Tuesday, 2 September 2008

ALBUM: Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst (Wichita)

Conor Oberst has been a pretty regular figure at the forefront of alternative music for the past fifteen or so years, whether that be with Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, on his own or with countless other musicians. This latest release is his fourth solo effort, with help from the Mystic Valley Band. Recorded in a villa called Valle Mistico in Mexico, this long player is Oberst’s first release under his own name since 1995’s ‘Soundtrack to my Movie’. Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength, gaining and maintaining a large fanbase through his work as Bright Eyes.
If you’re expecting something radically different to what Oberst produces under the aforementioned pseudonym then prepare to be disappointed, as what is on offer here is mostly familiar ground. Somehow it still feels fresh and exciting, which is testament to Oberst’s talent and ability as one of the great songwriters of our time.

After years of perfecting his craft, Oberst knows how to create sonic beauty and this album is bursting with the evidence. ‘Cape Canaveral’ kicks things off gently, with typically poetic lyrics and understated melodies. ‘Sausalito’ is slightly more upbeat, with occasional jaunty guitars interjecting as the track shuffles on politely. ‘Get-Well-Cards’ is one of the highlights of the record, with its heartfelt vocals and flawless composition.

For the most part, ‘Conor Oberst’ is a calm stroll through central American landscapes, with the occasional bursts of energy and colour, like that found on ‘I Don’t Want to Die (in the Hospital)’. It’s almost as if the song is encapsulating and channelling the adrenaline rush that comes with the need to escape, complimented by the blues piano and noodling guitars. ‘NYC – Gone, Gone’ is a stomping sing-a-long that wouldn’t sound out of place reverberating around a stadium, even though it’s only a minute and ten seconds long.

This record is further proof, if it were needed, that whatever Oberst touches turns to gold and this self-titled LP is more than enough treasure to tide us over until the next Bright Eyes record is done.

Standout track: Get-Well-Cards

Rhian Daly