Light VS Dark
It is so tremendous to see experimentation taken to a higher level in recent pop music. Along with this comes Conor Oberst, AKA Bright Eyes. Oberst has created two albums of such distinct differences and released them simultaneously. Within these two albums, Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m Wide Awake, Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, Oberst plays with the ideas of Man versus Nature and Light versus Dark as well as constructing two solid, stand-alone records. Due to the nature of these two albums, they merit a longer review to explore their unique differences.Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m Wide Awake is a straightforward album of rock entwined with country; a very earthy record. It is a twang-y and docile Indie album, picking up the beat with some riotous instrumentals just when the song seems to get a little redundant, such as in the finale track â€šÃ„ÃºRoad to Joyâ€šÃ„Ã¹ when Oberst breaks out into screams. The album has an unplugged value, with simple acoustic instruments and a singing-in-the-basement vocal reverb quality, occasionally accompanied by vocalist Emmylou Harris. The lyrics are streams-of-consciousness, passionately beseeching about New York City, drug abuse, unrequited love, hopelessness and â€šÃ„Ãºtelevised warâ€šÃ„Ã¹. Contrary to what one may think by the Light versus Dark reference and its more vivacious and sprightly category, this albumâ€šÃ„Ã´s feel makes it the darker of the two.
Digital Ash is an album textured in a very different way from Wide Awake. It is more of a studio record, technology-charged and backed by drum machines and electronic samples. Oberst is aided by several veterans of this arena: Jimmy Tamborello (Postal Service), Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahâ€šÃ„Ã´s) and Mike Mogis (Digital Audio Engine). The extra help on this album makes it so much easier to digest. The melodies and song construction are stronger, with riffs sounding like they are off of Give Up. The first track â€šÃ„ÃºTime Codeâ€šÃ„Ã¹ has a current that could have been off of Downward Spiral, and its revamped version â€šÃ„ÃºArc of Timeâ€šÃ„Ã¹ has an intricate tribal beat. There is more of a classical influence, twisted to sound purely electronic.
However, Digital Ash is the more light-hearted of the two. The lyrics are still as forthright and heartfelt as those on Wide Awake, but with less of a whiny edge. The fact that Oberstâ€šÃ„Ã´s vocals are assisted by effects makes them feel a little bit more accessible. When his vocals are stripped and bare, they end up being too desperate, almost as if you have to feel sorry for him and his struggles. Everyone has had difficulty in their lives, and musicians have enough to write about. Oberstâ€šÃ„Ã´s lyrics are inviting for this exact reason, but his grating voice puts a roadblock between his music and his audience. When the focus is taken off of it, as in the songs where Harris backs him up or the entire Digital album, the comfort zone is broadened and availability to connect with the music is made easier. Digital Ash is definitely the more successful of the two albums, though both of them are triumphant in their own right.