I've had the two new Bright Eyes CDs - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash In A Digital Urn - for about two weeks now and I'm starting to get a handle on them.
I can say, first and foremost, that they're both incredible albums. Conor Oberst is one hell of a musician and it's kind of ridiculous that he has managed to release two albums simulataneously that are of such high quality.
This guy can sing and write, period. The lyrics are amazing on both albums, though they really shine on I'm Wide Awake ... . The album has a bit of a country/folk feel to it, stripped down and simple. The focus is very much on Conor's voice, the lyrics and a guitar. Emmylou Harris also shows up on a couple of the tricks to great effect. Her voice blends with Conor's in a wonderful way, lending a warmth and depth to the songs. It's a nice contrast to Conor's voice, as well, which is raw and emotional, often times splitting under the weight of his own lyrics, the song, the emotion. It's tremulous at times, not quite hesitant but always seeming on the verge of being overwhelmed. You sense that he feels every song that every track resonates with an almost unbearable weight.
"Lua," off of I'm Wide Awake ..., is soft and acoustic, nothing more than Conor and a guitar. The lyrics are haunting, painting the picture of a night of drugs and misery in the context of a troubled relationship:
I know you have a heavy heart. I can feel it when we kiss. So many men stronger than me have thrown their backs out trying to lift it. But me I'm not a gamble you can count on me to split. The love I sell you in the evening by the morning won't exist.
You're looking skinny like a model with your eyes all painted black. You just keep going to the bathroom always say you'll be right back. Well, it takes one to know one, kid, I think you got it bad. But what is so easy in the evening by the morning's such a drag.
I got a flask inside my pocket we can share it on the train. And if you promise to stay conscious I will try and do the same. Well we might die from medication but we sure killed all the pain. But what was normal in the evening by the morning seems insane.
A free mp3 of the full song can be downloaded at the Saddle Creek Web site, along with three other tracks - two from each CD - as well as some other tracks off older albums (including the wonderful "Lover I Don't Have To Love" from the album Lifted). I highly recommend you head over there and pick them up now, for they're very much worth it and t should give you a better idea of Bright Eyes' sound.