Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bright Eyes: The Complete Discography

Calum Marsh

Long ago in the world of indie rock, way before we could locate Illinois on a map, there was one man we could all turn to when we needed someone who understood why we were so sad (oh, how nobody understands). He knew that girls are mean and that George Bush is bad. He screamed a lot and tried to sing off-key. He looked like Winona Ryder. His name was Conor Oberst.

Conor Oberst - Bright Eyes, that is - used to be pretty well liked. He scrapped together a bunch of lovely records and promised us that everything was going to be okay. Things were going really well for him, too. He got his shit together and recorded a sort of sad-kid epic which was adored by fans and respected by critics, an album simply titled Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil Keep Your Ear To The Ground.

In 2005, Conor grew up a little. He grew weary of his trademark sad-boy bit and decided to change musical gears. Early that year he recorded and released I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, and album which was even more adored by fans and respected by critics than its predesesor. Conor was getting name dropped on The O.C., his songs were getting radio play, and his album was a huge financial success.

Oh, but indie kids are afraid of success. When their favourite band is on The O.C. (which they never watch, of course...), or on the radio (which they never listen to, either), or is, you know, making money, it's no longer cool to like them. Hipsters everywhere hid their signed copies of Fevers & Mirrors and made sure their hair didn't swoop over their eyes. They called Conor "emo" - a terrible hex, one with no discernable meaning and nothing but nasty connotations - and turned their backs on him forever.

Fuck those idiots. Conor's still awesome, and although he's not perfect, he's still recorded some seriously solid albums - and here they are, convieniently listed and reviewed for your reading pleasure. If you're not bothered about Bright Eyes anymore or if you've never given him a chance, I urge you to take a look at this list and give these records a spin. Remember: emo doesn't bite, it cries.

Bright Eyes - A Collection Of Songs
Rating: 2.8

A Collection brings together numerous tracks that Conor recorded before he, you know, knew how to write songs. 'Driving Fast Through A Big City At Night' is perfect as a segue track on any number of moody mix tapes, but this album doesn't have much else worth hearing. Pass on this one.

Bright Eyes - Digital Ash In A Digital Urn
Rating: 6.2

Conor's attempt at electro-emo is mostly bland and uninteresting, though not offensively bad. It's not much overall, but a couple of solid tracks makes Digital Ash prime iTunes cherrypicking material.


Bright Eyes - Don't Be Frightened Of Turning The Page EP
Rating: 8.2

It breaks down like this: three absolutely fantastic tracks ('No Lies, Just Love'; 'Going For The Gold'; 'You Are The Roots'), an okay one ('Kathy'), and two miserable piles of garbage ('Mirrors'; 'I Won't...'). It's your call.


Bright Eyes - Every Day & Every Night EP
Rating: 9.2

This is without a doubt the Bright Eyes record. We've got five perfect songs that together encompass every thematic and creative idea Conor ever thought up. If this doesn't win over Bright Eyes detractors, nothing will.

Bright Eyes - Fevers & Mirrors
Rating: 7.8

An interesting but seriously flawed sophmore album, Fevers definitely tries to do too much but has enough heart to overcome its own shortcomings. Some of the best Bright Eyes tracks can be found here.


Bright Eyes - First Day Of My Life EP
Rating: 6.5

People are pretty crazy about First Day Of My Life's B-Side 'When The President Talks To God, but it doesn't really do it for me. It's excruciatingly heavy-handed and kind of boring, to be honest. You hate Bush, Conor? Save it for a Rock Against Bush compilation.

Bright Eyes - Gold Mine Gutted EP
Rating: 7.0

'Easy/Lucky/Free' and 'Gold Mine Gutted' are the two best songs on Digital Ash, but the exclusion of any new material prevents this EP from being worthwhile. Why'd they even bother?

Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Rating: 9.2

Conor's most recent record is also his finest. I'm Wide Awake made Bright Eyes a household name (slight exaggeration, yes), and rightfully so. The 'new Dylan' tag might have sounded silly before, but it may indeed be warrented now. It seems that Conor's future looks Bright - ha.

Bright Eyes - Letting Off The Happiness
Rating: 6.7

I'd hate to describe this record as 'raw', but I can't think of a better word. Feeling like shit? Play 'If Winter Ends' loud enough and it all suddenly makes sense again. Sure, it's self-absorbed and dramatic, but that matters not when you're blue. Hmm, now where's my drink?


Bright Eyes - Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground
Rating: 8.8

Lifted is widely known as the "seminal" Bright Eyes record, and for good reason. There are a whole lot of great songs to be found here, and it's probably the best starting point for new listeners.

Bright Eyes - Lua EP
Rating: 5.8

'Lua' might be the best song on I'm Wide Awake, but the other tracks found on this disc are just plain awful. It's a reminder that sometimes B-Sides are cut from the album because, well, they suck. Next please...


Bright Eyes - Motion Sickness
Rating: 5.7

I very much enjoyed the Bright Eyes concert I saw last year, but I can't say the same for this live album. To be fair, live albums are very rarely any good; Motion Sickness is no exception.


Bright Eyes - Take It Easy (Love Nothing) EP
Rating: 8.0

Digital Ash gives the impression that Conor can't make an interesting electronic song - strange, then, that this EP features two excellent electronic tracks that are both better than the majority of the material on the LP. 'Cremation', a lush ambient soundscape, is particularly stunning.


Bright Eyes - There Is No Beginning To The Story EP
Rating: 4.0

'Messenger Bird's Song' is perceptive and pitch-pefect, but this an otherwise tiring expedition through characteristically whiny album leftovers. Boring, bland, and downright tepid - one of the shittiest Bright Eyes recordings ever.


Bright Eyes - Going For The Gold
Bright Eyes - Drunk Kid Catholic
Bright Eyes - Silver Bells (Christmas Song)
Bright Eyes - Easy/Lucky/Free
Bright Eyes - Gold Mine Gutted
Bright Eyes - A Perfect Sonnet
Bright Eyes - True Blue
Bright Eyes - The Invisible Gardener
Bright Eyes - A Line Allows Progress, A Circle Does Not
Bright Eyes - Spring Cleaning

Bright Eyes - Fevers & Mirrors
Bright Eyes - Lifted
Bright Eyes - Every Day & Every Night

Comments on "Bright Eyes: The Complete Discography"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (28/5/06 2:22 PM) : 

Great overview - makes it sound a bit like Digital Ash wasn't released at the same time as Wide Awake tho

I think there's a brilliant EP in Digital with the right cuts


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (28/5/06 4:37 PM) : 

Absolutely. There are four or five excellent songs on that album, but as a whole it falls flat. It's not even that there are any really bad ones, just that it seems so mediocre as an LP.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (29/5/06 1:27 AM) : 

you say that 'true blue' is just plain awful but then offer it up as a download to promote conor? but thank you for pointing out how terrible 'when the pres talks to God' really is. that song takes away any possibility of conor being the 'new dylan' (not that there ever will be a new dyaln)


Anonymous Konrad said ... (29/5/06 7:59 AM) : 

As a new fan of Conor, and a lifelong fan of Dylan, I think that is the best example of the Dylan/Conor similarities.

I can find as many songs where he sounds like Robert Smith than I can of him sounding like Bob Dylan, and "When the President Talks to God" is a very similar song to many of Bob's earlier songs.

It is sad that in this day and age the majority of political music is being put out by people from the "our parents" generation such as Dylan, Springsteen, and Neil Young. It is cool to see some of the people in the current music scene stand for ANYTHING and do so with quality music.

Besides hearing "The Calendar Hung Itself" a few times, seeing Conor play When The President Talks To God on Jay Leno was my first time really appreciating him.

If there is room for another "my girlfriend left me and noone understands" song in the world, there is surely enough room for another "screw authority" kind of song.


Anonymous thaleia said ... (30/5/06 9:49 AM) : 

seems to me I´m the only one who really really really loves "digital ash..."
but I sat nodding reading the rest of the reviews


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7/8/06 3:20 PM) : 

Ok so I've been a fan of Conors for a very long time... too long to even know... and I'm so glad that you have my one, true, favorite song of all time "Spring Cleaning" on here for everyone to listen to... It's an amazing piece of work... I honestly can say that every song conor has come out with has not only been amazing, but KICK ASS... Fuck the haters


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (17/2/07 7:35 PM) : 

I am a huge conor oberst fan and i really love the song everything must belong somewhere but the only place i can find it is on does anyone know what album its on or where i can download it?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (17/10/07 9:25 PM) : 

thats defintely not the whole discography at all, and a collection of songs written and recorded is great
email me and ill like link you to the full discography


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (27/12/07 5:08 PM) : 

You're missing a few of his releases including Noise Floor, Oh Holy Fools and One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels. Some of them are splits with other bands, but as a fan of Conor's since the begining, and someone who has downloaded all his stuff, you're missing out.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (27/5/08 9:54 PM) : 

"Digital Ash..." definitely comes in at much higher than a 6.2. "electro-emo" is a cheap and easy title to attach to it. It harkens back to what "emo" music is in no almost ways. Bands like "braid" and "desaparecidos" are "emo" bands. Emo is just a sub genre of post-hardcore that has taken on a negative connotation. "Digital Ash In a Digital Urn" is arguably the height of Oberst's lyrical evolution with an incredibly developed sense of mood and concept throughout the record. It's no less cohesive than "Wide Awake" and holds a consistent feel throughout. It's a nice departure from his previous releases with an charming, and evocative electro-pop feel throughout.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1/10/08 7:34 PM) : 

hey wait these reviews seem suspiciously close to the ratings that Pitchfork gave them.

Thats some quantum fagitry right there.



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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12/9/09 8:28 PM) : 

You just pissed me off so hard right now. who the fuck do you think you are writing reviews for bright eye's albums when all you can do is criticize it. digital ash bland and boring? what the fuck are you on crack, that cd is downright amazing. same with a collection of songs. don't call your self a bright eyes fan please. just delete every single piece of music you have from conor oberst and then just get on a boat and just try to find the end of the earth and fall off that for me will you?


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