, heavily processed/effected, making digital noises. It is really pretty cool. NPR says it may be the best Bright Eyes album yet, which seems like an almost impossible statement, but it may honestly be true. Just when I thought Conor Oberst had settled into a groove, a safe perfected sound, he seems to have come up with something different and cool. Check it out.
Oh, also, you can pre-order the album and it will ship a week early, Feb 8th, and there are some cool limited edition packages - special vinyl pressings, 7" records, cds, shirts, etc etc. Some cool deals. Check them out at the saddle creek website - www.saddle-creek.com
This is not breaking news and has been out there for a while, but we are a little slow here at STW sometimes and better late than never is how we operate. So Conor Oberst announced recently that a new Bright Eyes album will be released on February 15, 2011, and there will be a string of tourdates to follow.
The new album is called The People's Key and this could also very likely be the last Bright Eyes album. As he told Rolling Stone in June 2009, "It does feel like it needs to stop at some point. I'd like to clean it up, lock the door, say goodbye." Typically when Bright Eyes releases a new album there is an EP that comes out a month or so in advance....and they are usually just as good as the albums themselves. The best one of these is probably There's No Beginning of the Story from the Lifted album, or Lua from I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. The Four Winds EP is another good one, but so are all of them, so I will leave it at that. Hopefully we get an EP with this album too.
When this new album was announced a string of tour dates were thrown out there as well. When Cassadaga was announced, Conor took Bright Eyes out for some small warm up shows at small venues where they played songs strictly from the upcoming album. I caught them at the 930 Club in DC, which was cool because of the small size of the venue, but it also kind of annoyed me since it was my first time seeing them and I barely knew any of the songs. I would welcome one of these shows this time around, but they seem to be going straight for bigger venues like Radio City Music Hall on March 9th. Radio City was actually the venue where I saw my second Bright Eyes show back in 2007 (my second show was supposed to be earlier that year at Town Hall in NY, but my car broke down on the NJ Turnpike coming up from Philadelphia. We had to stay overnight in some random Holiday Inn while my car was being "fixed" only to have it break down again on the NJTP the next day). We had 5th row seats or something ridiculous like that and the show was great, filled with a wide range of songs from all his albums. I am hoping this show will be much like the last one I saw there.
Here is the full list of shows currently announced, though I am sure many more will follow:
03/02/11 Miami, FL - Fillmore Miami Beach At Jackie Gleason Theater On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
03/03/11 Lake Buena Vista, FL - House of Blues On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
03/04/11 Atlanta, GA - The Tabernacle Pre-Sale Begins Wednesday December 15 @ 10AM; no password. Public on-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM 03/05/11 Asheville, NC - Thomas Wolf Auditorium On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
03/06/11 Richmond, VA - The National On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
03/08/11 New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall w/ Wild Flag + Superchunk Pre-sale begins Wednesday Dec 15 at 11AM. no password Public On-Sale: Saturday December 18 at 11AM
03/09/11 New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall w/ Wild Flag + Superchunk SOLD OUT
03/10/11 Boston, MA - House Of Blues Boston Presented By Foxwoods Resort Casino On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
03/11/11 Portland, ME - State Theatre On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
03/13/11 Toronto, ONT - Sound Academy On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
03/14/11 Royal Oak, MI - Royal Oak Music Theatre Pre-sale begins Wednesday December 15 at 12PM; Password: ROMTLIVE / Public On-Sale Friday December 17 at 12PM 0
3/15/11 Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre On-sale Saturday December 18 at 10AM
03/17/11 Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium On-sale Friday December 17 at 10AM
6/23/11 London, England - Royal Albert Hall
These were linked up in the Monsters of Folk album review, but I just came across them the other day and they need to be posted here. These are reworked versions of their songs - different people taking lead vocals and different instrumentation than on the album - and they are very cool. Check them out:
As a bonus, here is the group performing some Dylan from the first time they toured together:
Finally. I love this album and have wanted a copy on vinyl for a while. At one point they had it on the Saddle Creek website, but I didn't pick it up as I didn't know it was rare and out of print. Then it sold out and I went looking on ebay only to find it going for $40 or $50. I had been keeping an eye out for it to see if I could get a deal and pay about $30-$35 for it, but even that is a little steep....and I didn't see it on ebay that often.
Anyway, I kind of stopped tracking it on ebay and hadn't looked for a while.....then I got an email from Saddle Creek stating that it had been reissued on 180 gram vinyl. Not only that, but it comes with a 7" with two additional songs, What's New for the Fall and Give Me the Pen. Not sure if the 7" is a limited time offer or not, but I just ordered a copy last week and got the 7". I am assuming the whole reissue is a pretty limited run. I had heard these songs before as they have been on itunes for a while, but it is pretty cool to have them as an added 7".
