Bright Eyes

Paul Wong

Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

Saddle Creek

Bright Eyes is back with Lifted, or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, a mellower album than their previous LP Fevers and Mirrors. Conor Oberst, the 22-year-old mastermind behind Bright Eyes, took time earlier this year to record a heavier rock album littered with social commentary with side-project Desaparacidos. Having released much of his anger with that effort, Lifted sees Oberst taking new turns musically and leaning away from the heavy, grinding guitars of Desaparacidos.

From the country-western “Make War.” to the Barry Manilow-esque “False Advertising” to the dark, wanting “Lover I Don’t Have to Love,” the band seems intent on experimenting with styles. They also find solid new ground with the choral effects on “Method Acting” and the use of strings on “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” and “Don’t Know When But a Day is Gonna Come.”

For old Bright Eyes fans, the intensely personal lyrics are still there: Oberst has not lost a touch of the sentimental honesty that fills his writing. In “Method Acting” he sings, “We need a record of our failures / We must document our love.” Oberst has also tamed his once-wilder voice – it still quivers on the high notes, but rarely breaks into the annoying scream that successfully delivers his staggeringly intense emotions but at a the cost of grating listener’s ears.

The bottom line is that Bright Eyes’ Lifted is an album with lyrics that will both mesmerize listeners and simultaneously drag them deeper into Oberst’s psyche. At times the songs drag on a bit too long or the style is too far away from the indie-rock that Bright Eyes writes so effortlessly, but as Conor Oberst sings on “Let’s not Shit Ourselves (To Love and Be Loved),” “I do not read the reviews / No I am not singing for you.” Great Conor, but that means you’ll just bore us at times.

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