Sound: The raw, indie sound of old Bright Eyes has been gradually cleaned up from album to album. On Cassadaga, any hint of their lower-fi past is pretty much scrapped in favor of an exquisitely polished alt country rock production. Violin spiritedly sings, yearningly weaves or joins other strings for symphonic swells and orchestrated pop. Plus, subtle organs, flickering mandolins, sprightly woodwinds and slide guitars add to the working class, Americana anthems and reflections. Of course, all the bells and whistles merely provide a pleasing setting for the greatest lyricist of the decade, Conor Oberst, to deliver another batch of his trademark cutting, insightful and descriptive lyrics.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “Four Winds”; “If the Brakeman Turns My Way”; “I Must Belong Somewhere”; “Cleanse Song”
Medium Rotation tracks: The rest, except for the first (“Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)”) and the last (“Lime Tree”).
Recommended: The full-studio, grown-up (perhaps even Grammy-friendly) Bright Eyes sound is a little off-putting at first, but it is impressive. Once you get over the initial shock, you’ll start to focus on the fact that Conor continues to bring striking new perspective to mundane, everyday topics and is able to wrap his thoughts into exceptionally catchy hooks and melodies. The not-as-edgy Cassadaga isn’t quite the masterpiece that either Lifted…(my #2 album of 2002) or I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (my #2 album of 2005) is, but it will still be one of the top albums of 2007.
Grade: A- (Top 20 Albums of 2007 Candidate)
Watch Jim Shearer & Dave Powers’ Review: