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Left to right: Mogis, Oberst, Walcott.

Bright Eyes is an American indie rock band from Omaha, Nebraska consisting of guitarist and singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, producer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, trumpet and piano player Nate Walcott, and various other musicians. They were known for introspective, confessional lyrics, as well as for defining the Omaha indie scene and bringing national attention to their label Saddle Creek Records (and, later, another independent label, Team Love Records).

One of the first indie bands to gain mainstream success, Bright Eyes had two singles, "Lua" and "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," that reached the top of the Billboard charts (peaking at #1 and #2, in that order). Their respective albums, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn were released simultaneously, and are two of the best received indie albums of the Turn of the Millennium.

The band went on an indefinite hiatus in 2011, with the band members maintaining working relationships. Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott have both showed up either live or guested in studio recordings for Conor Oberst. Walcott and Mogis composed the score to The Fault in Our Stars in 2014, and have recorded with First Aid Kit who have acted as backup for Conor's live act several times.

In 2020, the band reunited and released a new album titled Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, which was preceded by the lead single, "Persona Non Grata".


  • A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 (1998)
  • Letting Off the Happiness (1998)
  • Fevers and Mirrors (2000)
  • Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002)
  • A Christmas Album (2002)
  • I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005)
  • Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005)
  • Motion Sickness (2005): a live album
  • Noise Floor (2006): a B-Side compilation
  • Cassadaga (2007)
  • The People's Key (2011)
  • Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was (2020)

Tropes associated with Bright Eyes include:

