In the midst of an increasingly tumultuous year they have chosen to return, to tear down the emotional walls and rebuild us with their poignantly captivating style of storytelling.
The years in between haven't been quiet for Conor Oberst - the band's leader in mind, body, and soul - releasing several solo albums as well as his collaborative project with Phoebe Bridgers, Better Oblivion Community Centre. But there's something different about the music he creates with Bright Eyes that is so gut-wrenchingly emotional that it entraps you in a different place to the rest.
Down In The Weeds, Where The World Once Was recalls many familiar traits from Bright Eyes albums passed, feeling in some ways completely personal and internal of Oberst's melancholically poetic mind, while also being collaborative and inclusive of other voices through his narrative-driven style of writing. Album opener "Pageturner's Rag" brings a collection of tales told through unknown voice clips, often mundane yet sometimes quite profound. This feature of a multitude of personalities has been used before, bringing Bright Eyes' albums to animated life in a universally communicative way, while Oberst's uniquely pained, folky vocals keep their sound grounded in the intimate.
"Dance and Sing" is the perfect example of Oberst's insuppressible narrative writing ability, that continues firmly throughout every track. Latest single "Mariana Trench" is an impassioned yet positive tale of anxiety and questioning, with a recently released customarily beautiful music video created by Art Camp.
"One and Done" takes a different turn again with a wider orchestral sound, yet is also thinner and more minor in its melody, taking you on a real roller-coaster of emotions. Like the many unknown voices, many unexpected influences and genres slot together to build the Bright Eyes puzzle, cleverly offering different tasters of different sounds on every track, and all held together by the glue that is Oberst's voice.
"Stairwell Song" is truest to their inclination for nostalgia, with a rolling build up of emotional reflection on lost romance. Meanwhile "Persona Non Grata", another single, displays their trademark fondness for enrapturing sorrow.
The established sound of Bright Eyes' melancholia is as strong as ever on Down In The Woods yet it still feels fresh. Oberst's ability to consistently write sublimely distressing melodies as well as alluringly imaginative lyrics is unrivalled, and their grand return is really what we needed this year.