Showing posts with label "Bright Eyes". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Bright Eyes". Show all posts


Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band; Terminal 5

Bad photo just to prove how hard it was to get a shot.

Terminal 5, whoops, I mean Terminal Hell. I will never go back. I only went because for the last 8 years, I’ve seen Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) at every venue in the tri-state area. This is a long Obsession that won’t quit. I endured and tried to keep a positive outlook, and I’m glad I did. Having wandered around the event to find somewhere within viewing range for Ben Kweller's upbeat and engaging performance of countrified pop was close to impossible. His fans were vast and even with the two-story balcony, I didn’t find one slight opening to fully appreciate the music. 

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band set started similarly. I stood by the WFUV Tables and had a side view for the first half of the set. Speaking of die-hard fans, standing next to me was a pregnant woman with her mate, lovingly hanging on to every word. I laughed and got such a kick out of watching Conor dance and lead the band in a new and out-there sort of way. Doing moves that seemed so unlike him. He sang and added sign language to outline certain lyrics in a pop-rap fashion. It was a hoot. I find it endearing after seeing so many shows with him literally shaking with fear. I still love those special shows and hold them dearly in memory. A very comfortable and very much in command Conor emerged. Maybe it was the hat. That always helps. It gave confidence to the new and unfamiliar persona of Conor Obeast.  

The band was tight and explosive. Most of their sound is countryesque mixed with a solid rock and roll spirit, guitar leads, and bluesy piano riffs. The sound was loud and emphasized the muscle of the music but too loud to appreciate the nuance. “Moab” shined, showing off the great melding of vocals. They played quite a few new tunes. A very strong new song, "Ten Women," highlighted Conor’s gift for writing. He ended the set with “Milk Thistle” and returned with a strong four-song encore, including one with Ben Kweller. “I Don’t Want To Die In The Hospital” was spectacular. They ended on an experimental new song, "Breezy" that spoke volumes about future endeavors. It had atmosphere and strange distant scratchy sounds of what I thought was metal on guitar. Better Photos from Prefix


Conor Oberst "Souled Out" video

Comedic Video selection of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. After writing a serious and detailed review of this release, I thought I'd present this hilarious video as comic relief. Due to the extraordinarily large quantity of news and posts about Conor Oberst, my thoughtful and laborious review is lost. So here it is in all its glory. README (Word Painter; Conor Oberst's self-titled review).


And this "MOAB" on Late Night with Craig Ferguson


Word Painter; Conor Oberst self titled review

Conor Oberst's songwriting is an intricate composition of words that construct images real and implied. Words that juxtapose, contradict, form associations, comparisons, and work to form an asymmetrical structure. The listener navigates the labyrinth of iconic symbols, religious legends, history, geography, and societal phraseology of a troubled world. Oberst is always trying to figure it out and maybe get it right. 
  Conor and The Mystic Valley Band recorded in a temporary studio in a mountain villa for a one-month session in Tepoztlán, Morales, Mexico. The simplicity and comfort of production capture the words and bring to life the songwriting palette of Conor Oberst. His brushes are metaphors that are lovingly woven into melody structures. There are familiar sounds like Dylan song-speak in “Get-Well-Cards” and Tom Petty in the upbeat “Sausalito” and " Souled Out” that are inspirational appropriation. And yes, there is Bright Eyes. The beautiful single note intros, treatments of atmosphere, and countryesque rootsy folk charm. 

