I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Studio Album by released in 2005
I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning's tracklist:
At the Bottom of Everything
We Are Nowhere and It's Now
Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)
Train Under Water
First Day of My Life
Another Travelin' Song
Land Locked Blues
Poison Oak
Road to Joy

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning review

Bright Eyes is the musical vehicle of Conor Oberst, a young singer-songwriter from Nebraska. Incorporating a rotating line-up of players, Bright Eyes is anchored by Oberst's frayed lyrics and his shivering, unnerving voice. Early this year, Oberst released a pair of albums on the same day – I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and the electronic-slanted Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. With the simultaneous release of two diametrically-opposed albums, Bright Eyes may well be on the verge of finally bridging the gap between Oberst’s precocious talent and the maturity of an ageless songwriter. Between the crisp country-folk of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and the bruised cacophony of the more experimental Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, there’s a lot to consume. The guest stars came in droves: Clay Leverett and Andy LeMaster of Now It’s Overhead, Maria Taylor of Azure Ray, Clark Beachle of the Faint, Jimmy Tamborello, Nick Zinner, Jim James, and of course Emmylou Harris. And yet, as always, it’s Oberst who emerges in the spotlight.

Oberst sequences I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning smartly, beginning with At The Bottom Of Everything, which moves from a barely audible spoken-word intro to a brightly skipping, mandolin-propped sing-along. Throughout the record, he alternates songs as spare as Lua and as rich as Another Travelin' Song, before closing with the exultantly rocking Road To Joy. Along the way, guest vocals by Emmylou Harris and My Morning Jacket's Jim James vary the tone, and restrained use of pianos, horns, and pedal steel deepen the texture. The stately, gorgeous We Are Nowhere And It's Now and Old Soul Song are as sophisticated and moving as the best work by Oberst’s singer-songwriter idols. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is a culmination of Bright Eyes' decade-long habit of reviving folk-rock conventions and social engagement for a generation raised on the celebratory egomania of rap and reality television.

In its way, the companion record Digital Ash in a Digital Urn is even more exciting. It seems more personal, with all the superfluous noise and earnest moaning that makes a Bright Eyes record. The record winds up slightly more uneven than I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Oberst enlisted the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner to play guitar on much of the album, and the results are a tangled symphony of hazy synths, crusty programmed and chopped beats, and densely thicketed guitar lines. The results can be heard immediately on the structureless, atmospheric opener Time Code; even songs that rely on Oberst's standard singsong, like Arc Of Time and Down In A Rabbit Hole, wander off in odd directions, following the beat more than the bruised lyrics. The escalating clatter of Take It Easy (Love Nothing) and the supple coursing of the album-closer Easy/Lucky/Free mark a remarkable progression from Oberst's teen troubadour origins.

It takes a confident and prolific artist to simultaneously release two albums in different styles and with different musicians. Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst is nothing if not prolific. His increasingly literary songs tackle big themes - life, death, love, God, and war. The straight-from-the-diary lyrics, the sudden screams and that hiccuping vibrato – the qualities that make Conor Oberst seem raw and, to some, risible – are striking and awesome. The specific triumph of his two new albums lies in how they deliver a new, more seasoned Oberst. At 24, most professional musicians are making their first awkward recordings. Oberst is mastering new forms and preparing to beat the world. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn are the young songwriter's most ambitious and rewarding statements to date. Whether you prefer his folk side or his rock side, there's no denying Oberst's presence as a major artist who continues to evolve and explore his craft with each release.

Rate review5.00
Total votes - 13

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