Singer/songwriter Conor Oberst is livid about the current administration. If the Bright Eyes singer had his way, he wouldn't just vote to oust President Bush from office in November — he'd personally kick his backside out of the White House. And while he isn't certain his recent participation in the Vote for Change Tour changed anyone's mind, he nonetheless feels fortunate to have been part of the event.
"I am happy to be here and do what I can to hopefully cure the world of this really sad disease that's infected it," Oberst, 24, said bitterly of the current Republican leadership (see "Vote For Change Kickoff: Springsteen Seeks Humanity, Oberst Wants 'This Madman' Out"). "This off-the-leash American administration is no longer playing by the rules and doesn't [care] what is acceptable for the [rest of the] world."
Oberst has been politically outspoken all year: He contributed to the Future Soundtrack for America, and last month he played a Brooklyn, New York, benefit for protesters detained during the Republican National Convention. But apart from his side project Desaparecidos (see "Desaparecidos: Raging Against The Widening Of Easy St."), Oberst's own music has been played out in the emotional arena more than the political one.
And that's not necessarily going to change.
"I don't try to necessarily conceive of a message and deliver it to people," Oberst said of his Bright Eyes songs. "I just write about what is going on in my head. Now, obviously, [the current political climate] has consumed a lot of my thoughts, my daily thoughts. It's just more present to me because of the gravity and sort of the crisis situation that we are in."
Those waiting to see what the Nebraskan emo-folksinger is cooking up next won't have long to wait. In fact, the prolific Oberst will be offering up two different servings of his Bright Eyes styles: the country-tinged, more traditional Bright Eyes record I'm Wide Awake It's Morning and the more experimental and beat-driven Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Both records are due on January 25 (see "Two New Bright Eyes Albums On The Way").
Like Guns N' Roses and Nelly before him, Oberst plans to drop two singles from both records on the same day. "Lua" (from Wide Awake) and "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" (from Digital Ash) will be released on October 25. Both singles will include songs not on the albums: "I Woke Up With This Song in My Head This Morning," by Bright Eyes player and Bruces frontman Alex McManus, and "Burn Rubber," a rendition of the 1994 Simon Joyner song.
The albums have a surfeit of guests on them as well, including Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (featured on five Digital Ash tracks); Norah Jones' songwriter Jesse Harris; country singer Emmylou Harris; Jim James of My Morning Jacket; Jimmy Tamborello of the Postal Service; Jason Boesel of Rilo Kiley; and members of The Faint, Tilly and the Wall, Cursive and Now It's Overheard, all of whom are part of Saddle Creek, the label Oberst co-founded.
But since Bright Eyes have traditionally been known to wade in the waters where emo and folk somehow meet, the more experimental disc, Digital Ash and Digital Urn, is a left turn for the singer.
"I've been getting into making beats and more computer-generated stuff," Oberst said. "It is more electronic, but it's more trippy. A lot of it [has] natural drums, but two drummers on a bunch of songs — like one in each speaker so you kind of get the ear candy, like the tickling in your ears."
Track list for I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, according to Bright Eyes' publicist:
- "At the Bottom of Everything"
- "We Are Nowhere and It's Now"
- "Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)"
- "Train Under Water"
- "First Day of My Life"
- "Another Travelin' Song"
- "Landlocked Blues"
- "Poison Oak"
- "Road to Joy"
Track list for Digital Ash in a Digital Urn:
- "Time Code"
- "Gold Mine Gutted"
- "Arc of Time"
- "Down in a Rabbit Hole"
- "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)"
- "Hit the Switch"
- "I Believe in Symmetry"
- "Devil in the Details"
- "Ship in a Bottle"
- "Light Pollution"
- "Theme From Pinata"
Bright Eyes tour dates: