Conor Oberst thrills again with his early release "letting off the Happiness", a wonderful blending of his signature mope-rock style and digital anthems such as those on his later release "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn".
The album starts off (as always) with a collage of random static and noises, that fades into a song - "If Winter Ends" (5/5) a fast major-keyed guitar spree filled with suicidal lyrics, but happy vocals - for the most part of the song. "I give myself three days to feel better or else I swear I am driving off a ***ing cliff. Because if I can't make myself feel better then how can I expect anyone else to give a ***," is just one of Conor's random bursts of post-teen angst.
The next song, the brilliant "Padriac, My Prince" (5/5) is equiped with a depressing chord structure that stays in your head. But what's even more catchy is Conor's ability to add (supposedly) real-life events into his songs and not make them sound flat out boring - "I had a brother once, he drowned in a bathtub before he had ever learned how to talk. And I don't know what his name was but my mother does. I heard her say it once." Conor is one of the few artists today who can add some life into their music with vocal and lyrical emotion and be totally honest about it - every album and EP he has made had a song either named after a person or about a person.
"Contrast and Compare" (3/5) is a rather boring ballad by Conor's standards involving various measures of time. It probably would have been more interesting had Conor placed the song in a different place - the song right before it was also a ballad, and it makes this portion of the album rather dreary. The abundant guitar glissandoes also add to the dreariness of this song. There are a few redeeming qualities though - the random screaming at the end of the song sort of wakes you up, and the beautiful background vocals by Neely Jenkins give you something to think about.
We continue as the fastest-paced song so far on the album, "The City Has Sex" (5/5) is possibly the only song on Conor's discography that he has let somebody else sing without singing in the background - or foreground, for that matter. "The City..." starts out with a rather annoying but catchy rhythm, that reminds one of various Latino songs. "And there is a boy in a basement with a four-track machine, he's been strumming and screaming all night, down there," is possibly a reference to Conor's older days in the recording industry, where he most likely did the same.
"The Difference in the Shades" (3/5) is another one of the album's annoyingly-placed ballads, with glissandoes galore. The track's relatively fast-paced cymbal crashes are amusing due to the slowness of the rest of the song.
Possibly the best song on the album, "Touch" (5/5) is another of Conor's amazing digital experiments. "Jeremy played several great drum tracks and electronic noises with broken keyboards. Mike and I took turns playing other keyboards, and Andy made everything just right," states Conor in the album's booklet, and that is a very accurate description of this song. It's just right, and there is no reason to argue the point. But I do still wonder how they played music at all with broken keyboards....
"June on the West Coast" (4/5) is a mid-tempo song, musically, but one of Conor's fastest vocal songs. His vocals are the focal point in this song, because of it's rhythm - something that it normally lacks. "I spent a week drinking the sunlight of Winnetka, California where they understand the weight of human hearts," is an example of the abnormally loud vocals (for him) - normally his guitar is the focal point, but in this song, it's rather quiet.
"Pull My Hair" (4/5) is one of the other digital songs on this record, but it combines various over-reverbed drums, and acoustic guitar with random electronic effects. And more glissandos. Conor likes glissandos lately. His voice is annoyingly muffled in this song, and it's well...annoying.
The next to last track on this album, "A Poetic Retelling of an Unfortunate Seduction" (3/5) is a minor-keyed ballad. Imagine that, another. By now it's just getting annoying. This song is highly...glissandoed...and contains loud cymbal crashes that seem rather innappropriate for the feeling of the song.
The last song. This is one of the most massive musical achievements of all time. "Tereza and Tomas" (3/5) - another ballad - is 25 minutes and 40 seconds long. It's pretty much Conor singing, some guitar, a bell, and occasionally piano to mock the guitar. It is long. And that makes it quite annoying.
But overall, this album is not that annoying, it just takes too much time to listen to. It's very deserving of an "Excellent" rating.
Conor Oberst - Guitar, Vocals, Piano, Electric Drums
Mike Mogis - Keyboard, Sampler, Recording Assistance, Pedal Steel, Melodica, Air Organ, Electric Drums, Organs, Piano, Atmosphere
Matt Maginn - Bass
Matt Fotch - Drums
Matt Oberst - Guitar
Neely Jenkins - Background Vocals
Andy Lemaster - Background Vocals, Percussion, The Making of Everything Just Right
Jeremy Barnes - Drums, Percussion, Broken Keyboards
Kevin Barnes - Rhodes
Ted Stevens - Sloppy Drums
Aaron Druery - Exceptionally Haunting Ebow Bass
Robb Neusel - Finger Cymbals