Former prodigy Conor Oberst first attracted attention as the 14-year-old leader of Commander Venus in the early '90s. But if you can't stay 14 forever, what do you do? If you're Oberst, you morph into Bright Eyes, a mostly one-man show that has served as an increasingly intriguing outlet for his singing and songwriting talents. Bright Eyes' last full-length release, 1998's Letting Off The Happiness, had an abundance of great ideas and remarkable moments but little direction, the transitional work of someone unsure of what awaits on the other end. The new Fevers And Mirrors, however, is the great leap forward promised by its predecessor. Working closely, as before, with Andy LeMaster and Lullaby For The Working Class' Mike Mogis (a fellow Nebraskan), Oberst explores the catchy/scary middle ground between the depressive pop of Elliott Smith and the despairing eccentricities of Will Oldham. Opening with the languid "A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever And A Necklace," a showcase for Oberst's emotive vocals, Fevers segues from the delicate "A Scale, A Mirror And Those Indifferent Clocks" to the angry "Something Vague," an accurate indication of Bright Eyes' flexibility. Oberst has made that point before, but Fevers benefits from newfound clarity and discipline. Between the album's two lovely final tracks, a fake radio interview with a fake Oberst has been inserted: A discussion of Fevers' opaque lyrics and recurring imagery, it stops the album cold. But, surrounded by the sound of undeniable promise starting to live up to its potential, the distraction hardly matters.