Bright Eyes isn’t the first band or artist to release two new albums simultaneously. The strategy has been employed in the past by artists ranging from Guns N’ Roses to Paul Westerberg, with widely varying degrees of success.

Inevitably, artists who do release more than one album’s worth of material at a time are wary of an instant backlash. “Can you imagine the (criticism) we would’ve gotten if we’d release two at once?” singer Thom Yorke said when asked why Radiohead released “Kid A” and its follow-up, “Amnesiac,” several months apart in 2000-01, even though both were recorded at the same sessions.

Bruce Springsteen took a critical and commercial beating when he chose to release “Lucky Town” and “Human Touch” on the same day in 1992. Both albums quickly sank off the charts and remain the black marks in a career otherwise filled with savvy marketing moves. Guns N’ Roses had much bigger commercial success with “Use Your Illusion I” and “II,” released simultaneously in 1991, but the band broke up soon afterward.

Westerberg engineered a comeback with “Stereo” and “Mono” in 2002, pairing a solo acoustic album with a garage-rock outing. Westerberg said he didn’t want to cram 70 minutes of music onto one CD, so he presented the discs separately but packaged them together.

In contrast, Bright Eyes’ “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” and “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn” share only a release date. They are sold separately, and singer Conor Oberst will lead separate tours with different lineups to focus on each album.

“The only reason they’re being released on the same day is more a matter of practicality,” Oberst says. “We recorded the folk record last February because I had been playing many of those songs for a while. But we’d always talked about making a more rhythm-intensive record with a more experimental approach. At first the idea was to take the best of both approaches and make it into one album, but within a few weeks of working on the “Digital’ record it became pretty obvious that it was a different approach that held together on its own.

“Then we had another choice: Do we put out the folk record and keep working on the “Digital’ album? We felt we might get trapped in the same interview-tour cycle after the folk album came out, and leave this other project undone for a long time. That didn’t seem appealing, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone.”

Oberst says his longtime hometown label, Saddle Creek Records, didn’t put up much of a fight.

“We’re fortunate to have a record label run by friends who leave the final decisions up to us,” he says. “We thought about what it might mean, that people might be confused, or buy one album instead of another, or none at all. But in the end, sales aren’t very high on the priority list of what we’re doing. It’s more about being able to express ourselves in a way that feels right. And this feels right to us now.”


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