Conor Oberst, the singer/songwriter behind Bright Eyes, bills himself modestly as "guitars, Rhodes, piano, voice" on this 2002 five-song EP featuring nearly two dozen vocalists and instrumentalists. Above the din of Elephant 6-like orchestration, something that has escalated since his work with Neutral Milk Hotel and Of Montreal, there is his fragile, crackling voice full of laments for lost love in the Nebraska night. And as his label, Saddle Creek, has seen prosperity from mates the Faint, real money was well spent on tighter, professional recording. The opening "From a Balance Beam," and "Loose Leaves" pick up the pop pace, the latter aligning with the Strokes' style by distorting Oberst's chat-sing while crunchy keyboards bounce along. On "Messenger Bird's Song," his cinematic narrative is complimented by banjo. The imploring turns to collegiate rambles on "We Are Free Men," where his sneer of "Anything to entertain yourself" sounds like a reluctant Jarvis Cocker. Oberst has become somewhat of a heartland torch singer, and this EP hints at the busted glam of what's to come.
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AllMusic Review by Daphne Carr