Where To Start With… Bright Eyes
Beloved folk troubadour Conor Oberst, best known to everyone as the leading man in country oddballs Bright Eyes, releases his sixth solo album Upside Down Mountain next week. To celebrate we're looking back at the finest moments from his day job, here's where to start with Bright Eyes…
'The City Has Sex'
Oberst's first album under the name Bright Eyes is 1997's A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995–1997, but the first definitive record is 1998's Letting Off the Happiness, his first record with producer Mike Mogis. Oberst's relationship with Mogis is so strong he soon became a permanent member of Bright Eyes, making it a band rather than just a name for Oberst to play under.
This track is fast, direct and full of bite and swagger, a combination Oberst would go on to make his defining qualities.
'The Calendar Hung Itself...'
Oberst can do cutesy country, he can do sweet pop songs and he can do nasty, bitter, angular daggers to the heart, and there's nothing in his back catalogue more poisonous than 'The Calendar Hung Itself...'. Taken from his 2000 album Fevers and Mirrors, by far his darkest record, this is jagged stab of a track. It's just as stirring as his quieter moments though.
'Lover I Don't Have To Love'
Taken from 2002's wonderfully titled Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, this as close as Oberst gets to a proper pop song. Built round a gentle piano hook and powerful drumbeat, this as much Rufus Wainwright and Fiona Apple as it is Conor Oberst in tone. It packs a great chorus too, with real verve and drive.
'At The Bottom Of Everything'
As well as all the other moods Oberst puts across, he can also do downright odd. This opening track from 2005's I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is very, very odd indeed. It starts with Oberst going on a grand monologue about a man and a woman who strike up a friendship in a plane crash before giving way to a Bob Dylan esque folk song masked with his typically abstract lyrical musings.
Taken from what is probably the finest Bright Eyes album, this is perhaps the most bizarre opening track you'll ever hear.
2007's Cassadaga saw Oberst really embrace his country roots, with a freewheeling sound and guest appearances from Rachel Yamagata, Sleater Kinney's Janet Weiss, Eisley's Stacy DuPree and Sherri DuPree and Gillian Welch. This is a strange sort of hoe-down, with a fiddle driving the song and a real drive to the verses. It's just as biting lyrically though, with Oberst taking aim at religious fanaticism with lines like "The Bible's blind, the Torah's deaf, the Qur'an's mute."
Conor Oberst's new album Upside Down Mountain is released on Monday (May 19th) and is available for pre-order in hmv stores now.