"Digital Ash" is the album more likely to convert nonfans (and, for that matter, music supervisors for Hollywood movies - a handful of songs sound distinctly soundtrackable). Somehow, the music is both louder and softer than anything Mr. Oberst has done before: instead of grabbing you by the throat, the songs float gently toward you. The desperation in Mr. Oberst's voice remains, but now it's cushioned by fuzzy guitars and keyboards, and the old tantrums and rallying cries have been replaced by resigned shrugs and halfhearted optimism. The album's first single, released late last year, was "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," a bubbling collaboration with Jimmy Tamborello, the beatmaker behind the Postal Service. As an electric guitar twists around him, Mr. Oberst sums up lost love not as tragedy, but as bittersweet relief: "Now I do as I please and I lie through my teeth/ Someone might get hurt but it won't be me/ I should probably feel cheap but I just feel free/ And a little bit empty."
-From Mr. Sincerity Tries a New TrickBy KELEFA SANNEH
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