Bright Eyes‚ the project of musical prodigy Conor Oberst‚ released companion albums last month. However‚ if you happen to be short of cash at the record store and trying to decide between I'm Wide Awake‚ It's Morning or Digital Ash in a Digital Urn‚ alt-country albums do not get much better than the former. In fact‚ I am confident in writing I'm Wide Awake‚ It's Morning sets the standard for all alternative country albums in 2005. Picky‚ cynical listeners will be instantly turned off by the short story that starts the album‚ but fast forward to the music and even the most stuck up with be pleased. "At the Bottom of Everything" overcomes its curious intro and evolves into a musically upbeat downer that is a hook. Instantly‚ the maturity of the songwriting in recognizable and it is quite surprisingly that such a young talent can write such interesting and thoughtful songs. Obviously‚ this ability has earned Oberst a reputation that allows him to keep some nice company. Emmylou Harris provides background vocals for "We Are Nowhere and It's Now" and she appears on two other tracks: "Another Travellin' Song" and "Landlocked Blues." The last of these songs is really quite beautiful even with Oberst's nasal singing. What really makes this a great album though is that it is emotionally ambiguous. I once saw Kurt Vonnegut give a lecture where he described why Hamlet was the best piece of fiction ever produced. Mr. Vonnegut walked the audience through every important scene and argued that events in each scene could be interpreted as positive or negative by the reader. Much the same way‚ Oberst has produced an album in which each song simultaneously seems happy and sad. Just as Hamlet suspends its audience‚ I believe this album has the same effect. Please do not get me wrong. I am not claiming we have a Shakespeare here or a masterpiece‚ but we do have a talent that made a hell of an album.