Bright Eyes 

Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (Saddle Creek)

Bright Eyes (a.k.a. Connor Oberst) is as pure a love-it-or-hate-it proposition as you'll find in the music world. Just by giving his new record such an exhaustive title, the waifish wunderkind paints a big fat target on his chest for the haters. Despite cursory nods toward concepthood, this disc is just a big old swim inside the ocean of Oberst, a kid who thinks too much and obsesses over the problems and complications he has created.

The best moments on Lifted give off the loose vibe of a warped folkie backed by a corps of his drunken friends on kitchen-sink instrumentation. It sounds like catharsis, and it sounds like a party. While Oberst deploys his vocal tics more sparingly and to greater effect than before, self-indulgence still haunts this album. At 70-plus minutes, it's as sprawling as its title and consists largely of rambles, only a couple of which yield as much as a repeated refrain.

But that's the deal with Oberst. There's no editing him, and the great little revelations come along with the awkward teen poetry. Thankfully, to break up what might otherwise be tough going, there are pockets of welcome variation, such as the Ryan Adams-style hootenanny that closes "You Will," the easygoing piano-ornamented pop of "Bowl of Oranges," and the gossamer beauty of the aptly titled "Nothing Gets Crossed Out."

More by Wayne Lewis


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