Bright Eyes Four Winds [Saddle Creek]


Rating:  5.5

The truth? This is nothing new. Conor Oberst is a brilliant writer who can’t seem to do wrong with his lyrics. His poetic folk-pop verses wrench your gut like a bad break-up or a book that entertains you every time you read it—never getting old, always simple and beautiful.

Trademark vibrato and thoughtful lyrics have been the only staples in Bright Eyes, the band Oberst fronts. Their sound has changed with every album, morphing in and out of folk, country, rock and pop. The band’s albums are filled with guest musicians and new additions to the line-up. Often their albums seem to be attempting to find new ways to utilize the lyrical backdrop that the songs depend on. If Bright Eyes puts out an album of mostly delicate, lonely folk and country ballads, the chances are their next album will be shy on the acoustic guitar—ripe with distortion and overdrive.

I strongly prefer the more stripped down songs of Bright Eyes, the songs that are lined with crackling acoustic guitar tracks and vocal harmonies, fiddles or horns and filled out by Oberst’s brilliant use of language. Although his prose is often laden with self degradation and self-importance, the honesty in it always comes through. When free from all of the layered distractions in their loose, under-produced rock songs, Bright Eyes’ lyricist is nearly impossible to resist.

Their newest attempt, Four Winds, is a six song EP. The title track on the EP appears on their new full length slated for release later this month. The rest of the songs on it are B-sides. Yup, B-sides.

From what I know of it, usually when a song is released as a B-side, it is with good reason. The songs were usually dropped from the album because they weren’t the band’s best work, and were really only suitable for hardcore fans of the artist(s) who’d buy anything by their favorite band.

Sure there are exceptions. Radiohead’s “Killer Cars”, or Weezer’s “Suzanne” or “Jamie” (which are better than most of the songs the band has released since) are fine examples of B-sides that were completely worth the purchase, probably didn’t fit the rest of the album, and certainly did warrant releasing.

Four Winds has a couple of good songs on it that aren’t on the new full length and I think hardcore fans of Bright Eyes should probably pick up the EP for those songs. For the rest of us, however, I would suggest waiting for the release of their full length.

—Kenny Ball

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