If you have made it this far reading but don't know what this album is, you should really check it out. I did a review of the album some time earlier this year and you can find that review in the albums section or the Conor Oberst page. This is a Conor Oberst side project from around 2002 or so. Oberst did the singing and writing of the lyrics, but it is musically and lyrically different from his solo and Bright Eyes stuff. It is fucking awesome too. Tough to call it punk, but it's more distorted/faster/harder than his other stuff. Lyrically it is focused on greed, capitalism and globalization instead of the self reflection/relationships topics typical of Bright Eyes/Oberst. Anyway, not sure if that makes it sound lame or not, but it really is a great album.
Alright, enough reviewing the album as there is already a review up here. I was real pumped when I read the email saying this was reissued and thought I would pass along the news. Not sure if you can get it in record stores, but you may as well just go straight to the Saddle Creek website and grab it. I also picked up the new Tim Kasher (of Cursive and the Good Life....and Commander Venus which was also one of Oberst's first bands) album. It is pretty good as well and I will try and get a review of that up soon.
So last weekend Conor Oberst was busy at the Concert for Equality - a show in Nebraska protesting anti-immigration laws - putting on shows with two of his bands, Bright Eyes and Desaparecidos. This was a cool occasion as Bright Eyes has been basically been on hold the past few years while Oberst recorded and toured with the Mystic Valley Band and Monster of Folk, and Desaparecidos hasn't done anything steady, or at all really, since their sole album was released in 2002. It is also interesting on the Bright Eyes front as Oberst announced last year that the next Bright Eyes album will probably be the last.
In any case, you can check out the video below of a new Bright Eyes song written for the occasion/cause, as well as some videos of Desaparecidos. You have to suffer through some political rants, but it's protest concert, so this is expected, and the songs are pretty great, so it is worth it. I strongly dislike politics in my music, so no need to email us about it, just check out the songs. I would really like to see Desaparecidos some day.
Sadly this video is ruined by the crowd singing over the band:
A few annoying people singing along, but it's one of my favorites, so.....
|This is a free documentary about Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. It follows the making of the first album down in Mexico and the tour that follows. The origination of the band and recording is very cool and the concert footage is great as. The self titled Conor Oberst album is one of my favorites of his, so I particularly enjoyed this movie. Not much else to say here, just check it out. You can download it here. It is free but there is a link to a bunch of different non-profits with the intention that you will donate to one/some of them. Also, don't download it through iTunes, I tried and it doesn't work that way. Download the other version and then you can just upload it into iTunes from there.|
I was unsure about this album for a while. I flipflopped back and forth and couldn't decide if I loved it or hated it. At first I liked it - I mean, I knew I would like it to some extent, so that was not a surprise. Then after listening to it more, I wasn't all that crazy about it. It seemed pretty clear that many of the songs were not written together, and each person brought their own tracks to the table and it was more of a split release. This was furthered by having a live show from 2007 with A Man Named Truth being played. This was at the first Mystic Valley Band show. Now, I still get that feeling somewhat, but at the same time the songs do blend together to a certain extent and their is more collaboration than I initially thought. Or maybe I just really love the tracks now, so I ignore the fact that it is more of a compilation of the various artists. Also, taking that into consideration, the real standout artist here is Mike Mogis. He is the binding factor that holds it all together and makes it seem like one band. His production and instrumental role here is just as hidden and just as important as it is on a Bright Eyes album.
To start off with some tracks here, I think I will go with the most collaborative of them all. No, not Dear God, but rather Baby Boomer. This song has all of the elements that makes this band awesome and something different than the sum of the parts. Musicwise you basically have a M Ward song as the base, with sort of that 50s throw back R&B/country sound. The vocals on this song are great. You have M Ward and Conor Oberst leading with Jim James providing harmonies. The Jim James harmonies are really what makes this album awesome. M Ward and Conor have distinctive voices, but are similar in their somewhat lower, talking style singing. These guys always sound better with a girl or higher male register harmonies, and that is exactly what Jim James adds here, and through out the album. Lyrically, this album is a mix of M Ward and Conor Oberst, who are both pretty incredible and have similar styles. This is representative of a later more worldly Conor Oberst too, which more closely matches M Ward. Therefore the album is linked together pretty well lyrically. Honestly, Man Named Truth is probably the track that really stands apart from the rest and doesn't fit as well, but I really like the track so it is fine in my mind. In fact, most of the Conor Oberst tracks stand apart from the others. I don't know if that is because I know his music much better than the others or what, but it just seems to be the case in my mind. While we are on Conor Oberst, I think Map of the World may be my favorite track on here behind Baby Boomer. This song is pretty much straight Conor though.