  • Abusive Parents: In "The Calendar Hung Itself", the narrator mentions kissing "a girl with a broken jaw that her father gave to her".
  • Addled Addict: The narrator and his girlfriend in "Lua".
  • Album Closure: "Comet Song" ends Down In The Weeds... on a somewhat upbeat note compared to the rest of the album (although it takes until the very end to actually get there).
  • Album Title Drop: I'm Wide Awake It's Morning gets its name from the album's final song, "Road to Joy".
  • Alliterative Name: Mike Mogis.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: A staple of their early music; examples include "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" and "Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh".
  • Alternative Indie: The band that brought national attention to the Omaha indie scene.
  • The American Dream: The subject of a scathing taking-down in ''At the Bottom of Everything".
  • Angst: Their songs normally deal with depression, substance abuse, political instability and failed relationships.
  • Animated Music Video:
    • The partially stop-motion "Bowl of Oranges".
    • "Mariana Trench"
  • Anti-Love Song:
    • "Lover I Don't Have to Love", being about Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • "Lua", about a disintegrating relationship between two addicts.
    • "Make a Plan To Love Me" is a sweet, sentimental love song...about advertising and marketing.
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Don't Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come" from Lifted.
  • Better as Friends: "It's Cool, We Can Still Be Friends." The former couple are still in love, but realize it was better to break up since they ended up hurting each other so much.
  • Big Applesauce: The setting of "Lua".
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some songs contain Spanish lyrics. There's also the narration at the start of Down In The Weeds..., provided by Conor's ex-wife.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Let's Not Shit Ourselves", a 10-minute rant against society and politics, has the narrator wake up in a hospital after a presumed overdose. His father is there and tells him he's not angry and loves him unconditionally, and the song ends with the narrator musing:
    How grateful I was then to be part of the mystery,
    To love and to be loved,
    Let's just hope that is enough.
  • Boring, but Practical: A romantic metaphor in "First Day of my Life":
    I'd rather be working for a pay check than waiting to win the lottery.
  • Break Up Song: "The Calendar Hung Itself", "It's Cool, We Can Still Be Friends".
  • Broken Bird: The eponymous "Lua" is stick-thin from drug abuse and has "a heavy heart".
  • B-Side: One of their most famous songs, "When the President Talks to God", is a B-Side to "First Day of My Life".
  • BSoD Song: the angry, shout-y, rant-y "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to be Loved)".
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: "Lua", about a relationship fueled by drugs and binge drinking.
  • Call-Back: It is speculated that the vague overdose-related Chicago incident in "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" is the same one that was previously mentioned in "The Calendar Hung Itself".
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: "Land Locked Blues" mentions "the devils of fame"; "Lover I Don't Have to Love" and "Lua" are about groupie sex and the difficulties of balancing a relationship and a rock'n'roll lifestyle.
  • Christmas Songs: Recorded for the Christmas Album in 2002.
  • Cover Album: Christmas Album (2002).
  • Cover Version: The Digital Ash B-Side "Burn Rubber" is a cover of Simon Joyner, one of Oberst's influences who was later signed to Team Love Records.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: A failed Friends with Benefits situation turns the narrator of "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" into a cold-blooded Casanova.
  • Cue the Sun: "First Day of My Life".
    I went out in the rain, suddenly everything changed, they're spreading blankets on the beach.
  • Darker and Edgier: Digital Ash in a Digital Urn is this to I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, the album released on the same day. And on an intra-album note, "Stairwell Song" and "To Death's Heart (in three parts)" are this to the rest of Down In The Weeds...
  • Deconstruction: A few songs over the years are lyrical deconstructions of some sort:
    • "Lua" is a cynical take on Silly Love Songs, with the girl in the song being clearly feared to leave soon, and things that would be seen as "sentimental" in other songs being portrayed as unpleasant.
    • "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" is a cynical take on Sex as Rite-of-Passage, with a young man losing his virginity to a platonic friend who doesn't want a relationship, and feeling upset and empty after the fact.
  • Destructive Romance: "Lua".
  • Distinct Double Album: Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning were released simultaneously; the former is darker with music that is mostly electronic, while the latter is more upbeat with live instrumentation.
  • Driven to Suicide: The narrator of "The Calendar Hung Itself" and possibly the narrator of "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" (in both cases they don't actually go through with it).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Letting off The Happiness is very different from later Bright Eyes. There's a lot more songs about Intercourse with You and the drumming is much louder in the mix, and the band has a lot more noise and electronic dissonance mixed in.
  • Either/Or Title: Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
  • Eleven O'Clock Number: The 10-minute "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved)" closes Lifted....
  • Emo Music: Before Bright Eyes, Oberst had a band called Commander Venus which was most definitely first-wave 1990s emo, and A Collection of Songs..., Letting off The Happiness and Fevers and Mirrors still have first wave emo influences. The People's Key is a second wave attempt 10 years late.
  • Emo Teen: Oberst had this reputation during the band's early years (not helped by his choice in haircuts).
  • Empathic Environment: played straight in "First Day of My Life", subverted in "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)".
