I’ll say up front I know very little about Bright Eyes. I do know they have at least one prior full-length album to their name. I know that the group is primarily a vehicle for Conor Oberst, somewhat of a young prodigy of a singer-songwriter type. And, I know I’m warming up little by little to this 5-Song EP, Every Day and Every Night.
The thing I can’t get over about this record is how much Oberst sounds like the singer from a Delaware punk-pop band called The Crash, a teenage combo who were fixtures of the Delaware Valley (Pennsylvania) punk rock scene circa 1995 or so. So much so, in fact, that it wouldn’t surprise me to learn if the two were related, or the same person.
Indeed, like the guy from The Crash, Oberst affects a warble through most of the EP that is trying very hard to convey, at the same time, fragility, sincerity, earnestness, sensitivity, and melancholy conviction. On “A Perfect Sonnet,” the most immediately ear-catching tune on Every Day and Every Night, Oberst sounds as if at any moment, he could collapse into uncontrollable sobs, and in the next moment, could be full face red, yelling at the top of his lungs in anger.
The vocal affectations work—mostly. My reservations: The vocals ARE a little over-the-top in places (a little restraint would go a long way in certain spots), and the lyrics border on “drama queen” territory in places (“I believe that lovers should be tied together and thrown into the ocean in the worst of weather”), as does the over-titled “a line allows progress, a circle does not”.
The only out-and-out disappointment of the disc is the last track, “Neely O’Hara,” which relies on a sampled drum loop and distorted keyboard lines overtop a vocal that isn’t nearly interesting enough to justify its 6-plus minute length.
Luckily, these shortcomings are easily overcome by the engaging melodies and at least somewhat interesting arrangements of the songs themselves, of which “on my way to work” is the most obvious example, shifting imperceptibly from pedal steel faux-country touches to fuzzy, shouted indie rock as if they always belonged together. Despite the aforementioned overwrought lyrical passages, too there’s an obvious sincerity and streak of “unsure-but-unafraid-to-wonder” self-exploration present in the lyrics that helps the EP escape what in less-capable hands might have been a “generic emo-era singer/songwriter” dismissal.