 The song “Cape Canaveral” starts with a pulse of percussion marking time while the guitar gently picks. The narrator weighs his destiny as he reveres the ancient stoic presence of totem poles juxtaposed with the rocket's boundless possibilities at Cape Canaveral. Our lives, often messy and complicated, are not symmetrical like a universal formality. We search for common truths in our memories that fade and blur with time. / some 1980’s grief / gives me parachute dreams / like old war movies / while the universe was drawn / perfect circles form infinity. The sad circumstances of a young life taken too soon from bad bone marrow take on a celebratory tone in “Danny Callahan.” A message ensues / how the love we feel inside we can pass / see a brother in the gutter / you reach out your hand /. In contrast, the rollicking rockabilly of “I Don't Want To Die (in a hospital)" is a hilarious affirmation of life. An older man passionately declares / I don’t want to die in the hospital / You got to take me back outside /. In the form of a desperate chant of determination, he shouts/let me get my boots on / as the raucous piano chops of Nate Walcott play on with Jason Boesel's drum shuffling with abandon. “Lenders in the Temple” has the emotional weight necessary to convey how money and power can corrupt and lead to the hypocrisy of divergent ideas. / There’s moneylenders inside the temple / that circus tiger going to break your heart / something so wild / turned into paper / If I loved you / well that's my fault / He manages to insert his own frailties and remorse and make some kind of atonement for what he has done. Overwhelmed with empathy for / the starving children / ain’t got no mother / and commercialism gone awry, / while there are pink flamingos in the mall / I’d give a fortune for you infomercial if somebody will just take my call / take my call…… “Sausalito” and “MOAB” are road songs where both the physical and abstract meet. / while bikers glide by highway shrines / where pilgrims disappear / is the chorus of “Sausalito.” The happy, upbeat sounds glide by while / hair blowing in the hot wind / and smell of leather in your new car /. As the chorus celebrates the joyous simplicity of a road trip, the words find footprints anchored in history. “MOAB” is a slow country tune with beautiful harmonies / there’s nothing that the road cannot heal / that has a formidable answer / you can’t break out of a circle that you never knew you were in /. The music starts simply on “Eagle on a Pole,” but dramatically becomes full as Conor’s wavering and forceful emotional voice is highlighted. The drama of fragile memories and the significance of our mementos are fleeting …/ while the ashes of the dead / like the dandelions head / exploding and are scattered by the breeze /. The weeping guitar leads of Nik Frietes poignantly erupt. And sadly, these words ring true / It’s such a long way back / when nothing seemed to bother me. The last track, “Milk Thistle,” expresses the fragile nature of life and always-looming death compared with life’s harsh realities. While this sentiment is relayed, there is still hopefulness and a fight to go pound for pound, encouraging those trying their best. Unfortunately, there are always reminders of what a struggle it can be to stay above the ominous reality…/ newspaper / newspaper / can’t take no more / you’re here every morning /waiting at my door / I’m just trying to kiss you / and you stab my eyes / make me blue forever / like an island sky /and I’m not pretending / just let me have my coffee before you take away the day. / Effective simplicity, with Conor on guitar and Macey Taylor on bass

On this release, words are vehicles for understanding and give meaning in a world filled with contradictions. As I visualize his words, I find solace and claim life and optimism despite the inevitable. One day I won’t feel it, but on this day, I still do. Produced by Conor Oberst with the help of engineer and longtime associate Andy LeMaster. Conor Oberst (guitar, voice), Taylor Hollingsworth (guitar, voice), Nik Freitas (guitar, voice), Macey Taylor (bass, voice), Nate Walcott (Keys, Piano), Jason Boesel (drums, voice), Andy LeMaster (voice)


Obsession Collection Music Story; In Song

Once upon a time, a girl named Meg sent a file of Bright Eyes to a boy named Ryan, who then burned it and gave it to my daughter. The recordings ended up in my car CD player. Well, to say I was struck is an understatement. An obsession ensued. I was 49 years old, and I was considerably moved. I had never heard music that moved me to the core, feeling the bitter and sweet of everything.

Who the fuck was this anyway? An Eighteen-year
old boy? How could he know so much? I'll save my dissertation for another time. Music was always been a part of my life, but for some time was dormant. You know life gets in the way, obligations, children, money, and worries.

This marvelous obsession with Bright Eyes eventually led to this blog's birth.

Here is the same story in music
"I Feel The Music," written and recorded by me Artifact
Over the year, my Bright Eyes collection grew. In November, I will see Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band (unfortunately, not at the sold-out Bowery Ballroom). It will be the nineteenth time I’ve seen Conor in one form or another. "I Feel The Music" MySpace


Bright Eyes; Radio City Music Hall

Our seats were good, yet too far for pictures, orchestra, Isle D, double A (only one is reflective of my bra size). This was my eighteenth time seeing Bright Eyes live; I was not disappointed.

Opening acts are always a treat at a Bright Eyes show / The Felice Brothers

I can think of a few other bands that welcome and support new, emerging, or underrated talent the way Bright Eyes does. They welcome these rogue originals with open arms.

The Felice Brothers expressed that playing Radio City was quite a bump up from performing in the subway. They thanked Bright Eyes for the experience and gave a very sweet shout-out to their grandmother in the audience, who was excited to see her grandsons play at the same venue as Frank Sinatra.

The Felice Brothers is a quartet of three brothers and a friend from Catskills, NY. They tell narrative tales blending Americana with a rusty homegrown sound. Produced by a blend of acoustic guitar, drums, bass, accordion, and piano. They played ten songs with three strong and distinct vocalists sharing the lead while the remaining members sang rough harmonies.

Despite the expansive stage in an overwhelmingly large venue, they connected with the audience and created a down-home and intimate staging peppered with theatrics. During “The Ballad of Lou the Welterweight,” James Felice, the accordionist, put a hat over his heart in tribute to the fallen boxer. When he introduced a song about hardship and depression, his s
oulful deep vocals were memorable. They ended their set with “Frankie’s Gun,” accompanied by Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes on trumpet. A very fitting ending with a full chorus singing, / bang bang bang went Frankie’s gun/ he shot me down.

