Review Summary: Maybe the sun keeps coming up because it's gotten used to you and your constant need for proof.
Interestingly enough, the mirror on the cover of this album isn't just a picture; it actually is reflective. Initially, it may seem merely like a clever way to connect the album's title with its artwork, and perhaps that really is all it was meant to be...but it could be seen as something deeper. Fevers and Mirrors is sparse and personal, the lyrics and sound giving a very introspective look at Conor Oberst, but the mirror on the cover shows you
, not Conor. Given that it isn't made out of glass, what the mirror shows is blurred, not an image of what everyone sees when they look at you, but an imperfect, distorted alternate self. Honestly, it's kind of scary.
Maybe it shows the fever that plagues us all.
As usual, the first track of the album begins with a sample; in this case, a boy reading an excerpt from Mitchell is Moving
. Unlike the sample from the beginning of Lifted..., which was fairly pointless, and the story Conor tells at the beginning of Wide Awake..., which was kind of annoying, the boy's reading is charming and poignant, the words he reads adding even more emotional weight to the song, which sees Oberst at his most trembly and vulnerable. "A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever, And A Necklace" reveals a lot about the entire album, mainly that the bareness of it is almost disconcerting in its honesty. Listening to Fevers and Mirrors is like walking in on people having sex; the act itself is intensely personal and beautiful but a third party feels deeply embarrassed to witness it. The album isn't a mirror at all, it's a window into Oberst's personality; he puts all of himself out there, even the parts that some might want to turn away from.
The beginning of the "The Movement Of A Hand" sounds like a twisted version of "Strawberry Fields Forever," with a keyboard motif reminiscent of Lifted...'s "Lover I Don't Have To Love." Conor's wavering vocals may take some getting used to, but over time they come to be the album's strong point, similar to Jeff Mangum on In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. However, Oberst's quiet, spindly voice is the antithesis to Mangum's over-the-top, abrasive bravado, but even though they used different approaches, they are both equally effective. The centerpiece "Arienette" is the album's emotional paperweight, with Oberst's strongest lyrics and escalating vocal performance propelling the song to greatness. "Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh" is based around a pleasantly picked chord progression, a xylophone adding single note flairs every now and then. The song is the brightest the album gets, and the fact that its progression is mostly minor-sounding is a testament to just how dark this album is. Even the more cheerful tracks, like "A Scale, A Mirror, And Those Indifferent Clocks" with its upbeat energy, have a heavily permeating sense of darkness about them.
Fevers and Mirrors isn't the best Bright Eyes album, but it is the most revealing and personal, and honestly, a lot of it is deeply disturbing. But it tips the scales, it turns the pages of the calendar, it reflects images in the mirror, it stays until the wolves go away, it moves the hands of the clock, it pulls the marionette's strings, it sets the sun, it weeps for those dying days, it brushes the snow from your hair, whatever, whatever, whatever.
It passes the time.