Bright Eyes – Noise Floor (Rarities 1998-2005)

Picking up where A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 left off, is Noise Floor (Rarities 1998-2005), Bright Eyes second collection of rare and unreleased songs. At first glance, a second collection of hard to find songs seems a bit too excessive, considering Conor Oberst has only released five proper full-lengths.

While I’m not sure of the exact reasoning for the release of Noise Floor, I think the reasoning for this record is the fact the songs that make up Noise Floor are culled from rare/import EP’s and 7’ vinyl records, while the songs on A Collection… are taken exclusively from Oberst’s 4-track recorder.

However, the reasoning behind the record isn’t important, what really matters is how good or bad the songs are; in the case of Noise Floor, the songs are surprisingly good. Personally, I’m more of a later day-Bright Eyes fan. I prefer the lazy, reflective songs of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning than earlier records like Fevers and Mirrors and the majority of his 4-track recordings. So not surprisingly, the songs that I feel are the strongest on Noise Floor are the most recently recorded ones. “Trees Get Wheeled Away” the most recent recording on Noise Floor sounds so similar to I’m Wide Awake, musically and lyrically, that I was surprised it wasn’t a B-side from the record. Also, a track from the 3 More Hit Songs from Bright Eyes EP is included here, which I’ve always felt showed a considerable amount of lyrical growth from his previous records. 

Usually a highlight of just about anybody’s rare/unreleased collections record, the cover songs included on Noise Floor turns out to be quite disappointing. The cover of Spoon’s “Spent on Rainy Days” is by far the worst. Admittedly, I’ve never heard the original version, but I’m pretty it can’t be as bad as this Cursive-aping take Oberst attempts. The other two covers, M. Ward’s “Seashell Tale” and Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town,” aren’t necessarily bad covers, but they find Oberst mimicking the distinctive vocal styles of the original artists a little too exact.

This collection is a welcome addition to any Bright Eyes fan’s collection. It’s a solid record that is sure to get several rotations while fans eagerly await the new record. However, once that new record appears, Noise Floor will most likely end up tucked away, only to come out from time to time.

(Saddle Creek Records)

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