Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Conor Oberst

Last week I picked up the debut solo album from Conor Oberst (the prodigy behind Bright Eyes). Since his beginning, Oberst has been called "the next Dylan," a title that seems to be slapped on every 6-string player with a knack for lyrics, an imperfect voice and an affinity for the occasional buzz on a harmonica.

On albums under his Bright Eyes moniker (for most of those LPs, Oberst was the sole permanent member. However, on the most recent release, 2007's Cassadaga, Bright Eyes officially became a trio, to include multi-instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott), Oberst opted for emotionally-driven alt.folk tunes that appealed to indie purists and emo kids alike. Oberst has always been included in the list of the best alt.country artists, and on this release, he defends his placement furiously. Instead of tunes about lost love and found pain, songs on Conor Oberst are more often centered around towns ("NYC- Gone, Gone") and stories ("Danny Callahan"). Each song definitely maintains the poetic element that defines Oberst's work, but the centric force driving this solo album would probably be found more easily on a dusty road in Mexico than in an empty New York City bar.

There seems to be an added level of comfort on this album than any of Oberst's Bright Eyes releases. Perhaps he is more in his element when he is solitary; perhaps he just wanted to make a safe, non-experimental album- and really, where is the harm in that?

This self-titled album is a stirring solo debut for Conor Oberst. The songs are not daring or boundary-pushing as some of his Bright Eyes material has been, but there is no doubt that they are beautiful.

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