I graduated high school in 2005, the year Conor Oberst released two full-length albums under the Bright Eyes name. Those two records couldn’t be more different: one a solid, glitching dark opus called Digital Ash in a Digital Urn; and today’s album of the day, a country and folk-influenced reflecting dust-up, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. It’s worth noting the year because now that it’s been out 8 years, I’m able to reflect on both albums. While initially I would spin I’m Wide Awake ad nauseum, I’ve changed as a person and now
At times, the record sees poignant moments of delicate, moving acoustic parts juxtaposed by aggressive, even abrasive tear-downs (I wouldn’t call them breakdowns, because let’s face it, it’s Bright Eyes we’re talking about here). That’s where I’m Wide Awake shines and soars, and redeems the elements that many will shrug off.
One of those “meh” moments is right off the top. The opener to “First Day of My Life” is a story of a plane crash that segues into the rest of the song. It’s so annoying that I had to edit the song in iTunes to begin past this intro, and not just because it kicks off with my ultimate pet peeve of slurping.
If you slurp around me, we can’t be friends. I could never live in a culture like Asia where slurping is encouraged and a show of respect for good food. In general, people who eat loud. C’mon man. Be kind and
rewind chew with your mouth closed and for the love of God, don’t slurp.
Anyway, I’m thankful to report that post-slurping, the good outweighs the bad. And don’t get me wrong, even the songs I don’t jive with have some fantastic orchestration and whatnot. While I don’t care for most of the two collaborations with Emmylou Harris, a 12-time Grammy Award winning folk/country singer (and the lady responsible for that fantastic O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack), the last 90 seconds of “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now” is tremendous. “Landlocked Blues” remains my least favorite on the album because of the steady trudging
“First Day of My Life” was one of the singles to come from I’m Wide Awake, and while I can see its appeal, it’s too syrupy for me. And I love syrup! Hashtag, diabetes.
The album culminates with its best track: the closer “Road to Joy.” For an album that will leave a lot of listeners with blue balls, “Road to Joy” is a riotous, screaming orgasm. It’s the most aggressive you might ever hear Bright Eyes short of being Desaparecidos but the influence is totally there. Fantastic.
Here’s “Road to Joy” –
Standout tracks: “Road to Joy” and “Train Under Water” and “Poison Oak”
Weakest track: “First Day of My Life” and “Lua” and “Landlocked Blues” (and that godsforsaken intro to “At the Bottom of Everything”) don’t do aaaaaanything for me anymore.
RIYL: Folk, alt-country. Some of the rest of the Bright Eyes catalog features this music in flashes, but here’s a whole record dedicated to it.