Under Review: Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst

For a while now, there has been a trend of giving band-like names to one-member musical projects. Perhaps it is to blur the line between the frontman and the band itself, or to simply challenge the traditional notions of what makes up a band, but “groups” like Nine Inch Nails and Iron & Wine continue to baffle audiences expecting to see more than just one performer. One of these groups that has evolved from being a one-man project into a full-fledged band is Conor Oberst‘s Bright Eyes. To be fair, the Bright Eyes sound has just as much to do with producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis and keyboardist Nate Walcott as it does with Oberst. It could be due to the absence of Mogis and Walcott that Oberst’s new album under his own name (literally; the disc is also self-titled) lacks the lush fullness of last year’s Bright Eyes release, Cassadaga. My first exposure to Bright Eyes was back in 2005 with the release of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. That album, along with 2002’s Lifted… were mostly low-key affairs that hinted at more grown-up sounds a few years later. Cassadaga was such a leap forward in musical maturity that Oberst sounds like he’s back-pedaling a bit on this new album. Conor Oberst stars with “Cape Canaveral,” a strummy acoustic number that features some tape noises low in the mix as if to remind the listener that Oberst is more than just a kid with a lucky streak of successful albums. The biblical references in “Lenders In The Temple” and “Moab” and the flourishes of Spanish in “Eagle On A Pole” show off Oberst’s literacy in a more subtle manner. It’s almost expected of Oberst to title the best and most upbeat song on an album “I Don’t Wanna Die (In The Hospital).” That tune is one of too few rave-ups that could have made Conor Oberst (the album) as impressive as some of Conor Oberst’s (the singer) past work. I’m hoping that Oberst will keep his ear to the ground and return to the bigger sound of Cassadaga soon.

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~ by E. on August 7, 2008.

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