New Releases

Bright Eyes Come Out Stronger with "Forced Convalescence"

It's the band's second new song of 2020.

Shawn Brackbill

We might not get to see Bright Eyes' long-awaited reunion tour as soon as we thought, but new music from the beloved band has yet to be canceled.

Last month, the Conor Oberst-led trio shared their comeback single, "Persona Non Grata," and confirmed that a new album was on the way—although they've yet to disclose a release date. This week, Bright Eyes have revealed another new song, "Forced Convalescence." This one is a peppy, piano-driven tune with a gradually-building instrumentation. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs bass guitar, while Jon Theodore of the Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age lends a hand for percussion.

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New Releases

Bright Eyes Make a Welcome Return with "Persona Non Grata"

It's the indie rock trio's first new song in nearly a decade.

After nearly a decade of silence, a new song from Bright Eyes has landed.

"Persona Non Grata" marks the indie rock trio's first new music since their 2011 record, The People's Key, but they've been hinting at a return for the past few months. Back in January, Conor Oberst and company launched their Instagram page and subsequently announced their signing to Dead Oceans, the label home of indie heroes like Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, and Kevin Morby.

Despite their years away, "Persona Non Grata" feels like a return to form for Bright Eyes, whose pioneering of mid-2000s emo-folk paved the way for recent like-minded acts like Pinegrove and Hop Along. The song's title, literally translating to "unwelcome person," is a term used in diplomacy for foreign people forbidden to enter or remain in a country. Oberst, it seems, has altered the term to apply to himself. "I'm the last of the best / I'm the thoughts in the swamp," he sings in his characteristic quiver.

The rocking ballad is driven by a waltzy piano, as bagpipe-like blares occasionally take over. It's somber and evocative, and it marks a welcome comeback for Bright Eyes. Listen below.

Bright Eyes - Persona Non Grata (Official Visualizer) www.youtube.com

New Releases

"Garden Song" Is One of Phoebe Bridgers' Most Stunning Songs Yet

It's the singer-songwriter's first new solo music since her 2017 debut album.

Olof Grind

It's been two and a half years since Phoebe Bridgers' debut album, Stranger in the Alps, but the singer-songwriter has kept herself unimaginably busy.

From her instant-classic boygenius EP with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to her duo with Conor Oberst, Better Oblivion Community Center, fans of Bridgers have had plenty to feast on. But it appears a second solo album could be imminent, as she's shared a stunning new single called "Garden Song."

In line with the gentle indie folk that's become synonymous with Bridgers' solo work, "Garden Song" begins with a driving, ascendant acoustic guitar riff, made only dreamier by its heavy reverb. Inspired by her Los Angeles hometown and the nightmares she experiences on tour, the lyrics are among Bridgers' most idyllic: "When I grow up I'm gonna look up from my phone and see my life / And it's gonna be just like my recurring dream," she sings in one of the song's most jarring lines.

Bridgers also enlisted her tour manager, a "6-foot-7 Dutch man named Jeroen," to provide backing vocals on "Garden Song," and his weighty baritone is subtly heard in the choruses to give the track an added depth. "I don't how but I'm taller / It must be something in the water," they sing. "No, I'm not afraid of hard work / I get everything I want, I have everything I wanted." One of Bridgers' most simply beautiful songs to date, nearly every aspect of "Garden Song" tries to stop you in your tracks.

www.youtube.com

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TV

Would Conor Oberst Be a Good Late-Night Production Assistant?

The Bright Eyes frontman and his fellow musician, Phoebe Bridgers, appeared in a mockumentary segment called "Meet the CONAN Staff."

Courtesy of CONAN

What would happen if your favorite artist suddenly switched careers and became a production assistant on a late night talk show?

The CONAN team has given us a hint on what that strange scenario might look like. On the latest episode of "Meet the CONAN Staff"—a mockumentary series depicting behind-the-scenes shenanigans—Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst walks us through a day in the life of his new job.

"I sort of stumbled into the role of being the voice of the emo and indie rock movement," Oberst explains. "But that was just to pay the bills. Really, I wanted to break into late-night television production. I guess you could say I'm the Happy Gilmore of emo." But, like any assistant job, he faces his share of difficulties. Worst of all, he can't shake the habit of breaking out into his trademark quivering vocals: "The transition's been a little rocky. My brain is just so good at coming up with sad songs about how we're just pawns in this f--ked up game, that sometimes the lyrics just slip out."

