Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst

Band: Conor Oberst
Album: Conor Oberst
Genre: Indie/Folk
Label: Merge

1. Cape Canaveral
2. Sausalito
3. Get-Well-Cards
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
9. Moab
10. Walle Mistico [Ruben’s Song]
11. Souled Out!!!
12. Milk Thistle

I have long been a supporter of the work[s] of Conor Oberst. I can recall the MTV News first look at his heavy side project Desaparecidos and instantly connecting with his weary sounding vocals and straightforward/yet metaphorical lyrics. I then came to know and love his original project, Bright Eyes, and fell even deeper into his often depressing world. However, I was very turned off by his latest release under that name, Cassadaga, because I just didn’t feel like it worked as well as his previous efforts. So, I was a bit nervous upon receive his self-titled Merge Records debut because I worried the country sound that flooded the previous release would continue here, but I can happily say, it was almost nowhere to be found. Instead, Oberst has delivered his best work in years and has done seemingly by going back to his stripped down roots.

From the soft tempo setting foot taps at the beginning of, “Cape Canaveral,” Oberst sets a mood for the entire record that says, “this is me, minus over the top production or heavy effects, exposed for you.” The song itself is instantly catchy and engaging and Oberst hasn’t sounded so confident in his vocals in quite awhile. Everything is controlled yet vibrant with the tones emitted by the two acoustic guitars and Oberst’s signature voice. However, it’s not all that simple structure wise as, “Sausalito,” brings back the country swagger of the past album, but with this 1970’s folk rock tinge that sucks you into the song. These opening tracks are the kind that take whatever anticipation you have for the record and shoot it full of even more excitement as they’re both incredible. Though, things do slow down on, “Get-Well-Cards,” Oberst’s voice hits a bit stronger than the previous tracks and keeps you into the groove. The song reflects the Americana feel of old Tom Petty with the metaphorical swagger of a young Bob Dylan and this combination is, to say the least, explosive.

As the album continue on, with us on our seat’s edge as to what will come next, “Lenders in The Temple,” brings us back to Lifted era Oberst writing. The production is ace as you hear each note picked and thumbed along with the light reverb in Oberst’s voice resonating with this timeless sheen you don’t find much anymore. For those of you who loved, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, look no further than, “Danny Callahan,” to get your favorite Conor era sound. My only problem here, is that it sounds too much like a b-side from that disc and not like a fresh step for the songwriter. It’s solid, but nothing new is done here and that’s a bit of a set back in my mind. However, the 1950’s country rock vibe I gather from, “I Don’t Want To Die,” makes me want to grab some shoes and a gal to dance with and that makes up for any letdown I may have experienced. There’s a near boogie woogie sound coming from the piano lead here and it’s a old sound for sure, but Oberst breathes a lot of life into it and with the addition of his signature wails of emotion about 3/4s in, this song is definitely a key track on the album.

“Eagle on The Pole,” brings things back down for the listener with a lovely acoustic laced jaunt. This is followed by one of my favorites, though it’s barely over a minute long, “NYC-Gone, Gone.” This track is a foot stomping track that will put a smile on your face leave you wishing there was more to it, but unfortunately there is nothing, but a slight pause before the relaxed, “Moab,” begins to play. It’s a solid track with a some nice accented electric guitar parts underneath the acoustic lead and lovely gang vocal sections. From here, we have a throwaway instrumental track that seemingly serves no purpose other than to make us hold out for the single, “Souled Out.” This track encompasses a lot of what you hear on the album and is obviously the clear choice for a single. It’s catchy and well crafted, probably one of the best in Oberst’s library. As, “Souled Out,” fades, we encounter the lullaby tinged closer, “Milk Thistle.” This is Oberst at his best stripped down wit just a guitar and his ever-quivering voice. It warms your soul and leaves you with a smile on your face.

Conor Oberst has returned to us and though he is on a new label, the sound is as old as his musical career. This self titled release explores the past styles of this still young songwriter and gives us some glimpses into the future. Recorded in a very organic way far from most “cliche” studio settings, this disk reflects Oberst’s talent much more clearly than the higher production level of Cassadaga. Don’t get em wrong, it sounds beautiful, but it’s a sound that just feels like it all took place in one solid take as opposed to 50 layers and I just love that. Overall, if you want an album that will make you smile and fits perfectly with any day of the week or flows with any weather patten, this is it. I don’t know if you’ll find a more consistently solid release in this genre all year and I don’t know why’d you even try to find one.
*Written By: James Shotwell*
GRADE: 9/10

James Shotwell
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One Response to “Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst”

  1. Kind of forgetting The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr.