Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Accuse me of being wobbly, but is it wrong to admit to liking the Conor Oberst album -- like, a lot? While I'm not sure it's a top ten album, its craftsmanship and the filigrees in Oberst's vocals and lyrics -- he's like Neil Young imitating Robert Forster -- remind me of no one else (maybe the shorter songs on Stephen Malkmus' Real Emotional Trash come closest). I'm speaking as someone who once thought Oberst's energy outpaced his acumen; and, moreover, any artist determined to form an unofficial, updated version of the seventies singer-songwriter mafia (Jenny Lewis as Carly Simon, Ben Gibbard as Jackson Browne) made me head for the hills. His is the kind of banal sensibility who finds something beautiful in blue sky reflecting on water, yet he's able to convince you that he's come to this realization by his own damn self. He's like a guy with a GED-level education who surprises you by admitting that he loves Dickens. It takes a twinkle in the eye brighter than previously expected to redeem lines like "so I remain between her legs/sheltered from all my fears," and a nimble tongue not to trip over sequined nonsense like "peacock people kept their plumes in a pile." The ruminative road number "Moab" suggests that assurance -- aesthetic and otherwise -- is no cure for loneliness, and a young guy with so much ambition and energy knows he's too much in thrall to both to forgo their rewards, however short-term.
Posted by Alfred Soto at 9:42 PM