It’s a split, but it’s also a collaboration. It’s a reissue, but it’s also a new release. In truth, Bright Eyes and Neva Dinova’s recently unleashed One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels is one of the more confusing musical unions to surface of late. The skinny is this: back in 2004, Bright Eyes mastermind Conor Oberst and Neva frontman Jake Bellows decided to take their friendship to the next level, lock themselves in a basement, and crank out some tunes. The resulting EP, One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels, saw a quiet little release on Crank! upon completion, and has now been reworked — and added to — for version 2.0.
Since those original One Jug sessions, Oberst has kept might busy with both the Mystic Valley Band and as part of indie supergroup Monsters of Folk, while Bellows has been steadily cranking out gems with Neva by way of Oberst’s Saddle Creek label. All that said, 2010’s incarnation of One Jug succeeds in its nostalgia, especially where Bright Eyes is concerned. Even on newly penned numbers like “Happy Accident,” Oberst delivers his lines with the quivering vulnerability we’ve come to associate with (and love about) Bright Eyes. Though Bellows’ voice doesn’t possess the immediate attention-getting quirk of Oberst’s, he more than holds his own throughout One Jug’s ten tracks, especially the record’s endearingly lo-fi centerpiece, “Tripped.”
The second half of the album, made up exclusively of new recordings of the old One Jug tunes, is mostly geared towards Bright Eyes diehards, but never really disappoints. In fact, it’s on the Bellows-led redo of “Poison” that One Jug hits its highest point. Against a backdrop of brushed drums and twinkling xylophone, twangy steel string guitars and dreamy pianos, the singer delivers three-and-a-half-minutes of understated pop perfection. It’s catchy, it’s comfortable, and it’s a sweet little testament to the timelessness of both artists’ songwriting.