Noise Floor (Rarities 1998-2005)

Bright Eyes leader Conor Oberst was a prolific songwriter back before he could shave, and he kept up that pace while turning into the poet laureate of Heartbreak Nation and a sex symbol for nice girls who dreamt of mothering him. The unfortunately front-loaded Noise Floor is sixteen tracks' worth of compilation cuts, singles, seven-inches and unreleased material: rambling acoustic songs, unwieldy noise experiments and homespun rock, with warbled beauty and choruses that tumble out and curl up on your lap. Several of these match Oberst's best work. "Trees Get Wheeled Away" is a perfect emo-country song with a triumphant, confused chorus that begins, "There's a virgin in my bed." Even Oberst's woodshedding stuff is pretty good: 1999's undercooked, agonized "The Vanishing Act" sounds like it could be beefed up into a gem.