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Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005)

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Singer/songwriter types still slugging it out in bars at 30 must look at Conor Oberst and consider killing the not-so-poor lil' cornhusker out of jealousy. Or at the very least, shudder and shake at the sight of a 20-something with more bruised but beautiful songs to his credit than most grizzled 40-year-old folk singers. Take this hour-long collection of lean cuts from compilations, 7-inches and singles. Aside from an unnervingly snail-ish opener ("Mirrors and Fevers," which features two minutes of aimless field recordings), Noise Floor is a nice and natty bookend to the first significant chapter of a career that's clearly just begun. Torn from these yellowed, dog-eared pages are everything from effortless bedroom ballads ("The Vanishing," "Amy In the White Coat") to fleshy, frazzled full-grown songs that could have snuck onto one of Oberst's later LPs without anyone noticing (the caustic country of "Drunk Kid Catholic," the proto-Postal Service pop of "I Will Be Grateful for This Day"). Normally, this would be the point where we say this one's just for the diehards. Sorry haters; score another one for Young Man Oberst.


Formed: 1995 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although many musicians have joined the band's rotating lineup, Bright Eyes is primarily the songwriting vehicle of Conor Oberst, a quivery-voiced Nebraska native who first attracted attention in 1994 -- when he was only 14 years old -- as the singer and guitarist for Commander Venus. Oberst proved to be a prolific musician, joining multiple bands (including Commander Venus, the Magentas, Park Ave., and Desaparecidos) while also co-founding Saddle Creek, an influential label that helped broadcast...
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