One of two albums released by Bright Eyes in January, 2005 (the other is Digital Ash in a Digital Urn). And holy fuck, it's great.
Bright Eyes is effectively Conor Oberst and his band. Oberst has been writing songs since he was a 12-year-old playing Omaha clubs (that would be 10 years ago exactly), and he's been compared to Bob Dylan for almost as long.
Until now, though, Bright Eyes has been an acquired taste, embodying the best and worst of emo. The good:
The bad (or, at least, the off-putting):
Wide Awake is the band's first mature album. Oberst moved to New York, and it was recorded there, in a real studio, with real production -- nothing overpowering, just enough polish to let the songs shine through. The change in delivery is the same: Oberst hasn't transformed into Robbie Williams; his sincerity is intact but no longer maudlin. Every piece of the album has an understated clarity.
And the songwriting. Oh, God, the songwriting.
Tracks like Lua couple minimalist, electric-wire-to-your-synapses instrumentation with line after line of lyrical skullpunches so perfect, so precise, so ... well, so sincere and right that they keep you staring into space, headphones on your ears, a minute after the song ends. They're emo's logical conclusion.
And I know you have a heavy heart
I can feel it when we kiss
So many men stronger than me have thrown their backs out
trying to lift
But me I'm not a gamble
you can count on me to split