Bright Eyes - Vinyl Box Set (Part I)

I turned 19 yesterday. Understanding my almost unhealthy obsession with Bright Eyes, my brother and sister gave me the new vinyl box set containing tons of early material. I'll soak it into my bones in a three part posting. Part I is A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997.

A much younger and rougher Conor Oberst quietly mutters, "I've never felt so separate..." and then explodes into "It's hopeless and I know this, and that's why I can't dream." This is exactly what I need. Self-pitying, lo-fi, raw emo music at low volume in my empty, dark house. Who says this music isn't important? I relate to this simple poetry and these basic chords that are delivered so intimately. These ideas may be naive and fleeting, but they are here and they are real. Bright Eyes manages to speak for millions when they play their songs, and if that doesn't make the music socially significant, I don't know what can.

The passion that bursts out of a record such as this may be self-involved and somewhat exaggerated, but that's what these songs are for. Writing and performing them is cathartic.

A Collection of Songs, like all of Bright Eyes, isn't just simple emo songs. These lyrics possess a depth beyond the status quo. They capture the essence of youth which some have left behind but everyone remembers. A Collection of Songs is the recording of the time we grow into ourselves and become who we are. Besides, not every song can be characterized as emo. 'How Many Lights Do You See?', though youthful, speaks volumes of Conor's knack for writing big songs: "How many lights do you see? How many lights do you see? There's one to say that night has come. And there's one that guards this jagged shore. And there's one to call the children home. And there's one to light the path they take." It isn't extraordinary, but that's why we like it. You can't help but smile and it only betters as the song continues.

Technically, the music behind the words is a bit below par, but that doesn't matter.
A Collection of Songs is far warmer than most everything that the mainstream music machine ejects into the collection of shit we call pop music. This stems partly from the fuzzy but sweet lo-fi production but is also an inevitable result of Conor's voice. In its imperfection, combined with his bursting passion, his voice manages to plunge the depths of ones soul to affect it in profound ways. His guitar jangles with a similar imperfection that gives his voice an anchor.

A Collection of Songs is simply wonderful. It is no doubt a relief that Bright Eyes has grown from these songs into a more mature sound, but it is refreshing to lose oneself in the simplicity and roughness of these early tunes. And right now, A Collection of Songs is exactly the type of therapy I require.

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