Thurston Moore's Personal Vision Realized

In came Thurston Moore and his band of aural angels, playing songs from his new solo release Trees Outside The Academy. Staring at the two acoustic guitars, bass, violin, and drums, my eyes betrayed my ears. This acoustic band of deception laid down intricate compositions, replete with constant pulsating drums by Steve Shelley, bass rhythms, double guitar leads (Thurston Moore and Chris Brokaw), and darting violin treatments throughout. Samara Lubelski on violin played a haunting low register, rarely segueing into melody.

The scaffolding of instrumentation created a collaboration of the highest order. Every song had this never-ending
quality, not like a jam but more like an organic improvisation within the song structure. The last song, “Trees Outside the Academy,” closed this impressive set and highlighted the accomplished musicianship. I closed my eyes and hoped this class act would never end.

Bright Ey
This Bright
Eyes show had no agenda. This was not a promotional tour but the last night stand of a year-long tour. And stand they did. They played a wide variety of the Bright Eyes catalog with added new arrangements. The collaborative nature of an ever-changing cast of players, with the anchoring of Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, creates a fresh approach. I appreciate seeing live shows that don’t mimic exactly what is on the recording and Bright Eyes delivers.

At Radio City, the music was loud, but it was grand. Although Conor works very hard at phrasing and pronunciation, not all of the words were audible. The added restraint of coordinating with a vocalist can be tricky, and Bright Eyes did not sacrifice the live feel of the music for the lyrics. While I would have loved to hear every word from Conor, I didn’t feel deprived.

Starting with “Another Traveling Song” from I’m Wide Awake Its Morning Conor came out and took command of the stage. Having seen him over the years terrified, it is wonderful to witness the confidence, maturity, and ease with which he can now perform.

I just about flipped to hear “Song to Pass the Time” from Fevers and Mirrors. I have heard many versions of that song. The twangy flavor of the original song was changed considerably with the addition of the trumpet. “Lua” stood out with James Felice on accordion and Nate Walcott
on flugelhorn, adding depth and distance to the sad tale. “Poison Oak” was moving. “True Blue” was infused with a strong pedal steel guitar and sung with conviction, / I don’t know much about you / but I like you because you’re true blue /.

Only one complaint I could have done without the Tom Petty cover. It was fun, rollicking, and exciting, but I would have been happier with an original. The stage festivities grew as The Felice Brothers joined in and the Radio City night lights strobe across the ceiling. The audience rose from their seats to join the celebration.

Bright Eyes ended the four-song encore with a new political power song of intensity and anger about the war and the future of many wars to come. / Nothing left but the cockroaches / in a movie with no sound /. As always, Bright Eyes has words that move, stating truisms like no other, employing all of us to take a hard look in the mirror. I left smiling but felt pangs of guilt thinking about the state of the world as I walked down Isle D.


Bright Eyes "Cassadaga" Review:

Bright Eyes: “Cassadaga” Review Conor Oberst The Crooner Can Turn a Phrase 

Conor Oberst’s voice, timing and phrasing is at their best in “Cassadaga,” Bright Eyes seventh Full-Length release. I have always felt that Conor Oberst’s phrasing style and lyric delivery could be compared to Frank Sinatra, but in “Cassadaga,” the connection is more evident. He artfully structures words in a frame without sacrificing the timing, while the acute measurement of empty space guides the listener to linger. The emotional weight of his poetic verse is highlighted by the subtle nuance of his singing style.  The songwriting blossoms with inference. It is uncanny how Oberst can attach imagery to thought, creating a pathway between the visual and cerebral cortex. Like: Standing on a doorstep full of nervous butterflies / or / vanish in a thick mist of change /. Utilizing this format, he accentuates the unpredictable nature of his song craft. 

Adding to Conor Oberst’s inspired vocal delivery is the inventive music mixing by Mike Mogis and orchestra arrangements by Nate Walcott. Together they rework the Bright Eyes discography into a polished combination of alt-country styling, digital effects, orchestral lushness, and gorgeous choral flourishes. With outstanding guest appearances throughout, including Dave Rawlings’ signature guitar, the vocals of Rachel Yamagatta, Gillian Welch, Sheri, and Stacy DuPree, Jason Boesel, and M Ward's contributions on “Soul Singer.” 

