Conor Oberst is probably among the more underrated indie artists out there, with his raw, intelligent songs. Now as a prelude to the next full length Bright Eyes album, "Lua" is released -- heartbreak, today-is-the-first-day exuberance, and much more. Only four songs long, but worth it.
"Lua" opens the single, a fragile little guitar melody full of Oberst's wounded vocals. The poor guy always sounds a little hung over, and a lot depressed. "We might die from medication/but we sure killed all the pain/what was normal in the evening/by the morning seems insane," he sings, before launching into singing so trembly you expect to hear him sob.
With a song that emotional and raw, it's a bit of a shock to hear the countryish "Whiskey Well." No, wait, make that a HUGE shock. But after getting through that song, it seems normal enough to hear "I Woke Up With This Song In My Head This Morning," a rollicking pop tune about not being upset about a breakup. (Oberst even says that he's going to melt his ex's record into an ashtray or candy basket). Finally there is "True Blue," a whimsical little song which seems to be trying to use the word "blue" as many times as possible.
Most singles are a good song with a few mediocre ones attached. "Lua" isn't one such single. Instead it's a pretty good display of what Bright Eyes is capable of -- funny songs, depressed songs, whimsical songs, and songs that drip with joie de vivre.
Oberst does all the instrumentation on two of the songs, playing guitar, piano and keyboards. For the other two songs, he just does vocals and guitar. In "Whiskey Well" there's a pleasant mishmash of banjo and harmonica over the basic rock music; while "I Woke Up..." is ruled by solid guitar and percussion and a bit of sizzly bass.
Conor Oberst sounds like he was writing poetry, and decided to set them to music. The only exception is "I Woke Up...", which was written by someone else; it shows, because it lacks the passion and complexity of Oberst's songs. "You make my head ache"?. Not quite. Oberst can give his own songs all the passion they need -- he sounds crushed and dying, or slightly drunk, or almost sinfully happy. Most surprisingly, he does them all equally well.
"Lua" is a great prelude to whatever Bright Eyes has ahead -- they still have their angsty indie-rock edge, and Oberst hasn't lost his talents. Full speed ahead, guys.