Bright Eyes – Fevers and Mirrors

Bright Eyes
Fevers and Mirrors

It’s hard to believe that Connor Oberst, the heart and soul of Bright Eyes, is only 20 years old. Fevers and Mirrors is his third full-length album as Bright Eyes and the follow-up to last year’s well-received Every Day and Every Night EP. And Oberst had been recording previously with his more aggressive outfit, Commander Venus. Already prolific, Oberst is not sacrificing content or creativity, and he’s well on his way to being established as one of the premier singer/song-writers, especially with so long of his career ahead of him.
Bright Eyes is a heavily folk-inspired project, but it manages to be so much more than that. Oberst’s guitar is both folk and rock, and his vocals, which manage to be soft and depressing as well as loud and poppy, are warbling and wavering. The music changes from slow to fast throughout the album, still having a somewhat folk-ish structure but not succumbing to folk music entirely. The songs are not so much played as orchestrated, with a variety of instrumentation and a structure that’s amazingly full and verbose.
“A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever, and a Necklace” starts off with a young child (apparently Oberst himself) reading painstakingly from a book or something before Oberst’s warbling voice and acoustic guitar kicks in. This song is very slow and melodious, with some very soft accordion, vibraphone, glockenspiel and piano accompanying Oberst’s very soft voice. “A Scale, A Mirror and Those Indifferent Clocks” (Oberst likes these type of titles) picks up from last year’s EP, a bit more poppy and a bit more uplifting. “The Calendar Hung Itself…” is much more of a rock track, with some driving rhythm and acoustic guitar and Oberst’s vocals straining for breath and vocal inflections. He even quotes a little “You Are My Sunshine” (“you make me happy, when skies are gray”). “Something Vague” is one of the more folk- and even country-inspired tracks, without losing its beautiful melodic and emotional nature. “Arienette” flows beautifully from the previous track and is again slower and more folksy, bolstered by accordion, mellotron, and pedal steel guitars that make the song almost haunting. “When the Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under Glass” is just Oberst singing and playing piano and sounding like the mic is set up way on the other side of the room for a very odd, echoed effect. “Sunrise, Sunset,” with its slower and then faster rhythm and oddly lilting style, is probably the best track on the album and also the most intense. The album finishes with the beautiful “A Song to Pass the Time,” played completely by Oberst and having a slightly Dylan-esque quality.
This album feels a bit darker and more moody than some of Bright Eyes’ previous work, as evidenced on the slower and melodious songs. Also, the album is broken by a very odd interview with Oberst that I’m not sure is real. It does lend some very interesting insight into Oberst and his contradictory feelings, which makes me wonder why he would have included it.
Fevers and Mirrors will likely show up on many people’s best of the year list, and I expect it to be near the top of mine. This album is amazing, with lyrics that are somewhat depressing and introspective and music that is both full and well orchestrated. Each song here was likely poured over with painstaking care, and each is a window into Oberst’s own soul. And check out the unique artwork, with the mirror cover and mirror on the CD’s face as well.