Bright Eyes' "Cassadaga," to be released this week via Saddle Creek, represents a sensible evolution for those who have been on the Oberst train from its early days. "In the past, I've gone in with a

Bright Eyes' "Cassadaga," to be released this week via Saddle Creek, represents a sensible evolution for those who have been on the Oberst train from its early days. "In the past, I've gone in with a real set idea for what I wanted it to sound like," Oberst says. "This one was much more, 'Let's just record as many songs as we have, whatever style, and then kind of pick.'"

On "Cassadaga," longtime Oberst collaborator Mike Mogis says, the lack of a preconceived, consistent concept meant he had the opportunity to take inspiration from his favorite recordings -- everything from the Animal Collective to "Pet Sounds," T Rex to the Mamas & the Papas -- to create new cuts. "Sometimes we would just stop working and listen to records," Mogis says. "Not in their entirety, but just little pieces."

"Make a Plan" clearly channels Phil Spector, for example. "Make a plan to love me," Oberst sings quietly, before the song swells to grandiose moments of strings and horns. At varying moments, "Cassadaga" veers from rockier segments like the guitar-driven, honky-tonk stomper, and first single, "Four Winds," to quieter, contemplative songs laden with strings, piano and Oberst's trademark, wavering voice. And of course, the tunes are scattered with metaphor-riddled, self-referential lyrics.

Oberst is now signed to a major-label in Europe and recently linked with manager Juan Carrera, who shepherded Modest Mouse's recent successes. "A lot of what kept me from [more promotion] early on was fear of getting in some position I couldn't get out of . . . of being controlled by someone or put in this box where what I was doing artistically was no longer valid because it was just a commodity," he says. "And all those things now, I'm not afraid of 'cause I don't think anyone can ever do that to me."