The year was 2005, and indie rock and roll ruled the world. But amidst the impossibly tight jeans and grinding Sheffield accents, Conor Oberst and his idiosyncratic folk collective, Bright Eyes, made an album, which did not attain the grand reception it deserved.
‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ begins with a spoken monologue of a plane crash before Oberst erupts into the upbeat tune of ‘At the Bottom of Everything.’ The title of this song epitomises the nature of the album. It delves into the most powerful emotions of life, love and death, and with an overtly powerful voice, Oberst is largely able to pull it off. At times, he goes into direct criticism of modern American life, with attacks on Bush’s foreign policy a recurring feature throughout; while at others, he wanders into tales of heartbreak, love and despair. ‘Land Locked Blues’ is a prime example of his prowess to ply at heartstrings, and lyrically there are few who can rival his insight into the great poles of love and loss. “So let the poets cry themselves to sleep” is a line which is emblematic of his sentimental outpourings, yet the overarching and triumphant finale of hope within ‘Road to Joy’ compensates for the morbid nature of much of the record. You may well recognise ‘First Day of My Life,’ from that Halifax advert, but ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ should be remembered as a modern day American folk classic, and not just for a catchy acoustic guitar riff. For anyone who is young and has been in love, this is an album which you must listen to. While some may say that it wallows in its own grandiose self-pity, I say that there have been few records made in recent history with as emotive a resonance as ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.’