Reviewing the Decade in Music: Entry #4

Coupled with the rise of indie rock in the 2000s, folk music has made a forceful resurgance. Leading the way in this rennaisance is Omaha, NE native Conor Oberst. Oberst, best known for his most succesful band, Bright Eyes, refueled mainstream interest in folk by reiterating the traits that led to the folk explosion of the 1960s-beautifully crafted lyrics and unabashed political activism.

Bright Eyes' commercial and critical acclaim reached a pinnacle point in 2002 with the release of Lifted, or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. With 13 tracks, most of which weigh in at over six minutes, Lifted is an arduous, yet rewarding listen. Oberst is quoted as saying he sought to create a "grandiose" sound on Lifted that he couldn't really put in to words. Several tracks include a grainy noise layer, giving the songs a warm and comforting feel that sharply contrast with Oberst's painfully woeful lyrics. Lively guitar licks and raspy snare hits keep songs like "Method Acting" bursting with energy, while more passive tracks such as "Don't Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come" and "Nothing Gets Crossed Out" rely on merely a stripped down acoustic guitar chord pattern or methodical piano section to underlie Oberst's vocals.

The brilliance of Lifted comes upon inspection of Oberst's heartfelt lyrics. Whether it be the cognative stream of conciousness on "The Big Picture" or the narrative driven "Bowl of Oranges," every song paints its own intrinsicly beautiful picture. The lust on "Lover I Don't Have to Love" is very tangible while we can all identify with the sentiments of impermanence in "Method Acting." In retrospect, it's very easy to see that Oberst aptly described the Bush era in the United States with "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and Be Loved)."

I should stop pointing fingers; reserve my judgment of all those public action figures, the cowboy presidents. So loud behind the bullhorn so proud they can't admit when they've made a mistake. While poison ink spews from a speechwriter's pen, he knows he don't have to say it, so it, it don't bother him. "Honesty" "Accuracy" is just "Popular Opinion." And the approval rating is high, and so someone's gonna die. Well, ABC, NBC, CBS: Bullshit. They give us fact or fiction? I guess an even split. And each new act of war is tonight's entertainment. We're still the pawns in their game. As they take eye for an eye until no one can see, we must stumble blindly forward, repeating history. Well, I guess we all fit into your slogan on that fast food marquee: Red blooded, White skinned oh and the Blues.

There are no weak tracks on Lifted, however some may find the methodically slow tracks like "Don't Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come" to be off-putting. Even when the tempo is lethargic, the emotional and intellectual intensity of the album never wavers, and this is where Lifted excels as an indie folk record. It is a harrowing inspection of self and environment that refuses to pacify its fervor.

"Method Acting"

"Lover I Don't Have to Love"

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