A horrible hack

Bright Eyes

Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground

Year Released: 2002
Format: CD
Label: Saddle Creek
Reviewed by Mike Whelan on Jun 13, 2007
An absurdly long album title for quite a lengthy album. ‘Lifted’ is the new release from one-man army Conor Oberst, the prodigy behind Bright Eyes.

But “one-man army” does not quite describe this release properly. Numerous musicians and arrangements are used to beef up thee songs, so that ‘Lifted’ does not sound so much like a solo-album, but more like an orchestra with a half-dozen bands attached to it. Every track is different, from the 8-minute opener ‘The Big Picture,’ (which sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom, with only Oberst and his guitar) to the excellent ‘Lover I Don’t Have to Love,’ which is resplendent with violins, organs and Oberst himself crying the disturbing lyric “I wanna lover I don’t have to love/I wanna boy who’s so drunk he doesn’t talk” over the chorus. A country and western influence is evident as well, but it sounds quirkier than anything else, lending to the album rather than taking anything away.

Away from the music Oberst is a funny and intelligent songwriter. Whereas some tracks are firmly tongue-in-cheek (‘Bowl of Oranges’), others take the form of stories or diary entries. Some of the finest moments on the album, ‘Don’t Know When But A Day is Gonna Come,’ and ‘Waste of Paint’ are not songs but events put to music. Oberst sings about things he sees, people he meets, anything, but he does it in such an honest and open fashion that it becomes compelling.

This is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. Saddle Creek Records are putting out some very impressive music at the moment, and this ranks as one of their finest albums. I wasn’t sure if I would like this after hearing about the country and western or rootsy influence, but I was wrong, this album has all but cemented itself in my CD player – in a word, essential.

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