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Letting Off the Happiness

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Album Review

The second full-length release from Omaha wunderkind Conor Oberst is a fascinating coming of age for a singer/songwriter whose respectability is chiseled in stone through his musical abilities. This ten-track outing is a lo-fi bonanza of heartfelt tunes that features musical contributions from members of such critically acclaimed groups as Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and Lullaby for the Working Class. Special guests aside, it is Oberst's acoustic guitar and wavering emotional vocals that turn songs like the opening "If Winter Ends" into fragile masterpieces. There are also full-on rock numbers like "The City Has Sex" that help to push the envelope, and others like the Dylan-esque "June on the West Coast" that showcase the one-man band aspect of Bright Eyes. Letting Off the Happiness is a powerful record that manages to stay believable in light of the tortured emotions it tries to convey. It was recorded before Oberst was even out of his teens, but he shows the maturity of a songwriter who has seen it all, and for that he deserves respect and maybe a bit of incredulous inspection. This is a powerful record that has the ability to reach inside and identify with the listener, and while Bright Eyes went on to release some better-sounding and slightly more mature records, this one has the raw power to make people really stand up and notice. ~ Peter J. D'Angelo, Rovi


Formed: 15 February 1980 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Alternative

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

Although many musicians joined the band's rotating lineup, Bright Eyes was 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 "the...
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