Taking a step back, you can break down the 4 artists this way. Jim James provides the high harmonies and the distorted guitars. Mike Mogis provides the production, most of the additional instrumentation, the underlying lap steel and other sounds etc. These two guys are less in the forefront, but are also the ones that tie the whole thing together. They are really the most important of the four and really the ones that make this band work. M Ward and Conor are different, but very similar. Singer songwriters with an acoustic alt country base. They have different styles completely, but on the surface are very similar. Therefore, I won't bore you with trying to decipher the intricacies of their voices and strumming/picking styles. The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me is a great M Ward tune (this video has them all singing together and it's way cooler than on the album...and it's incredible on the album). Put that back to back with Temazcal or A Map of the World and you will see the differences pretty clearly. The Sandman, the Brakeman and Me is another one of my favorite tunes.
To go back to my statement that the majority of the album doesn't seem to be that collaborative, once you get down and try to break it down by artist, you really start to notice that it is a collaborative effort. Now, you can tell the writers here, but that is obviously going to happen, so it seems less half assed than you may think at first. That being said, you can sort of break the album down this way. M Ward = Whole Lotta Losin', Goodway, Slow Down Jo, Magic Marker, and The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me. Conor Oberst = Temazcal, Man Named Truth, Ahead of the Curve, and Map of the World. Jim James = The Right Place, Losin Yo Head, and His Master's Voice. That leaves Dear God (M.O.F), which could be called a Jim James song, Say Please, and Baby Boomer as the MOF songs. As I said though, going back and digging through the songs, they tie together way better than you may think at first, and I think the disconnect is really prevelant at first due to the distinctive, well known nature of their voices. Therefore when you hear one of them take the mic for a song, it really makes it seem like that persons songs. So, unless they trade off lines, like in Say Please, Dear God and Baby Boomer, you feel like the songs are just thrown together. There are a lot of harmonies on this record though and if you listen closely you will notice this is true on most of the songs.
Alright, I have gone on way too long about this album, but it is awesome and has something for everyone. These guys have opened for eachother, and played together a lot over the years, so it is cool to see this project finally come out. This also opened up fans of one to the rest of the band. I have a lot of Jim James fans, that ended up loving M Ward and Conor Oberst after listening and seeing them live, and vice versa.
Ok, I wrote this up and then went to youtube to find videos for this review....when doing so, I came across a collection of studio performances from the band, and they blow away and confirm everything I said about this band not seeming like a collaboration but a mix of songs by each artists. The videos in this post make me kind of depressed about the album. These videos show the band playing together and doing the songs as one band. They are absurdly incredible. You get a hint of this on the album, but these videos seem to be what they were, or should have been, really going for. Wow, they are ill. Check out the videos above for The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me, Temazcal and The Right Place - those are the studio ones.
Six of these tracks were originally released back in 2004, with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes writing 3 of the tracks and Jake Bellows of Neva Dinova writing the other 3. Now there have been 4 more songs added here (two each), and these are new tracks, not ones they didn't originally release. They got together last fall I think to record the songs with Mike Mogis. I think originally they recorded these songs at Conor's house in Omaha and then had Mike Mogis mix it down, but I am not positive and could be mixing it with the xmas album. Ok, let me start off by saying that this album is great, awesome in fact, but that I am somewhat let down, but that has to do with my expectations and not the music, and not even my expectations of the quality of the music, but rather what this was going to be. I had read that a) supposedly this album was the most fun Conor ever had recording and album and b) that this is much more of a collaboration than a split album.
This is true for the Conor/Bright Eyes songs, but not the Jake Bellows/Neva Dinova songs. I guess this just comes down to singing duties, and Jake sings one of the Conor penned songs, and it seems Jake sings backing on all of the (I think it's him) other two Conor songs from the original release. You know, I think Conor does actually sing on his songs, but it is sparce and very quiet in the mix, so he might as well not be there. It is not as if Conor is really known for his guitar work. Therefore, this seems like way more of a case of Conor, who was a year later to release arguably the two best albums of his career, helping out a friend and appearing on and putting his name on his album, than a collaboration. So, yeah, it's less of a split, but in the wrong direction than I would prefer, and in the original release you therefore only get 2 Bright Eyes songs. Awesome ones, but that is only two.
