Bright Eyes Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the GroundBright Eyes Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, ..






Bright Eyes: Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground











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Bright Eyes
Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

It's not often you listen to a CD and only five tracks in, you're completely bowled over and want some sort of time-space continuum flip to occur so you can instantly hear the rest of the album because it's that good and you just can't wait. A mix of low-fi vocals, ambitious flair and master storytelling, Bright Eyes' newest opus—the brainchild of Conor Oberst, also leader of Desaperecides and recipient of the hefty title of the new wunderkind Bob Dylan—challenges listeners without remorse, but provides great rewards as well.

The CD—with the unfriendly title of Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground—begins with an eight-and-a-half minute oeuvre. A girl mutters directions to a driver and then Oberst ever so slowly launches in with quiet singing, without hook and nearly without melody. It's the type of song many artists stick at the end of their CDs or suffer listeners with as a hidden track. A calculated contrarian to the core, Oberst puts it first, and this rejection of what "should" be done isn't the last. But even though he stops songs midway for "mistakes" and isn't afraid to start a song by declaring his need for a "goddamned tenpenny roll to start this goddamned song," Oberst still escapes preciousness or flaunting pretentiousness through his unabashed lyrics, a beautiful voice and ingenious instrumentation.

Oberst, who co-founded Nebraska-based indie label-of-the-minute Saddle Creek (The Faint, Azure Ray, et al), began his songwriting career at age 12 and cut his teeth on simple four-track recordings. On some tracks, he sticks to this acoustic guitar formula, letting his words alone guide the songs. On others, he delves into alt-country, indie rock, symphonic opuses and rousing barroom anthems.

Within all this genre flirtation, Oberst tosses in lush orchestras, drunken backing vocals and many Nebraskan musician friends, yet his low-fi, skeletal roots overpower at all times. This sparseness proves a perfect frame for his wonderfully tremulous voice, full of frailty and tragedy so that, like Thom Yorke, he sounds as if he'll either burst into tears or flames at the sheer emotion he's trying to contain. This is nowhere more apparent than the absolute epic, "Don't Know When But a Day Is Gonna Come," an angry young man ballad punctuated by drum corps snare that explodes into strings and unsettling elephantine brass. Oberst doesn't bother to contain his rage but explodes in anthemic glory. He declares that "I need some meaning I can memorize"—for his fans, that seems to be exactly what Oberst is providing.

  Laura Tiffany


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Bright Eyes: Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

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