The Studio Albums 2000-2011
(Saddle Creek Records)
The word “wunderkind” gets tossed around a lot in music journalism (along with “genius” and “icon”), but few would argue that the term was not tailor-made Midwest singer-songwriter Conor Oberst who was just 18 when he released the first 20 tracks under the Bright Eyes moniker. The songs were earnest without being sappy and showed a depth of emotion few had been able to match in the indie pop world up to that point. The music was not overly complicated, but still impressive and lyrically, Oberst was writing poetry.
Nowhere is that more obvious than on this collection of studio albums re-released by Saddle Creek, the Omaha-based label co-founded by Oberst’s brother. The half dozen studio albums by Bright Eyes, all remastered, oddly does not include every Bright Eye’s record – handpicking just about half from the catalogue – but does include some of their best (the only other album that is really missed here is the impressive sophomore effort, Letting Off the Happiness). The set does, however, include Fevers and Mirrors (2000), Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002), I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005), Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005), Cassadaga (2007) and The People’s Key (2011). In the years since that first collection of songs came out under the Bright Eyes moniker, Oberst has been wildly prolific (challenging Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams for the “hardest working” title), putting out 10 Bright Eyes records, six solo works, one with Park Ave., four with Desaparecidos and one record with Monsters of Folk.
The Bright Eyes re-releases come out on CD and vinyl. The latter is on colored vinyl and Digital Urn includes a D-side etching. They also include an essay by Nathaniel Krenkel and twelve 8×10 photo prints by Butch Hogan, digital downloads for all 6 albums and are limited to only 5,000 copies. The CD box set contains 6 CDs housed in a foil stamped linen coated board slip and are limited to 1,000 copies.