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Published: 2006/12/23
by Katie Mavrich

Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005 – Bright Eyes

Saddle Creek

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been two years since Bright Eyes wunderkind Conor Oberst graced the covers and inside pages of many a magazine, garnering rave reviews for a risky endeavor that proved successful releasing two albums at once, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. He’s since done several tours, got critics (and many others) talking again with the controversial tune “When the President Talks to God,” and slowly but surely become the indie rock poster child. Of course, with all of that going on, he didn’t really have time to release new material this year. But Bright Eyes fans were thirsting for more, and with Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005) that thirst is quenched — albeit only a little.

Oberst went through his vast library of recordings — he’s been at the whole music thing since he was a teenager. So then, it’s safe to say that most of the tracks on the album aren’t exactly new. But it will do until the spring 2007 release of new material. There’s the acoustic-y “Trees Get Wheeled Away,” which Bright Eyes performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, and almost made its way on to I’m Wide Awake, only to be released on the Lost Highway compilation. “Drunk Kid Catholic,” a single released in the UK, rolls out with a piano singsong tone, and then segues into a more melancholy, alcohol-fueled ballad. It’s B-side, “Happy Birthday to Me (Fed. 15),” reflects on regret through the years, as Oberst croons, “Some things just can’t wait” over a steady beat.

He describes “I’ve Been Eating (For You),” as “Probably the meanest song I ever wrote” it’s the quintessential love scorned tune. He sings slowly and softly, none of that awesome screaming that you’ll witness on “Spent on Rainy Days,” but his words cut deep, and I’m sure that somewhere, the girl who inspired the lyrics cringes each time she hears it. There are also a couple of covers on Noise Floor, as Bright Eyes pays homage to M. Ward on “Seashell Tale,” and to Daniel Johnston on “Devil Town” while making them his own.

And honestly, when some of his tracks on previous albums drone on and on, some with mindless noise, I was a little bit worried about how much of that would take up Noise Floor. But the truth is, it’s only the first two minutes or so, and then it’s done. Then, the music that Bright Eyes made over the years starts and draws no, pulls you in. You might only want to climb out for that spring album that’s on its way.

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