Thursday, 10 December 2015

Bright Eyes

So, I realize this post is a little lengthy, so here's an abbreviated version of the wall of text I created and refuse to edit. Bright Eyes are from Omaha, Nebraska, they formed in 1995, and are one of the most notable bands in indie, folk, alternative country, emo, etc. You name it, they do it. Incredible songwriting, experimental instrumentation, lyrics ranging from self-loathing to politically charged, and the distinct voice of Conor Oberst to orchestrate all the madness. As for as essential albums go, Fevers and Mirrors and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning are definite starting points, followed by Every Day and Every Night, Lifted..., and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. However, their discography is so expansive that there's plenty of gold in their massive discography to be discovered. From "Falling Out Of Love At This Volume" to "Going For The Gold" to "It's Cool, We Can Still be Friends" to "Loose Leaves" to "When The President Talks To God" to "Soul Singer In A Session Band" to "One For You, One For Me" to... you get the point. Enjoy.

Bright Eyes were an indie rock band from Omaha, Nebraska that formed in 1995 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Conor Oberst, who was 15 at the time. Though the band's central figure is Oberst, Bright Eyes is a very collaborative effort (both live and in the studio), with the only two other consistent members being Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott. Besides them, a plethora of artists have also worked along with Conor under the Bright Eyes moniker. Their current status is unknown, since they have not been active since 2011 and Conor had stated he planned to retire Bright Eyes after their next album (which turned out to be The People's Key), but no official statement has been given. However, their members continue to be active in other things, whether it be working with other artists (such as First Aid Kit), or playing in other bands, such as Desaprecidos (Oberst), Monsters of Folk (Oberst, Mogis), Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band (Oberst, Walcott), or simply Conor Oberst's solo project (in which he still performs some Bright Eyes songs live).

Emerging from Middle America Omaha, Conor Oberst has been active in their musical scene since he was 12 or 13 years old. He began by releasing music under his own name, in addition to being in bands such as Commander Venus, Park Ave. and The Faint, which he was an original member of. The first recordings made by Bright Eyes were in 1995, though no material would be released until it became his main project, which was in 1998. An album compiling all his recorded material up until then, titled A Collection Of Songs Written And Recorded 1995–1997, which is a pretty self-explanatory name. The recording quality is a little shaky, though definitely bearable. Most of the songs are based around a thin-sounding, slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar, as well as Oberst's offpitch, quivering voice, which would become a staple in the Bright Eyes sound. There are also a lot of primitive electronics being tinkered with on a few songs, most notably a drum machine being used to add a percussive element to a few of these tracks. There are some great songs on here, and some average ones, but that's sort of to be expected from a collection of songs written by someone in the middle of their teenage years.

Bright Eyes released their debut studio album in 1998 as well, titled Letting Off The Happiness. It continued what Oberst had been working on alone, but with a better studio quality sound, more instrumentation, and the addition of Mike Mogis as a permanent member of the band. After their debut, Bright Eyes entered what I like to think of as their "classic" period. Everything they released was astounding, whether it be the songwriting, the personal woes, the political commentaries, or just the experimentation of sound, Bright Eyes had it all going on. In my opinion, their best material begins with the EP Every Day And Every Night in 1999 and extends to the two albums released in 2005. Not to disrespect what came before and after, this was just their peak.

The aforementioned EP consists of five emotionally destroyed songs that take their skeleton from folk and build upon it, telling personal stories instead of political ones, and expanding instrumentation from the basic acoustic guitar to a full band that sounds more like a symphony crying tears of whiskey than a "band". Oberst's lyrics can be read as poetry, and his vocals are just as unstable as he seems to be. This sound carries on to their next album, Fevers and Mirrors, which is my personal favourite Bright Eyes record, except for perhaps the obvious I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. The EP's following Fevers and Mirrors continued to feature some beautiful songs crafted by Mr. Oberst, such as "Going For The Gold", "Kathy With A K's Song", "Drunk Kid Catholic", "Loose Leaves", "Amy In White Coat", and so many more.

Their 2002 album Lifted... is what I consider by their most "epic" record. Not only is it the band's longest, but I feel like its the most expansive sonically. Their folk roots and melodic sensibilities are still evident on pop songs like "Bowl of Oranges", while their darker, electronic side is shown on "Lover I Don't Have To Love". Both of these also happen to be the album's most successful songs. Songs stretch to great lengths, whether they be the bare-bones sound and story of "Waste of Paint", or the extended, big-band sound of "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And Be Loved)". This album also marks the advent of Bright Eyes as a political force, since the songs are no longer exclusively personal, and begin dealing with social issues and taking political stances. This was also partially started on Read Music/Speak Spanish, the debut album Conor did with his other band Desaperecidos earlier that year. Also in that same year (2002), Bright Eyes released A Christmas Album, which contains chilling renditions of classic Christmas carols, and are very stripped-down in comparison to how big some songs on Lifted sound, which is a nice contrast. Also, it's probably my personal favourite Christmas album ever (sorry She & Him).

