Ever since his debut with the band Commander Venus in 1994, when he was just 14, Conor Oberst has been carving out an impressive legacy as an endlessly prolific and idiosyncratic singer-songwriter. From his home base in Omaha, Oberst has recorded a diverse array of intensely emotional rock, working both solo (as Bright Eyes) and with his newer rock group Desaparecidos. In the latter incarnation, Oberst streamlined his ambitions a bit on this year's scabrous mini-album Read Music/Speak Spanish, which attacked overripe targets—consumerism, suburban decay—with such fervor that its familiar message actually seemed fresh. On Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground, Oberst expands his canvas to a gargantuan 73 minutes, with results as messy and sprawling as the disc's title. At times, as with his past work, Lifted offers more to admire than love, as Oberst's tendency toward overreaching and didacticism periodically distracts from the nakedly beautiful emotion at the album's core. But admirable it is, as he wraps his tremulous voice around ambitious political screeds (like the 10-minute, album-closing "Let's Not Shit Ourselves") and an impressive assortment of genre exercises (like the left-field country detour "Make War"). At its best, Lifted sprays ideas in every direction, sounding delicate, pissed off, vulnerable, unhinged, and uncommonly assured in one fell swoop. It's a chaotically provocative statement from a young man who demands more attention with each frequent release.