The Bright Eyes tradition of starting the first track with unusual sound effects like cassette recordings, children reading, keys turning on the car engine, or storytelling is continued in Cassadaga. “Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)” opens with a psychic reading, while supernatural orchestration leads into the atmospheric song. It explores the subject of destiny. A destiny is determined by individual choices or, in contrast, beyond the range of control, like in manmade and natural occurrences. This song sets the tonal direction for the entire collection of songs. “Four winds” is a rollicking fiddle-driven fare disseminating a tirade of social, religious, and political epithets and emphasizing the hypocrisies of destiny offerings. Your class, caste, country, sect, name, or tribe / There are people always dying trying to keep them alive /. Here he extols the state of civilization as it repeats history. “The Brakeman Turns My Way” emphasizes self-determination and the desire to search for answers. / It’s an infinite coincidence, but it doesn’t make a plan /. Some people are lucky to have the opportunity to change their fate and level out. The paradox is presented cleverly in the line / People snuffed out in the brutal rain /. The dichotomy is forcefully clear as the pulsating strumming and forceful rock/country styling take hold. The fateful direction unfolds with “Classic Cars” as memory awakens to recall a passing love affair / like two quaint ships in the night / She leaves him with these thoughtful words / everything is a cycle / you’ve got to let it come to you / And when it does you’ll know what to do /. The wise offering guides him and ultimately influences his life. In “Make a Plan To Love Me,” Conor’s crooning shines as sentimental strings pipe in on queue, and the lavish vocals of Rachel Yamagata are added to dress this romantic escapade. As they sing during the chorus / make a plan to love me / make a plan to love me sometime soon /. The saddest and most heart-wrenching song, “No One Would Riot For Less,” is circa Bright Eyes at its best. As he sings / So love me now / Hell is coming / Kiss my mouth Hell is here /. And / Little soldier / little insect / you know war it has no heart / it will kill you in the sunshine or happily in the dark /. This is where the forbidding future, impending doom, and love collide. The last song, “Lime Tree,” starts with simple guitar plucks and Conor’s voice.

At the end of the second verse, string arrangements exemplify the heartfelt words. Rachel Yamagata and Stacey Dupree's choral affectations are sublime, cascading the song to breathtaking levels. The song ends dramatically as he takes a major step into the world. Stepping gingerly into his destiny. / I took my shoes and walked into the woods / I felt lost and found with every step I took. Turning a phrase and dreaming big dreams, Bright Eyes has established their destiny with every track on this stunning recording. Label: Saddle Creek Records Artwork and design by Zack Nipper Utilizing the invention of a focal decoder, viewers can scan the art and see encrypted images and messages. Focal Decoder by patent no.2315240 "Four Winds" Review / Artifact


Bright Eyes "Four Winds" My Expectation Fulfilled

Bright Eyes
"Four Winds" single Saddle Creek Records

I heard Conor Oberst's voice 6 years ago, I was forty eight. A burned mix of Bright Eyes songs, ended up in my car CD player. It included the groups first recordings and tracks from"Fevers and Mirrors". The voice, the lyrics and the music had an overwhelming effect on me.
I just lost it. It was very emotional reaction. The music had awakened something in me. My passion for music was dormant until that moment. It changed my life and I am grateful.

Every year since that time, I have looked forward to Bright Eyes' new releases, with excitement and anticipation. This year is no exception. Buying the CD is part of the experience, opening it and looking at the artwork and lyric pages. I make sure I put time aside to listen and read. I will listen over and over. I never get tired of it. Oberst's words are always layered with multiple inference. This is never an easy listening experience. I like to work for art!

I am excited by the sound and direction of these recordings. The music is similar to the 2005 release "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning"
continuing with it’s alt country and rollicking folk flair. There is a difference, the production and orchestration are as layered as the lyrical content, mixing experimental effects that add an unexpected texture to the genre.The recordings have exceptional instrumentals including spectacular guitar riffs, awesome vocal harmonies and digital niceties like the repetition of the walking boots in the song "Tourist Trap". There are outstanding guest appearances from Dave Rawlings, Ben kweller and M. Ward, to name a few.

The alt country, violin driven "Four Winds" is the first track. The determined vocals emphasize the volatile lyrics .... / The Bible is blind /the Torah is deaf /the Quar'an is mute / if you buried them all together / you'd get close to the truth /. Religion turns away from the poor, displaced and forgotten. As another abandoned soul is remembered on a graffiti laden wall in a /chemical swirl/.

"Cartoon Blues" describes the abyss of depression as / a tumor we could not remove / an old friend / a constant / the blues / The music intensifies swept up in depression as the piano hammers out the demons. The strange sound effects express the lonely world of the blues. Then it breaks / I sweep up my broken spell /

I marvel at the lyrics. Like in "Tourist Trap", how the concrete city is depicted..../ The traffic is like a pack of dogs /. The title "Stray Dog Freedom" is thought provoking. I like the way the juxtaposition of words and meaning are intertwined. Opening the song with.... /There is a skinny dog/in a dirty parking lot /, these personifications bring to mind a broader context.

From the slow moving eerie gem "Smoke Without Fire" with M. Ward, to the beautiful orchestration and chorus, draping "Reinvent The Wheel", this six song collection are the appetizers, before the arrival of the full length main course, "Cassadaga". "Four Winds" are a welcome addition to my cherished and growing Bright Eyes collection.