By all accounts, Bright Eyes centerpiece Conor Oberst should be spread as thin as he could be right now. Not only is he on the precipice of unleashing two albums and two accompanying tours upon his eager audiences, but these two albums couldn’t be more disparate. It’s a painful image just thinking of his tendencies toward left-brained folk pulling him in one direction while his right-brained tendencies toward creating something truly progressive pull him the other. If the two teaser singles for the forthcoming releases are any indication, Oberst will likely be two halves of a person by the end of next year.
The folk single, Lua, is hardly anything new for Bright Eyes. The title track is a simple folk ballad transposed to an urban setting, less a man strumming on his porch and more a man strumming on his Brooklyn fire escape. The lyrics make up a morning-after anthem, recounting the previous night’s parties with a hint of regret and a hint of a hangover. The other three non-album tracks add the band, especially notable in “Well Whiskey” ‘s harmonica noodling and in the driving rhythm of “I Woke up With This Song in My Head This Morning.”
Lua is likely to come out on top for long-time Bright Eyes fans, but the twitchy electro-pop of Take It Easy (Love Nothing) is quite possibly the most interesting thing that Oberst has released to date. The title track is the real pop gem, textured with meandering synths and a chopped-up beat. Postal Service comparisons are not without merit (especially considering that Jimmy Tamborello does some of the programming), but Oberst could write better songs in a coma than Ben Gibbard ever could. The single’s other two tracks are far more experimental: “Burn Rubber” adds a tinny sampled beat to a gritty slide guitar line, and “Cremation” lets Oberst have a shot at more straightforward electronica. Take It Easy is the more promising of the two, but both singles, despite their differences, should set the bar high for next year’s releases.