Bright Eyes had been around for nearly a decade and had released two albums before 'Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground' arrived on Aug. 13, 2002, but it was definitely the album with the unwieldy title that put them on the map. The Omaha, Neb.-based group -- featuring mainstay frontman Conor Oberst, formerly of emo outfit Commander Venus, and a rotating cast of musicians over the years -- ended up on numerous year-end best albums lists thanks to 'Lifted,' which took his singer-songwriter blueprint and expanded on it.

To accomplish this, Oberst and producer Mike Mogis had somewhat vague aspirations to create a "sort of grandiose sound" when they retreated into the studio. "The 'Lifted' album, in 2002, was me and the Mogis and this other friend of ours, Andy LeMaster," Oberst told the New Yorker back in 2005. "When I’m arranging stuff with Mike, since we don’t write out music, I write a lot of parts on keyboard. Then we show the cello part to the cello player, and half of it makes sense and half of it doesn’t, and he’ll say, 'You can’t really play that.'"

Perhaps that's why so many studio musicians showed up on the disc, which features nearly two dozen guests playing instruments as varied as organ, vibraphone, glockenspiel, mandolin, French horn and bassoon, in addition to more standard fare like guitar, bass and drums. The result was exactly the grandiose sound the two were going for, which, paired together with Oberst's much-lauded skill as a songwriter, gave 'Lifted' an epic quality. It wasn't long before Oberst was being compared to legends like Bob Dylan.

'Lifted,' which clocked in at a sprawling 73 minutes over 13 tracks, would go on to sell more than 250,000 copies, an immense accomplishment for a virtually unknown underground artist at the time and by far the highest sales of any release from Saddle Creek Records, the label he runs out of Omaha with his brother. 'Lifted' only spawned one single, 'Lover I Don't Have to Love,' but featured several classic Bright Eyes tracks that remain fan favorites to this day.

The supporting tour also included the network TV debut of Bright Eyes on 'The Late Show With David Letterman,' but the band didn't even bother to perform a track from their most celebrated album, instead busting out an older cut titled 'The Trees Get Wheeled Away.' Despite all the critical acclaim -- or perhaps because of it -- Conor Oberst would prove himself to be someone not easily tied down by expectations.

Watch Bright Eyes Perform 'Lover I Don't Have to Love' Live