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10 out of 10
One of the most distinctive lyricists and vocalists in America today, Conor Oberst is nothing short of a genius. Known to many as the boy behind Bright Eyes, Oberst has grown and developed with time and now writes some of the most impacting folk/indie music of this generation.
Conor Oberst has been writing music for a long time, and it may come as a surprise to many that this is actually his fourth album released under his own name. Before that, he released ten albums under the name of Bright Eyes with Mike Mogis and others, and further releases with other projects he was involved in.
Throughout the whole album, it seems that Conor Oberst is presenting something, which still carries depth and weight, yet feels a bit easier going than his previous works, with less lyrical heaviness. This certainly isn't to say it that it lacks endeavour, far from it. There's a good mix of styles on the album. From the more minimalist 'Cape Canaveral' to 'Sausalito', which is baked in country licks and sounds, and tips its hat to a traditional Bright Eyes sound. 'Get-Well-Cards' wouldn't go unnoticed in a Bob Dylan set, with a catchy 'Dylanesque' chorus and a classic sound. 'Lenders in the Temple' does a good job of stripping the instrumentation back and supports Oberst's voice with nothing but an organ and a guitar. 'Danny Callahan' brings the band back in with a light-hearted feel and a lifting chorus. 'I Don't Wanna Die In a Hosptial' reminds me slightly of 'Travellin' Song' from Bright Eyes release 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning', but this is what I love about the whole album, it all feels familiar yet sounds so fresh! 'Eagle on a Pole' simply supports this statement!
'NYC- Gone, Gone' is one minute and twelve seconds of awesome Conor material. Led by a chorus of vocals, foot stamps and an overdriven guitar, it's a small departure from a lot of the acoustic based tracks on the album, but certainly a welcomed addition. 'Moab' has a great chorus that has been stuck in my head for ages!! The fifty second 'Valle Misitco (Ruben's Song)' is simply put - a man blowing a horn. How could this album live without it?!!
'Souled Out!!!" is the single, released on August 25th through Wichita Records. This upbeat, lighter hearted track makes me think that Conor Oberst has found a sound he can call his own and album closer 'Milk Thistle' is a perfect ender, simply a vocal and a guitar, close and intimate, with lyrics that remind us why Conor is considered by many as one of the best songwriters of our generation.
Conor Oberst is always going to struggle to shed the Bright Eyes namesake but this self-titled gem of an album is just the album to have a good go at doing it. In a world of cheap chart songs and over manufactured artists, it gives me great pleasure in listening to an artist like Conor Oberst and reminding myself that there is hope! A special mention should go to the Mystic Valley Band who offers the perfect backing to Conor's songs and very unique voice. This album has clearly been made with love and joy and I hope it gets the exposure it deserves. There's a lot here for Bright Eyes fans, who could buy the album on the strength of one song alone and not be disappointed, but there's also something welcoming here that will make new Conor Oberst listeners question why they hadn't discovered this genius much earlier.
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band are on tour throughout August. Check www.conoroberst.com for details.
1. Cape Canaveral
4. Lenders In The Temple
5. Danny Callahan
6. I Don't Want To Die (In The Hospital)
7. Eagle On A Pole
8. NYC- Gone, Gone
10. Valle Mistico (Ruben's Song)
11. Souled Out!!!
12. Milk Thistle