Best of 2008: #3, Conor Oberst

Rank: #3
Album: Conor Oberst
Artist: Conor Oberst
Label: Merge Records

And then there were three.  Our countdown has reached the best of the best for 2008.  Today is #3, Conor Oberst's self-titled album.  You all know Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, but believe me, this is not Bright Eyes.  Conor Oberst was recorded with the help of The Mystic Valley band (named for where the album was recorded- Valle Mistico in Mexico), and possesses a southwestern sound reflective of its creation.  The more folksy twang of Bright Eyes' later work is laid on thick with every track, and at the onset, it seems, that abandoned is some of the talk of sex and drinking (slightly)- ultimately not true, just different.  Here, Oberst talks of life, death and regret; leaning hard on the inspirations for 2007's Cassadaga, while still creating a piece of art that is exclusive to him as a solo artist.

Though this album can, at times, claim to be some of Oberst's slowest work, it can, at other times, prove to be some of his most fun and lively work.  The opener, "Cape Canaveral," remains calm, lamenting on destiny, while speaking of atonement.  "Sausalito" picks up from there, as the desert jam increases the tempo, and infuses Conor's usual discussion of women with some real bluesy western guitar.  Harmonica would have worked in this song, but sadly was not present.  Still, it's effective and maintains the frontier theme.  I've touched on themes quite a bit in this countdown, and I'll do so again here.  If you establish a theme and stay with it, I will be much more likely to appreciate your album.  This record, in particular, was so enjoyable because of how fun and genuine it seemed.  It wasn't fun in the sense of dance pop energy, but rather, that Oberst was exploring some inspirations he may not have before and seemed to enjoy making the music he was recording.  Songs such as "Get-Well-Cards," "I Don't Wanna Die (In the Hospital)" and "NYC- Gone, Gone" seem to really exemplify this entertaining and playful nature.  For comparisons to this album, I'd consult Bob Dylan, M. Ward and Rocky Votolato.

Best Track: "Danny Callahan"

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