Conor Oberst, Conor Oberst
Bright Eyes main man steps out from behind the pseudonym
The Bright Eyes frontman could scarcely be making it clearer that he is returning to basics. He's ditched the name under which he is best known, disassociated himself from long-serving producer Mike Mogis, holed up in a mountain villa in Mexico with a few compadres ¬ known collectively as the Mystic Valley Band ¬and produced a record upon which he has stamped his own name as a title. The unmistakable subtext of Conor Oberst is: "This is me."
As it turns out, all of the above are as much bluffs as genuine upheavals. Oberst is still thankfully ¬ recognizably the prodigy who animated Bright Eyes 'wondrous 2007album Cassadaga. Though the arrangements on Conor Oberst are less fiddly, the songs are no less ambitious: complex, wordy, infused with an air of crepuscular fragility that reminds of the earlier works of Elliott Smith and the more vulnerable works of Oberst's obvious idol Bob Dylan. If there is a difference, it's that though Oberst's stock-in-trade remains lachrymose balladry ("Lenders in the Temple" and "Eagle on a Pole" are worthy additions to his canon of heartbreak), this album also benefits from a flourishing of a more playful impulse: "Moab" revels grinningly in its self-pity ("There's nothing that the road cannot heal," Oberst promises himself), and "Sausalito" has the irresistible feel of having been as much fun to play as it is to hear.