I'M WIDE AWAKE IT'S MORNING
Saddle Creek, 2005
Conor Oberst, the folkie boy-child from Omaha, started putting out his own indie records at 13, so he was a weathered vet by the time he made this Gram Parsons-inspired gem. Oberst sounds youthfully self-absorbed and all the better for it, with acoustic guitars, earnest poetry and harmonies from Emmylou Harris herself. "Lua" is a heart-shredding love song about a doomed girl whose heart is too heavy for him to lift. But he vows to try anyway, and the melody gives him — and us — some badly needed strength.
This was the record that made Kanye West want to be the hip-hop Fiona Apple. Yet during the three years Apple labored over this ambitiously ornate song cycle, fans wondered if the album would ever see the light of day. After recording with producer Jon Brion, she scrapped the results and rerecorded most of the album from scratch. But with the pained, confessional balladry of "O' Sailor" and "Red Red Red," Apple sings with enough emotion to make Machine worth every day of the wait.
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