Conor Oberst is taking a break from digital urns and Floridian clairaudients.
The black-and-white cover of Oberst‘s newest self-titled album with the Mystic Valley Band – a supporting cast formed specifically for the album – features the Bright Eyes frontman enjoying a sling-aided nap, presumably somewhere in the Mexican mountain villa of Valle Místico where he recorded the 12-song album due out Tuesday.
Conor Oberst, his first solo effort since 1996‘s The Soundtrack to My Movie and fourth overall, is noticeably warmer and more relaxed than his usual work.
It‘s the breath of fresh air Oberst‘s pipes have needed for quite some time.
Even without his Bright Eyes wingman and producer extraordinaire Mike Mogis, who has been occupied on the sound boards with Tilly and the Wall, Lightspeed Champion and She & Him (featuring Bright Eyes pal M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel), Oberst does just fine flexing his usual muscles of musical genius on his own.
From odes to beautiful Northern California towns (“Sausalito“) to road trip anthems (“Moab“), it‘s clear on Oberst that the 28-year-old from Omaha, Neb. is finally kicking back a little.
On standouts “Danny Callahan“ and “Souled Out!!!”, laughs and between-verse banter are littered throughout, making them sound more like spontaneously fun, bluesy jam sessions rather than album tracks.
Both evoke the upbeat, swingy feel of “Four Winds“ from Bright Eyes‘ last full-length effort, 2006‘s Cassadaga, but they have a noticeably different feeling to them that is simply best enjoyed on a long hammock with a cold glass of lemon iced tea in hand.
The lyrical content in “Danny Callahan“ and the piano-led “I Don‘t Want to Die (In the Hospital)” shows that there are darker moments on Oberst, but they‘re still not nearly as gloomy as something you‘d find on either one of Bright Eyes‘ double albums from 2005.
Sometimes, a change of scenery really does work wonders. By temporarily trading in his New York City home for the outskirts of Tepoztlán, Mexico, Oberst allows himself to temper, refresh and smooth out his sound.
It‘s not a word that is often used with Oberst‘s music, but there are few better words to describe the latest addition to his body of work – fun.
Give these tracks a listen: “Danny Callahan,“ “Souled Out!!!”
For fans of: Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Maria Taylor