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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



    Conor Oberst
    Conor Oberst – Merge Records

    Three stars (out of four)

    It’s about time Conor Oberst released a solo album, one might say. Its title is misleading, though, as the tortured Bright Eyes frontman’s self-titled release is not a solo project at all.

    Recorded in Mexico with the five-piece Mystic Valley Band, Conor Oberst is much like a continuation of the last few Bright Eyes albums, with a few unpolished moments – Conor cracking up in “”Souled Out!!!””, plus some muffled instructions to the band in the introductions.

    They can all be assumed as an attempt to add a rustic authenticity to the music, much like the occasional Spanish interjections and a 50-second didgeridoo-like instrumental solo (“”Valle Mistico (Ruben’s Song)””).

    Most of the tracks are a mix of country, folk, rock and pop, with well-placed backing vocals, Hammond organ and sometimes hokey old-timey piano, as in “”Danny Callahan.””

    The upbeat “”NYC-Gone, Gone”” is bursting with repetitious electric guitar, hand-claps and all the typical anxiety of an unhappy person finally embarking on a cross-country journey. “”Gone, gone from New York City/Where you gonna go with a head that empty?””

    As usual, though, the most striking moments are when Oberst sings alone with his guitar, announcing his despair to the world through contemplations of his spiritual destiny.

    “”Erase yourself and you’ll be free/ Mendula destroyed by the sea/ All we are is colored sand.””

    Other times he merely unloads what he’s sure is too much pain for a human to deal with, as in “”Eagle on a Pole,”” in which he calls the world a “”cruel and elaborate hoax.””

    In these bare-bones songs – “”Lenders in the Temple,”” “”Milk Thistle”” – is all the desolation one can experience while trying to find oneself on the interstate. He seems to be expressing something beyond situational discontent; he’s trying to achieve enlightenment through escapism and he keeps getting stuck. Ultimately, he sings on “”Moab,”” “”there’s nothing that the road can’t heal.””

    Conor Oberst is a complete head case, and at times it’s painful to watch. But when he’s not pitying himself into a state of fever, he says some beautifully simple things that cut right to the core. “”El Cielo es azul, just don’t go telling everyone.””

    – Laura Hawkins

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