BRIGHT EYES, "Noise Floor: Rarities (1998-2005)"

A few years back, Saddle Creek bundled together Bright Eyes' first five out-of-print LP releases into a boxed set, indicating that there is interest in just about anything that Conor Oberst touches.

A few years back, Saddle Creek bundled together Bright Eyes' first five out-of-print LP releases into a boxed set, indicating that there is interest in just about anything that Conor Oberst touches. "Noise Floor" is a nice collection for non-super fans: it pulls together Oberst's best B-sides and vinyl-only tracks from the time after that aforementioned set was released, allowing those super fans to still feel special.

On display here is a mix of the sparse, lo-fi material that characterized Oberst's early years and the more produced, country/folk sound that dominated 2005's "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning." B-sides are usually left off albums for good reasons, but "Noise Floor" isn't a compilation of bargain bin leftovers. Whether musing metaphorically about lost allowances on "Spent on Rainy Days" or pining away during "Motion Sickness," Obert's lyrics are still as poignant and poetic as on his official albums.

Of the rarities, the real standout treats are the two songs composed with singer/songwriter M. Ward, as well as the old Daniel Johnston cover of "Devil Town." We'll have to wait until next spring for new material, but until then, "Noise Floor" is a welcome addition to an already impressive catalog. -- Michael D. Ayers
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