As is the tradition with Bright Eyes, Four Winds is an EP featuring a song from their upcoming full-length, Cassadaga, released a month before the record’s release date, packaged with several B-sides. A teaser EP is a brave release from any band. Considering how few records people buy, asking people to buy a record with only one song that’s going to appear on a soon-to-be-released record is a big request. However, those willing shell out the money for Four Winds should be quite satisfied with their purchase.
Bright Eyes continue inching closer towards a more traditional country sound on Four Winds; though they never quite let themselves get there. The rowdy “Four Winds” starts the EP in this style, though just as it’s about to settle in to a traditional country sound, a discordant fiddle cuts through the mix to knock it off the track. The same can be said for “Reinvent the Wheel”—a fairly straightforward, mid-tempo song, were it not for the swaying, dreamlike passage in the middle of the song.
Conor Oberst’s lyrics have a mystical feeling on Four Winds; more stream of consciousness than anything he’s written before. Though he’s able to keep his songs from going too abstract by sticking to a storytelling style of songwriting, which gives the songs a surreal quality. He’s also finding inspiration from simpler things. “I try to breathe in meaning/dig deep to every gasp of air,” he sings on “Reinvent the Wheel,” which perfectly captures his outlook on Four Winds. This view frames the rest of the songs, especially “Stray Dog Freedom.”
Four Winds also benefits from excellent sequencing. There’s a great ebb and flow to the record. By positioning the two slower songs at the middle and end of the record, it creates the timeless feeling of listening to a record on a turntable.
Bright Eyes also gets a major boost from their friends. M. Ward, Ben Kweller, Eisley, David Rawlings, Maria Taylor, and Janet Weiss of Sleater Kinney all play on Four Winds. With this type of support, it’s hard not to make an excellent record. All things considered, Four Winds impressively embodies the purpose of a teaser EP: its songs are so good that it makes you wonder how great this upcoming record can be if these songs didn’t make it. Well worth the money.