I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
It seems that our generation is always looking to replicate the musical heroes of generations past. You will always hear the hype on bands taken to ridiculous levels by calling them “the next Nirvana” or “this generation’s answer to the Rolling Stones.” Each time you hear those pointless comparisons, you usually end up listening to the record anyway. After the fact, you are left to wonder what type of mind-altering substances the reviewer was abusing when he or she wrote the exaggerated and uninformed review.
Conor Oberst, the core of the swirling musical collective that is Bright Eyes, has been tagged by many rock journalists as being the “next Dylan” or the “indie Springsteen.” While that is high praise from anyone, it certainly is not an accurate representation of what one hears when listening to his work in Bright Eyes. In the midst of his most ambitious outing to date-releasing two distinctly different records on one day-Oberst sets himself up as a self-defined songwriter, and a damn good one at that. He isn’t the next Dylan or the “emo answer” to Bruce, but the next generation just may end up comparing their musical heroes with him.
Of the two records being released this week, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning features more of the vintage, folksy Bright Eyes sound that fans have come to love and obsess over. The album’s counterpart, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn finds Oberst experimenting with synthetic instrumentation and vocal effects previously unheard on almost anything he has released before. Regardless of what the background noise may be, Oberst uses both records to let out even more tales of heartache and melancholy that will kill your good mood.
Despite Digital Ash being lauded for its stylistic departure, there is something to be said for the sound of Oberst’s wavering voice matched against the lonely backdrop of an acoustic guitar. It may be for the simple fact that I’m Wide Awake is the comfort zone for Oberst, but there is subtle loss of power in his words when matched with the mechanized dance beats that populate the Brooklyn club scene. In a way, these two records seem like aural bookends to that relocation, and while both records are great, Oberst in his more stripped down, organic form is much more engaging than his experiments in rhythm.
– Slade Bracey
Robert Downey Jr.
Once known for his many “run-ins” with the authorities, actor Robert Downey Jr. triumphs as a musical artist with his debut album titled The Futurist.
On this 10-track compilation, Downey acts as both singer and songwriter, taking the listener through his troubled history, and his final emergence as a musician.
Now 39, Downey has been in the public eye both as an acclaimed actor and, for many years, as a drug addict. The album is a total reinvention of Downey’s lifestyle and overall public persona. Not only do his skills as a pianist weave throughout the music, but his artwork adorns the cover.
The music reflects old time jazz with a pop influence. Downey’s voice varies from smooth and fluid to rigid at times.
Though he is not an accomplished musician, his songs are carefully crafted. His single “Your Move,” originally performed by Yes, has a soulful tone one might not attribute to Downey’s rough personality.
The instrumental selections and backup chorus add a dynamic Downey could not achieve on his own. Though his life has been filled with both ups and downs, all of the songs recorded are uplifting and hopeful.
His lyrics are natural and clear to the listener. The final track “Smile,” a Charlie Chaplin classic, pays homage to his successful acting career.
The songs reflect a sense of accomplishment for Downey, as he tries to work out all that he has dealt with in his life thus far. As for Downey’s future in music, it is truly a mystery.
-Rebecca L. Henshell