Bright Eyes -- or, rather, Conor Oberst, the founding father of freak-folk, -poetry, -country or -rock, depending on what season of his discography you're looking at -- will be coming through Soma next week with his psychedelic prodigy Kurt Vile and the Violators.
What's best understood as cerebral: Bright Eyes is the result of an introspective landscape that Oberst has woven over the past decade. The music has grown up with us, providing an intensely personal soundtrack to our angst-ridden teenage years, then following us through our 20s onward with the warming maturity of folk/Americanam from the Mystic Valley Band, Monsters of Folk and modern rock sound of his latest release, The People's Key. A rotating cast from Omaha's music scene has filtered throughout, providing a wide array of instrumentation, backing the always-manic and imaginative narratives from Oberst's mind, and his consistent core: Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott.
On The People's Key, Oberst builds on the mysticism of Cassadaga (2007), including elements of science fiction, time travel, philosophical imagery and psychedelia. Without all the homemade weirdness of I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005), this record has been touted as a "career-defining work of art" by NPR. There's a wisdom to it that his breakthrough albums of 2004-05 were lacking, but it's now fully refined by sophisticated instrumentation and a new found footing as an artist.
Opening the night is Kurt Vile and his band the Violators. His widely acclaimed Smoke Ring for My Halo builds off his Square Shells EP from last June -- a teaser of sun-bleached psychedelia. The anatomy of his body of work is lucid: a long string of melancholic guitar that feels so damn lonesome that he sounds like he's talking to himself. But it's a beautiful kind of loneliness -- as he reflects in In My Time, "In my time I was whack and wild/I was just being myself, damn/But then I said that it was trying on faces/One that erases my discreet graces." The ambient drone carries out like a lullaby in songs like "Baby's Arms," so that it all becomes a hazy noise, a dissipating smoke ring.
Prepare yourselves for a sonic kaleidoscope of nostalgia and noise on Sept. 21 -- this one's going to be a heavy trip. Get your tickets here.