Now, for a second, I am going to introduce my point of comparison and the reason for my expectations: Oh Holy Fools, which is a split between Bright Eyes and Son, Ambulance, and maybe my favorite Bright Eyes release. I will go into this in another review, but it was released in 2001, and it is also arguably Conor at his best before releasing Lifted, which some say is his best. I love this album, but it is a legit split with 4 Bright Eyes songs and 4 Son, Ambulance songs. I love these tunes so much that I had really high hopes that this album contained the same gems, but was also more of a mix of the two bands and would be even better. The thing is - I don't like Son, Ambulance really. I have tried, but the record for that album actually puts Bright Eyes on one side, while Son, Ambulance is on the otherside, and this has really turned this into me regarding it as a 4 song Bright Eyes EP. In fact, I have the Bright Eyes Vinyl boxset and that takes those 4 songs and adds 2 more to make it even more of just a straight Bright Eyes release. So, I don't know why I was looking forward to more of a collaboration, maybe I have always thought/hoped that I would have actually like Son, Ambulance had it been a collaboration, but what can you do.
The main difference here though, and a very positive thing, is that I like Jake Bellows/Neva Dinova. His tracks are great, so while it is a let down that it is fewer Bright Eyes seeming songs, it is not like listening to Oh Holy Fools where I end up skipping every other track on the CD, or just listening to one side of the record. I have found a new band, and I think Neva Dinova actually just came out with or is coming out with a new album, so I will probably be picking that up, and new bands are always good to have.
After all of that babble about my expectations, let me get down to this release what the music is like. It is great. The new songs don't 100% blend into the old songs as Conor has seemed to come into his voice more over the years and since around Cassadaga, he has been singing differently, more confidently, and Mike Mogis has therefore mixed his voice differently. Less effects on his voice, less doubling, and his voice is more prominent and up front. Lyrically, it is harder to put your finger on it, but Conor's lyrics are different. Still great in my opinion, but just different. He seems happier to tell you the truth. Listen to I'll Be Your Friend, and then listen to Happy Accident and you will see what I mean. Also check out Black Comedy, this is supposedly live with Jake Bellows. Now, I apologize that this is basically just a Bright Eyes review, but that is why I bought this, and that is what I know, so that is what you get. Jale's songs are noticeably different as well. Also, the song Happy Accident even sounds just like a track off of Cassadaga. Great song, with great lines, but still seems like something I have heard before. So, where does that leave me. I have been listening to this non-stop since I got it and the songs are great. Though released pretty much exactly one year before Digital Ash in the Digital Urn, and I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, these songs do not predict what was to come, but more fall in line with his older stuff. i.e. they are more rock than country/folk or electronic. If you don't like Conor Oberst, and I know many do not, this could be a good album to pick up because it has a lot more Jake Bellows on it, and you may prefer his voice. If you already have this album (the original 10" record is still available), I would pick up this new version. First off the packaging is great. I tried to include pictures of everything, the 180 gram black vinyl, the packing and insert, and a copy of the CD. I bought them both at once like a loser because I was really looking forward to this. Then you can save your 10" and now you have 4 new tracks, which I think really fill out the album, not to mention, it is just cool to have the two meet up 6 years down the road and record a few new tracks together. When I said before that these songs weren't a prelude to Digital Ash etc, they aren't really like his old songs either. They really stand on their own as something cool and different, just as the song on Oh Holy Fools do. Oh Holy Fools is still better in my opinion, but these songs are great, and for the pretty vast collection of Bright Eyes songs I have, I am pretty shocked I am just getting it now. Honestly, the name Neva Dinova kind of always turned me off of getting it. Not sure why, I mean, a guy who says he loves a band called Bright Eyes, is saying that Neva Dinova turned him off - the comedy in that is not lost on me.
Alright, I am done, for real. I kind of feel like that was a shitty review, but it's 6 am and, well that is what you get. Buy this and check it out, it's a cool album.
Back in 2002 or so Conor Oberst and Friends, i.e. Bright Eyes, put together an album of Christmas standards. I like Christmas songs, and since hearing the Flaming Lips do Little Drummer back when I was in 7th grade, I have liked the idea of rock bands doing xmas songs. For some reason, I really thought Conor Oberst would do great renditions of these songs, and he probably would, but that's my problem - he doesn't really sing many of them solo. You have a whole slew of guests on this, Jake Bellows from Neva Dinova, Maria Taylor from Azure Ray, and a bunch of others, and they all really seem to sing more than he does. Or just all blended in....and this isn't what I expected. So I was disappointed. I haven't given it a full chance, and it is on awesome 180 gram white vinyl, and the packaging is great, so I am sure I will come around when I am more in the mood for xmas music. I was just hoping for more Conor Oberst singing.
