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Sunday, May 19, 2024

CD Review: Conor Oberst

Conor Oberst

Conor Oberst

Merge Records

Rating: 4

Conor Oberst is taking a break from digital urns and Floridian clairaudients.

The black-and-white cover of Obersts 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 1996s The Soundtrack to My Movie and fourth overall, is noticeably warmer and more relaxed than his usual work.

Its the breath of fresh air Obersts 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), its clear on Oberst that the 28-year-old from Omaha, Neb. is finally kicking back a little.

On standoutsDanny Callahan andSouled 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 ofFour Winds from Bright Eyes last full-length effort, 2006s 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 inDanny Callahan and the piano-ledI Dont Want to Die (In the Hospital)” shows that there are darker moments on Oberst, but theyre still not nearly as gloomy as something youd 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.

Its not a word that is often used with Obersts music, but there are few better words to describe the latest addition to his body of work – fun.


Ray Lin


Give these tracks a listen:Danny Callahan, “Souled Out!!!”

For fans of: Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Maria Taylor



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