Lifted was what garnered the band some attention, but their next two albums were the ones that were really their breakout albums. Both I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn were released in 2005, and both made it into the Top 20 of the Billboard Albums chart. This was partially helped by both contained one of the biggest respective singles, with those being "First Day Of My Life" and "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)". I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is probably their most cohesive blend of indie rock and folk, as well as their most cohesive as an entire album. Each song could be considered one of Conor's strongest, and the production work here is much cleaner than their prior albums, which makes the band sound fuller and stronger than ever. This is widely considered to be their definitive album, and for good reason. It is easily be considered their "best", for lack of a better word, simply because each of these 10 songs is a masterpiece that balances experiments with song structures and instrumentation in the background, while Oberst's songwriting, guitar playing, and singing/lyrics takes the foreground. The subtle nuances perfectly compliment the most appealing part of Bright Eyes (the aforementioned things), and well perfectly balancing a political statement with some personal storytelling.

Digital Ash in a Digital Urn eschews the acoustic basis of its counterpart in favour of a full-on electronic-based album. Despite the two albums being released at the same time, they share almost nothing in common. There's a lot more going on within the production of Digital Ash..., both in the actual sound and layers of instrumentation. The themes of the album also change, with this one not being as politically based as its counterpart. Rather, I think of it as more of a philosophical statement, dealing with personal struggles with existence, death, mortality, all through the lens of his own personal struggles.

Bright Eyes continued to stay productive for the next few years, releasing a live album titled Motion Sickness at the end of 2005 and a great compilation of rarities titled Noise Floor in 2006. Both of these are definite essentials to their discography, outside of their actual studio albums of course. 2007 brought their penultimate full-length album, Cassadaga. The production here is noticeably slicker, and the instrumentation continues to expand for a big-band sound. However, the basis of Bright Eyes, Conor's croaked voice and lyrics are still the centerpiece here, and still strong. Cassadaga also spawned a fairly successful single, "Four Winds".

Following Cassadaga, Bright Eyes took a bit of a break to give way for some new projects. For one, Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band got started and released two albums, one in 2008 and one in 2009. Monsters of Folk, a supergroup consisting of Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, along with M. Ward and Jim James, released a self-titled album in 2009. The three members of Bright Eyes finally reunited in 2011 for The People's Key. This could be the last Bright Eyes record ever to be made, but then again, who thought Desaprecidos' Payola would ever exist, and that was  a 13-year gap. Regardless, The People's Key is a pretty drastic leap from the majority of Bright Eyes music. It's mostly electronic, which could warrant comparisons to Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, though the two don't have much in common besides the heavy use of electronics. For one, the production is very slick on The People's Key, with the sounds and textures being emphasized more than the songwriting, which was a lot stronger and more prominent Digital Ash. This new album also explores Conor's more political and spiritual side lyrically, though there are still some of his signature haunting personal narratives, most notably "Ladder Song". It spawned some solid singles such as "Jejune Stars", which is fast, clean, and catchy, as well as the swan song statement of "One For You, One For Me", which Conor still regularly includes in his set lists.

That just about wraps up long and extensive word-vomit article on Bright Eyes. Though the project's been shelved for now, its members are still incredibly active in the musical world. In 2012, the Mystic Valley Band did a documentary, Saddle Creek also reissued a ton of Bright Eyes records on vinyl that same year. Conor released a solo album in 2014 titled Upside Down Mountain which was phenomenal, and his other band Desaperecidos released their long-awaited Payola in 2015. They've collaborated regularly with other artists such as First Aid Kit and Dawes as well.

1. The Invisible Gardener
2. Patient Hope In A New Snow
3. Saturday As Usual
4. Falling Out Of Love At This Volume
5. Exaltation On A Cool Kitchen Floor
6. The Awful Sweetness Of Escaping Sweat
7. Puella Quam Amo Est Pulchra
8. Driving Fast Through a Big City Night
9. How Many Lights Do You See?
10. I Watched You Taking Off
11. A Celebration Upon Completion
12. Emily, Sing Something Sweet
13. All Of The Truth
14. One Straw (Please)
15. Lila
16. A Few Minutes On A Friday
17. Supriya
18. Solid Jackson
19. Feb 15th
20. The 'Feel Good' Revolution

