Bright Eyes Letting Off the Happiness: A Companion Colored 12" Vinyl EP
"It's a meaningful way to connect with the past that doesn't feel totally nostalgic and self-indulgent," says Conor Oberst of the Bright Eyes reissue project. "We are taking these songs and making them interesting to us all over again. I like that. I like a challenge. I like to be forced to do something that's slightly hard, just to see if we can."
"Just to see if we can" could be the unofficial motto of Bright Eyes, the band Oberst founded as a teenager and plays in with two of his oldest friends, multi-instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nate Wolcott. "We've never made the same record twice," the singer says. "I'm proud of that."
From warm folk-rock to austere electro, plaintive, earnest ballads to glacially cool guitar noise, Bright Eyes has tried on pretty much every sound that's ever inspired them, just to see if they could.
Along the way they've collaborated with many of their influences, heroes, and peers, from Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris to Jenny Lewis, Nick Zinner and Britt Daniel. And they've seen their songs covered by many more, including Lorde, The Killers, and Mac Miller.
For a band that's often been perceived as an outlier - the ingenious but quixotic group fronted by that wunderkind singer-songwriter with the floppy hair and bedroom eyes - the depth, breadth, and impact of the Bright Eyes canon is remarkable. And that's what really strikes you when you sit down to fully take in the nine Bright Eyes albums being reissued, in chronological order, in groups of three, beginning spring 2022.
Over the last two-plus decades, as Bright Eyes has released one after another time capsule LPs - urgent dispatches from transcendent, fleeting eras of our collective lives - they've also simultaneously been assembling a robust, mature, narratively cohesive discography. "I've written a looooot of songs," Oberst says, laughing. "And by no means are they all good, but the fact that we can cull through these records and find ones that I'm not ashamed to sing years later makes me feel pretty happy."
It's the desire to celebrate that sonic bounty that first got Oberst and the band excited about the idea of comprehensive reissues. But this wouldn't be a Bright Eyes project if a moment devoted to appreciating the past weren't turned into an opportunity to connect with the future. That's where the nine companion EPs come in. Or as Oberst puts it, "the supplemental reading" for the primary reissues: One six-track EP per reissued album, each featuring five reworked songs from that album.
Bright Eyes Letting Off the Happiness: A Companion Track Listing:
1. The Difference in the Shades
2. The City Has Sex
3. Contrast and Compare
4. Kathy with a K's Song
5. St. Ides Heaven
6. June on the West Coast