As Conor Oberst has grown up from the emotionally vulnerable and hugely talented singer-songwriter once lauded by fans and the music press as the next Bob Dylan, he has found
Bright Eyes @ Radio City Music Hall, March 9
Words: Jeffrey Greenblatt
Images: Jeremy Gordon
It’s hard to believe that it has been four years since Conor Oberst last recorded under his longtime moniker Bright Eyes, an eternity for a guy that is known for his prolific output. Since the 2007 release of Cassadaga, Oberst has stayed busy by releasing two “solo” albums of breezy, folk-rock with the Mystic Valley Band along with his contributions to the Monsters Of Folk – a band which features his pals Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis. The Omaha native, who has dusted off his Bright Eyes project for the occasional benefit gig in the last few years, finally deemed it time to return to his roots in 2011 with the release of his seventh studio album, The People’s Key.
The album, which may or may not be his last as Bright Eyes depending on who you want to believe, is a sonic departure from his recent work. Oberst has traded in his acoustic guitar for an electric, and his Americana-drenched sound for a maudlin, synth-driven, straight ahead rock one.
Last week, Oberst and his latest version of Bright Eyes – which has featured a rotating lineup over the years, but typically includes multi-instrumentalists Nate Walcott and Mike Mogis – pulled into the Big Apple for a two-night stand at the majestic and cavernous Radio City Music Hall. It was a curious night to be a Bright Eyes fan as the crowd was vocally and visibly excited for the band’s live return to the room they had last played in November of ’07. However, the audience’s enthusiasm seemed to ebb and flow over the course of the two hour show in sync with the crowd’s familiarity with the set list, which included a number of deep cuts.
READ ON for more thoughts on the show and a full picture gallery…
For the second consecutive year at Hidden Track, we concocted our innovative little experiment for the year-end Best Albums list. Instead of picking the old fashioned way – subjectively – we opted for something a little different: a collaborative, collective list that incorporates the opinions of everybody here at HT.
To begin, we devised an all-encompassing list of well over 100 nominees, whereby most everything our contributors recommended made the list. Then we invited our crew of writers to independently and blindly vote on the whole list on a scale of 1 to 20 (20 = five stars). We ended up with varying degrees of familiarity with the nominees as some folks voted on just about everything, while some just a few. From there, we deployed our egghead algorithm for rating albums: (two times the average rating) + (the total number of votes). At that point, we took the top 25 highest scores and presto: the Hidden Track 25 Best Albums of 2010. No bullshit, no big opinions; just the results.
We’re on to day two of on our week long countdown, let’s check out albums number 16-20…
Key Tracks: Greenpoint, Between the Needles, Numbers
Sounds Like: Brad Mehldau meets Tortoise
The Skinny: Marco Benevento’s latest solo record is the prolific keyboard player’s most impressive release yet. Bassist Reed Mathis’ sense of space and harmony along with drummer Andrew Barr’s subtly explosive poly-rhythmic playing lay the foundation for Benevento’s hook-laden melodies, shape-shifting piano, and circuit-bent sounds. While his first two studio releases were solid, Between the Needles and Nightfall has a cohesiveness not found on either that allows Marco’s songwriting to truly shine. The one-two punch of Greenpoint and Between the Needles at the front of the album set the overall tone for the album, while Marco’s solo at the end of Numbers highlights the whole thing.
READ ON for the next four albums in our countdown…
With the countdown to Santa’s arrival coming to a close, we thought we’d get into the Christmas spirit around these parts with some holiday music courtesy of HT faves She & Him. During Matt and Zooey’s recent appearance on Conan, the indie-pop duo recorded this web exclusive performance of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas with some assistance from CoCo himself on guitar. READ ON to watch the video…