1. If Winter Ends
2. Padriac My Prince
3. Contrast And Compare
4. The City Has Sex
5. The Difference In The Shades
6. Touch
7. June On The West Coast
8. Pull My Hair
9. Empty Canyon, Empty Canteen
10. A Poetic Retelling Of An Unfortunate Seduction
11. Tereza and Tomas

1. A Line Allows Progress, A Circle Does Not
2. A Perfect Sonnet
3. On My Way To Work
4. A New Arrangement
5. Neely O'Hara

1. A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever, And A Necklace
2. A Scale, A Mirror And Those Indifferent Clocks
3. The Calendar Hung Itself...
4. Something Vague
5. The Movement Of A Hand
6. Arienette
7. When The Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under Glass
8. Haligh, Haligh, a lie, Haligh
9. The Center Of The World
10. Sunrise, Sunset
11. An Attempt To Tip The Scales
12. A Song To Pass The Time

1. Bright Eyes - The Calendar Hung Itself
2. Her Space Holiday - The Doctor and the DJ
3. Her Space Holiday - Contrast and Compare (Remix)
4. Her Space Holiday - Famous to Me (Hurtful Kid)

Note: This version of "The Calendar Hung Itself" is the same one on Fevers and Mirrors

1. Motion Sickness
2. Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man

Note: Both of these tracks are also included on Noise Floor

1. Bright Eyes - I Won't Ever Be Happy Again
2. Bright Eyes - The Joy In Discovery
3. Bright Eyes - The Joy In Forgetting/The Joy In Acceptance
4. Son, Ambulance - Like Billy Budd or Cyrano De Bergerac
5. Son, Ambulance - The Woman in the Underpass
6. Son, Ambulance - Astrud, Astrud
7. Bright Eyes - Lovers Turn Into Monsters

1. Son, Ambulance - Brown Park
2. Bright Eyes - Going For The Gold
3. Son, Ambulance - The Invention Of Beauty
4. Bright Eyes - Oh, You Are The Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet And Hold The Earth In Place
5. Son, Ambulance - On The Concourse
6. Bright Eyes - No Lies, Just Love
7. Son, Ambulance - Katie Come True
8. Bright Eyes - Kathy With A K's Song

Note: All of the Bright Eyes songs on here also appear on Don't Be Frightened Of Turning The Page

1. Going For The Gold
2. Oh, You Are The Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet And Hold The Earth In Place
3. I Won't Ever Be Happy Again
4. No Lies, Just Love
5. Kathy With A K's Song
6. Mirrors And Fevers

1. Drunk Kid Catholic
2. Happy Birthday To Me (Feb. 15th)
3. I've Been Eating (For You)

Note: All three of these songs appear on Noise Floor

1. Lover I Don't Have To Love
2. Amy In The White Coat
3. Out On The Weekend (Live)

Note: Tracks 2 and 3 appear on the EP There Is No Beginning To the Story

1. The Album Leaf & Bright Eyes - Hungry for a Holiday
2. The Album Leaf & Bright Eyes - Badblood

Note: The second track appears on Noise Floor

1. From A Balance Beam
2. Messenger Bird's Song
3. We Are Free Men
4. Loose Leaves
5. Amy In The White Coat
6. Out On The Weekend (Live)

1. The Big Picture
2. Method Acting
3. False Advertising
4. You Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will.
5. Lover I Don't Have To Love
6. Bowl of Oranges
7. Don't Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come
8. Nothing Gets Crossed Out
9. Make War
10. Waste Of Paint
11. From A Balance Beam
12. Laura Laurent
13. Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And To Be Loved)

1. Bright Eyes - Spent On Rainy Days
2. Britt Daniel - You Get Yours
3. Bright Eyes - Southern State
4. Britt Daniel - Let The Distance Keep Us Together

Note: The first track appears on Noise Floor

1. Away In A Manager
2. Blue Christmas
3. O Little Town of Bethlehem
4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
5. The First Noel
6. Little Drummer Boy
7. White Christmas
8. Silent Night
9. Silver Bells
10. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
11. The Night Before Christmas

1. Neva Dinova - Rollerskating
2. Bright Eyes - Happy Accident
3. Neva Dinova - Someone's Love
4. Bright Eyes - I Know You
5. Neva Dinova - Tripped
6. Bright Eyes - Black Comedy
 7. Neva Dinova - Poison
8. Bright Eyes - I'll Be Your Friend
9. Neva Dinova - Get Back
10. Bright Eyes - Spring Cleaning

Note: The last 6 tracks on here were originally recorded and released in 2004. The album was reissued in 2010, and both bands returned to record two new songs each for the reissue, thus the addition of the first four songs.

