Bright Eyes have released a third song from their forthcoming new album.
“This whole town looks empty, but we knew it wouldn’t last/ Behind bulletproof windows they’re still wiring the cash/ Whatever they could scrape up, whatever that they had/ there’s a lot of mouths to feed through this famine.” Sings Conor Oberst on “One and Done,” showcasing his knack for cultural clairvoyance once again. Written and recorded before COVID-19, the song reflects a resignation in the singer’s mind as to what seems like the final days of a civilization and the rapid disintegration of one’s long held worldview. A beautifully melancholic piece of pure Bright Eyes, replete with an awe inducing orchestral arrangement, courtesy of the band’s Nathaniel Walcott. Mike Mogis makes sense of the vast instrumentation with his meticulous, signature mix. This track once again features the powerhouse rhythm section of Jon Theodore and Flea, as well as haunted harmonies from Miwi La Lupa.
“One and Done” follows previous track releases “Persona Non Grata” and “Forced Convalescence”. The beloved band have yet to confirm details of the highly anticipated new album. Bright Eyes, whose previous nine albums are some of the most lauded and influential records of a generation, last released an LP – The People’s Key – in 2011 followed by a remastered box set collection of their work in 2016. But, in 2019, the acclaimed trio returned to the studio to quietly begin work on new material. They announced their signing to esteemed indie label Dead Oceans in February. Previously announced Bright Eyes 2020 tour dates have been postponed and are being rescheduled for 2021.
Sometimes it feels like you hear a Bright Eyes song with your whole body. From Conor Oberst’s early recordings in an Omaha basement in 1995 all the way up to 2020, Bright Eyes’ music tries to unravel the impossible tangles of dissent: personal and political, external and internal. It’s a study of the beauty in unsteadiness in all its forms – in a voice, beliefs, love, identity, and what fills up the spaces in-between. And in so many ways, it’s just about searching for a way through.
The year 2020 is full of significant anniversaries for Bright Eyes. Fevers and Mirrors was released 20 years ago this May, while Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning both turned 15 in January. The latter, a singer-songwriter tour-de-force released amidst the Bush presidency and Iraq war, wades through incisive anti-war rhetoric and micro, intimate calamities. On the title track and throughout the record, Oberst sings about body counts in the newspaper, televised wars, the bottomless pit of American greed, struggling to understand the world alongside one’s own turmoil. In its own way, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning carved out its place in the canon of great anti-war albums by being both present and prophetic, its urgency enduring 15 years later.
In 2011 the release of The People’s Key, Bright Eyes’ ninth and most recent album, ushered in an unofficial hiatus for the beloved project. In the time since, the work of the band’s core members – Oberst, multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, and multi-instrumentalist Nathaniel Walcott – has remained omnipresent, through both the members’ original work and collaboration.
And while 2020 is a year of milestones for the band, it’s also the year Bright Eyes returns, newly signed to indie label Dead Oceans. Amidst the current overwhelming uncertainty and upheaval of global and personal worlds, Oberst, Mogis, and Walcott reunited under the moniker as both an escape from, and a confrontation of, trying times. Getting the band back together felt right, and necessary, and the friendship at the core of the band has been a longtime pillar of Bright Eyes’ output. For Bright Eyes, this long-awaited re-emergence feels like coming home.