This album was also released as an AIDS benefit type deal. All the proceeds from the album go the the Nebraska AIDS Project. Had to just look up the name. They just re-released this on white vinyl, and this is actually the first time on record I think. Not sure if it is a limited release or what, but you can still get the cd. Pick it up if you are an intense Bright Eyes fan, or if you really like a lot of the Saddle Creek bands, or if you really like xmas albums. It is a cool idea, though I could have liked it a lot better. Hopefully it will grow on me and I am just jumping the gun on this review.
Alright, so back at the end of 2007 Conor Oberst announced a few shows with a new band in Minneapolis. This band was thought to be what became Monsters of Folk, but turned out to be a completely different band, which ended up as the Mystic Valley Band. They released two albums (Conor Oberst and Outer South) and one EP that was only sold at shows. I think the first album, Conor Oberst, is one of, if not the best album he has released. Anyway, here is a link to download one of those shows. This contains basically the full first album as well as a few Bright Eyes songs, and Man Named Truth, which ended up on the Monsters of Folk album. The show is very intimate and the band doesn't even have a name at this point. Download it, its great.
Additionally, I am going to throw in a link for an unreleased Bright Eyes song. I think this came straight from the Bright Eyes website a while back, but honestly, I just came across these links in my email and totally forgot I had this second one. The Conor Oberst show I downloaded a long time ago, before the album even came out, so I am guessing this song is from back in 2008 as well. Anyway, enjoy. **ok, I take that back. I just did a search for this, and this was a pre-release to the Four Winds EP which was a pre-release to Cassadaga.
|It has been marked on the calendar for a little while, but I just got this video teaser emailed to me. This split album is being reissued and comes out on March 23rd, with 4 new songs being added. I pre-ordered this and you can do so on the saddle creek website. I read somewhere that Conor Oberst said this was the most fun he had recording an album. Anyway, this will be good. Also, when I pre-ordered it I also got a special edition of The Good Life album, Album of the Year, which comes with a second disc of Tim performing the whiole album solo acoustic. I think they must have found a box of these in the basement, because this has not been around in a while. If you are lucky you may still be able to find a copy of this. If so, I would grab that asap. I will do a review of that once it comes, but I don't think it will be here until I get this album.|
Alright, this isn't new, it's old, but it is also not all that well known...and it's a great album. It is a Conor Oberst related band, which right off the bat will either suck some people in, or turn them off. To tell you the truth though, if you are a Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes fan, be wary, and if you loathe him, you may like this because its different. Both the music and the lyrics are different here.
Lyrically, Conor has switched from his usual introspective writing, focused on relationships and the likes, to more....well, it's more about corporate America taking over and ruining culture. I know that sounds lame and pissy, but, well, first off it is Conor Oberst here (i.e. you have to expect whining about something), and secondly, it is Conor Oberst (i.e. the lyrics are very well crafted, and to someone who hates political commentary and bullshit like that in his music, I still love the lyrics on this album). Now, this is coming from an extremely biased point of view as I am a huge Conor Oberst fan. I am obsessive with my music and have a small number of bands that I become overly obsessed with, Conor Oberst being one, and the most recent addition to that collection. The others include, Guns n' Roses, Nirvana and Ween.
I will say though, as an obsessive Conor Oberst fan, I didn't love this album at first. It is more....and I really don't want to say this because it is not at all, but its more punk. Throw Conor Oberst in the mix, and.....that sort of means emo. Emo started out as a form of punk rock and didn't always carry the horrible connotation it does today, but that connotation is so strong today, it wipes out any old connection in my mind. This album is more straight forward rock, with distorted guitars, faster songs and more yelling. Another one of the band members, Landon Hedges, is in a band called Little Brazil, and it sounds a lot like them with Conor Oberst singing. Little Brazil is a good band too, I should really do a write up on that album.
To wrap this up, I would give this album a try if you are or aren't a Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes fan. I think you have more of a shot of liking it if you are a fan of his, but if you dislike his self-loathing whining normally, you will be happy to know it is not in this album. Man and Wife (the former) and (the latter) are both great tunes. I may prefer the latter, but....they are both good. I put a live clip up of the former for you to check out. This tune, Mall of America, is awesome as well. So...yeah, I like it, which means it must be awesome, so pick it up if you haven't heard it before. Oh, before we go though, here is my favorite tune - The Happiest Place on Earth. This video has some skateboard clips through it which is nice to watch, but the noise is annoying....so....fuck it, check it out and point and click on another link if you can't deal with the other noise.