Bright Eyes 'Five Dice, All Threes' red & orange splatter vinyl (pre-order 20th Sep)

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Five Dice, All Threes is a record of uncommon intensity and tenderness, communal exorcism and personal excavation. These are, of course, qualities that fans have come to expect from Bright Eyes, nearly three decades into their career. The tight-knit band of Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nate Walcott tends to operate in distinct sweeping movements: each unique in its sound and story but unified by a sense of ambition and ever-growing emotional stakes. Even with this rich history behind them, these new songs exude a visceral thrill like nothing they have attempted before. Oberst has always sung in a voice that conveys a sense of life-or-death gravity. At times throughout Five Dice, All Threes, you may feel worried for him; other times, he may seem like the only one with the clarity to get us out of this mess. On the self-produced album, Bright Eyes embrace the elusive quality that has made them so enduring and influential across generations and genres, bringing their homespun sound from an Omaha bedroom to devoted audiences around the world. In Oberst’s songwriting lies a promise that our loneliest thoughts and feelings can take on grander shapes when passed between friends, blasted through speakers, or shouted among crowds. This time around, the band invites such like-minded voices onto the record with them, with notable guest appearances from Cat Power (“All Threes”), The National’s Matt Berninger (“The Time I Have Left”), and Alex Orange Drink, the frontman of the New York punk band The So So Glos, who co-wrote several songs and shares a climactic verse in the surging “Rainbow Overpass.” When they hit the studio with Oberst’s longtime bandmates—the multiinstrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis, the keyboardist and arranger Nate Walcott—they opted for a fast-paced approach that drew inspiration from formative influences like The Replacements and Frank Black. They sought textures that burst from the mix like gnarly splashes of paint on a blank canvas; they opted for first takes and spontaneous decisions. Five Dice, All Threes thrashes and squirms and resists classification. In the brilliant expanse of “El Capitan,” they blend a galloping rhythm you might find in a Johnny Cash standard with a swell of funereal horns, shouted vocals, and lyrics that read like a sobering farewell between twin souls. “So they’re burning you an effigy,” Oberst sings. “Well, that happens to me all the time!” For every striking turn in his lyrics, the band knows just how to complement him. On one level, Five Dice, All Threes may be the most fun album in the Bright Eyes catalog, filled with singalong hooks and buzzing performances. And yet, sitting alongside these adrenalized rockers that sound beamed in directly from the garage, you will find contemplative, psychedelic material like the heartbreaking “Tiny Suicides” and “All Threes,” a song whose jazzy piano solo and free-associative lyrics feel totally unprecedented in the Bright Eyes catalog. As per usual, the music comes loaded with subtext that invites deep listening—the signature touch of a band who has always honored the album as its own exalted work of art. In the game of threes, the titular move would indicate a perfect roll. Perfection, however, means something different in the world of Bright Eyes, where our flaws are what grants us authority and finding meaning is only possible if we bear witness to the dark, winding journey to get there. On Five Dice, All Threes, Bright Eyes embrace these beliefs with music that feels thrillingly alive, as if we were all in the room with them, shouting along and gaining the strength to move forward together. It doesn’t just sound like classic Bright Eyes. It sounds like their future, too.

 

Tracks 

SIDE A 

1. Five Dice 

2. Bells and Whistles 

3. El Capitan 

4. Bas Jan Ader 

5. Tiny Suicides 

SIDE B 

6. All Threes 

7. Rainbow Overpass 

8. Hate 

9. Real Feel 105° 

SIDE C 

10. Spun Out 

11. Trains Still Run on Time 

12. The Time I Have Left 

13. Tin Soldier Boy