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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Bright Eyes
I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Saddle Creek Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


February 23, 2005
There are certain TV shows I watch solely because I'm a girl in the company of other girls. I watch Sex and the City, despite not identifying with the characters or their lifestyles, because it's girls' night. Another of these shows, for me, is The Bachelorette, which I've occasionally gotten sucked into despite the sameness and over-sentimentality of the seasons.

There is always a man who makes it into the final two despite being a cad. He all but tells the girl, "I will cheat on you; I will flirt with other women and I won't commit - and if you pick me, it'll be over very publicly in a few months." He is not a poseur, per se, but an obvious hack who doesn't belong, and who makes no bones about it, but remains in the game because of googly-eyed swooning.

Conor Oberst is the real deal, but not as real as everyone gives him credit for. He's the next great hope because the musical times are hard-pressed. Personally, I feel he'd be the first to admit it - he's just riding it all out with great success. Even as a fan, I can see those too-plain faults: so many of his albums begin and end with hackneyed monologues; his themes and clichés are often repeated, rarely varied. And yet there's something about him that really does make him truly worthwhile - loveable, engageable before that oh-so-inevitable breakup. He's our pick, the crowd's favorite, the slick people pleaser.

And, while Fevers and Mirrors remains my favorite album in his catalog - if solely because he was untouched by his own hype at that point - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is undoubtedly his best and most credible album to date. He's growing up and moving into his role as an adult artist, carrying the weight of "singer/songwriter to come" on his shoulders.

He's found finesse, polish and seriousness. He's buckled down and matured, and the change has treated him well.

We do begin with one of those overdone theatrical diatribes, which normally would signal a little disappointment on my part. It would, if I were to stop the album in those opening seconds. We know better - time to traipse on. There are many, many more highlights here not to be missed for those few minutes of indulgence (in fact, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is partially so successful because it is Oberst's least self-indulgent album so far).

We're soon treated to a nice country folk camp-a-long, with an easy, uplifting feel. The opener, "At the Bottom of Everything" is celebratory and broken in, so much more because it is so much less. It's not grand or over-the-top, but that's what makes it simply good.

From there, the standouts just keep piling up, all in the same beautifully simplistic style: "We Are Nowhere and It's Now" is a fortified, certified barroom classic. It's the closest to Dylan, Young or Parsons he's ever come. Wonderfully strained, the off-putting harmonies, theatrical melodies and unconsciously sweeping motion will whisk you along without trying. We're wrapped up in the mundane, and it's worth weeping over. "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)" features the perfection of stringed instruments, where Oberst becomes a downtrodden hero, overwhelmed and sincere. First, the track swallows you up without raising its voice, but then it unravels into chaos, and we are all as helpless as our humble narrator. "Train Under Water" is soulful and wholly changed. It feels like a finished piece of art - quite an accomplishment for our unfinished composer. Blissfully distraught, the contrasting bits and pieces, thick layering and desperate pleading pull at the heartstrings.

Add to this the subtle moments of the Beatlesque heartbreaker, "First Day of My Life", the whiskey-fried, carefree hoedown of "Another Travelin' Song" and the glorious salvation of the witty, starry-eyed closer, "Road to Joy," and we have his most real, relatable and wisely understated release to date. With all cleverness poured in and all pretension shooed out, it is a simple iconic statement of everything we've needed from him all along. We have final, indisputable proof that our inklings were true - maybe Conor Oberst really is as great as all his hype …and then some!

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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