Bright Eyes – Letting Off the Happiness
Saddle Creek, 1998
Acquired: Lawrence Antique Mall, Used
I remember the day I bought this. It was a snow day and despite the snow still coming down pretty hard I still drove to the antique mall and picked this record up. I’d seen it the day before, and wondered if I should spend almost forty bucks on it. When I got home, I looked on the internet and found that an original pressing of the first Bright Eyes with hand-screen printed cover limited to 300 copies went for upwards of $200. However, I’ve never really wanted to sell it. I like having it, like a little artifact of youth or something, given that this (and Fevers and Mirrors) were pretty huge for me when I was in high school. This summer when we weren’t listening to Dear You, Luke and I would listen to this record and sit on the sidewalk outside my backdoor drinking whisky and cokes, singing along as loud as we could to “If Winter Ends” and “June on the West Coast.” I think Chris Clark was there too. We were all really emo this summer. Listening to it now, I don’t want to sell it. It’s a really great record and I want to have it if all of my hard drives ever crash. That’s what my record collection is for. It’s constructed of records that I NEED to have in my life. Although, I say this now but I’m saying this after the Bright Eyes wave has crashed. Pre-Cassadaga, when I could have weaseled $350 from some teenager’s parents’ credit card on E-bay, I would have sold this record so hard. But for right now I like having it, and I like listening to Conor Oberst’s thin warbly voice, especially after really enjoying his most recent “solo album.” Letting Off the Happiness is amateurish in the absolute best way. It sounds like a kid screaming out his feelings into a reel-to-reel in the basement and there’s something really wonderful about that kind of expression at that age. It’s untainted, unfiltered, and it’s real. Unlike the later Bright Eyes records, I can tell he really means what he’s singing. It’s not an act. It’s interesting to see what’s happened to him in the past ten years, and more interesting realizing that his voice hasn’t changed at all. And despite the fact that this is the most valuable record in my collection, it’s also the record I’ve paid the most money for (that is, until I find an original pressing of Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand, which I have allotted myself between $100-150 to spend).