Bright Eyes Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998 – 2005)

In the time that the rarities on this record were recorded, Conor Oberst has amassed an exceptional body of work, and all by the age of 25. The existence of Noise Floor is hardly a surprise considering he’s released eight full-lengths (that is including both his Christmas and live album, and his previous collection of rarities), as well as numerous EPs, b-sides and splits. What’s gathered here is mainly a hotchpotch of unreleased goodies and lesser-known works that have the potential to raise the eyebrows of even his most devoted follower. Besides its exclusivity value, Noise Floor is a surprisingly cohesive listen that deserves to stand proudly as a Bright Eyes record. Obviously there is some contrast to be considered between some of this material, considering there are cuts that go back to his teenage years. "The Vanishing Act” from 1999 is of demo quality, revealing a younger, eager musician, but it’s hardly a blemish. The following year’s "Motion Sickness,” meanwhile, is an accomplishment, demonstrating the ear both Oberst and pal/production guru Mike Mogis have for subtle incidental accents, be it layered samples or gentle percussion. Two unreleased collaborations with peer M. Ward are also highlights, as both artists meet on common ground that’s a pleasure to heed. Vinyl junkies will reap the most rewards from this, as Oberst has tacked on an additional five bonus tracks to the vinyl release. Noise Floor isn’t a required Bright Eyes release, but fans will no doubt find more than their share of delights. (Saddle Creek)