- Broken Base: fans tend to argue between the early, relentlessly miserable lo-fi indie rock era (A Collection Of Songs... - Fevers and Mirrors), stripped-bare honest, folk/americana period (Lifted... - I'm Wide Awake...) and the spiritual/science-fiction electronic/pop direction of their final work (Digital Ash..." - "The People's Key...). The sound and lyrical direction changes so dramatically it's almost like listening to three different bands.
- Crowning Moment of Funny: The mock interview in "An Attempt to Tip the Scales", where Conor Oberst is hilariously impersonated by Todd Fink, lead singer of The Faint. It's meant to poke fun at the dark tone of the album and Oberst's persona.
- Oberst: Well, I did have a brother who died in a bathtub... drowned. Actually, I had five brothers that died that way.
Oberst: No, I'm serious. My mother drowned one every year for five consecutive years. They were all named Padraic, so, they all got one song. It's kind of like walking out the door to discover it's a window.
- The Left the Background Music On moment in the same mock interview: The proper song part of "An Attempt To Tip The Scales" ends with a short ambient loop that keeps running in the background of the interview portion... Then "Conor" casually asks his interviewer "Can you make that sound stop, please?", and he does. It's particularly funny because at this point, the background droning had already been going on for so long that the listener may well have tuned it out and forgotten it was there entirely until it stopped.
- Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: "First Day of My Life" and "One Foot in Front of the Other"
- The video for ''First Day of My Life'' is this trope in spades.
- "Bowl of Oranges" from Lifted, being about how offering emotional support for someone can make a difference.
- Faux Symbolism: Arguably. The radio-presenter on An Attempt To Tip The Scales actually asks Oberst to elaborate on the repeated imagery he uses throughout the album.
- (On the title Fevers and Mirrors:) The fever is basically ails you or oppresses you. It could be anything. In my case, it's my neurosis, my... depression, but I don't want it to be limited to that (...) The mirror is, as you might have guessed, self examination or reflection of whatever form. It could be vanity or self-loathing. I know I'm guilty of both.
- Tearjerker: "It's Cool, We Can Still Be Friends", a very sad song about a former couple trying to be friends after a painful breakup but realizing their lingering feelings make it difficult.
- True Art Is Angsty: Heavily apparent in his pre-Lifted work, even lampshaded in "Fevers and Mirrors" with the mock-radio interview at the end of An Attempt To Tip The Scales.
- Subverted in that critics tend to agree Lifted to be superior because it tones down the depressive/angsty themes.
- The Woobie: Conor Oberst. Sort of ironic for someone whose last name means "colonel" in German.