Front man for Bright Eyes splits his talents and time

New on CD

Music: in concert, CDs

April 22, 2004|By Richard Cromelin | Richard Cromelin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Besides his gifts as a singer and songwriter, one reason for Conor Oberst's indie-rock prominence is his willingness to mix it up. When his band Bright Eyes isn't in action, he'll plunge into rocking social commentary with his side project Desaparecidos or spend downtime collaborating with the two women of Azure Ray.

The six-song collection One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels is another fruit of his networking, a so-called split EP featuring three Oberst compositions alternating with three written by the Omaha band Neva Dinova. Members of both Bright Eyes and Neva Dinova play on all the songs, and each writer sings his own, until Neva Dinova's Jake Bellows takes the lead on Oberst's finale "Spring Cleaning," about a pregnant friend, her abusive man and a heart stored in mothballs.

Since he's crept up to the brink of stardom in the last couple of years, Oberst's contributions probably will get the main scrutiny. These interim markers on his path to glory are wounded but hopeful love songs, casual in tone and typically impressive in their craft and artistry, with literary narrative and detail yielding the naked soul-baring that his fans treasure.

In Bellows, Oberst has a formidable kindred spirit, one given to country-flavored plaints in his own songs.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Bright Eyes/Neva Dinova: One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels (Crank!) ***

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