Conor Oberst is the man for February. The wintry wisdom of this Nebraskan singer-songwriter, under the musical moniker of Bright Eyes, is toasty enough to both warm cockles and roast chestnuts. Oberst is prolific: at 24, he has just released his fifth and sixth albums - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, a folky acoustic wonderland, and Digital
Ash in a Digital Urn, a gently electrified rock set. Both walk that hallowed turf known as "New Bob Dylan" territory. The dual album release is an unusual gimmick, used most memorably by Guns'n'Roses at the apex of their coked-up delusion, but Oberst is apparently unable to condense his work, which is only of benefit to the rest of us.
The prettified heartbreak of I'm Wide Awake and the innovative indie of Digital Ash reveal equally effective sides to the musical personality of Bright Eyes. Two tracks from each album are available free at www.saddle-creek.com. I would prioritise the jittery, rhythmic anthem "Take it Easy (Love Nothing)" and the delicate twilight beauty of "Lua". You can also download selections from the Bright Eyes back catalogue, most notably "From a Balance Beam", off the 2002 album Lifted.
Since that breakthrough release, Oberst has caused a stir by refusing to gig at any venue connected to the entertainment giant Clear Channel. He has also displayed his protest-singer credentials with the best anti-Bush song to date, "When the President Talks to God". Written too late to be included on the new albums, this is currently available free at www.itunes.com.
Bright Eyes found a wider audience last year when he joined REM and Bruce Springsteen on the pro-Democrat Vote for Change tour. I recommend the Boss's live version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" (there's a clip on www.brucespringsteen.com). The song was an attempt to reclaim US patriotism for the people, and millions of Americans must share Guthrie's desire right now. A maudlin harmonica solo has rarely seemed so fitting.