I saw Bright Eyes on Monday’s The Tonight Show singing “When the President Talks to God.” (A little late, thanks to DVR.)
I’ve heard zillions of “new Dylans” over the years, but this is the closest to real thing yet. I haven’t been bowled over by a song like this in decades. It was courageous of Leno to have him on, and I was amazed that the audience was applauding instead of booing.
But while I’ve heard the guy mentioned here and there, I really know nothing about him, except that the song isn’t even on one of his albums.
What’s the background, where should I go with him next, and who else out there is doing anything close to this?
The frontman for Bright Eyes is Conner Oberst, also in many other “indie” projects, such as The Mars Volta. As it happens, I hate Bright Eyes (too emo for my tastes) but love the the experimental nature of the mars volta.
You need to listen to the song “Devil Town”. That one smacks of Dylan too. “Take it Easy(love Nothing)” and “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”(with Emmylou Harris) are actually both more melodic than the first song I suggested, but since Devil Town was the first song I heard it’s the first one I think of when I want to hear Bright Eyes.
Both Bright Eyes and Bettie Serveert curently have internet radio singles for the song “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”- Bright Eyes/about a girl; Bette Serveert/about a guy- which I find really strange, but I like both (BS’s is better, though). I have no idea which came first and which is the cover.
Personally, I think Conor Oberst is ridiculously overrated. I have three of his albums (Bright Eyes’s Fevers and Mirrors and Lifted, or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Head to the Ground and Desparacidos’s Read Music/Speak Spanish) and, while he can occasionally write a really good song (“The Calendar Hung Itself,” “Padraic My Prince”), most of the rest is pretentious wank and whining. I’m a bit puzzled as to why he’s been called “the new Dylan” by so many people: his music is dull and mediocre and has nothing to say about the world past Oberst’s own navel. The main reasons he’s achieved indie fame, at least initially, was the novelty of his age (only 17 or 18 when his first Bright Eyes album came out) and the fact that he has the perfect face to attract emo-y teenage girls. He’s someone I want to like so much (thus the three albums) but I always come away from disappointed - primarily because I know he can occasionally hit oil but usually doesn’t, whether from laziness or egoism or from lack of talent.
Oh, and on preview, I see elfkin477’s comment about “Love I Don’t Have to Love”: the Bright Eyes version came first.
Well, I consider Bright Eyes and most of Saddle Creek (sans Tilly, Rilo, etc) to be the boy band dreck of the indie world. Most of Conor’s success is the teenage girl/boy demographic who is all angsty and what not. I will say I enjoy some of his songs (the up-beat ones) but consider the rest of his catalouge to be horribly overated, as other posters have mentioned above.
Oh, and he is an asshole, or was one live when my friend went to see him. Didn’t talk at all between songs, didn’t address the thousand screaming fans at all - just kind of came up, reluctantly, played his bit, and left. Like it was a chore.
I just saw him this past weekend and I was so bored, I sat down and waited for it to be over. Two of my friends who really like him enjoyed it, but I was far from impressed. Of course, I had just seen Nine Inch Nails and The Faint both put on really good shows so it would have been hard to impress me.
I want to like him: he’s got many of the musical ingredients I usually fall for – wordy, folky, odd arrangements – but I think there’s something in the overemotional tremor in his voice just turns me off. But then again, I am male and in my late 30s. I may check back in 5 or 10 years from now.
A friend bought I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and got an actual vinyl single of the President song for free, hated it, and passed it along to me. It’s the first new 45 rpm record I’ve owned in probably 10 years or more.
I’m only recently hearing Bright Eyes myself, but didn’t think he was bad. I’d rather listen to Elliott Smith or Josh Radin for introspective, pretty-sounding singer-songwriters, though. I had no idea that there was some kind of “sound” or “scene” associated with Saddle Creek Records! I love Rilo Kiley, who just happens to be on the label. They’re one of my favorite bands these days, and I’m hoping to see them live in June. Were you saying they aren’t part of the “boy band dreck of the indie world” (Jenny Lewis notwithstanding), or that they are?
His concert remains the most painful show I’ve ever seen, barely nudging out the time when I saw Built to Spill and THEY ACTUALLY CLOSED WITH FREEBIRD. Yes, by Lynard Skynard. But you can’t blame the guys for his fans. And hell, I was there, but it was a gift. The last album (“Lifted…”) has a few great tracks, but, it seems like everyone here is echoing what I’ve felt for a while: just too too pretentious. Sorry, Sr. Oberst.
The show was just thoroughly not fun. Lots of rambling, talking over guitars, 18 year old girls weeping. It was off-putting.
First things first, I consider most of the indie labels to have a “scene” (more precise, sound) associated with it. It’s just association for me - most, but not all, labels have a certain “sound” it attracts, for whatever reason. E6: experimental '60s pop, like Apples in Stereo with NMH. Merge: sub pop and something indescribable, like Magnetic Fields mixed with the Shins. Saddle Creek: slighty experimental pop-rock, like Conor Oberst mixed with Cursive (and no, not Despracedos). No, it doesn’t always hold true, but, to me, sometimes it just happens. Rilo Kiley and Tilly and the Wall sound nothing like them, but they still just look “Saddle Creek.” I don’t know how else to explain it (and no, it’s not a bad thing - it’s completely neutral.)
[Besides the point, the last two are especially exceptions since Rilo is not a Saddle Creek original (on a different label prior unlike most of the bands on it) and Tilly is not even actually on the label (Tilly is, in fact, on Oberst’s own label). However, they just “fit in” with Saddle Creek.]
I consider them (them: “the scene/sound”; sometimes Tim, mostly Conor) to be “the boy band dreck of the indie world” because they are very similar to boy bands of the pop world - they appeal to young teenagers (girls mostly), are slightly pretenious, are cute, and their songs deal with similar themes as boy bands. Dreck because it really seems like pap, indie world because for all intents and purposes they are still indie. Still, I really can’t help but listen to either of them sometimes, because sometimes they just get it right.
None of the people I know who like Bright Eyes are teenagers. Anyway I’ve heard two of the newer albums - I’m not sure about the names - and while it’s not the kind of thing I normally listen to, I dug it. Whiny in spots, self-important I guess, but I liked the eclecticism. Much of it sounded like it had just poured out of his head and taken whatever musical form it liked.