Bright Eyes: A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997, a Companion EP

This companion EP is the first in a series of EPs re-issued with the original albums as part of a campaign by American band Bright Eyes.

Bright Eyes was founded in the mid-‘90s by singer-songwriter and guitarist Conor Oberst and consists of Oberst, multi-instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, and further musicians drafted in from time to time.

Oberst said of the reissue campaign that it’s “a meaningful way to connect with the past that doesn’t feel totally nostalgic and self-indulgent. We are taking these songs and making them interesting to us all over again. I like that. I like a challenge. I like to be forced to do something that’s slightly hard, just to see if we can”.

A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 (original album), facts and stats: this was the debut album by Bright Eyes, released in 1997 by Saddle Creek Records on CD with 20 tracks and in 2000 for the Japanese market by Bad News Records. It was also re-issued in 2012 on vinyl and CD. The release features songs written and recorded between 1995 and 1997 on a reel-to-reel four track by Oberst (previously the singer/guitarist for Omaha indie rock band Commander Venus).

The critical reviews were mixed: Under The Radar commented that “when he penned the material for this 20-track debut, he was in high school, and though his age comes through clearly even in comparison to Letting Off the Happiness and the production is abysmal, the strength of the material is hard to miss”. Sputnik Music said that “Conor Oberst displays a passion and love for his music, but his song-writing and vocals on his first effort under the Bright Eyes name are lacking”.

Companion EP: the tracks for the Companion EP were variously recorded at ARC Studios in Omaha by Mike Mogis and the Highland Hotel in Los Angeles by Nathaniel Walcott, with a core band of Oberst (vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Mogis (electric guitar, bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro, pedal steel guitar, percussion), Walcott (piano, synthesizer, electric piano, Hammond & Wurlitzer organs, Mellotron, vibraphone, dulcimer), and Matt Focht (drums).

There are new “companion” versions of five tracks from the original album, and they generally benefit from a fuller, more professional production; “Driving Fast Through A Big City At Night” is brought up to date with sampling by Stella Mogis. “Solid Jackson” is less ramshackle and discordant than on the album and the gloomy “A Celebration Upon Completion” and ”Exaltation On A Cool Kitchen Floor” are upgraded from minimalist demos to versions with strings (violin by Paul Cartwright on both, and cello by Vanessa Freebairn-Smith on “A Celebration Upon Completion”). The standout track is an energetic “Falling Out of Love At This Volume” which is turned up into a more expansive and electric version with Miwi La Lupa joining on vocals.

The additional or bonus track is “Double Jo” (from Simon Joyner’s 1993 album Room Temperature). The Bright Eyes version converts Joyner’s original acoustic version into a full band arrangement with a country tone.

Note: Companion EP available on gold vinyl and download.

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Label: Dead Oceans
Release Date: 27 MAY 2022