  • Epic Rocking: "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved)", "The Big Picture" and "An Attempt to Tip the Scales" are all 8 to 10 minutes long.
  • Folk Music: The band were often classified as folk, especially during the Lifted / I'm Wide Awake era.
  • Friends with Benefits: a sad example in "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)".
  • Garage Band: As mentioned in "The City has Sex", the first couple of albums were recorded on a four-track in Oberst's basement.
  • Grief Song: A couple, but most obviously "Stairwell Song" from Down In The Weeds...
  • Groupie: The girl the narrator sleeps with in "Lover I Don't Have to Love".
  • Guyliner: Oberst, occasionally.
  • Improbable Age: Oberst started the band in his mid-teens, and up until his mid-twenties all reviews, interviews and articles made sure to mention his young age.
  • Intercourse with You: "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)": ("First with your hands, then with your mouth, a downpour of sweat, damp cotton clouds...")
  • Last Note Nightmare: The sinister instrumentals at the end of the otherwise sweet "Bowl of Oranges".
  • Left the Background Music On: "An Attempt To Tip The Scales" segues into a mock-interview via a repeating ambient loop, which continues repeating in the background for several minutes - finally, Conor Oberst politely asks his interviewer "Can you make that sound stop, please?", and the background music abruptly stops as the conversation continues.
  • Location Song: "Mariana Trench", from their 2020 comeback album, mentions Mount Everest, the Stonehenge, and the Mariana Trench in its choruses.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Oberst at some times during his twenties.
  • Love Confession: "First Day of My Life".
  • Love Hurts: Stated in so many words in "Lover I Don't Have to Love".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Bowl of Oranges" and "Four Winds".
    • "Reinvent the Wheel", an upbeat song about the death of Elliott Smith.
  • Metal Scream: Done in some songs, like "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" and "The City has Sex".
  • New Sound Album: The earliest albums are emo/lo-fi rock, Lifted and I'm Wide Awake It's Morning are folk/Americana, and the later albums have an electronic/pop direction.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Lua", "Let's Not Shit Ourselves".
  • Nonindicative Name: "Oberst" means "Colonel" in German. Nothing could suit the peace-loving Conor less.
  • Obsession Song: "The Calendar Hung Itself".
  • One-Man Song: "Padraic My Prince".
  • One-Woman Song: "Lua", "Kathy With A K's Song".
  • Patter Song: "The Calendar Hung Itself", "The City Has Sex".
  • Persona Non Grata: They have a song of said title, about the need for acceptance and peace.
  • The Power of Friendship: "Bowl of Oranges" is about how empathy and understanding go a long way toward making someone's life better.
  • The Power of Love: "First Day of My Life" (romantic love), "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" (familial love / love in general).
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "Lua"
    The mask I polish in the evening by the morning looks like shit
    • "To Death's Heart (In Three Parts)" contains an actual use of "fuck."
    What’s it like to live with me here every fucking day?
  • Protest Song:
    • "When the President Talks to God" is a very thinly-veiled attack on George W. Bush.
    • "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved)" is an attack on the Bush administration, as well as the hysteria and fake news in the mainstream media.
    • "At the Bottom of Everything" is a Take That! against the capitalist society and materialistic life goals.
    • "Coyote Song" is a protest about excessive immigration enforcement.
    • "Miracle Of Life" is protesting about the limiting of access to abortion.
  • Rambling Old Woman Monologue: The story about the rose bush told by Conor's mother during the intro of Down In The Weeds.... Allegedly helped along by the consumption of magic mushrooms.
  • Recycled Lyrics: "They're spreading blankets on the beach" is used in both "First Day of My Life" and "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)".
  • Revolving Door Band: The three permanent members collaborated with dozens of other musicians over the years.
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: "Road to Joy", done To the Tune of..., surprise, "Ode to Joy".
  • Self-Deprecation: A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 features a negative review in the liner notes that describes the collection as a "20 song torture hour".
  • Self-Parody: The fake interviews at the beginning of the albums.
  • Short Title: Long, Elaborate Subtitle: Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Love I Don't Have to Love": "I asked your name, you asked the time" mirrors Holden Caulfield's failed tryst with a prostitute in The Catcher in the Rye.
    • "Reinvent the Wheel" is commonly assumed to be about Elliott Smith.
  • Silly Love Songs: "First Day of My Life".
  • Something Blues: "Land Locked Blues".
  • The Something Song: "Kathy With A K's Song".
  • Spoken Word in Music: Each album generally begins with an extract of a recording or interview, to establish the direction.
  • Studio Chatter: At both the end and the beginning of "Let's Not Shit Ourselves".
  • Take That, Critics!: The lines "I do not read the reviews / No, I am not singing for you" from "Let's Not Shit Ourselves".
  • Textless Album Cover: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, Fevers and Mirrors, The People's Key, Letting Off the Happiness, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was.
  • To the Tune of...: "Road To Joy", as the title hints, takes its melody from Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode To Joy".
  • Wham Line: "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" starts out as a rant against society and politics, until switching gears at a roughly 6-minute mark:
    Well I awoke in relief, my sheets and tubes were all tangled, weak from whiskey and pills in a Chicago hospital.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: A few times, but especially this passage from Ladder Song:
    Welcome the new age / all covered in warrior paint / the lights from the jungle / go up to the sky / see now a star's born / looks just like a blood orange / don't it just make ya wanna cry / precious friend of mine?