Not long before Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning were simultaneously released, I became a huge fan of Bright Eyes. In 2006, they’d release not a new album but instead, a compilation entitled Noise Floor: (Rarities 1998-2005), including songs from guest appearances or EPs or magazine giveaways. Was it worth it? Very much so. Of course, your love for the album depends on how much you love Bright Eyes and what Bright Eyes do you prefer. If you like the weird, experimental Bright Eyes, chances are you will find a lot to enjoy on this compilation.
“I Will Be Grateful For this Day” perfectly illustrates this. The song flows with electronic beats and beeps, mixing in some synthesized guitar chords and Conor Oberst’s rough vocals. It’s one of the most lyrically beautiful songs in the album, and the harmony that Oberst has attached to it makes it exhilarating. “The Trees Get Wheeled Away” is another winner, more of an acoustic piece closer to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. It’s a beautiful, haunting song in any way you hear it, but I have to say that I prefer the arrangements I’ve heard in live versions. The rawer quality of those recordings and shows feels better suited for the song. There’s also the funny, bittersweet “Drunk Kid Catholic”, which is as cryptic as its title promises it to be.
But one of my problems with this compilation is the inclusion of “Spent on Rainy Days”, from a collaboration that Bright Eyes did with Spoon entitled Home Volume IV. Why? Simply because they didn’t include all the songs from that EP in here. Why not include them all? It feels like a very transparent ploy to make you buy Home.
Another problem with this album is that four songs are only available in the vinyl version: “Act of Contrition”, “Hungry for a Holiday”, “When the Curious Girl Realizes She’s Under Glass Again”, and “Entry Way Song.” Again, it feels like a way of getting you to get the vinyl version if you want those songs specifically, or getting the albums from which they originate.
All said and done, this is Bright Eyes we’re talking about, so if you buy it, you could come away very satisfied if you’re a fan, especially if you enjoy their older work. Haunting, bittersweet and unconventional, this is a collection of their most obscure but also brilliant work. I don’t think it’d work as an introduction for the band, but it’s a good gift for anyone who wants to go deeper into their catalogue.
You can get it right here.