1. Lua
2. Well Whiskey
3. I Woke Up With This Song In My Head This Morning
4. True Blue

1. Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
2. Burn Rubber (Simon Joyner cover)
3. Cremation

1. At The Bottom of Everything
2. We Are Nowhere And It's Now
3. Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)
4. Lua
5. Train Under Water
6. First Day Of My Life
7. Another Travelin' Song
8. Land Locked Blues
9. Poison Oak
10. Road To Joy

1. Time Code
2. Gold Mine Gutted
3. Arc Of Time (Time Code)
4. Down In A Rabbit Hole
5. Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
6. Hit The Switch
7. I Believe In Symmetry
8. Devil In The Details
9. Ship In A Bottle
10. Light Pollution
11. Theme To Pinata
12. Easy/Lucky/Free

1. First Day Of My Life
2. When The President Talks To God
3. True Blue

1. At The Bottom Of Everything
2. We Are Nowhere And It's Now
3. Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)
4. Make War (Short Version)
5. Make War
6. A Scale, A Mirror, And Those Indifferent Clocks
7. Landlocked Blues
8. Method Acting
9. Train Under Water
10. When The President Talks To God
11. Road To Joy
12. Mushaboom (Feist cover)
13. True Blue
14. Southern State
15. The Biggest Lie (Elliott Smith cover)

1. Mirrors And Fevers
2. I Will Be Grateful For This Day
3. Trees Get Wheeled Away
4. Drunk Kid Catholic
5. Spent On Rainy Days
6. The Vanishing Act
7. Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man
8. Blue Angels Air Show
9. Weather Reports
10. Seashell Tale
11. Bad Blood
12. Amy In The White Coat
13. Devil Town
14. I've Been Eating (For You)
15. Happy Birthday To Me
16. Motion Sickness

1. Four Winds
2. Reinvent The Wheel
3. Smoke Without Fire
4. Stray Dog Freedom
5. Cartoon Blues
6. Tourist Trap

1. Clairaudients (Kill Or Be Killed)
2. Four Winds
3. If The Brakeman Turns My Way
4. Hot Knives
5. Make A Plan To Love Me
6. Soul Singer In A Session Band
7. Classic Cars
8. Middleman
9. Cleanse Song
10. No One Would Riot For Less
11. Coat Check Dream Song
12. I Must Belong Somewhere
13. Lime Tree

1. Susan Miller Rag

Note: This was a bonus disc that came with pre-orders of Cassadaga

1. Firewall
2. Shell Games
3. Jejune Stars
4. Approximate Sunlight
5. Haile Selassie
6. A Machine Spiritual (In The People's Key)
7. Triple Spiral
8. Beginner's Mind
9. Ladder Song
10. One For You, One For Me

1. Singularity
2. In The Real World

Note: This was a b-side from The People's Key that was released on the same day

Big Old House
Breakfast In Bed (with Dntel)
Coat Check Dream Song (Live)
Endless Entertainment
Feeling It For Ian
Girl From The North Country (With Jim James and M. Ward)
Go Find Yourself A Dry Place
Have You Ever Heard Of Jandek?
It's Cool, We Can Still Be Friends
Lake Havasu (in Florida)
Napoleon's Hat
North of the City
Pioneer's Park (August 17th 1997)
Racing Towards The New
True Blue (Live)
We Are Nowhere, And It's Now (Live)


  1. I love Bright Eyes, Can't wait download these eps. I already bought all their albums awhile back :)

  2. I was wondering if you would do a post for Pinegrove. They signed to Run for Cover and did a re-release of their songs titled "Everything so Far"? Thanks for the consideration

  3. Thank you for this, it's really fun to read all of this and get to see every release!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I've listened to some of the downloads, some of the albums are a little buggy, the song will all the sudden sort of skip and blip like a scratched CD, just thought I would tell you.

  6. Conor Oberst has been my favourite dudeperson in music for the last six years. There are a few early songs missing from here, Lake Havatsu (in Florida) and North of the City from the Kill The Monster Before It Eats Baby split with Bill Hoover and Go Find Yourself A Dry Place and Racing Towards The New from the Squad Car 96 split but this is fairly comprehensive. If anyone has the song Science Fiction In Schools from a band he was in called The Magentas if they could post it that would be incredible. It's one of the only songs I'm missing and I know it exists because I found it on a forum archive from 2005 but the link had expired. I'm also missing Celebration from the vinyl version of The Uneventful Vacation by Commander Venus. If Sophie could do a full Conor retrospective with the rare stuff that would be so fucking incredible.

  7. of montreal please

  8. Thank you so much! I had almost all of these a long time ago but they got destroyed