Of course, Oberst isn't alone in his job. In this comical alternate reality, he works alongside his Better Oblivion Community Center bandmate, Phoebe Bridgers. Although Oberst's try-hard attitude gets some flack from his superiors, Bridgers naturally exudes an effortless cool factor. "Yeah, I'll probably do this for a while," Bridgers says. "But it's kind of a bullsh*t job."

Watch the clip and delight in the sad songs of late night TV below.

www.youtube.com

MUSIC

Bright Eyes Have Plans for 2020

The seminal indie rock band just launched an Instagram page.

Could I please have the attention of everyone who sported side bangs in 2008: Bright Eyes, the mid-aughts indie band who made devoted fans out of granola hipsters and emo kids alike, have resurfaced.

It's been nearly a decade since the trio of Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nate Walcott first called it quits, but from the looks of their newly-launched Instagram account, a return might be imminent. Today, @brighteyesofficial shared a brief promotional clip that doesn't feature any music but is captioned with the hashtag @BrightEyes2020. They tweeted a link to the Instagram account, as well.

Though Bright Eyes has taken the back burner in recent years, the members have kept fairly busy; Walcott has been involved with many major acts, touring with the likes of Rilo Kiley and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and contributing to albums for U2, Beck, Jason Mraz, Maroon 5, the Shins, and more, as well as working with Mogis to compose the score for the film adaptation of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. Mogis has engineered, produced, and performed in many records released by Bright Eyes' label, Saddle Creek. Frontman Oberst has had a busy solo career, and last year he linked with Phoebe Bridgers for their duo Better Oblivion Community Center.

In other words, if you've been looking for an excuse to cry to Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, now is your chance.

Bright Eyes - Lover I Don't Have to Love www.youtube.com

MUSIC

Dear NPR Tiny Desk, Stop Having Repeat Performers

With all the love and respect in the world, NPR Tiny Desk, maybe consider using your massive platform to continue to uplift new artists as you have in the past, rather than inviting repeat performers.

I love the NPR Tiny Desk, and I love almost all the performers who have ever been featured on it.

I love the series' inclusivity and taste, and I appreciate the way the Tiny Desk Contest picks artists who deserve the major platform that the prize affords.

Naia Izumi: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com

However, there's one thing that's been bothering me about the Tiny Desk. The show typically doesn't have repeat performers, but in the past few years, several bands have been invited on to perform more than once. Yesterday, Sharon Van Etten came on to perform three new songs, though she first performed in 2010. Wilco was invited to return in 2016. Julien Baker performed two shows, one in 2016 and then one in 2018, and then came back to perform with boygenius in 2019, alongside Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers—both of whom had also performed before.

boygenius: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com

Even though I am a devoted fan of most these artists and think that boygenius is the future of rock music, the fact that these artists were invited to perform twice rubs me the wrong way, which makes me wonder how people who are not fans of these artists feel. All these repeats seem to contradict the intent of the show, which has always seemed to be about getting past layers of artifice and tapping into the true emotions at the core of a wide variety of music.

This annoyance isn't really directed at the Tiny Desk or the repeat performers, of course. One series certainly can't be held responsible for the corruption at the heart of the corporatized music industry or for breaking out of the media's elitist echo chambers.

Maybe the annoyance is rooted in the fact that so many artists dedicate their lives to music and yet never get the chance to be featured on a platform like the Tiny Desk. I have so many friends who have submitted wonderful videos to the Tiny Desk competition, and I've watched hundreds more submissions by artists who truly deserve recognition from NPR and other music outlets, yet receive little to none, especially if they don't have the cash or luck granted to others.

Maybe I'm annoyed because, in general, music is such an extraordinarily random crapshoot of a profession, and the truth is that most talented and hardworking musicians I know are sleeping on benches in the parks of New York.

As a music and culture writer, I'm also aware that I've absolutely fallen prey to the temptation to write repeatedly about artists and celebrities I know and love instead of prioritizing new and diverse voices. In that sense, I do understand Bob Boilen's desire to have his old favorites back in his office.

Maybe, Bob, both you and I can try to work on this. We can listen to Go Home by Julien Baker in private as many times as we want, while knowing that as music writers and content curators, we have the power to choose what stories and voices to elevate, and we have to constantly interrogate those choices and subconscious biases that may inform them. On the other hand, tokenization is never the answer, and nothing replaces having more diverse voices in positions of power in the first place.