Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bright Eyes - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

Bright Eyes – Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
Saddle Creek, 2005
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2012
Price: $3
 Though I paid absolutely no mind to this record when it was released (primarily because it was released in tandem with the far superior, twang-infected I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning), sitting here with the detached synthesized wash of “Time Code” and reading the lyric sheet, I can see now so clearly the point of this record. Of course the people flocked to I’m Wide Awake. It’s warm and inviting and full of incredibly relatable emotions (and of course “First Day of My Life” is like, every teenage girl’s fantasy song they want their fantasy boyfriend to write for them, or if not, at least put on a mixtape for them). I’ve been over the whole “I Fucking Love Bright Eyes” thing before here, and maybe it’s my acceptance of that that is making Digital Ash sound really, really great right now. Like really fresh, but mostly because I don’t know if I ever listened to it all the way through. I loved “Take it Easy (Love Nothing)” but the rest was just so icy and sterile. At the time, at least. That was also during my first relationship and my alt-country phase was just kicking off so I can see it now why I was so giddy happy with I’m Wide Awake and how writing off this bleak album was so easy.

But bleakness is my game now! I’m totally into that! Totally into references to Don DeLillo, “The sorrowful midwest,” vanishing, personal hypocrisy, and “refrigerators full of blood.” Love that shit.

The teriffic “I Believe in Symmetry” somehow eluded me all these years but stands amongst the better songs Conor Oberst has written. A surefire hit as good as “Take it Easy.” “Ship in a Bottle” is like the twin sister of the Postal Service’s “Brand New Colony,” which may or may not be a coincidence since Postal Serviceman Jimmy Tambarello does a little knob-twiddling on this record. I’m still amazed at how good this record is when I spent years like, slagging the shit out of it. Being all “Oh yeah, that record was, like, so totally forgettable” when I’d only listened to it the (maybe) once and let’s just say it’s not a masterpiece but it’s definitely a solid release. Funny thing is, despite being all poo poo about Digital Ash, I had the t-shirt. The one with the dude throwing up numbers into a toilet, purchased when I saw Bright Eyes in Omaha kicking off the I’m Wide Awake portion of the supporting tour for the albums because the I’m Wide Awake shirt was “too girly.” The Digital Ash shirt looked too girly when I started putting on weight but still wore medium tees in like, sophomore year. Talkin’ bout man boobs. Not attractive. I think the shirt is gone, but at least I have this record. It’s a nice one to pull out once every six months or so and be like “Oh yeah, this is a really good record!”

Last thing. I think I have such a fondness for Conor Oberst and his music because he so totally captures that depressed plains state mentality that you get when you’re living in the depressed plains states and everyone thinks you’re a hick and your town and region is kind of desperate for some culture. In Omaha they made their own, the lucky bastards, but at least it didn’t kill their depressiveness (see also: Cursive, the Good Life, and Tim Kasher, three separate identities for the same dude who is MUCH more depressive than Oberst but just as good a songwriter if not better edgewise). But I get that. I ID hard, and like all high schoolers Fevers and Mirrors was the perfect medication for all the angst and fortunately Conor Oberst didn’t exploit that. It has been fun to grow along with Oberst’s records (despite the fact that he is five years my senior) and while Bright Eyes may or may not be kaput, Oberst will the neo-Dylan til the day he dies.

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