Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bright Eyes

  • Lifted, or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground [Saddle Creek, 2002] B+
  • I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning [Saddle Creek, 2005] A-
  • Digital Ash in a Digital Urn [Saddle Creek, 2005] *
  • Noise Floor (Rarities 1998-2005) [Saddle Creek, 2006] Dud
  • Cassadaga [Saddle Creek, 2007] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Lifted, or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground [Saddle Creek, 2002]
Spewing his sprawls of lyric, melody, and instrumentation, Conor Oberst is the poster boy of the American Agony Association. Respect him as a co-equal and he'll drive you out of the room in nothing flat. Feel or indulge his suffering youth, however, and he'll kindle something like awe. This great leap forward, 13 songs lasting 73 minutes without benefit of extended groove, comes to a climactic halt with "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and Be Loved)," where his apology for a suicide attempt elicits his dad's Inspirational Retort: "Child, I love you regardless and there is nothing you could do that would ever change this. I'm not angry. It happens. You just can't do it again." B+

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning [Saddle Creek, 2005]
Given indie-rock's formal-historical dilemma, grant Conor Oberst this--at least it bothers him that he has no idea what he's doing, or rather why he's doing it, though actually I mean he admits that it bothers him instead of trying to ignore it. Like the empathy of so many young men, especially artists, his is more self-involved than saints like us prefer. But at least he expresses empathy--to memorable melodies that very nearly bear up under the repetitions his rarely witless or superfluous lyrics require. A-

Digital Ash in a Digital Urn [Saddle Creek, 2005]
Noised these up because he's nervous about them ("Arc of Time," "Hit the Switch"). *

Noise Floor (Rarities 1998-2005) [Saddle Creek, 2006] Dud

Cassadaga [Saddle Creek, 2007]
In a banner year for indie semistars such as the Shins, Spoon, the New Pornographers and their major-matriculated kin, Conor Oberst's emotional directness stands out. He's verbose and sometimes addled. But he's not ironic--only Arcade Fire go for the gut with such gusto. From numerous contenders, my favorite song months after they arrived begs for a John Legend or Taylor Hicks cover: "Make a Plan to Love Me," which could have been written on his Blackberry and sent instantly to the career woman of his dreams--in about 20 pieces. A-

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